What You Should Know About Jury Duty

Thousands of people are summoned for jury duty each year. Any Canadian citizen over the age of 18 can be considered for jury duty.

What is a jury?

A jury is a group of citizens called in to participate in a trial for someone accused of a criminal offense. In Canada, a jury is made up of a group of 12 citizens selected from the province or territory where the court is located. Under the guidance of a judge, it is the jury’s responsibility to listen to the facts about a crime and decide whether the person accused is guilty or not based on evidence submitted to court.

Which court cases have a jury?

Anyone charged with a criminal offence, also called an indictable offence, where there is a possibility of a prison sentence of five years or more, has the right to a trial by jury. In some cases, a person charged with a criminal offence where there is a chance of a prison sentence of less than five years may have the right to choose a trial by jury.

How does a jury get selected?

Each September in Ontario, juror questionnaires are mailed to people who are selected randomly from the most recent municipal voters’ lists. Completed questionnaires are used to determine if you are eligible for jury duty. If you are in these professions you will not qualify to serve on a jury:

  • Many healthcare professionals
  • Firefighters
  • Employees of jails, penitentiaries and other corrections institutions
  • Sheriffs and police officers
  • Members of the Canadian Forces
  • Lawyers and law students
  • Officers of the court, judges and justice of the peace
  • An elected or appointed member of government

What is a summons?

A summons is an invitation to be part of a larger group that the final jury members will be chosen. This larger group is also called a jury panel.

The summons tells you what date and court location you need to attend for jury duty. Between 50 and 300 people are normally summoned to a courthouse at a time.

Do I have to serve as a juror?

It is part of your civic duty to respond to a jury summons and, if chosen, to serve as a juror.

What if I am unable to attend the date on my Summons?

If this is a difficult time for you to attend at the courthouse because of your job, school schedule, family circumstances or even if you have a vacation booked; you may ask to be excused from jury duty, or to have your jury duty moved to a later date.

You must immediately make this request in writing to the court office once you receive your summons and explain why you are unable to take part in jury duty. It is advisable that you provide documentation to support your request.

Once your letter and documents are received, your request will be reviewed by a judge.

If your request is approved, the court office will advise you of an alternate date to attend or if you are excused from duty.

Can I be selected for jury duty more than once?

If you have attended court for jury selection, you are not eligible for jury duty for the following three years, whether you were selected as a juror or not.

For More Information

  • Juror Support Program - A free, confidential and professional counselling program available to jurors available to jurors after they complete jury duty on a criminal trial, a civil trial or Coroner’s inquest. From the Ministry of the Attorney General.
  • Frequently Asked Questions about Jury Duty - This page answers general questions you may have about jury duty in Ontario. From the Ministry of the Attorney General.
  • Jury Duty and You - When people arrive at a courthouse to report for jury duty, they are shown a video outlining the role of the juror and what to expect if they are selected as a juror. From the Ministry of the Attorney General.
Last updated: November 30, 2018 4006347