Texas - Jury Duty Laws, Jury Selection, Juror Qualification
Jury Duty in Texas - What to Expect
In the American court system, criminal defendants are guaranteed the right to trial by a "jury of their peers". In Texas, a pool of potential jurors is randomly selected from the local population of individuals eligible for jury duty.
A prospective juror must:
- be at least 18 years of age
- be a citizen of the United States
- be a resident of Texas and of the summoning county
- be qualified under the Constitution and laws to vote in the county in which you are to serve as a juror
- be of sound mind and good moral character
- be able to read and write in English
- not have been convicted of, or be under indictment or other legal accusation for, misdemeanor theft or a felony
How Are Potential Jurors Chosen in Texas?
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 Texas, as described above.
On or before December 31 of each year or as frequently as required, the district clerk or bailiff in charge of the jury selection process for a county, shall combine the lists of current voter registrants and holders of a valid Texas driver's license, or a valid personal identification card or certificate issued by the Department of Public Safety, and eliminate duplicate names. The combined lists shall be sent to each respective county
Receiving a Jury Duty Summons in Texas
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 TX, 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 Texas jury duty obligations are complete.
You will receive nominal Texas 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 Texas re-adds you to the potential juror pool.
Jurors reporting for jury duty or jury selection in the state of Texas 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 Texas, 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.
Texas Jury Duty Summons Frequency:
A juror who has served for six days in the preceding 3 months in the county court, or during the preceding 6 months in the district court cannot serve for the term summoned.
A juror who has served as a petit juror in the same county during the 24-month period preceding the date they are required to appear for this summons may claim an excuse from jury service.
While there are a number of ways to be legally excused from jury duty in Texas, failing to appear when summoned for jury selection or jury duty without an excuse is illegal, and can result in legal repercussions.
A juror who fails to answer the summons as directed is subject to a contempt action punishable by a fine between $100 and $1,000.
A juror who fails to attend court or files a false claim of exemption for jury service may be fined between $100 and $500.
Employers in Texas are also forbidden from penalizing employees who miss work for jury duty.