Before their conviction, felons may have participated in some of the typical civil procedures like serving on a jury. Now that they have been released from prison, they often no longer qualify for many of these things. How about serving on a jury?
The question is whether felons get jury duty.
In this article, we’ll cover the following:
- What Is Jury Duty?
- Who Can be Called to Serve on a Jury?
- Can a Felon Serve on a Jury?
- Can a Person With a Criminal Record Serve on a Jury?
- What Can Disqualify a Person From Jury Duty?
- Reinstating Voting Rights as a Convicted Felon?
What Is Jury Duty?
Well, what exactly is that?
Court trials are presented before a judge and a jury. The jury will hear all evidence and then meet to decide a defendant’s guilt or innocence. Jury duty is the process of selecting potential jurors to serve on a jury for a case or for a specific period of time based on established criteria.
Serving on a jury goes back to the days of the Magna Carta. This was a British charter that established the foundation for individual rights. In the U.S., this duty was a process that came from the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
In colonial times, a jury known as a grand jury was used to help in writing laws and determining who should be sent to trial.
The Supreme Court ruled that it is a Constitutional right for anyone facing a prison term of at least six months in a criminal case to have a jury trial.
Who Can be Called to Serve on a Jury?
You may want to know how jurors are selected.
In the past U.S. history, jurors were selected at random based on owning property and being competent to serve on jury duty.
Later, criteria were modified for selecting potential jurors and to allow the trial counsel to question them before placing them on a jury.
To serve on a jury, you must be a U.S. citizen, at least 18, and a legal resident of the state in which a trial is being held. You must be able to read and write and be of sound mind. You must also have a valid driver’s license or other government ID card.
Jurors are selected at random from a list of voter registrations and a list of driver registrations in each county.
So, of course, this means that first you must be eligible to vote and be registered in the county in which you reside.
At various times during the year, those on the eligible list will receive a notice in the mail instructing them to report to a designated courtroom on a specified date and time. If you receive this summons, you are required to report at that date and time.
A juror who does not have a felony conviction or who has not had his records erased will be allowed to serve on a jury.
Can a Felon Serve on a Jury?
What does that mean for felons? They have been away serving their sentence before their release.
Most states will not allow a felon to serve as a juror. The issue begins with whether felons can vote.
However, felons have been known to serve on a jury. Jury duty is a service in a legal proceeding in local, state, and federal court. If you’ve been convicted of a crime, you will generally not be chosen.
Typically, felons cannot register to vote. Of course, this will depend on the state in each instance. But the right to vote is one of those civil rights that felons lose when they are convicted.
As such, your name will typically not appear on a voter registration list, and you will likely not receive a jury duty notice.
Regulations state that you cannot serve on a jury if you have been convicted of a felony or any type of theft unless your rights have been restored. You also cannot serve on a jury if you’re on probation or deferred adjudication for a felony or any type of theft.
You cannot serve on a jury if you are under indictment for a felony or under criminal charges for any type of theft.
Can a Person With a Criminal Record Serve on a Jury?
Not all crimes are felonies. What about the case of someone with a misdemeanor?
A misdemeanor may not disqualify you from serving on a jury. A misdemeanor will not result in you losing the right to vote as a felony will.
For example, you may have been convicted of a misdemeanor DUI, other traffic offense, or a drug possession charge. These will not prevent you from serving on a jury.
Your name will still appear on the voter registration list, meaning you could be selected for jury duty. Of course, you must be registered to vote in your county.
Even if you have a misdemeanor record and are called for jury duty, you may be dismissed from this duty by an attorney or judge in the selection process. Each jurisdiction makes its own criteria for this.
The question and answer process known as voir dire may result in your elimination from consideration.
What Can Disqualify a Person From Jury Duty?
In addition to a felony conviction, there are a number of other factors that can disqualify you from jury duty.
These may be divided into three categories.
The first is a mandatory disqualification. This occurs when you are considered to be biased about a defendant or have a view that will prevent you from rendering an impartial decision.
Convicted felons also come under this type, including those who have been convicted of bribery, larceny, perjury, or forgery.
Mandatory disqualification also includes those who do not have enough knowledge of basic reading and writing skills to understand a case or anyone who works in law enforcement full time.
You may also be excused from duty upon a juror’s request. You can be excused from serving as a juror if you are an expectant mother or are responsible for the care of an individual who cannot care for him or herself.
Parents who are not employed full-time, but who are responsible for caring for a child under the age of six can be excused from jury service.
If you have served on a jury in the past year, you are exempt from serving.
A third situation is an excuse at a judge’s discretion. A potential juror can be dismissed by a judge’s choice when working as an attorney or a doctor or are infirm. You may be excused by a judge of general necessity or for reasons of hardship.
You can also be excused from jury services if you’re over the age of 70.
Reinstating Voting Rights as a Convicted Felon?
In most states, you can serve on a jury if your felony record is expunged or erased, and you have regained your voting rights. If your records are not erased, you are disqualified from serving on a jury at the local, state, and federal level.
Federal laws for serving on a jury are similar to state laws. You cannot serve as a juror in federal court. If your records are erased or expunged, you are not considered to be a felon any longer and can serve on a jury at all levels.
You must satisfy all requirements of probation in order to serve. You can find information on reinstating your rights, and review having your rights reinstated by the state.
If you have your rights restored through having them expunged or erased, you will again be eligible for jury duty. Once your rights are reinstated, as a convicted felon having served your time and completed probation, you may once again serve as a juror.
What do you think about this article? Have you been on jury duty before? How did you become eligible after your felony conviction? Let us know in the comments below.