In our democratic system, there is no more valuable service a citizen can perform than to be a juror. If you have been summoned to jury service, we appreciate your fitting this civic obligation into your busy life. We hope that you find your jury service to be an interesting and rewarding experience.
Below are answers to questions we are frequently asked about jury duty.
Must I respond to my jury duty summons?
Yes, you must fill out the juror information form and detach it from the bottom of the summons. You must mail in the completed form to us within 5 days. If you choose to submit your juror information form on-line via eJuror, please do not mail in your juror information form. Failure to complete and/or mail in the response may require you to appear at the courthouse to complete the form.
Is jury duty mandatory?
Yes. Juries play a central role in our justice system. The United States Constitution guarantees the right to a trial by petit jury in both criminal and civil cases. Your participation as a juror is crucial to the administration of justice. The consequences of not reporting for jury service are severe. You could be escorted to the courthouse by a deputy U.S. marshal to explain to a judge why you did not report. You also could be fined up to $1000, imprisoned for up to three days, ordered to perform community service, or any combination of the three.
You can defer your service or be excused under certain circumstances, as explained below.
How was I selected for jury duty?
Jurors in the Eastern District of Virginia are selected at random from lists of registered voters supplied by the Commonwealth of Virginia. Questionnaires are mailed to each randomly selected person. Jurors must be:
- United States citizens.
- Eighteen years old or older.
- Residents of the Eastern District of Virginia for at least one year at the time they are summoned.
- Able to read, write and speak the English language with sufficient mastery.
- Physically and mentally capable of serving.
Citizens who have been convicted of a crime that carries a punishment of more than a year in prison and whose civil rights have not been restored are ineligible to serve on a federal jury. Citizens who have a charge pending against them for the commission of a crime are also ineligible to serve on a federal jury.
Based on the answers to the questionnaires the Court mails, a pool of qualified jurors is created. Individuals are then selected at random from this pool to receive a summons to appear at the courthouse when a grand jury is about to be impaneled or a trial is about to begin.
You cannot volunteer to be a juror because it would interfere with this entirely random selection process.
May I defer my jury service or be excused from serving?
We recognize that jury service rarely comes at a convenient time. But because that is true for nearly all individuals called for jury duty, most individuals will be required to serve.
If you want to defer your service to a later date or be excused, you must make your request in writing to the jury office of the courthouse to which you have been summoned. You must describe the reasons you believe you should be deferred or excused and provide as much information as possible, including supporting documentation. You may mail your request, or you may submit your request on-line through eJuror. Please include your completed Jury Information Form, which was sent to you with your summons, when mailing your request. You should make your request within five days of receiving your summons.
Among the more common reasons jury service is excused are:
- Your age. Jurors must be at least 18 years old. Individuals who are 70 years old or older may ask to be excused because of their age.
- You are not a U.S. citizen. Please provide a copy of your Green Card or any other legal document supporting your request.
- You have a medical condition that would impede your jury service. Please provide a note from your doctor.
- You recently served on a jury in state or federal court. Under Federal law, a person cannot be required to serve on jury duty more often than once every two years. Please include a copy of the official jury certificate you received at the end of your jury service.
- You have not lived in the Eastern District of Virginia for at least one year or are no longer a resident of the Eastern District. Click here for a list of the cities and counties in the Eastern District. Please include proof of your new address -- such as a yellow postal forwarding sticker, a copy of your new driver's license or your utility bill.
You are a police officer, firefighter, active member of the military, volunteer member of an ambulance crew or rescue squad, or an appointed or elected government official.
Among the more common reasons jury service is deferred are:
- You care for a child or adult in your custody whose health or safety would be jeopardized by your absence.
- You have a scheduled vacation during your jury service. Please provide a copy of your airplane ticket or travel itinerary.
- You are a full-time student. Please submit proof of your enrollment.
It is your responsibility to verify that the request has been granted. If you mail, fax, or choose to submit your request on-line through eJuror, you may check the status of your request within 5 to 10 days after your submission to the court. You can call the toll-free automated jury information service at 866-224-9867, type in your nine-digit participant number (it is on the front of your summons), and follow the audio prompts. You may also check the status of your request on-line through eJuror.
Click on the location to which you have been summoned for the jury division address to which your request should be mailed: Alexandria, Newport News, Norfolk or Richmond.
If you receive a deferral or permanent excuse on the day you report for jury duty, you will not be paid for your attendance or travel.
What's the difference between a grand jury and a petit jury?
A grand jury is composed of 23 members. Ordinarily, they listen to evidence presented only by prosecutors and determine whether there is probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed by the individuals or organizations under investigation. If the grand jury finds there is probable cause, it issues a written statement of the charges that is called an indictment. Grand juries meet in secret, which protects the reputations of those under investigation. A grand jury's work becomes public only if an indictment is issued. After that, the accused will be brought before a judge to be arraigned. The accused can then decide to plead guilty, or plead not guilty and go to trial.
A petit jury -- also referred to as a trial jury -- consists of six to 12 members. In criminal trials, they listen to evidence presented by both prosecutors and the defense. They determine whether the accused is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt -- a higher standard of proof than the probable cause finding made by the grand jury. In civil trials, petit jurors listen to evidence presented by both sides and find for the plaintiff or defendant. Both criminal and civil trials are held in open court, except in rare instances when the judge seals a portion of the proceedings.
Grand and petit juries sit for different lengths of time, as explained below.
How long will I serve?
