Like every morning, you check the incoming mail. This time, you will find a little surprise: a summons to become a juror. What’s goes through your mind? After Liz Lemon’s comical efforts to avoid her duty in 30 Rock or scenes of 12 angry men, you probably have tons of questions.
How does it work? Do I really have to go? What if I can’t? Will I get paid?
To help you demystify it all, here are the answers to the most frequently asked questions about juror and jury!
What is the role of a juror?
In some cases, when a citizen is charged with a crime, the Canadian justice system gives him or her a choice between a trial by jury or trial by judge. In more severe cases, jury trials are mandatory. In such a situation, 12 jurors are appointed from among the population and form a jury. This group must decide on the guilt or innocence of the person accused of committing an indictable offence. In order to render a judgment, the jury’s decision must be unanimou.
Acting as a juror is a fundamental duty in our society, and a fundamental role in the pursuit of justice.
How are jurors selected?
Candidate jurors are randomly selected from the provincial voters list. Once the group of candidates has been selected, they are called by means of a summons sent by mail at least 30 days before the date of the convening of the court.
Can I be exempt?
Three categories of persons may be exempted from jury duty:
- Persons 65 years of age or older
- Persons with health problems
- Parents who are caring for young children
These persons must complete the exemption request form sent with the summons. To support the request, the form must also be signed and stamped by one of the following:
- a commissioner of oaths
- a clerk of a court of law or a municipality
- a lawyer
- a notary public
- a mayor and a councilor
- a secretary-treasurer of a municipality
In addition, additions types of persons may also be exempt from jury duty such as:
- A religious leader or minister
- A member of the Canadian Regular Armed Forces
- A staff member of the Quebec National Assembly
- An official engaged in the administration of justice or with a spouse serving as such
- One who has served on a jury during he past five years
The document requesting exemption must be sent within 20 days of receipt of the summons.
For more information on the jury exemption, visit the website of the Ministère de la Justice.
What if my request for exemption is denied?
If your request for an exemption is denied, you must go to court at the time and date indicated on the summons.
What happens if I don’t show up?
If you do not go to court, you may be charged with contempt and fined. The same applies if your request for an exemption has been refused and you do not appear in court on the day indicated.
Can an employer fire an employee called on jury duty?
The law protects persons called upon to serve as jurors. As a result, an employer cannot suspend, reassign or dismiss a person who has been called by the court. Nor can an employer retaliate or discriminate against them. However, employers are not required to pay salary during the period of the individual’s service as a juror unless otherwise specified in the employment contract or collective agreement.
If the employer does not comply with these rules, the employee may file a complaint with the Commission des relations du travail in addition to filing a criminal action.
How Does the Day of Summons Unfold?
The candidate juror must appear at the correct time, date and place, indicated in the summons. Upon arrival in the courtroom, general information will be provided, such as the identity of the accused, the charges against him or her, the parties to the trial, and the expected duration.
The sheriff and judge then hear the applications of candidates who wish to be exempted. Such requests must be detailed and justified.
At this stage, the grounds for exemption are as follows:
- The nature of the candidate’s work
- Any employment related to the legal system, for example, a government official
- The fact that the absence of the juror will have a negative impact on the activities of the company for which he or she is working
- A Connection to a witness
- A relationship with a lawyer
- A connection with the judge or the prosecutor
- A link to any other participant in the trial
- An illness disease
- The nature of the candidate’s work
The jurors are then randomly drawn from among the candidates and the names are given to the judge. At this stage, lawyers can accept or refuse jurors without having to justify their choice.
The remaining candidates are released from their obligations, but may be recalled if necessary throughout the duration of the trial.
Can I inform my family or employer that I have been selected as a juror?
Yes, this information is not confidential and can be shared with others around you.
Where does the juror reside during the trial?
The juror may return home after each day of trial . It is only at the end of the trial, during deliberations, that jurors must remain together and are forbidden from any contact with the outside world due to the duty to preserve the confidentiality of exchanges.
When the deliberations last several days, or when the judge deems it necessary, the members of the jury reside in a hotel, paid for by the province.
Is jury duty paid?
During the course of the trial, jurors are be paid an indemnity of $103 for each day or part of a day of hearing or deliberation, or when the juror remains confined to the location designated by the Sheriff. This allowance is set at $160 as of the 57th day of duty. Jurors are also entitled to an additional $52.00 when there is a hearing or deliberation in the evening. This indemnity is set at $103 when proceedings continue until the next day.
The following sums may be allocated to candidates who present themselves for jury selection and to members of the jury:
- The cost of public transit or, if a car is used, $0.43 per kilometer and the cost of parking. Supporting documents may be required
- On presentation of supporting documents, the cost of meals up to the following amounts, including taxes and gratuities:
- $10.40 for lunch
- $14.30 for dinner
- $21.55 for dinner
- From $83 to $138 for lodging if the juror lives too far to attend the hearings. If the lodging is not at a hotel, the allowance is $79
- A juror is entitled to a child care or other dependent care allowance, payable on a weekly basis from $131 for one person to $260 for 4 or more persons
Fulfilling one’s duty as a juror can be trying. It’s an experience that marks you, no doubt, and is a real challenge. But it can also be both rewarding and enriching to do your duty as a citizen and play a role in justice being served.