Questions about the Juror Questionnaire
I received a Questionnaire; does this mean I will get summoned for Jury Duty?
The Questionnaire is the beginning of a screening process for prospective Jurors. Not everyone that receives a Questionnaire will be summoned for Jury Duty.
If I get summoned for Jury Duty, how much notice will I get?
Jury Duty notices are mailed by first class mail approximately one month before your reporting date.
A Questionnaire was received for my son/daughter who is away at school, what should I do?
You should fill out the Questionnaire for your son/daughter, sign your name indicating that you are the parent and return the Questionnaire to the Circuit Court.
My spouse received a Questionnaire and he or she is out of town, what should I do?
You should fill out the Questionnaire for your spouse, sign your name indicating that you are the spouse and return the Questionnaire to the Circuit Court.
A Questionnaire was sent to a family member who is deceased, what should I do?
Indicate on the Questionnaire that the family member is deceased and return it to the Circuit Court.
A Questionnaire was sent to the previous resident of my home, what should I do?
Indicate on the front of the Questionnaire, where the name and address appear, that the person does not reside at that address and put the Questionnaire back in the mail.
I no longer live in Fairfax County and I received a Questionnaire, what should I do?
Indicate on the Questionnaire that you moved out of Fairfax County and return the Questionnaire to the Circuit Court.
I still live in Fairfax County, but moved to a new address, what should I do?
You should fill out the Questionnaire, indicate your new address and return the Questionnaire to Circuit Court.
I am more than 70 years of age and choose not to be a Juror, what should I do?
Check the box indicating that you are more than 70 years of age and do not wish to serve.
I have medical problems and feel that I should not serve as a Juror, what should I do?
If a doctor's statement is available you should mail it attached to your summons. A doctor's statement could be required if you actually receive a summons for Jury Duty.
Questions about Jury Duty
How was I chosen for Jury Service?
Potential Jurors are randomly selected from voter registration lists. The selection method is designed to produce a cross section of the community. Approximately 55,000 prospective Jurors are randomly selected each year to receive a Juror Questionnaire. When these Questionnaires are returned to the court they are reviewed by jury commissioners to determine which citizens are qualified to serve as Jurors. These names make up the master jury list for the year. Men and women 18 years of age and over, and from all walks of life have an equal opportunity to be called for Jury Service.
Do I have to respond to the summons to Jury Duty?
Yes. The summons to Jury Duty is an official court summons. If you do not respond, you could be found in contempt of court!
What about my job?
Your employer can't fire, demote, or otherwise penalize you for missing work while performing Jury Duty. Many employers continue to pay your salary while you are on Jury Duty. Give your employer ample notice of your Jury Duty and find out what the policy is at your job.
Will I be reimbursed for serving on Jury Duty?
You will be reimbursed $30 for each day you must report to the courthouse. This amount is set by the state legislature and is considered reimbursement for your travel and other expenses.
How long will I be on Jury Duty?
Jurors are assigned to one particular day of the week either Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday. You will need to call a recorded message or check the jury website the evening before your assigned date to determine whether or not your group number is called for service. If your group number is called, you must report the following day. If you are selected to sit on a multi-day jury trial, you will be required to serve until the trial ends. If you are not selected for a trial or the trial finishes in one day, your service is complete.
What if an unexpected emergency keeps me from coming to the courthouse while I'm on a jury?
It is very important that all Jurors report each day they are told to report and that they be on time. Your absence may delay a trial. If you have an emergency (such as a sudden illness or a death in the family), call the court immediately. The phone number for the jury clerk is 703-246-7816.
How will I know what to expect and what to do during my Jury Service?
An orientation will be given for the Jurors by the court to inform and educate them about Jury Service and the trial process. The orientation will inform you of the procedures for checking in on the days you must report to the courthouse, how you find out when to report, what the court's hours are, and what to do if you have an emergency during Jury Service. Additionally, you will learn about your role as a Juror and what you should and should not do while in the courthouse or serving on a jury.
What hours will I serve?
