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Jury Service
In the Courts of Common Pleas and General Sessions

"Jurors are an integral part of our Judicial System, a system that cannot function without the presence of citizens who are willing to assist . . . "

Julie J. Armstrong, Charleston County Clerk of Court

 

Frequently Asked Questions
Juror Information
 
I. Selection
 
How Are Jurors Selected?
How Often Are Jurors Selected?
If I was chosen for jury duty this year, can I be picked again later?
I don't want to serve on jury duty. What do I do?
Who is disqualified from jury service?
Who may be exempted from jury service?
Who may be excused from jury service?
My boss doesn't like me to be away from work. Can I be excused from jury duty?
I don't mind serving as a juror, but this is a really bad time. Can I reschedule my jury service?
Can I complete my jury questionnaire online?
II. Compensation
  Will I be paid for serving as a juror? What about mileage and parking?
Will I be paid even if I'm not picked for a trial?
What do I do about meals? Is lunch provided?
III. Serving
  How long do I have to serve?
My summons says I am to report to the Court of General Sessions (or Common Pleas). What's the difference?
What's the difference between hearing a civil or criminal case?
How should I dress?
What can I bring with me to the Judicial Center?
Is there any special "courtroom etiquette" I should be aware of?
What is "roll call"?
What does the term "voir dire" mean?
Will I definitely sit in on a trial when I perform jury duty?
Directions to the Cumberland Garage and the Judicial Center

 


Selection

Q: How Are Jurors Selected?

Each year, the State Election Commission provides Charleston 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 on a magnetic tape and is used by Charleston County to create a computer file from which jurors are selected. The jury selection computer program insures that jurors are selected entirely at random. The juror selection for the Magistrate's Courts only selects jurors who live in the area served by a particular Magistrate's Court. while the Circuit, Coroner's, and Probate Courts select jurors from throughout the entire county. Once selected, summonses are created and mailed out to the persons selected for service.

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Q: How Often Are Jurors Selected?

Jury selection takes place at different times and frequencies, depending on the number of jury trials scheduled by the various County Courts. The county Grand Jurors are selected only twice each year, whereas the Common Pleas and General Sessions juries are drawn on a weekly basis. Magistrates' Courts may draw a jury only a few times a year, depending on the number of requests for jury trial received by the courts. The Coroner's Office also draws its jurors on an "as-needed" basis. There are rare cases when the Clerk of Court will draw a jury for the Probate Court.

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Q: If I was chosen for jury duty this year, can I be picked again later?

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 Court jury. The exemption period for Grand Jurors is five years following the year of service.

Persons chosen for jury duty in a Magistrate's Court are exempted from selection for additional service in a Magistrate's Court for a period of three months following the month and year in which they served. This exemption does not affect the possibility of being selected to serve on a Common Pleas, General Sessions or Coroner's Court jury.

Persons chosen for jury service in the Coroner's Court are exempted from further service for a period of one year following the year in which they served. Like the other courts, the exemption only applies to selection within the Coroner's Court and does not prevent selection for service by another court.

Municipal Courts select juries independently of the County Courts, and may have different rules regarding jury selection and service.

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Q: I don't want to serve on jury duty. What do I do?

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. Call 843-958-5005 and ask to speak to the Jury Clerk if you have any further questions.

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Q: Who is disqualified from jury service?

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 within two calendar days it in the return envelope furnished and it will not be necessary for you to appear on the date specified on the summons.

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Q: Who may be exempted from jury service?

You have the choice to serve or not serve if you are over sixty-five years old, 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.

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Q: Who may be excused from jury service?

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 women with children under the age of seven 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.

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Q: My boss doesn't like me to be away from work. Can I be excused from jury duty?

Persons seeking to be excused for any reason should speak with the presiding Judge. 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) 958-5005 if you wish to reschedule your jury service for another term of court.

Upon receiving your check for jury compensation, you will be furnished with a letter from the Clerk of Court indicating the amount you are being paid, the number of days you served as a juror and the dates on which you served. This letter may be given to your employer as proof of your service as a juror.

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Q: I don't mind serving as a juror, but this is a really bad time. Can I reschedule my jury service?

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 business person 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: Can I complete my jury questionnaire online?

Yes you can complete your jury questionnaire online instead of mailing it.

