Edgett Law Firm | August 20, 2020 | Criminal Defense
The Texas Constitution and the United States Constitution guarantee the right to a jury trial. Our right to have a jury of our peers determine our guilt or innocence is a fundamental part of our criminal justice system. However, it relies on citizens performing their service as jurors.
Individuals in Texas chosen for jury service receive a jury summons from the court in the county in which they reside. The list of prospective jurors for each county is compiled based on county residents who are registered to vote in Texas, have a Texas driver’s license, or have a Texas identification card. People are chosen at random from that list for jury service each term of court.
What Happens if I Ignore a Jury Summons in Texas?
Ignoring a jury summons can result in serious consequences. Under Texas Government Code §62.0141, if you do not answer a jury summons according to the instructions in the summons, you may be held in contempt. The judge could impose a fine between $100 and $1,000 for contempt of court.
You may also face a fine of $100 to $500 if you file a false claim of exemption from jury service, or you fail to attend court without a reasonable cause.
Who Can Serve on a Jury in Texas?
Anyone who meets the qualifications to serve on a jury can be chosen as a juror. There are no special qualifications that a person must have to be a juror.
To serve as a juror in Texas, a person must be:
- A citizen of the United States
- A citizen of the State of Texas and the county in which the person is to serve on a jury
- Eighteen years of age
- Eligible to vote in the county in which the person is to serve on a jury, even if the person is not registered to vote
- Able to read and write
- Of good moral character and sound mind
- Someone who has not been convicted of or accused of a felony or misdemeanor theft
- Someone who has not served as a juror for six days in a country court in the past three months or a district court during the past six months
Some counties send a questionnaire to individuals on the jury service list to confirm that they are qualified to serve on a jury. Other counties send the questionnaire with the jury summons. Either way, you are required by law to complete the questionnaire and return it to the court.
Can I Get Out of Serving on a Jury in Texas?
There are some exemptions from jury service that can excuse you from serving on a jury. You must notify the court immediately upon receiving a jury summons if you wish to be exempted from serving on a jury.
You may be exempted from jury service if you are:
- A student in a private or public secondary school
- Over the age of 70 years
- The primary caregiver of someone unable to care for themselves
- A member of the United States Military Forces who is serving on active duty and deployed out of the country or away from your home station
- Someone with legal custody of a child under the age of 12 years, and you do not have adequate care for your child if you serve on a jury
- An employee or officer of the in the legislative branch of government
You may also be exempt from jury service if you have served as a juror within the past two or three years. The exemption depends on the population of the county. You can check with the court to determine if you can use this exemption if you have served as a juror in the past two or three years.
Deciding Whether to Ask for a Jury Trial
If you are charged with a crime, you have the right to request a jury trial. However, that does not mean that requesting a jury trial is in your best interest. You might want to accept a plea deal or ask for a jury by a judge.
The facts and circumstances of your case impact whether you want to take the matter to court. There could be other factors to consider when deciding which option is best for your case.
A criminal defense lawyer carefully analyzes all your options for resolving a criminal case. An attorney with experience handling criminal matters in your area knows how judges tend to rule in cases. They also know how juries tend to rule in similar cases.
There is no guarantee of an outcome in any criminal matter. However, having an attorney who has experience handling the types of crimes you are accused of committing can help you decide whether a jury trial is the right decision for your case.