Frequent Ask Questions (FAQ’s)
Who may serve?
To qualify for jury duty, a person must:
o Be a United States Citizen
o Be a resident of McHenry County, Illinois
o Be able to understand the English language
o Be of the age of 18 years or upwards
How was I selected?
In McHenry County, jurors are selected from lists of licensed drivers (at least 18 years of age), registered voters, State Identification Card Holders and Disabled Person I.D. Card Holders. These are combined into a single juror database. For each week of jury service, the computer system picks names at random to provide jurors for the courts.
Why is jury service important?
Under the Equal Protection Clause of the United States Constitution, a jury may not be selected in a manner whereby there is a systematic exclusion of any distinct class of persons in the population, or from lists which fail to reflect a representative cross section of the community or under any other prejudicial circumstance that denies a defendant a fair trial by an impartial jury. In order to uphold this, we need those summoned to participate in the jury process to ensure every citizen’s right to have their case decided by an impartial jury selected from a representative pool of prospective jurors.
Who is entitled to a jury trial?
Illinois requires a jury trial in all criminal cases including ordinance violations. Juveniles are entitled to a jury trial only under the Habitual Juvenile Offender Act. Generally, in civil cases, claimants seeking monetary damages have the constitutional right to a trial by jury, while those seeking other forms of relief do not, unless provided for by statute. All parties are equal before the law and each is given the same fair and impartial treatment.
What are my duties as a juror?
Your duty as a juror is to weigh all of the evidence and testimony presented to you and to decide the outcome of the case based upon the law and the evidence. Your decision must be fair, impartial and free of any bias or prejudice. Jury service is the basis of our judicial system and is essential to the administration of justice.
How long does jury service usually last if I am selected?
Petit jurors in McHenry County serve for one week, unless a trial to which you are assigned runs longer. During your week of service, when not actually on a trial, you will be advised to call our 800 number to determine if you will be required to report for service on the following day. This allows you to go about your daily business until needed. If you have been selected as a Grand Juror, your term of service will be the first Wednesday of the month and meets every Wednesday and Thursday for that month. Coroner’s jurors are chosen from among the regular trial jurors for one day’s work.
Will I be paid for Jury Duty?
The Illinois General Assembly and the McHenry County Board have established a per diem reimbursement for jury service. This reimbursement is not intended to replace daily wages. Rather, it's a token of the Court's appreciation. The present rate of reimbursement is $5.00 for the first day. Second and third day pool jurors are paid $5.00 and jurors selected for trial are paid $12.50 per day of trial. The present mileage rate is $0.10 per mile for one roundtrip per day served. The check is mailed to the juror the week following jury service. Mileage is determined by the distance charts established by the Sheriff’s Department for service of summons between the Courthouse in Woodstock and the area in which you reside.
What if I have an emergency during Jury Duty?
Should a juror become ill while serving as a juror or an emergency arises, the juror should inform the Assembly Room Clerk, or the bailiff if the juror is sitting on a trial. When the situation is explained, every effort will be made to find a solution. The juror may be excused or deferred to another date.
How are the trial juries selected?
When a judge is ready for a jury, his or her bailiff requests a secretary in the Court Administration office to use the computer to randomly select the number of jurors they need from those available in the Assembly Room. After the panel is selected and reports to a courtroom, a process known as voir dire begins. During voir dire, the judge and possibly the attorneys will ask you questions to see if you can keep an open mind and be fair. To be challenged is no reflection on the juror's integrity or usefulness. After you have been questioned, you will either be selected or excused for that particular case. If you are selected, you and the other selected jurors will receive instructions from the judge as to what is expected of you. If you are not selected, you will return to the jury room and may be sent to another courtroom with another panel.
Why are there delays in the jury process?
During trials, delays may occur for many reasons. For example, a witness may be delayed, or the judge may take time to look up the law on a point that has just been raised, or the lawyers may be presenting an argument or point of law to the judge that must be argued away from the jury. You may never learn the reason for the delay and should not guess at it. Very often a delay actually saves time and brings the case to an end more quickly. Please be patient.
