What Is Jury Duty?
Jury duty is when a citizen is asked to act as a juror in a court case or legal proceeding. Juries are a crucial part of the Australian justice system since they ultimately decide whether a defendant is guilty or innocent of the crimes they are accused of.
Why Do We Have Jury Duty?
Juries are a way for the justice system to be fair and impartial. It’s basically a game of checks and balances – since a randomly-selected group of people make the final decision, it’s harder for external factors or third parties to influence the outcome. Judgments are made based on the facts of the case, not personal bias.
How Does Jury Duty Work?
Once you’ve received your jury summons, you will be required to attend court. Then, on the day of the trial, you have to sign in at the courthouse. You may be required to watch an informational video about the process.
Then, you will go through the juror selection process. If you are selected to be one of the 12 jurors, you will receive further instructions and details about the trial. When the trial is over, you and the other jurors will deliberate until you reach a verdict.
What Is The Jury Summons?
The jury summons is the official notification that you are being called to jury duty, sent by the court. It comes with an application form that you must fill out and send back, whether or not you are exempt or able to make it to the court date. The summons will contain pertinent information such as the day you are to appear in court and where.
How Does The Selection Process Work?
Jury eligibility includes all Australians who are able to vote, with some exceptions (which we will go into later). But being summoned doesn’t necessarily mean that you will actually have to perform jury duty – the summons may be withdrawn, or you may not pass the selection process.
The jury selection process happens in the courthouse after all the prospective jurors have been summoned. At the courthouse, both the prosecution and the defence can eliminate jurors they feel may be biased or could potentially vote against them. Out of the initial pool, only 12 jurors who pass the selection process will actually be required to attend court.
Are There Exemptions To Jury Service? How Can You Defer?
The jury duty act requires all eligible Australian citizens to perform jury duty when summoned to do so. However, there are a few exceptions. Here are some of the categories that are exempt from jury service:
- Persons over the age of 75
- Legal practitioners and members of law enforcement
- Persons who work in public administration or emergency services
- Persons with disabilities
- Persons who cannot understand English
- Persons who are involved with current criminal proceedings
- Some persons with criminal backgrounds
Jury service can also be deferred or postponed to another date, especially if you have serious personal, professional, or health reasons. If you want a deferral, you’ll need to notify the summoning officer as soon as possible. When you defer, you will be asked to nominate your earliest available date within six months of the original summons date.
Unless you are exempt or excused from jury duty, you must attend court. There are hefty fines for not attending.
How Much Does Jury Duty Pay?
If you are required to appear in court, you will be compensated for your time. This usually includes an ‘attendance fee’, jury allowance, and a transportation allowance. Exact payment depends on the state and other circumstances.
If you are employed and missing work for jury duty, you may also be eligible for ‘make-up pay’, which is the difference between your daily wage and your jury payment.
Does Jury Duty Differ Between States?
Jury duty in Victoria may differ from jury duty in NSW or other parts of the country. States have the authority to decide on the specifics of jury duty, such as compensation and exempt persons. You should always refer to the official website of your state’s court if you have any specific questions about your jury duty. Most websites will have a ton of resources or even a ‘juror’s handbook’ to guide you.
Expectations Of A Juror
Jurors are not expected to be experts of the law, but there are a few expectations you must meet, such as:
- You must follow the court’s dress code of neat, comfortable clothing.
- You must arrive on time for each part of the process.
- You must reach a verdict based on the facts presented at court, not on any personal research you have down outside of the trial.
Not everyone will experience being a juror in their lifetime, but it’s a possibility for all eligible Australians. It’s important to know your rights and responsibilities so that when the time comes, you’re prepared.