Sixty-seven percent of U.S. adults said jury duty is part of what it means to be a good citizen, according to Pew Research Center. The jury is a panel of citizens in a case, summoned by the federal or state court to show up as jurors. The jurors assess the facts and evidence and decide on the case.

It is your obligation to serve on a jury when summoned. Anyone who is a citizen, is above 18 years, lives within the court’s jurisdiction, and hasn’t committed a felony qualifies to be called to a jury. Here’s what you need to know about jury duty.

Court cases that have a jury

When someone is charged with a criminal offense or in a civil case, a jury decides if they committed the crime. The panel consists of 12 individuals, the trials are conducted publicly, and the outcome they give is the verdict based on the evidence submitted. One is entitled to be tried by a jury unless the offense is minor. If you are called to participate in the panel, it’s mandatory you appear, or else you will be tried for contempt of court, which is why we recommend you read this.

How one gets selected

Jurors are selected randomly from records of the most recent municipal voters’ list. The trial judge gives questionnaires to potential jurors to ensure they are all legally qualified for the task. After this, lawyers on both sides ask each juror questions about their background and biases to ensure they will be impartial. If there are viable reasons, a jury may be struck from the panel and replaced by a juror who is acceptable to both sides.

How to prepare yourself

When you are selected, you will receive a letter that states the day you should avail yourself in the courthouse. You may also receive a questionnaire which you are supposed to fill in some basic information and mail it back by the required date. Before the trial date, inform your employee, and educate yourself on the duties of a juror by watching some videos or reading informative articles, as noted in The Guardian.

On the date you have been summoned, dress appropriately, get there on time, and fully answer all questions during the selection process. Ensure you follow the directives given by the judge, remain impartial, make independent decisions, and keep the matters of the proceedings confidential. 

Do I have to serve as a juror?

It is your civic duty to attend a jury summon, and you must respond regardless of whether you have legitimate reasons. However, you may find yourself in a position where it is almost impossible to attend. If you are battling a health problem, are a student, you are in paid vacation, or you feel that you may suffer undue hardship, you can ask for your summon to be rescheduled. Failure to respond or notify the court is an offense, and you could face serious penalties.

Benefits of jury duty

Jury duty is beneficial to you and those in your community, according to the Business Insider. The most important benefit is that you get an opportunity to make a positive difference. The decision you make impacts many people, therefore it is a chance to bring fairness to the community. Taking part in the duty also educates you on how the judicial system operates.