Serving on a Jury: A Role for You? 

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If you’re a fan of crime shows like Law and Order, you know that serving on a jury can be a dramatic experience. But it’s not something you can simply choose to do. To serve on a jury, you must first be invited. In this article, we explain what’s involved.  

In some criminal court cases, a jury is formed to hear the case. The jury’s role is to determine whether the accused person is guilty, not guilty, or not criminally responsible for the crime in question. A jury is usually composed of 12 members. Each member must form an opinion while following the judge’s instructions. The jury as a whole must then try to reach a consensus. Jury service plays a vital role in the justice system and is an important civic duty. 

Can you refuse?  

Juries are chosen at random from the electoral list. If you’ve been summoned for jury duty, it means your name was picked. The letter you receive will tell you at what date and time to come to the courthouse of your municipality.  

However, it is possible to request an exemption. For example, if you are over 65, have serious health problems, or heavy family responsibilities, you could be granted an exemption. It could also be granted based on your profession, occupation, or your personal circumstances. All the relevant information will be provided in the letter you receive. But, no matter what, don’t ignore the letter – it’s an offence to do so! 

Want to learn more about the jury selection process? If so, see our article: Jury Selection an Inside View.

Will you receive a salary during the trial?   

Your employer does not have to pay you during your time off from work for jury service, unless required to do so by a regulation, a collective agreement, or your work contract. However, you will receive an indemnity for the time you serve on the jury. You’ll be entitled to certain sums to reimburse you for transportation costs, whether by car or public transit. Depending on the circumstances, you may also receive money to cover your meals, lodging, childcare expenses, or even for psychological support. 

Note that it is forbidden for an employer to dismiss, suspend, or take discriminatory measures against an employee because they served on a jury. If you have any questions about your employer’s behaviour in this regard you can consult the Commission des normes, de l’équité, de la santé et de la sécurité du travail (labour standards and health and safety board) for information on your rights and recourses.