You should call the evening before the date shown on your summons to see if your group is needed that day. When you report you will be told the procedure for reporting to the court for the rest of the term and the court's normal business hours. On days that you report for Jury Service, you can expect to be at the court during normal hours. Court normally adjourns at approximately 5 p.m. If not selected for a jury, you may be able to leave early (usually by 1 p.m.). Jurors will be given a lunch break (normally from 1 o'clock until 2 o'clock) and a morning break and a afternoon break. On occasion, a trial will continue beyond the court's normal working hours.
I have heard that sometimes Jurors are not allowed to go home until after the trial is over. Will this happen to me?
Jurors go home at the end of the day and return the next day if their trial did not complete in one day. Although Fairfax Circuit Court rarely sequesters a jury, in an extremely unusual case, a jury could be "sequestered" during the trial or during the jury's deliberations. Sequestered means that instead of going home at the end of the day, Jurors stay in hotels, where their access to other people and to external news sources is limited. This is usually to keep them from accidentally hearing something about the trial that wasn't told in court or from being influenced by news reports. This is important because juries must reach their decisions based only on what they've heard during the trial. In almost all Virginia jury trials, however, the jury goes home at the end of each day and is simply told not to discuss the case with anyone nor to watch, read, or listen to news reports about the case. It is essential that you follow these instructions.
Is there anything I can do to make my Jury Service more comfortable, convenient, and enjoyable?
Certainly! While efforts are made to reduce delay and avoid waiting time, you may have to wait a while at the courthouse before you find out whether you have been chosen to actually sit on a jury. You should bring a book or other quiet activity; solve a crossword puzzle; write a letter; sketch a picture; or get to know your fellow Jurors.
What is the dress code?
You should wear comfortable but appropriate attire. Do not wear shorts or halter tops. For your comfort, be prepared for heating and air conditioning fluctuations in the courtrooms and jury rooms.
Is it possible that I might report for Jury Service but not sit on a jury?
Yes, the parties involved in a case generally seek to settle their differences and avoid the expense and time of a trial. Sometimes the case is settled just a few minutes before the trial begins. So even though several trials are scheduled for a certain day, the court doesn't know until that morning how many will actually go to trial. But your time spent waiting is not wasted - your
very presence in the court encourages settlement.
How are Jurors chosen to sit on a jury in a civil case?
When a trial is ready to begin, the bailiff calls potential Jurors into the courtroom. If damages of less than $15,000.00 are claimed in the case, 11 Jurors will be called. If damages of more than $15,000.00 are claimed, 13 Jurors will be called. The clerk asks the potential Jurors to stand, hold up their right hands, and swear or affirm that they will truthfully answer the questions about to be asked of them. The judge will then tell you the names of the parties and their attorneys and briefly explain the nature of the case. The judge will ask if you are related to anyone involved in the case, have any financial or other interest in the outcome of the case, have formed or expressed an opinion, or have any personal bias or prejudice that might affect how you decide the case. If you don't think you can make a fair and impartial decision for any reason, you should tell the judge at this time. The attorneys for each side might also ask you some questions. If the judge concludes that you may not be able to make a fair decision, you will be asked to step down, and another prospective Juror will replace you. After the judge decides that all potential Jurors are qualified to fairly and impartially hear the case, the bailiff will give the list to the attorneys. Each side will remove 3 names from the list. They do not have to give reasons for removing these names. If the amount of the claim is under $15,000.00, the final jury will have 5 members. If it is more than $15,000.00, the jury will have 7 members. The remaining Jurors then swear that they will hear the case and give a verdict they believe to be true. The trial is ready to begin.
Why are some Jurors removed from the list?
Allowing both sides to participate in selecting the jury gives the parties the opportunity to feel that the jury will be fair and impartial when it decides the cases. Being excused from a jury in no way reflects on your character or your competence as a Juror, so you should not feel offended or embarrassed if your name is removed.
How are juries chosen in a criminal case?
The procedure for criminal cases is very similar to the procedure for civil cases. However, 20 prospective Jurors are called for a felony trial. The final jury will have 12 members. For a misdemeanor case, 13 Jurors are called and the final jury will have 7 members.
What are alternate Jurors?
Sometimes, when the judge believes that a case is likely to last for more than a day or two, additional Jurors will be chosen. The additional Jurors are chosen to avoid having to retry the case should one or more Jurors be excused from the jury during the trial for an emergency (such as illness), leaving too few Jurors to decide the case. Throughout the trial, all Jurors will sit together, paying careful attention to all the evidence. After closing argument, and before the jury retires to the jury room to decide the case, the judge will excuse from the case enough Jurors to reduce the number of Jurors to the statutory number needed to decide the case.
What are my responsibilities now that I'm part of a jury?
In any trial, two kinds of questions will have to be decided at various times. These are questions of law and questions of fact. The judge decides the questions of law. You decide the questions of fact. After you have decided the questions of fact, you will apply to the law the facts as you find them as directed by the judge at the end of the trial.
What is a "Question of law"?
Questions of law involve the determination of what the law is. They may be about procedural matters (what information can be admitted as evidence, what kind of questions can be asked, which witnesses can appear, and what they can testify about). Or they may involve questions of substantive law, which create, define, and regulate the rights of parties.
What is a "Question of fact"?
Quite simply, it's deciding what really happened in a case. Don't be surprised if the evidence given by both sides is conflicting or if the testimony given by one witness contradicts another. After all, if everyone was in agreement about what happened and what should be done about it, the dispute probably wouldn't be in court, and a jury probably wouldn't be needed. Your job is to listen to all the testimony, consider all the evidence, and decide what you think really happened.
Who else will be in the courtroom?
A number of people will be in the courtroom besides the judge, the jury, and the attorneys. The list below explains who they are and what they'll be doing. •Plaintiff (civil case). In a civil case, the person who brought the case to court is called the plaintiff. •Defendant (civil case). The person being sued in a civil case is called the defendant. •Defendant (criminal case). A person who has been charged with a crime is the defendant in a criminal case. •Attorney or counsel. Attorneys representing the plaintiff, defendant, or the government in a criminal case are also referred to as a counsel. Depending on who they represent and what court you are in, you may hear them called counsel for the plaintiff, plaintiff's attorney, counsel for the defendant, or defense attorney. An attorney representing the government in a criminal case is called the prosecuting attorney or commonwealth's attorney. •Court reporter. The court reporter keeps the official record by recording every word spoken during the trial. •Court security officer (bailiff). The bailiff keeps order, maintains the security of the court, and helps the judge and the jury as needed. •Clerk of the court. The clerk of court, also called the clerk, maintains the court files and preserves the evidence presented during the trial. The clerk may also administer the oaths to Jurors and witnesses. •Witnesses. Each side in a trial will probably have a number of witnesses who have information about the dispute. Very often, the judge will ask them to wait outside the courtroom until it is their turn to testify. This is done so they won't hear each other's testimony and be influenced by it.
What happens during a civil trial?
After the clerk has sworn in the jury, the case is ready to begin. Both attorneys may make opening statements explaining their client's position and outlining the evidence they expect to present that will support their claims. These statements are not evidence And should not be considered as such. The witnesses for the plaintiff are then called and questioned by the attorney for the plaintiff and cross-examined by the attorney for the defendant. After cross-examination, the plaintiff's attorney may reexamine some of the witnesses. After all the plaintiff's witnesses have been called and all the plaintiff's evidence has been presented, the attorney will tell the judge that the plaintiff rests. Witnesses for the defendant may then be called. This time, the defendant's attorney questions the witnesses, and the plaintiff's attorney cross-examines them. When all the defendant's witnesses and evidence have been presented, the defense will rest. After the defendant has finished, the plaintiff has the right to offer testimony in reply. The judge and the attorneys will then consider the instructions (law that applies to the case) the judge will give the Jurors. While this is being done, the Jurors will be sent to the jury room to wait. After the judge has decided on the instructions, the Jurors will be brought back into the courtroom. The judge reads the jury instructions to the jury, then the attorneys make their closing arguments. The closing arguments let each attorney tell the jury what they think the evidence proves and why their client should win. The closing arguments may help Jurors recall many details of the case, but they are not evidence. The plaintiff's attorney speaks first, followed by the defendant's attorney. Finally, the plaintiff's attorney speaks again and closes the case.
