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Florida Criminal Law: Jury Selection

Jury selection has always played a considerable role in securing an acquittal for a defendant charged with a criminal offense. The extensive experience of the criminal defense lawyers at DMT provides their clients with the best chance of winning their case in the event that a jury trial becomes necessary. DMT is a firm believer in resolving cases with favorable results prior to embarking into a trial. However, not all cases can be resolved favorably without going to trial. The attorneys at DMT have tried dozens of cases with majority resulting in not guilty verdicts. Once of the major factors in winning a case at trial begins with jury selection. The key to selecting a good jury is knowing which prospective jurors to keep and which ones to strike. DMT uses its years of experience to select jurors that will return a favorable verdict.

The rules governing jury selection can be found in the Florida Statutes. Jury selection is different from county to county and judge to judge, however, the rules remain the same. In Florida, eligibility for jury duty requires a valid driver's license or a valid government-issued I.D. Each year in Miami-Dade County, 300,000 individuals are randomly selected to serve as potential jurors. The length of service can vary enormously from case to case. Some, such as DUI's and other misdemeanors, such as battery or marijuana possession can be tried in a day or two. More serious or complex charges such as insurance fraud, mortgage fraud, Medicare fraud, drug trafficking and homicide trials can take several weeks, and in highly publicized cases, even months.

Though jury duty is in most cases, a large disruption in a juror's familial and professional duties, Florida law offers a number of protections for jurors. Under Florida law, is it illegal for employers to fire an employee for time spent on jury duty and the state even offers juror pay for time spent. In addition, jurors who are unemployed and the primary care givers for children under 5, jurors over age 70, jurors convicted of a felony, jurors presently being prosecuted for a crime, anybody enrolled in a high school or university, and law enforcement officers, may, after providing documentation, be exempt from jury duty. Furthermore, should any defendant or third party attempt to influence the decision of a jury by way of threats or bribery, under Florida statute 918.12, this is commission of a third degree penalty punishable by up to five years in prison.

The prosecution and defense have a right to challenge individual jurors for cause, or to use a limited number of peremptory challenges to remove an unwanted juror. Under Florida Statute 913.03, jurors can be removed for cause if they do not have the qualifications required by law (e.g. they are under the age of 18), the juror is mentally handicapped or is otherwise of unsound mind, the juror has strong beliefs regarding the law in question that would prevent impartiality towards the defendant, or if there is a conflict of interest (the juror personally knows the defendant in some way). Prosecutors and attorneys have unlimited challenges for cause.

Under Florida Statute 913.08, the prosecution and defendant are allowed ten peremptory challenges for offenses punishable by life imprisonment or death, six if there is a possibility of imprisonment for more than 12 months but less than life, and three for all other offenses. Peremptory challenges are meant to remove jurors that have a possibility for bias (e.g. juror and defendant share membership in a tightly knit social group). However, under Batson v. Kentucky, removing a juror for gender, ethnic, or racial reasons is unconstitutional. The rationale for peremptory challenges is that if both prosecution and defense have the right to whittle down the jury, both sides will be less likely to take offense to the verdict. Jury duty is a key element of the American judicial system. Failure to report to jury duty carries with it a fine and/or a charge of being in contempt of the court.

If you are under investigation for, or have been arrested and charged with a criminal offense, contact the Miami criminal lawyers at DMT. An experienced criminal attorney is available every day of the year, 24 hours a day to speak with you regarding your situation. Allow us the opportunity to help protect your rights and defend you case. You can call our office at (305) 396-3982 or reach us by completing the form on our contact page or by sending an e-mail.