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The jury that hears your case determines your fate

Criminal defendants have the right to a trial by jury. For the defendants that opt to exercise this right, it is crucial that they understand exactly what this means. One of the concepts that is often spoken of is the right to have a jury of peers, but this concept isn't based on the Constitution. Instead, it is a long held standard.

A jury of peers doesn't mean that you will have people of the same socioeconomic status, those of the same race or those of the same gender as you. Instead, it means that you should have a jury that is comprised of citizens. They don't have to fit in the same mold as you.

Before a jury trial, the lawyers and court will have a jury selection process. During this process, the court or one of the attorneys for either side can opt to challenge a potential juror, which means calling the juror's suitability into question.

Even though there is an allowance to call jurors into question so that they can't serve on the jury, there are some points that are forbidden from being used as the basis of a challenge. Race, gender, age and sexual orientation are all off-limits. There is a still a way that either side can exclude these jurors, which is a peremptory challenge.

A peremptory challenge is one that doesn't need an explanation. Instead, the juror can be excluded with no further information. Each side is limited to the number of peremptory challenges they can use in each jury selection process.

It is important for your side to carefully screen jurors because your fate will rest in their hands. Be sure to consider each point that you have concerns about and discuss them with your lawyer during the process.

Source: FindLaw, "What Is a Jury of Peers?," accessed Jan. 26, 2017

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