In Alexandria, grand jurors serve six to 18 months. In Newport News and Norfolk, they serve for 12 months. In Richmond, they serve for 12 to 18 months. In all jurisdictions, they generally meet only one to three consecutive days per month. The term of grand juries can be extended by order of the Court.
Petit jurors are "on call" for two weeks, during which they call the recorded telephone message system described below each day to learn whether they need to report to the courthouse the following day. Petit jurors rarely need to report to the courthouse every day of their two-week term of service.
If you are selected for a petit jury, you must serve until the conclusion of the trial, even if it lasts longer than two weeks. Likewise, if the trial ends before the conclusion of your two-week term of jury service, you will be excused from further service. The average trial lasts one to three days.
Jurors normally are required to be at court from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. You will be given a break for lunch and additional short breaks during the day.
How will I know when to report to the courthouse?
Report on the date listed on your summons.
The Court's schedule sometimes changes at the last minute. Rather than have you sit in the jury room each day of your two-week term of service, we may change the date you should to report to the courthouse. A recorded telephone message system tells you when you must report to the courthouse.
The system uses your nine-digit participant number. It appears in the upper left-hand section of the summons, above your name, and also below the bar code on your juror identification badge, which is in the middle of the left side of the summons.
Here's how the system works:
- On the date indicated on your summons, call the toll-free juror information number: 1-866-224-9867. Jurors reporting to Alexandria and Richmond should call the number after 6:00 p.m; jurors reporting to Newport News and Norfolk should call after 6:30 p.m. The call is free and may be dialed from any location.
2. You will be asked to enter your nine-digit participant number, using the key pad on your touch-tone phone.
3. You will be told when to report to the courthouse.
Do not report for jury duty until instructed to do so by the recorded message.
During the two weeks of your jury service, you must call the toll free number on the date you are summoned to start calling. The message will tell you when to report to the courthouse or when to call back for futher instructions.
If the message instructs you to report to the courthouse for jury service on a particular date, you must call the toll-free number the night before that reporting date to confirm that you are still needed the following day. Cases frequently settle just before trial is to begin, and you may not need to report. The instructions will either say that you are still scheduled to appear or that your reporting date has been cancelled.
If the reporting date has been cancelled, you will either be instructed to call again the next evening or you will be given a new date to appear. If you report for service without calling the phone message, and you are not scheduled to report, you will not be paid for your attendance or reimbursed for your travel. Always call the toll-free number the night before reporting.
Where do I report?
Report to the courthouse listed on your summons. See below for directions.
What is the dress code for jurors?
Appropriate attire for jurors is clothing that would be worn for an important business meeting. No blue-jeans, shorts, or T-shirts.
What should I bring with me? What should I leave at home?
You should bring your juror identification badge, which appears in the middle of the left side of your summons, each day you report to the courthouse. The bar code is used to check you in at the jury office.
You must present a photo ID, such as a driver's license, when entering the courthouse. You and your belongings are subject to search. Please allow plenty of time to pass through security. It is very important that you arrive on time; if you are late, the entire case will be delayed.
Before they are assigned to a particular case, jurors often have to wait while important pretrial activities take place. You may want to bring reading material for those periods of time. You may also want to bring a sweater or jacket; the courtrooms are often quite cool.
For security reasons, you will not be allowed to enter the courthouse with cellular telephones, Palm Pilots, Blackberry e-mail devices, pagers, cameras, tape recorders, laptop computers or any other electronic device.
Potential weapons such as firearms, knives, pocket knives, scissors, letter openers, screw drivers, mace and pepper spray are also prohibited.
What are the directions to the courthouse?
What public transportation can I take?
Where can I park?
For jury office contact information, directions, maps of the courthouse areas, parking lot locations and public transportation options, click on the location of the courthouse to which you have been summoned:
What will I be paid?
You will be paid an attendance fee of $50 for each day you report to the courthouse. A check will be mailed to you -- generally within two weeks of the end of your jury service.
If you are an employee of the federal government (except for postal employees) you are not entitled to be paid for attendance unless you are in a non-pay status when reporting for service. Federal government employees are, however, reimbursed for travel expenses, as described below.
The attendance payment is taxable income and should be declared on your income tax return. Jurors who earn over $600 in attendance income in one calendar year will receive a 1099 Form from the court.
Will I be reimbursed for my travel expenses?
The court will reimburse you 58 cents per mile round-trip from your residence to the courthouse no matter what mode of transportation you use. If you drive, you will also be reimbursed for any tolls paid for bridges, tunnels, and toll roads. Reimbursement for parking fees varies depending on the courthouse to which you have been summoned. See parking information above.
If you take public transportation, you will be reimbursed out of your mileage fees. No receipts are required.
Reimbursement for taxi cabs is not allowed.
Reimbursement of travel expenses is not taxable income. A reimbursement check will be mailed to you within two weeks of the end of your jury service.
Can I be fired from my job for serving on a jury?
No. Federal law protects all permanent employees who serve on juries. If your employer fires you, threatens to fire you, intimidates or coerces you because you have been called for jury duty, report the incident immediately to the jury office.
Does my employer have to pay me while I serve?
No, but most private employers do pay employees during their jury service. Some pay employees in full, while others deduct your daily juror attendance fee from your regular wages. Please check with your employer's policy regarding employees and jury pay.
If I have a question, who can I call?
Call the jury office at the courthouse to which you've been summoned:
Newport News: 757-222-7200
How can I learn more about jury service?
Read the Handbook for Grand Jurors or the Handbook for Trial Jurors. Both are published by the Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts.