Officials: Serving jury duty as UCF student important
From Peter Griffin of Family Guy to Jim from The Office, just about everyone has served for jury duty at some point in their lives, and college students are no exception.
When students are one of the 12 Angry Men among the jury, the responsibility and process can be daunting. Here's what to expect when you're expecting — jury duty that is:
To be summoned for service, a person must be 18 years or older, a United States citizen and must reside in the county for more than one year, according to the United States Courts website. However, there are some things that may qualify you for an exemption. Members of the armed services on active duty, fire and police officials and public officials of federal, state and local governments are all naturally exempt.
A jury summons comes in the mail, with the date and time of your summons clearly marked. A link to the Ninth Circuit Court of Florida is provided. It lays out the instructions for what you can't bring, such as pepper spray and scissors. It also has a jury questionnaire that all potential jurors must complete. Those without Internet access must arrive 30 minutes early to complete the questionnaire beforehand.
The day before the summons and after 5 p.m., you must call a number to find out if your services are required. Every potential juror is given a random number, and if your number is not called on the phone call or listed on the website, your name goes back in the jury pool and your services are not required for the following day.
Parking is free, but lunch is not provided or paid for. On the day of your jury duty, if your employer does not pay you for doing your civic duty, you will be compensated $15.
Karen Levey, the media services and public information coordinator in Orange County, explained that this is all laid out in Florida law.
"The amount paid for jury duty is set by Florida Statute. Jurors are not compensated for lunch or mileage. Jurors can be issued a pager to go outside, but they must remain on the courthouse campus," Levey said.
Jurors can leave to get lunch, as they typically have at least one hour.
A large, spacious room is provided for the comforts of potential jurors when waiting to be called for a jury panel. A typical day can be very long, or only a few hours, depending on the case load for the day.
Cynthia Schmidt is the director of the Center for Law and Policy and a professor in the Department of Legal Studies at UCF. She was a criminal defense attorney for 14 years before becoming an educator 11 years ago and knows how the jury system works inside and out.
"I conducted nearly 50 jury trials. Our criminal justice system cannot function without juries," Schmidt said. "Serving as a juror is one of the most important things a citizen can do, probably as important as voting. It means you get a chance to keep an eye on the government. You can participate in the process of justice. What could be more important?"
Schmidt explained that it is important for younger members of society to show up when summoned for jury duty.
"Many jurors are middle-aged or older. The community needs the college students to turn out for jury duty, to provide balance to the jury panel and a different point of view," Schmidt said. "Failing to [be] present for jury duty is not only un-American in my opinion, but also could place a person at risk of Contempt of Court. Usually you only serve for one day, and always you have plenty of notice."
Schmidt said it is paramount to call or check online the night before to see if your services are even needed.
"Often people are released from duty the night before because fewer judges 'ordered up' juries that day than was expected," she said.
Schmidt suggests bringing a book or other reading materials.
"You should plan on spending the day in the courthouse, with a great deal of down time. Most of the morning will be a hurry-up-and-wait situation, but you can't just come late," she said.
Typically, people can expect to be at the courthouse for the better part of a day.