Will I have to stay overnight?
Only rarely is a jury "sequestered". These jurors must then remain with the Court through all meal times and overnight. The Court will provide meals, lodging, and the retrieval of jurors' personal items for them from their homes. Jurors will be told in advance if a jury is to be sequestered.
What is the difference between a Grand Jury & Petit Jury?
A petit, or trial jury is generally 12 people sworn to try a criminal or civil case, hearing evidence and rendering a verdict. In some cases additional jurors can be chosen as alternates. Some types of cases may use a jury of six (6) people. A grand jury, so named because it is comprised of a greater number of people (16) than a petit jury, is sworn to hear evidence presented by the prosecution and determines if probable cause exists that a crime has been committed.
I do not know the law, how can I be a juror?
Jurors do not need to know the law. The juror must be able to reach conclusions about each aspect of the case based on the juror's own, impartial, independent recollection of the evidence, and then apply the laws as the judge explains them to the jury. To do this a juror must pay attention and listen closely as the evidence is presented in court. You must not make snap decisions or pre-judge, but wait until the attorneys have completed their cases. Then the jury should consider the evidence and determine the facts of the case. The judge will instruct the jurors in his “charge" as to what laws apply to the case and what they mean.
What is the difference between a Civil and Criminal case?
Any person unable to resolve a legal dispute with another is entitled to ask that it be decided in court --- these are CIVIL cases. The person who brings the action is called the plaintiff, and the person against whom the action is brought is called the defendant. The plaintiff starts the action by stating his or her claim against the defendant in a written complaint. The defendant disputes the claim by filing a written answer. The complaint and answer constitute the basic pleadings in the case. The points in the pleading upon which the parties disagree are the issues to be decided. If any defendant has a claim against the plaintiff or any other defendant, he or she may present it in the same case. Thus, a civil case might involve parties who have claims against each other and might involve more than two parties.
In a criminal case, the State of Illinois charges the defendant with a violation of a criminal law. The defendant can deny the charge by pleading not guilty. The jury will then decide whether the defendant has been proven guilty as charged. The State's Attorney or his assistants prosecute criminal cases on behalf of the People of the State of Illinois. The State has the burden of proving the guilt of the defendant beyond a reasonable doubt and this burden remains on the State throughout the case. The defendant is not required to prove his or her innocence. The defendant in a criminal case has the right to be represented by an attorney. The Defense Attorney has the duty to advance and protect the defendant's rights and interest at all stages of the trial. A defendant is presumed to be innocent of the charge against him or her. This presumption remains with jurors throughout every stage of the trial and during their deliberations on the verdict, and is not overcome unless, from all the evidence in the case, they are convinced beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant is guilty. Most of the courtrooms and jury selection procedures are the same.
How is a jury chosen?
When a juror is summoned, they become a part of the judicial process of this state. The services of a juror are as important as those of the judge. Jurors are obligated to perform these services honestly and conscientiously, without fear or favor. The jurors must base their verdict on the evidence as they will hear it in court and on the law as the judge instructs them. The entire group of jurors will be asked to rise and to swear or affirm to answer truthfully all questions asked of them concerning their qualifications to act as a juror in the case. A prospective juror is questioned. The answers to these questions enable the Court and the lawyers to decide which jurors to select. It may seem that some of the questions are personal, but it is not intended that any question should embarrass or reflect upon a juror in anyway. Each juror may be asked whether he or she has a personal interest in the outcome of the case, has preconceived opinions about it or is prejudiced in any way. The law permits each attorney to excuse a certain number of jurors without giving reasons. This should not offend the juror, if they are excused from sitting as a juror. The jury is composed of fair and impartial persons who will listen attentively and decide the case only upon the evidence and instructions of the Court. After the jury has been selected, the jurors will be asked to rise and swear or affirm to well and truly try the matters at issue and render a true verdict according to the law and the evidence. It is the duty of the juror to listen to the judge, witnesses and lawyers; to deliberate calmly and fairly; and to decide intelligently and justly. All of the evidence available to allow jurors to make a decision will be disclosed to them during the trial.
