Many felons may have served on a jury before their felony conviction. So, how about now that they have completed their sentence? Can they serve on a jury, and is there a background check?
This blog post will address the question of whether or not they run background checks on jurors.
- What Is Included in a Background Check?
- Loss of Civil Rights
- Serving on a Jury
- Juror Background Check?
- Regaining Their Rights
- Can You Run a Background Check on Yourself?
What Is Included in a Background Check?
The court may review an applicant’s background because they may not want to a juror who is dishonest and has a criminal record. This may be a challenge for felons. Their criminal history can be a problem when applying for a passport even if they are now committed to living an honest lifestyle.
Agencies like the court may view:
- Credit reports
- Driving records
- Educational records
- Criminal offenses
In being selected for a jury, criminal offenses will be the focus of any background check that might be conducted. This allows the court to identify risks for security and safety issues.
The criminal record review conducted of a background check includes examining criminal history files for any criminal offenses, which will reveal all convictions and non-convictions, including cases not prosecuted or ones dismissed. Convictions can be reported with no time limit while a non-conviction will show up for seven years. A crime will not show up on a background check if a felon has his or her record expunged.
Loss of Civil Rights
When the Constitution was written, there were a number of additions to it. These, especially the first 10, are known as the Bill of Rights, which are the basic freedoms permitted to all citizens of the U.S. Among these are the freedom of speech, the right to bear arms, the right to a speedy trial, etc.
When they were convicted of their felony, certain rights were lost or restricted. They still maintained the right to indictment, a speedy trial, and no self-incrimination. Others, however, were lost. Among these are the right to vote, serve on a jury, hold public office, and own or possess firearms.
There are reasons why felons lose their civil rights. Crimes against individuals are considered to be crimes against society. Laws were implemented to protect society.
Serving on a Jury
Jurors are selected at random from a list of voter registration and a list of driver registration within each county. A juror must be:
- A citizen of the U.S. and of that state
- At least 18 years old
- A resident in the county of jury service
- Able to read and write
- Of sound mind
A person cannot serve on a jury:
- If he or she has been convicted of a felony or any type of theft
- Unless rights have been restored he or she is on probation or deferred adjudication for a felony or any type of theft
- If he or she is under indictment for a felony or under criminal charges or any type of theft
As long as the felon’s records are not expunged or erased, he or she is not allowed to participate on a jury at the federal, state, or local level.
A felon will typically not be called on for jury duty service because the names for jury duty are drawn from a registrar of voters. Typically, felons cannot register to vote, so their names will not be included on any registrar list.
Some states allow reinstatement of rights after a convicted felon has served his or her jail term and completed all terms of probation. This can place a felon’s name on a voter registrar list. A felon who has received a pardon or whose records have been expunged can participate in jury service.
Do they Run Background Checks on Jurors?
No, a background check is not typically run on jurors. However, a trial lawyer does have the right to perform a background check on all prospective jurors.
Attorneys attempt to learn as much information about potential jurors as possible before making a decision in jury selection. An attorney who has a list of potential jurors ahead of time can administer and evaluate a juror questionnaire. This will help an attorney learn about who may violate rules about communications.
An attorney can strike members from a jury panel prior to jury selection. A potential jury panel is questioned prior to being selected in the process called voir dire. A lawyer may ask questions to see if someone is connected to the trial, has any prejudice or bias to anyone in the trial, or has a criminal history.
There are three types of disqualification to prevent someone from serving on injury, including:
- Mandatory disqualification is for any individual who seems to be biased about the accused or has a biased viewpoint. Convicted felons fall under this category because of their prior experience with the legal system.
- An individual can be exempt from jury duty if he or she is responsible for taking care of individuals who lack the capacity to take care of themselves.
- A juror can also be dismissed based on a judge’s decision.
The district attorney typically runs a criminal background check on a jury pool when that information is provided before jury selection. In many cases, such information may not be available. This limits the degree to which any background check could be completed.
There are services offered to conduct a public record search of jurors to establish information like their political affiliation, property values, litigation history, and criminal records. The company also searches social media. A simple search for a potential juror through Google will provide some information.
A passive review of a juror’s social media profile may be available without making an access request and is done without the juror’s knowledge. The act of observing such information is not improper conduct. A juror may be notified that an attorney has conducted a passive review of that individual’s publicly available information. The social media platform is considered to be communicating with the juror and not the attorney.
An attorney may request access to a juror’s social media account, which is an active review. However, a lawyer must be cautious in researching potential jurors to ensure that no communication with jurors occurs.
Regaining Their Rights
Felons, upon re-entering society, must prove themselves worthy of having civil rights restored. The common thought is that loss of Constitutional rights is a federal imposition. Actually, being deprived of rights and consequently having some of those rights restored is a function of state law.
The loss of actual rights and any stipulations on having them restored depends on where felons live. Each state is different in this regard. So, checking with state law to regain the right to vote or serve on a jury is important.
They should seek legal counsel to advise them in the process. Having their record expunged can also help.
Can You Run a Background Check on Yourself?
Doing a background check on him or herself before attempting to have civil rights restored will allow a felon to know exactly what will be discovered when the government does its review. A felon with any questions can contact an attorney. It is essential to take action and not risk a chance on the results.
There are different kinds of personal background checks that a felon can run:
- From the court in which he or she was charged
- A credit report will help determine how financially responsible an individual is
- Driving records for any job involving driving, such as a truck driver
- An educational report through the National Student Clearing House
For someone wanting to do a background check on themselves, there are places that can help. A felon would have the best chance at having civil rights restored by having his or her record expunged.
So what do you think about this blog post about whether or not they run background checks on jurors? Have you or someone you know had a background check run as a juror? What was that like and was he or she successful in being selected for a jury? Please tell us in the comments below.