California - Jury Duty Laws, Jury Selection, Juror Qualification
Jury Duty in California - What to Expect
In the American court system, criminal defendants are guaranteed the right to trial by a "jury of their peers". In California, a pool of potential jurors is randomly selected from the local population of individuals eligible for jury duty.
California law states a qualified juror as:
- a U.S. citizen
- at least 18 years of age
- having command of English enough to understand and discuss case matters
- resident of the county summoned by
- have not served on a jury in the last 12 months
- are not currently on a grand jury or another trial jury
- are not under conservatorship
- have had civil rights restored if you have been previously convicted of a felony.
How Are Potential Jurors Chosen in California?
The first stage in jury selection is summoning a pool of potential jurors from the list of local citizens eligible to serve on a jury in California, as described above.
Jury selection is random with names pulled from the Department of Motor Vehicles and voter registration lists, by county.
Service is required at 12 months intervals.
Receiving a Jury Duty Summons in California
If your name is randomly selected for the jury pool through the process described above, you receive a jury summons in the mail instructing you to appear for jury selection on a pre-set day.
While there are a few excuses for getting out of jury selection in CA, most people summoned will have to report to the courthouse for the next stage of the juror selection process, voir dire.
The Juror Selection Process, or "Voir Dire"
Just because you qualify to be a juror and are summoned for jury selection, doesn't mean that you will be selected to be a juror on a case. The process of "Voir Dire", the actual act of jury selection, is how judges, defense attorneys, and prosecutors actually choose the individuals who will sit on the juries for upcoming criminal and civil cases.
During the voir dire process, each lawyer will ask the pool of potential jurors a series of questions about their background, beliefs, prejudices, or relationships with any party to the case. While the goal is to select an impartial jury to render a verdict, each attorney will also seek to exclude any jurors who seem to be more likely to vote against their client's interests. While jury candidates are instructed to be open and truthful when answering such questions, the juror selection process is also where most individuals who don't wish to serve on a trial find a way to be excused from further juror duties.
What Happens After Jury Selection Day
If you are selected to serve on a jury, you will be provided with the trial date, and must return to serve on the jury for the duration of the trial and deliberations. If you were not selected to serve on any jury during the voir dire process, you can go home, and your California jury duty obligations are complete.
You will receive nominal California jury duty pay for the jury selection day, as well as for any days served on a jury. Once your service is complete, you won't be summoned for jury duty again until California re-adds you to the potential juror pool.
Jurors reporting for jury duty or jury selection in the state of California are expected to dress professionally, in a manner appropriate for a court room.
Most courthouses suggest dress ranging from business casual to business attire. For men, this means slacks or khakis and a polo or button-down shirt, potentially with a tie or suit jacket. For women, this means a professional-looking pair of pants or a skirt, cardigan, sweater, twinset, or shirt.
As a juror, you are expected to maintain a professional and respectable appearance while performing your duties. Hats should never be worn in a courtroom, and you should avoid wearing shorts, t-shirts, tanktops, or anything printed with logos or slogans.
While jury duty is a civic requirement for all eligible citizens in California, the state restricts how often you can be summoned for jury duty in order to ensure a fresh jury pool and prevent undue hardship by being summoned too frequently.
California Jury Duty Summons Frequency:
Voter lists and DMV registrations are updated every year in October.
Lists may generate multiple juror files for same name if addresses and information are not updated by the prospective juror (i.e. did not inform of address change when moved) This may result in one may one summons per year.
While there are a number of ways to be legally excused from jury duty in California, failing to appear when summoned for jury selection or jury duty without an excuse is illegal, and can result in legal repercussions.
Jurors must have reasonable excuse to postpone initial call to jury.
Failure to appear may result in fine up to $1,500.
Employers in California are also forbidden from penalizing employees who miss work for jury duty.