View Online Juror Summons Demo

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Compensation

Q: Will I be paid for serving as a juror? What about mileage and parking?

Juror compensation is set by Charleston County Council. You will be compensated for your service as a juror at a rate of $10 per day. Mileage is reimbursed at a rate of 55.5 cents per mile per day, and mileage is calculated based on your zip code. Free parking is available at the Cumberland Street Garage located two blocks north of the Judicial Center.

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Q: Will I be paid even if I'm not picked for a trial?

Yes; you will be paid whether or not you are actually chosen for a trial.

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Q: What do I do about meals? Is lunch provided?

Except in special situations, meals and snacks are not provided by the court. Jurors are generally free to leave the building for lunch and to return home in the evening. There is a snack bar located on the first  floor of the Judicial Center, and a number of eating establishments in the area. You may not take food or beverages into the courtroom. If you leave the Judicial Center for lunch, you must not be late in returning at the time specified by the judge or clerk in charge.

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Serving

Q: How long do I have to serve?

Your service will normally be only for one week. Numerous courts may be in session during the term for which you have been selected to serve. 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 AM and adjourns at approximately 5:30 PM. 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.

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Q: My summons says I am to report to the Court of General Sessions (or Common Pleas). What's the difference?

Charleston County, together with Berkeley County, forms the 9th 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.

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Q: What's the difference between hearing a civil or criminal case?

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 jurors' oath which is administered to all jurors varies somewhat for 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.

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Q: How should I dress?

The Judiciary requires appropriate attire in the courtroom; specifically no tank tops, shorts, hats or "flip-flop" sandals are allowed.

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Q: What can I bring with me to the Judicial Center?

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 Judicial Center, you will be required to pass through a metal detector. This metal detector is provided for the security of yourself and others. The guards 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.

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Q: Is there any special "courtroom etiquette" I should be aware of?

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 attorney's, 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.

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Q: What is "roll call"?

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 after 6:00 P.M.

Roll call for the first day of the jury term is held in the courtroom or jury pool room to which you have been instructed to report on your notice or summons. The first day's roll call is a bit more involved than on subsequent days. You will be asked to state your name, age, occupation, and if married, the occupation of your spouse.

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Q: What does the term "voir dire" mean?

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.

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Q: Will I definitely sit in on a trial when I perform jury duty?

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, s/he 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.

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Q: Directions to the Cumberland Garage and the Judicial Center.

From Mt. Pleasant
Take the Cooper River Bridge into Charleston. Get off on Downtown Meeting Street South. Follow Meeting Street south towards the Market area. After you have passed Market Street, continue to the next block, which is Cumberland. Turn Left. The parking garage is directly on your left. When exiting the garage, return to Meeting Street and continue south towards Broad Street. The Judicial Center is between the Historic Courthouse, which sits directly on the corner of Broad and Meeting, and the O.T. Wallace building located on Meeting Street.

From the North Area
Take I-26 headed into the City of Charleston. Get into the far left lane, which says Meeting Street Visitors Information. Continue down Meeting Street towards the Market area. After you have passed Market Street, continue to the next block, which is Cumberland. Turn Left. The parking garage is directly on your left. When exiting the garage, return to Meeting Street and continue south towards Broad Street. The Judicial Center is between the Historic Courthouse, which sits directly on the corner of Broad and Meeting, and the O.T. Wallace building located on Meeting Street.

From James Island
Take the James Island Connector toward downtown Charleston. Exit on Lockwood South and follow onto Broad Street. Follow Broad Street to Meeting Street and turn left onto Meeting. Go two blocks and turn right on Cumberland Street. The garage is on your immediate left. When exiting the garage, return to Meeting Street and continue south towards Broad Street. The Judicial Center is between the Historic Courthouse, which sits directly on the corner of Broad and Meeting, and the O.T. Wallace building located on Meeting Street.

From West Ashley
Take Savannah Highway North/US 17 towards downtown Charleston. Once on the Cross-Town, use the Lockwood South exit. Follow onto Broad Street. Follow Broad Street to Meeting Street and turn left onto Meeting. Go two blocks and turn right on Cumberland Street. The garage is on your immediate left. When exiting the garage, return to Meeting Street and continue south towards Broad Street. The Judicial Center is between the Historic Courthouse, which sits directly on the corner of Broad and Meeting, and the O.T. Wallace building located on Meeting Street.

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