A jury trial lets you have your case heard by a group of impartial individuals. If you face this type of trial for criminal charges, you may have questions about how the state will select the members of the jury.
Virginia follows specific guidelines for jury selection to uphold fairness and justice in court.
To be eligible for jury duty, individuals must:
- Be U.S. citizens
- Live in the state
- Have the physical and mental capability to serve on a jury
- Speak English proficiently
- Be at least 18 years old
People with felony convictions typically cannot serve on a jury.
Jury pool selection
The state randomly selects jurors from various sources such as voter registration lists, driver’s license records and other public databases. This approach creates a diverse and representative jury pool, reflecting different backgrounds and perspectives.
Questionnaire and screening
Selected individuals receive a jury questionnaire, which they must complete and return to the court. It gathers information about their qualifications, biases and potential conflicts of interest. The court reviews the responses to identify individuals who may be unsuitable for jury duty because of personal circumstances or beliefs.
Voir dire process
At this stage, the judge and the attorneys in the case question potential jurors. They aim to identify biases or prejudices that could affect someone’s ability to be impartial. In this case, attorneys may challenge a potential juror “for cause.” Each side can also dismiss a limited number of candidates without cause.
Final jury panel
Finally, the judge and attorneys select a panel of individuals who have met all the eligibility criteria, successfully completed the questionnaire and passed the voir dire process. These jurors are sworn in to participate in the trial. They will render a verdict based on the evidence presented during the proceedings.
By adhering to these systematic procedures, Virginia courts can select unbiased juries. About 2% of cases end up going to a jury trial according to data from the Pew Research Center, so you can prepare by understanding this process.