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What to Know When Called for Jury Duty In Tennessee

Courts in Tennessee randomly select drivers from the state’s voter registration and Department of Motor Vehicles databases to serve as jurors in criminal and civil cases. Juries play a key role in the U.S. legal system. The Constitution ensures a fair trial for those accused of crimes or negligence by allowing a jury of their peers to decide.

Most people understand if they serve on a jury, they must listen to all the evidence in a case and decide whether the person is innocent or guilty based on the facts presented. However, most people have a dozen questions waiting for answers. In this guide about what to know when called for jury duty in Tennessee, we hope to answer some of those pressing questions.  

Can I get out of jury duty in Tennessee?

Many people panic the moment they receive a jury duty summons and immediately want to know how they can avoid serving. Unfortunately, jury duty is a civic obligation most people must attend. They may postpone your jury duty date temporarily for a conflict in the dates, such as a big project at work or a planned vacation.

You can also request a postponement if you have a temporary physical or mental problem that makes it difficult or impossible to serve. Imagine if you just underwent surgery and were on pain medication. This would be a good reason for a postponement.

There are only a few reasons they might excuse you from your jury duty obligation entirely. This includes any permanent physical or mental condition that would make it impossible for you to serve, or if your absence from work might cause an undue financial hardship on you or your employer. This latter exception often occurs when potential jurors work for small businesses that cannot afford to pay the employee unless the employee is working.

The preferred way to arrange a postponement is to report to jury duty and explain your reason during the jury orientation session. If you cannot attend this session, you may also contact the jury coordinator before your jury duty date. In Knox County, this number is 865-215-2550.

If you receive a summons from the United States District Court Eastern District of Tennessee, do not call. You must request postponement in writing. You can find the court address for your specific county here.

What if I fail to respond to a jury duty notice in Tennessee?

You cannot get out of jury duty by simply ignoring the notice. If you fail to respond to the summons, you may face contempt of court charges. In Knox County, there is also a fine of $500. Other counties have similar penalties.

There is no reason not to respond to your jury duty summons in Tennessee. Your employer cannot legally refuse to allow you to attend, and you will continue to receive your normal pay in most cases. The court also pays you $11 per day. If you have other concerns related to jury duty interfering with your job, you should report them to the jury coordinator during orientation.

How does the Knoxville jury selection process work?

Getting a jury duty summons does not mean you will serve on a jury. In fact, most people summoned for jury duty do not serve as jurors in a trial. Instead, you will go through an orientation and selection process to choose the best jurors for the current cases.

There is often a lot of waiting during this process, so you may want to bring a book, tablet or other quiet, relaxing entertainment. You cannot read during the jury selection process.

The jury coordinator, judge, and presiding lawyers may ask you questions to determine if you fit their needs. It is important to listen closely and answer honestly. If you are a good fit, you will become a juror in that case.  

If you are not a good fit for the first jury, they may ask you to repeat the process for another case. In Knox County, jury duty lasts for two weeks, but you do not have to attend every day. Instead, you call in each evening to find out if you need to report the next day. Once your two weeks is up, they will not call you for jury duty again for at least two years.

If I am chosen, what will the case I serve on be about?

While we cannot predict what type of case you may hear, most trials are not the type of high-profile crimes you might see on the news. In fact, many civil cases do not involve a crime at all.

Criminal cases can deal with almost any crime, from murder to shoplifting to drunk driving. In these cases, the district attorney presents the prosecution’s case while a criminal defense attorney represents the person accused of the crime. As a member of the jury, you will listen to the case and decide whether you believe the defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Civil cases deal with lawsuits that one person or company files against another. For example, a car accident victim may file suit against another driver who allegedly ran a red light and hit him, causing serious injuries. As a juror in this trial, you will listen to the facts of the case and decide if the preponderance of the evidence points to the driver running the red light and causing the crash. If so, the victim will receive compensation for his injuries and accident-related losses.

Is there anything I need to know before I serve on a jury in Tennessee?

The court will provide any education you require before the trial begins. The judge presiding over the case will outline the expectations and responsibilities of a juror. You will learn about the specific laws related to the case, and any other important information you may need. By paying close attention during this process, you can easily complete your civic duty as a juror without any prior knowledge of the legal system.