Can an Individual be Disqualified From Serving as a Juror?
Not all people summoned can serve as jurors. The Jury Act states British Columbia’s laws specific to selecting juries. The Criminal Code also states the requirements for selecting criminal juries. Jurors must be Canadian citizens, residents of British Columbia, the age of majority (at least 19 years old), and they must be able to speak, understand, and read the language that the trial is being conducted in.
There are also some employment positions and other positions that will disqualify someone from serving as a juror. Members of Parliament or the Legislature, Judges, lawyers, court officials, sheriffs, peace officers, and prison employees cannot serve as jurors. Employees of the Department of Justice or the Solicitor General of Canada, the Ministry of the Attorney General (excluding Liquor Distribution employees), or the Ministry of Public Safety and Solicitor General are also disqualified from serving as jurors.
If an individual has been convicted of a criminal offence or is currently charged with a criminal offence, they cannot serve as a juror unless they have been pardoned of this offence.
A potential juror may also be disqualified from serving as a juror if they have a mental or physical illness that is incompatible with serving as a juror.
If a potential juror believes they are disqualified from serving as a juror, they must indicate this in their response to the jury summons. The sheriffs, who are in charge of summoning and organizing the jury, will respond to inform whether the potential juror is disqualified from jury duty. If the sheriff does not respond, the potential juror is still expected to attend jury selection.
Can Someone be Exempt From Serving as a Juror?
Potential jurors can apply to be exempt from serving as a juror for several reasons. Exemptions are not the same as being disqualified as a juror. Exemption applications must be made to the sheriff. They may not be granted, so even if a potential juror applies for an exemption, they should be prepared to attend jury selection until the sheriff informs them that they are exempt from jury duty.
Exemptions can be for many reasons, such as:
- For religious reasons that are incompatible with serving as a juror
- If serving as a juror would cause serious hardship or loss to the potential juror or others
- If the potential juror is over 65 years old
- If the potential juror has health issues that would interfere with their role as a juror
- If the potential juror is a full-time student
- If the potential juror has already served as a juror within the last two years (criminal trials only)
- If the potential juror is limited in their ability to speak the language of the trial
- If the potential juror has firm travel or vacation plans that conflict with the jury selection or trial dates
Applications for an exemption can be made when a potential juror responds to their jury summons. Applicants can check the status of their application for exemption online if they use the eResponse website to respond to their jury summons. If they respond by mail, the sheriff will make a reasonable effort to contact them within ten (10) business days from the date the exemption request is received. If they do not receive a response to their exemption request, they must attend jury selection.
If the sheriff denies a request for an exemption, a potential juror can still apply to the judge to ask whether they can be exempt from acting as a juror. This can be done in-person at the jury selection.
Accommodations Potential Jurors with Disabilities
Potential jurors requiring accommodations for their disabilities can contact the sheriff to discuss accommodations. Accommodations can include technical, personal, interpretive, or other support services that would enable the individual to serve on the jury if they are selected as a juror.