What are jury instructions?
Jury instructions tell the jury what the laws are that govern a particular case. Each attorney gives the judge a set of proposed jury instructions. The judge considers each instruction and gives the ones that properly state the law that applies to the case. The Jurors must accept and follow the law as instructed by the judge even though they may have a different idea about what the law is or ought to be.
Who awards damages in a civil case?
In a civil case, the jury not only decides on a verdict for one side or the other, but also awards damages. That is, if the jury determines that an award of money should be made, the jury decides how much money should be paid.
How are criminal cases tried?
Criminal cases are very similar to civil cases, except instead of a plaintiff, there is a prosecuting attorney. The prosecuting attorney may represent either the commonwealth (the state) or a city, county, or town.
What are the two types of criminal cases?
There are two kinds of criminal offenses: A felony offense is one that can be punished by death or by a prison sentence of one year or more. If the felony offense is one that can be punished by death, it is called a capital offense, capital cases are rare in Fairfax County. If the maximum punishment allowed by law is less than one year in confinement or only a fine, the offense is called a misdemeanor.
Who sets the punishment in criminal cases?
If the jury finds the defendant guilty in a felony case, they set the punishment. After the guilty verdict, however, the jury hears more evidence before deciding on the penalty.
Why do attorneys object to certain statements or evidence?
An important part of an attorney's job is to protect the clients' rights during a trial. This includes making sure that the only evidence presented during the trial is evidence that is proper, relevant, and allowed by law. So if evidence is submitted that the attorney feels is improper, or if the attorney feels that the other side is asking questions that are unlawful, the attorney will call out "objection!" By doing this, the attorney is asking the judge to rule on whether the law allows that particular piece of evidence or statement or question to be admitted. If the judge thinks it should be admitted, the judge will say, "objection overruled." If the judge agrees that the evidence in question is improper, the judge will say, "objection sustained." How often an attorney raises objections during the trial shouldn't bias you against the attorney's case.
Why is the jury sometimes asked to leave the courtroom in the middle of a trial?
The judge may decide to send the jury from the courtroom in the middle of a trial. While the jury is gone, the attorneys and the judge will discuss points of law or whether certain evidence can be admitted. The purpose of these discussions is to make sure that the jury hears only the evidence that is legally valid before making its decision. You will be called back to the courtroom when the judge's decision is made.
What should I do when testimony is stricken from the record?
You must disregard that testimony. Sometimes the jury hears testimony that the judge later decides they should not have heard. The judge will tell the jury to consider the case as if they had never heard it. You must follow the judge's instructions if the parties in the case are to receive a fair trial.
Can I talk to anyone about the trial while it's going on?
No. As long as the trial is still going on, do not discuss the trial with anyone. Do not even discuss the case with your fellow Jurors until you begin your deliberations. When the trial is over, you can discuss it with anyone if you want to, or you may keep silent if you prefer.
Can I watch news reports of the trial or read newspaper accounts of it?
No, not as long as the trial is still going on.
What if I accidentally hear something about the trial outside the courtroom, or if someone contacts me about the trial while it is still going on, or if I realize during the trial that I have some special information that relates to the case?
Ask the bailiff to tell the judge immediately what has happened. Tell no one about the incident except the bailiff or the judge.
What if I need a break during the trial?
Jurors are given a morning break, a lunch break and an afternoon break. If it is absolutely necessary that you take a break for some reason at any other time during the trial, tell the bailiff or the judge.
What happens after the closing arguments?
After the judge gives you your instructions and you hear the attorneys' closing arguments, you leave the courtroom and go to the jury room to begin your deliberations. "Deliberation" is the process the jury uses to reach its verdict. During deliberations, the jury will discuss evidence and review law and facts.
What's the first thing we do?
The first thing you should do is elect one member of the jury to preside over the deliberations, seeing that everyone has an opportunity to participate and that the discussions remain orderly. The person chosen to preside takes part in deliberations and votes on the verdict along with everyone else.
Do we all have to agree?
Yes. Every Juror must agree on the verdict. This is known as a unanimous verdict.