I recently moved out of the County, but I haven’t had a chance to change the address on my driver’s license or register to vote in my present County. Can I still serve?
No. Call immediately to the Juror’s Office to report your change of address so that you can be removed from the jury pool and excused from service.
I have a prior felony conviction. Can I still serve?
Persons with a prior felony conviction are not barred from jury service per se; however, juror qualifications include that jurors be of fair character and of approved integrity.
What should I wear?
Proper business attire is most appropriate. T-shirts, sweatshirts, shorts and sneakers are discouraged. Extremes in dress may cause you to be sent home to change.
Does the Court provide Childcare?
No. There are no child care facilities at the McHenry County Government Center. If you are caring for small children call the Jury Commission Office to discuss this problem.
Can I use my cellular phone? How about a laptop computer?
You may use a cellular phone during your jury service in the Jury Assembly room and surrounding area. We do encourage the use of discretion and courtesy for those around you.
Cellular phones are NOT permitted in the Court, or jury deliberation rooms. The use of laptop computers IS permitted in the Jury Assembly room.
I may have trouble hearing the proceedings in the courtroom. What should I do?
Talk to one of our staff. The Court can provide you with an assistive listening device, or an interpreter for the deaf. In accordance with the Americans with Disabilities Act, persons needing a reasonable accommodation should, no later than seven days before your jury service, contact the Jury Commissioner by phone at 815-334-4131, or write to the Jury Commission Supervisor, Room B322, McHenry County Government Center, 2200 N. Seminary Ave., Woodstock, IL 60098.
Where can I get proof of my service to take to my employer?
The Jury Commission staff can give you verification of your attendance.
How will I get paid during my service?
Your juror check will be mailed to you the week following your week of service.
What if I am selected for a trial and then experience an emergency that prevents me from coming to the courthouse?
You will be provided with a number to call on your first day of service.
What time is lunch?
Lunch is normally from noon to 1:30 p.m.; but you should wait for the official luncheon dismissal announcement. If you are in a courtroom, your lunch hour will vary according to the judge.
What normally happens the day my Jury Service begins?
You will report to the Jury Assembly Room at the time indicated on the Summons. Access to the building can be obtained through the West entrance of the Government Center which faces Route 47. Attendance will be taken and an orientation will be held which will answer many of the questions you may have about jury duty. Court personnel will be present to help you and answer any additional questions. You will remain in the Assembly Room until you are selected for a trial or released for the day. Televisions and some reading material are available. You should assume that you may have to stay until 4:30 P.M. Lunch break is determined by the Judge if you are on trial; otherwise it is determined by the Assembly Room Clerk (usually noon to 1:30 P.M.)
How can I be excused from jury service?
Requests to be excused from jury service or for a different date to be assigned will be considered on an individual basis by the Jury Commissioners. Under Illinois law, jurors must meet certain qualifications. These qualifications include:
o being a McHenry County, Illinois resident;
o 18 years of age or more;
o able to understand the English language;
o a citizen of the United States.
Written verification of medical excuses, proof of non-citizenship, and non-residency may be required. If you are a party in a case pending in McHenry County, you may be required to provide the case number. If you provide false reasons to avoid jury service, you may be found in contempt of court, a crime punishable by fine or imprisonment.
What laws govern the Jury System in Illinois?
These laws are not all-inclusive and this is not to be construed as legal advice.
The provisions of this act shall apply to proceedings in both civil and criminal cases.
Illinois Compiled Statutes, Courts, Jury Act, 705 ILCS305/
The following Acts also apply:
o Illinois Compiled Statutes, Courts, Jury Commission Act, 705 ILCS 310/,
o Illinois Compiled Statutes, Courts, Jury Secrecy Act, 705 ILCS 315/,
o Public Act 90-0126,
o Public Act 90-0482,
o Public Act 90-0506,
o Public Act 91-0264