Surviving Jury Duty

At some point in their lives, every Maryland resident can expect to receive a letter in the mail summoning them to jury duty.

Nobody likes having to do it, and no one thinks too much about it until they’re called.

Well, what do you do now?

In this post, we will explain everything you need to know.

First, please realize that jury service is a VITAL part of our justice system.

We know it is inconvenient to be called to spend a day in jury duty. But it is the most important day all year for that person sitting there relying on you to decide their case. It is the end of a very long process they have gone through to get to that moment.

Always remember how important that is to the individual before you, and to our justice system.

I have served on a jury for a 4 day trial. It was painful, I admit. And I litigate in jury trials for a living!

But as painful as it was, I always knew the people involved in that case were relying on me and my fellow jurors to decide the case properly.

I actually felt a great weight of responsibility. I was very proud of my fellow jurors as we took our task seriously and I think we reached the right resolution. It may be one of the most important things I have ever done in a courtroom!

If you go into it expecting to do your duty and serve your country, you will be satisfied. You may find it interesting. You may even have fun!

Am I Exempt or Ineligible for Jury Duty?

You might be.

If you are age 70 or older, a serving member of Congress (Stenny – are you reading this?), or active duty in the US armed forces, you may be exempt from serving. Call the jury office to make sure.

If you can’t read, write, or speak English, are disabled, have served 6-months in prison, or have pending criminal charges for a crime that is punishable by over 6-months in prison, you may be disqualified. You should inform the jury office immediately and ask them about it.

What Should I Do Before the Big Day?

Your first step should be to read the summons carefully. There is usually a questionnaire too. You have to fill out a form and give the jury office some information.

The summons will have instructions on how to complete your juror qualifications form and when you’ll need to call to verify your summons date.

Next, you should go to the Maryland courts website and read up on jury duty. The court system in Maryland maintains an excellent resource that will answer all of your questions.

They even let you watch the video explaining jury duty – the same one you will see on the day you go to court. You can watch it here.

Provide a copy of the summons to your boss so you get an excused absence. You will need an excused absence from work that day.

What to Bring

  • A book, newspaper, or puzzle. Some courtrooms don’t allow electronic devices, so if you’re were hoping to pass your time by scrolling through Facebook, you may be out of luck. Be prepared with something in hard copy form.
  • Snack bars and water. Judges try to accommodate jurors, but the court schedule sometimes just doesn’t allow it. If they tell you lunch is at 12:00 pm, expect that it won’t be until later. You never know how long you’ll be waiting, and if you’re starving, the time is going to crawl by at a snail’s pace. Better to have snacks and not need them, then to need them and not have them. Also, most courthouses have water fountains, but they probably won’t be conveniently located for you. Bring a water bottle.
  • Bring lots and lots of this. There will be a lot of waiting and shuffling around before they decide if you are on the jury or not. If you make it on a jury, there will be more waiting in the back room while the court takes care of other matters. The waiting can be frustrating. This is where your book or puzzle comes in handy.

Do I Get Paid?

Yes! You get $15 per day of service. That’s right. That is not a typo.

We do admit that this is FAR too little to compensate anyone for a day out of their normal life. It may buy you lunch, but that is about it.

This is the state law and it hasn’t changed in a long time.

Don’t Try to Evade Jury Duty

This is a very bad idea. Don’t do it.

Some people will try to lie to get out of Jury Duty. But if they call you to task to prove your claim, and you can’t, you committed perjury.

Perjury carries a fine of up to $1000 and 2 years in jail, at least in the state of Maryland.

Every so often you will read about a Judge who threw someone in jail for illegally evading jury duty. They do it to send a message. You don’t want to be the one they tap to send that message!

Never lie to the court. That has a way of catching up with you. And the Court really, really, really doesn’t like it.

Conclusion & Next Steps

Jury Duty is an important civil service. It is vital to the person whose case you are deciding.

However, we know it can still be frustrating. Take these steps to ease that frustration and who knows? Maybe you’ll even enjoy it.

For more information, check out this PDF from the Maryland Court System on jury duty. 

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Andrews, Bongar, Gormley & Clagett is one of the oldest and largest law firms in Southern Maryland. We have been serving clients here for over 50 years. 

 

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