Virginia Jury Duty - What you need to know
Our U.S. judicial system relies heavily on the jury system to ensure fair results in criminal and civil cases. Harry Carrico, former Chief Justice of the Virginia Supreme Court once said "As a juror, you are providing an important public service. You are also helping to uphold an essential part of the American system of justice – the right to a trial by a jury made up of persons representing a fair cross section of the community. You don’t need any special skills or knowledge to be a juror, but you do need to be fair, impartial, and willing to keep an open mind."
The following are common issues concerning Jury Duty in Virginia:
Your employer: By law, an employer can not fire, demote, or penalize you for missing work to attend jury duty. You should check to see if your employer will pay you for the time you miss for jury duty.
Length of jury duty: In Virginia, jury duty lasts one term of court. Depending on where you live, that could be up to four months. The summons you receive for jury duty will specify the length and exact dates of your jury duty. It is unusual for one case to last one month, although it does happen. (You might remember, the O.J. Simpson case lasted several months!) If it is anticipated that a trial will last an unusually long time, the jurors will be given an opportunity to explain why they can not sit on the jury for a long time.
Compensation: The Virginia General Assembly decides juror compensation. Currently, jurors are paid $30 for each day the juror must report to the courthouse.
Disqualified from service: Under Virginia law, you can not serve on a jury if (1) you have been adjudicated incapacitated; (2) you have been convicted of treason or a felony; or (3) any other person under a disability as defined in Virginia Code § 8.01-2 and not included in subdivisions 1 or 2.
Exemptions from service: Under Virginia law, you must serve on a jury but will be excused from jury service if you make a request and if:
- you are over seventy years old;
- you and spouse has also been summoned to serve on the same jury panel;
- you have legal custody of and are necessarily and personally responsible for a child or children under sixteen years of age or younger requiring your continuous care during normal court hours;
- you are necessarily and personally responsible for a person having physical or mental impairment requiring your continuous care during normal court hours;
- you are the only person performing services for a business, commercial or agricultural enterprise and your services are so essential to the operations of the business, commercial or agricultural enterprise that such enterprise must close or cease to function if you are required to perform jury duty.
Courts will delay imposition of jury service for good reason. For example, if you are a student, you can request that jury service occur during summer break.
Frequency of jury service: By law, once you have served on a jury panel, you can not be called again for three years. There are two exceptions: First, you might be called within three years if all the people whose names are in the jury box have been drawn to service. Second, this restriction does not apply to service on grand juries.
Failure to appear: If you are summoned to court for jury duty and fail to appear, the court can order you to pay a fine between $25 and $100.
What to bring: When you are called for jury duty, you might have to wait a while before and during a trial. Therefore, I recommend bringing a book, crossword puzzle, or some other quiet activity to pass the time.
When you are called to jury duty, pay close attention to the information sent to you in the summons for jury duty. The summons should tell you when and where to appear and for how long the jury term will last. In Virginia Beach, Cox Cable, Channel 47 airs a jury service film on Sundays and 8:30 p.m. and on Mondays, at 8:00 a.m. and 9:00 p.m. If you have any other questions, call the court or jury administrator for your jurisdiction.