Jury Duty Frequently Asked Questions:
Q: How Are Jurors Selected?
A: Each year, the State Election Commission provides Georgetown County with a list containing the names of registered voters, persons holding valid driver´s licenses, and persons with state identification cards. Duplicate names and persons under the age of 18 have already been stricken from the list by the state. This list is used by Georgetown County to create a computer file from which jurors are selected. The jury selection computer program ensures that jurors are selected completely at random. The Circuit Courts (General Sessions and Common Pleas) select jurors from throughout the entire county. Once selected, summonses are created and mailed to the persons selected for service.
Q: How Often Are Jurors Selected?
A: Jury selection takes place at different times and frequencies, depending on the number of jury trials scheduled by the Courts. The county Grand Jurors are selected once each year, whereas the Common Pleas and General Sessions juries are drawn on almost weekly.
Q: If I was chosen for jury duty this year, can I be picked again later?
A: Persons chosen for jury service in the Courts of General Sessions and Common Pleas are exempted from further service in those courts for a period of three years following the year in which they served. The computer selection program marks the names of persons selected for service so that they cannot be chosen again until their exemption period has passed. However, this does not prevent you from being picked to serve on a Magistrate´s Court jury, Coroner´s Court jury or a Municipal (City) Court jury. The exemption period for Grand Jurors is five years following the year of service.
Municipal (City) Courts select juries independently of the County Courts, and may have different rules regarding jury selection and service.
Q: I don´t want to serve on jury duty. What do I do?
A: Unless you are disqualified, exempted, or have been excused by the Clerk of Court, you are required to appear in court at the day and time specified on the jury summons. Failure to appear may result in a citation for contempt of court, and a bench warrant may be issued for your arrest. Persons seeking to be excused should contact the jury clerk. If you do not contact the jury clerk, or should the jury clerk be unable to excuse you, you are required to appear on the first day of the jury term and request the judge to excuse you. If you choose not to appear at all, the judge will order a sheriff’s deputy to pick you up and you can be held in contempt. For more detailed explanations regarding jury duty, call (843) 527-6338 or call (843) 545-3038 to speak to the jury clerk.
Q: My religious belief prohibits me from serving as a juror. Do I need to answer the summons and appear for jury duty?
Q: Who is disqualified from jury service?
A: You may be disqualified from jury service (not allowed to serve) if:
- You have been convicted in a state or federal court of a crime punishable by more than one year of imprisonment and your civil rights have not been restored.
- You are unable to read, write, speak or understand the English language to a degree sufficient to allow you to act as a juror.
- If you have less than a 6th-grade (or equivalent) education.
- If you are unable to render efficient jury service due to severe mental or physical infirmity.
Failure to state such disqualifying facts upon questioning by the judge, clerk of court or hearing officer is punishable as contempt of court. Likewise, furnishing false or misleading information on a Juror Response Form may also subject you to penalties for contempt of court. Further, no clerk or deputy clerk of court, constable, sheriff, probate judge, county commissioner, magistrate, county officer or any person employed within the walls of any courthouse is eligible to serve as a juror. No member of a grand jury, which returned an indictment, may be on the petit jury for the trial of the case. If you have been summoned to appear as a juror in the Court of Common Pleas, or the Court of General Sessions, you should have received a Juror Response Form with your summons. If you meet any of the above-named criteria for disqualification, you should indicate as much on your Response Form and return it within two calendar days in the return envelope provided, and it will not be necessary for you to appear on the date specified on the summons.
Q: Who may be exempted from jury service?
A: You have the choice to serve or not serve if you are 65 years old or older, or if you were inadvertently summoned after having served within the past three calendar years as a circuit court juror. If you meet any of the above-listed criteria for exemption, you should indicate as much on your response form and return it in the return envelope within two calendar days. If you return the form in time it will not be necessary for you to appear on the date specified on the summons.
Q: Who may be excused from jury service?
A: You may ask the presiding Judge to excuse you from jury service if you can show good and sufficient reason by application filed with the clerk of court, showing why you should not have to serve. Typical reasons might include temporary or permanent physical disability, or an unemployed custodial parent with children under the age of 7 without means of providing adequate care while performing jury duty. Before you can be excused for one of these reasons, you may be asked to furnish an affidavit to the Clerk of Court.
Q: My boss doesn´t like me to be away from work. Can I be excused from jury duty?
A: Typically, you will not be excused for work-related reasons. It is against the law for an employer to penalize you for performing jury service or to prevent you from serving as a juror. If you are currently involved in an important project, going out of town on business or having to work extra hours, you may be able to reschedule your jury service to a more convenient date. You should contact the jury clerk at (843) 545-3038 if you wish to reschedule your jury service for another term of court. The clerk may accommodate the transferral request if one has not already been granted.
Upon completion of your service as a juror, request a letter from the clerk of court, which will indicate the number of days and dates you served as a juror, and the amount of compensation you will receive. This letter may be given to your employer as proof of your service as a juror.
Q: I don´t mind serving as a juror, but this is a really bad time. Can I reschedule my jury service?
A: Yes, persons seeking a postponement of service should contact the Clerk of Court. You will be asked to state your reasons for seeking the postponement, but postponements are generally granted for good cause. Typical reasons might be a student with final exams scheduled for the same week as the jury term, someone recovering from a serious illness, or a businessperson who expects to be out of town on business. If the postponement is allowed, you will be informed of a new date on which to report for jury duty. Your jury service may be postponed only one time.
Q: Will I be paid for serving as a juror? What about parking?
