Rhode Island - Jury Duty Laws, Jury Selection, Juror Qualification
Jury Duty in Rhode Island - What to Expect
In the American court system, criminal defendants are guaranteed the right to trial by a "jury of their peers". In Rhode Island, a pool of potential jurors is randomly selected from the local population of individuals eligible for jury duty.
A prospective juror must:
- Be a citizen of the United States
- Be at least eighteen (18) years of age
- Be a resident of Rhode Island and either: i) reside in the country where registered to vote or ii) be a licensed driver in RI , or iii) have RI issues ID card, or iv) have filed state income tax return, or v) be a recipient of unemployment compensation
- Be able to understand and participate in the court proceedings
- Physically and mentally capable of reasonably performing the duties of a juror
- Not have been adjudicated as "non compos mentis" (not sane of mind)
- Have completed, served, or suspended any sentence given due to a felony conviction
How Are Potential Jurors Chosen in Rhode Island?
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 Rhode Island, as described above.
Yearly in March or as more often as the jury commissioner deems fit, names of all persons qualified for jury service, who are registered voters in the cities and towns are put on the jury master list.
Receiving a Jury Duty Summons in Rhode Island
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 RI, 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 Rhode Island jury duty obligations are complete.
You will receive nominal Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island re-adds you to the potential juror pool.
Jurors reporting for jury duty or jury selection in the state of Rhode Island 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 Rhode Island, 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.
Rhode Island Jury Duty Summons Frequency:
No person summoned as a petit juror will be required to serve more than two weeks in any year in which they may be summoned.
While there are a number of ways to be legally excused from jury duty in Rhode Island, failing to appear when summoned for jury selection or jury duty without an excuse is illegal, and can result in legal repercussions.
A prospective juror failing to appear contempt, shall be fined at least $20.00
Fines and other punishment varies by county. A bench warrant may be issued for contempt of court. A person issued a bench warrant may be jailed the next time they have a meeting with law enforcement (example, parking or speeding ticket)
Employers in Rhode Island are also forbidden from penalizing employees who miss work for jury duty.