Under North Carolina law, jury duty is a civic requirement for citizens who meet the court’s eligibility requirements. However, not everyone can or will serve on a jury – some people don’t meet the requirements, and others may be exempt. There are a number of legal excuses that the court allows as exemptions from jury selection.
A person who wishes to seek an exemption must do so at least five days before they’re scheduled to appear by writing their excuse on the back of the summons and including documents supporting their reason.
Jury Summons in North Carolina
A jury summons, or an official court summons, is the notice individuals get stating they have been picked for jury duty. The summons provides the location of the court and the time and date for reporting. The summons is only for jury selection day – it doesn’t mean the potential juror is guaranteed a spot on a jury.
Pay for North Carolina Jury Duty
A North Carolina juror is paid certain amounts for the time they serve jury duty:
- Trial jurors get $12 for their initial day of service and $20 for each additional day. Those serving more than five days get $40 a day.
- Those serving on a grand jury get $20 a day.
Penalties for Not Appearing for Jury Duty
A prospective juror must appear on their court date. If they do not, the court could hold them in contempt for ignoring the summons. The court may also impose a $50 fine for each day the prospective juror fails to appear.
There are some acceptable reasons an individual can be excused from jury duty, but they must make a request with the clerk of the superior court office or the office of the chief district court judge where they will serve.
Selection Process for Jury Duty
As jury selection is made, potential jurors will stay in a courthouse waiting area on their first day. Some will be sent home that day, while others will be seated on a jury panel. Those who are seated must serve as jurors until the completion of the trial.
A trial could last two days or several weeks, depending on the case. It is very rare for a jury to be sequestered – most people go home at the end of each day. If a juror has a family emergency while serving, they can be reached through court staff, who will see that they get the message.
When reporting to the courthouse, the potential juror will likely watch an orientation video. Seated jurors take an oath and will be given a badge that they’ll wear until the judge releases them. Jurors cannot:
- Use their phones while court is in session.
- Talk to anyone about the case while they’re serving on the jury.
- Send or receive digital communication about the case.
- Seek outside information about the case while they’re serving on the jury.
Who Is Qualified for Jury Duty in North Carolina?
Approximately every two years, a Jury Commission in every county in the state compiles a master list of residents that are licensed drivers or registered voters. The commissions then draw names at random to send a summons to prospective jurors via U.S. mail. Individuals must meet certain requirements for jury duty. They must:
- Be U.S. citizens.
- Resident of the county of the summons' issuance.
- 18 years of age or older.
- Mentally and physically competent.
- Understand the English language.
A prospective juror should not have:
- Been a juror in the past two years.
- Served on a grand jury in the previous six years.
- A felony conviction unless they have restored their citizenship rights.
Excuses for Jury Duty in North Carolina
Those who wish to be deferred, exempted or excused from serving on a jury in North Carolina can file a statement on the back of the summons at least five business days prior to their scheduled appearance at the courthouse. Acceptable excuses for missing jury duty are:
- North Carolina residents over 72 years old may request to be exempted or excused from jury duty by mailing back the summons with their reason and including supporting age documentation.
- Active duty military personnel can be excused by sending in their summons with valid proof of their military orders.
- Full-time students taking classes can be excused from jury duty if they show supporting documentation of their enrollment.
- Jurors with a disability that interferes with their capacity to serve on a jury must give a brief explanation of their condition when mailing their summons back. The court may request a physician's letter supporting their claim.
An excuse from jury duty is granted only if a juror's service is contrary to the public welfare, health or safety, or the compelling personal hardship of that juror. People who do not meet the legal exemptions can still submit an excuse request if they believe service will cause them undue hardship. Their exemption from jury duty is then at the discretion of the court.
Jury Duty and Work
Having to work on a day when a person is supposed to go to jury duty is not an acceptable exemption in North Carolina. Furthermore, employers cannot penalize individuals for attending jury duty — they cannot fire or demote a worker for time spent on a jury.
State law does not require that an employee receive full wages while serving. Therefore, the prospective juror should notify their employer as soon as they receive the summons to find out about their employer’s payment policy for jury duty.
Michelle Nati is an associate editor and writer who has reported on legal, criminal and government news for PasadenaNow.com and Complex Media. She holds a B.A. in Communications and English from Niagara University.