A: Juror’s compensation is set by Georgetown County Council. You will be compensated for your service at a rate of $25 per day upon service. Parking is available in the Judicial Center parking lot.
Q: Will I be paid even if I´m not picked for a trial?
A: Only if the judge requires you to remain in the courtroom. Jurors not picked for a trial are generally allowed to leave to resume their normal daily routine and are asked to call back to the Clerk’s mailbox message center (843) 545-3211 at a specified time to learn if and when they need to return to the courtroom. The mailbox message is recorded within minutes of the judge’s instructions.
Q: What do I do about meals? Is lunch provided?
A: Except in special situations, meals are not provided by the court. Jurors are generally free to leave the building for lunch. You may not take food or beverages into the courtroom. You must not be late returning from lunch at the time specified by the judge or clerk in charge.
Q: How long do I have to serve?
A: Your service will normally be only for one week. Cases set for trial may be postponed or settled just as they are scheduled to begin, and other cases may be moved up on the Jury Trial Roster. Since it is impossible to predict the outcome of the cases on the roster, you should plan to be with us the entire week. The hours of court operation are determined by the presiding Judge; however, court generally begins each day at 9:30 a.m. and adjourns at approximately 5:30 p.m. At the end of each day, or if dismissed earlier, you should make sure that you know where and at what time you should report on the next day.
Q: My summons says I am to report to the Court of General Sessions (or Common Pleas). What´s the difference?
A: Georgetown County, together with Horry County, forms the 15th Judicial Circuit of the State´s 16 circuit courts. The Circuit Court system in South Carolina is divided into the Court of Common Pleas, which hears only civil cases, and the Court of General Sessions, which hears only criminal matters. However, jurors may serve as needed in either court.
Q: What´s the difference between hearing a civil or criminal case?
A: Civil and criminal case jury trials are conducted under similar rules and in much the same manner. A few differences you will notice include:
- The manner in which peremptory challenges of jurors are handled differs slightly in civil and criminal trials.
- The manner in which jurors must weigh evidence will vary considerably between civil and criminal cases. In a civil case, allegations by the parties are proven by a "preponderance of the evidence" to support a finding in favor of one of the two litigants. In a criminal case, the defendant must be proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Because of these distinctions, the judge´s instructions to a civil trial jury will be quite different from those given to a criminal trial jury.
Q: How should I dress?
A: The Judiciary requires appropriate attire in the courtroom; specifically no tank tops, shorts, hats or "flip-flop" sandals are allowed.
Q: What can I bring with me to the Judicial Center?
A: You aren´t required to bring anything with you, although you may wish to bring a book or magazine to read during any delays or waiting periods; do not bring newspapers. Because of the need for quiet, you should not bring items such as computer games. Also, you may not bring activated cellular phones or pagers into the courtroom.
When you arrive at the courthouse, you will be required to pass through a metal detector. This metal detector is provided for the security of yourself and others. The officers and bailiffs on duty are required to confiscate such contraband items as guns, knives, mace, or other implements, which could be used as weapons or are considered a danger to the court. If you own such items, you should leave them at home.
Q: Is there any special "courtroom etiquette" I should be aware of?
A: There are certain rules of behavior that a juror should follow. Foremost among these is the requirement to always be on time. Delays inconvenience the judge, the attorneys, the parties, witnesses and other jurors. When a court session begins and the judge enters the courtroom, everyone including the jurors, should rise. You should always give your undivided attention to every question and answer during a trial, and during the voir dire process. You must answer all questions put to you with complete honesty. You should attempt to be as quiet as possible in court, and also when you are in the hallways near the courtrooms.
Q: What is "roll call"?
A: Roll call is held each morning to record the presence of the jurors on the general jury panel. At the end of each day, you will be informed as to the time and place to report on the following day, or call the juror information line.
The first day´s roll call is a bit more involved than on subsequent days. You will be asked to state your name, occupation, and if married, the occupation of your spouse.
Q: What does the term "voir dire" mean?
A: The phrase "Voir Dire" literally means, "to speak the truth."In court, it refers to a process of determining whether a juror can serve fairly and impartially in a given case by asking the juror various questions. These questions are designed to let the court learn whether a juror has prior knowledge of the case, is related to or employed by one of the parties in the case, and whether the juror has prejudices and opinions which would make it impossible for him/her to make an impartial decision in the case.
Q: Will I definitely sit in on a trial when I perform jury duty?
A: Your name may never be drawn for a trial. There are many factors involved in selecting a jury for a case, and it may be that you are never actually called upon to deliberate a case. It is also possible that you will be selected to deliberate multiple cases. When you check in with the court at roll call on the first day, you become part of a general jury pool.
The selection of jurors is the first step in the actual trial of a jury case and the first step of this selection process is called "voir dire" (a full definition of "voir dire" is given above). The judge will first explain what the case is about in general terms, and state the names of the parties involved, and their attorneys. The judge may then begin questioning the jurors. Some questions will be directed to all the jurors present, and others may be directed to individual jurors. If a prospective juror is not found to be legally qualified to act as a juror, he/she may be excused "for cause,"by either the judge or one of the attorneys.
After the conclusion of voir dire, the attorneys have the right to exercise a certain number of "peremptory challenges". This means that the attorney may excuse a juror without having to state a specific reason. Jurors who are challenged and thereby excused from the trial should not be offended, as each attorney has a different idea as to the type of juror that would be most beneficial to the trial of the case. Following all peremptory challenges, the jury selection process is concluded, and the jury is sworn in. Persons excused generally return to the juror´s waiting area where they may be called for selection on another jury.