Jury duty is the lottery that no one wants to win. I get why you might actually consider this to be a good thing. I watch a lot of crime shows myself and the fascination is understandable. But the average court case is a far cry from anything you’ll see on the Crime and Investigation channel and all of the steps involved with jury duty make it one of the most tedious things you can undertake.
Or so I assume, because I haven’t actually been called for jury duty and I dread the day that I will be. As someone who works excessively, dislikes most people and treats human interaction as an anathema and not a necessity (no I’m not Scrooge, but we share many traits) this is one of my worst fears, up there with heights, spiders and discovering we’ve run out of tea on a bank holiday.
But how likely is it? What are the odds of being called for jury duty in the United States and the United Kingdom?
Jury Duty in the UK
One of the main things to consider with both the UK and the US is that there are significantly more call-ups than there are actual juries. In the UK, there were over 360,000 call ups in 2015, but fewer than 180,000 actually served on a duty. Factoring in the relatively small population of the country and the fact that only those on the electoral roll can be called up, you have approximately a 40% chance of being called up in your lifetime.
This figure will probably come as a surprise. It certainly did to me. But the good news is that self-employed individuals are typically excluded because they can’t just take a few days off and would stand to lose a lot of money if they did. You are also excused if you are over 70, under 18, can’t speak English, have been in prison in the last decade, or you are a carer for someone who needs you to be there.
Jury Duty in the US
In the US, the population is considerably larger, but so are the number of crimes being committed and the number of juries being formed. As with the UK, a call up doesn’t mean you will make it inside the courtroom, and most cases revolve around minor incidents, as opposed to any serious criminal defense cases.
In 2012, a survey by the DRI found that 27% of Americans had served on a jury at some point over the course of their life. But this was conducted with just over 1,000 people, so those figures are not necessarily an accurate representation.
What we do know is that more than 32 million will be summoned over the course of year, while 8 million will actually report and 1.5 million will serve. Based on these figures and other official figures, you have around a 0.09% chance of being called-up.
Those figures are much lower than the ones in the UK, but bear in mind that if you live a long and healthy life then your odds of being called up over that lifetime could be 1 in 3.