American citizens only have three mandatory civic duties: obey the law, pay taxes, and serve on a jury. While most people dread being selected for jury duty, some consider it an honor to sit inside the box. If you live in Michigan, you should be aware of the jury selection process and what you should expect if you are called to serve.
Frequently Asked Questions About Jury Duty in Michigan
In Michigan, the jury selection process starts with the Secretary of State gathering a list of those eligible for jury duty. The courts will then send out questionnaires to those eligible parties.
If you receive one, you must fill out the questionnaire completely and return it right away. From these collected responses, the courts will summon random people to come in for jury duty.
Who gets called for jury duty?
You may seat as a juror in Michigan if you are:
- 18 years or older
- A citizen of the United States
- A resident of the county or district of the court calling for service
- Able to speak and understand English
- Physically and mentally capable of performing service
You may opt to skip jury duty in Michigan if you are:
- Over the age of 70 and do not wish to serve
- Not able to communicate in English
- Suffering from a permanent medical condition
- A convicted felon
Can I get out of jury duty?
The courts do not take evading jury duty lightly. However, there are certain situations that may be considered as an exemption, including:
- Nursing mothers with a doctor’s note
- Hardship – extreme financial burden or your absence would affect another’s care or pose a risk to public safety
- Lack of transportation
- Excessive travel
- Undue risk to physical property
- Conflict with class schedule if you are still in school
You can only be called for jury duty once within a 12-month period, so if you are chosen again you can ask to be excused.
What if I don’t show up?
If you ignore a summons to appear in court for jury duty, the judge can hold you in contempt, require you to pay a hefty fine, or even throw you in jail.
Worried about work? The law prohibits your employer from firing you or threatening you with disciplinary action if you miss work for jury duty. They also cannot force you to work overtime to make up for lost hours or they could be guilty of a misdemeanor or held in contempt.
What does the jury do during the trial?
We often hear the phrase “a jury of one’s peers” which means that the job of determining the facts and reaching a fair decision does not rest with someone in authority but with people in the community.
During the trial, the judge will rule on the technicalities of the law but it is the jury who will decide all the disputed questions of fact.
As a member of the jury, it is your duty to consider all the evidence and, based on what you see and hear during the trial, determine the true facts of the case.
What kinds of cases are decided by a jury?
Civil Cases: a civil case is filed to resolve a dispute between two people, groups, or entities – called parties to the lawsuit. The party that files a civil suit is called the plaintiff and the party being sued is called the defendant.
Criminal Cases: a criminal case is filed to determine whether the defendant is guilty of the crime he/she is being charged with.
What can jurors expect once in the courtroom?
Once inside the courtroom, the jurors are asked to take an oath and randomly selected to sit in the jury box. The judge and lawyers will then be allowed to ask questions to ensure that each juror is impartial to the case.
What you can and cannot do while the trial is ongoing
There are strict rules that jurors must follow in order to maintain fairness during a trial. Let’s look at what you can and cannot do while sitting as a member of the jury.
The following are prohibited during the trial:
- Discuss the case with friends, family, lawyers, witnesses, or even news reporters – you may do so once the trial is over.
- Read, watch, or listen to news reports about the case while the trial is going on
- Chat or text on a telephone, mobile phone, computer, or any electronic communication device except during breaks or recess.
- Visit the scene of the crime without court supervision
If you need clarification about something or do not completely understand the judge’s instructions, it is your duty to ask the judge for further explanation.
Have you been selected for jury duty in Michigan? If you are summoned by the court but are not sure what to do, give us a call at The Clark Law Office so we can help you prepare for jury duty.