Don’t consent to search of your car or person


Police need to have a good reason to search your car or your person.  If the police have a valid search warrant then they are allowed to search the areas that are specified in the warrant.  However, in most searches of cars and people, police don’t have a warrant because they don’t have time to get a warrant. 

If the police search a person or car without a warrant, they need a legally recognized reason to search.  If the police don’t have a legitimate reason to search, then the court may end up suppressing the evidence that was found. 

The most important thing that a suspected person can do is not to consent to any search.  A lot of people will consent to a search of their person or car because they believe they have no other choice.  What is even more astounding is that many people will consent to the search knowing that there are illegal materials in the car or on their person.

Once a person gives consent, it helps the police greatly.  When a person consents to being searched, the police no longer need a legitimate reason to search.  The police are allowed to search because the person has consented.   The police do not need to warn the suspect that he has the right to refuse to be searched.  The lesson is never consent to a search.  If the police find evidence so be it.  Don’t take away your own rights by consenting to the search and taking away your opportunity to force the police to justify their warrantless search. 

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Jurors please wait to tweet or be prepared to pay


Jury duty is something that most people don’t look forward to attending.  However, there are certain cases that may receive a lot of press and jurors actually are interested to be apart of the process.  If you are ever chosen to be on a jury, make sure that you follow the rules of the court. 

One of the most important rules the judge will require is for jurors to not talk about the case until it is over.  If a case takes more than one day, most juries are allowed to go home for the night.  In limited situations, juries are kept away from the public and housed in a hotel until the case is over.  Regardless of where the jurors stay, the rule remains the same.  Don’t talk about the case until the case is over.  This includes not talking to fellow members of the jury until it is time for deliberations. 

With technology, it is much easier to make contact with others than ever before. Most people own cell phones, and smart phones allow people to post messages on the web through Facebook and Twitter to thousands of people at a time.  With these conveniences, it takes more of an effort on a juror’s part to not be tempted to talk about the case he or she is currently apart. 

In Detroit, a juror posted a Facebook message talking about the trial.  When the court discovered this, the juror was fined $250 and was required to write an essay on the constitutional rights to a fair trial.  A fair trial, this is what the rule is trying to protect.  If the fine is not enough to deter you from talking to about the case, then imagine it was you on trial and how it would feel to not receive a fair trial.  It is okay to talk to others while the case is pending, just make sure the trial doesn’t enter the conversation.    

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For more information:

http://wwj.cbslocal.com/2010/09/02/juror-who-made-facebook-post-due-in-court/

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2009/10/24/jurors-using-twitter-jeop_n_332648.html

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/northamerica/usa/4998004/Juror-tweeted-on-Twitter-during-trial.html

Should jurors be concerned over the possible sentence?


It is not uncommon for the jury to have questions for the judge during deliberations.  One very common question is what will happen if the defendant is found guilty on these charges.  One lawyer even told me that the jury asked the question that if they find the defendant guilty, can the judge not send the defendant to jail.  The job of the jury is to weigh the evidence and not to determine the sentence a person should receive. 

So once the verdict comes back, the job of the jury is pretty much over.  Most judges will ask the court officer to escort the jury out before sentencing begins.  For the most part, judges don’t mind the jury being in the room during sentencing.  However, most judges will ask the court officer to escort the jury out prior to sentencing because most jurors want to leave.  Some judges will let the jurors know that they can come back into the court room and sit in the audience if they are curious about what will happen to the defendant.  

Whatever happens or whatever can potentially happen to a defendant isn’t something that juries should be concerned over during the trial.  During the trial, the judge and attorneys take tremendous care to avoid bringing up information regarding potential penalties.  Potential consequences to the defendant are irrelevant information in a criminal trial and could prejudice the defendant or even the prosecution. 

Instead, the jury should focus on the evidence at trial and make a determination on whether the prosecution has met its burden.  So, to answer the question posed in the title, the answer is no.  In any criminal case, the jury usually has enough evidence to stay occupied.  The last thing the jury should concern themselves with is the possible sentences to the charges.
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For More information:

Jury Duty and Courts

http://www.mass.gov/?pageID=mg2subtopic&L=4&L0=Home&L1=Resident&L2=Citizen+Involvement&L3=Jury+Duty+and+Courts&sid=massgov2

What are the lawyers and the judge whispering about over there?


If you have ever sat on a jury, you may notice that there are a lot of side bar conferences.  A side bar conference is essentially a conversation between the lawyers and the judge that is kept away from the jury.  For the most part, jurors hate side bar conferences because they feel as though useful information is being kept from them. 

Side bar conferences may also annoy jurors because it takes time and slows down the trial.  A judge may call a side bar conference at any point.  The lawyers may ask the judge for a side bar conference and it is up to the judge to grant that conference.  If a side bar conference is going to be conducted, both lawyers need to approach the judge’s bench.  If the conversation takes too long, the judge may opt to have a further hearing and ask the jury to step out of the room. 

So what is really going on during a side bar conference?  Well, there is really no one good answer.  Side bar conferences are used to go over a number of issues that are inappropriate to be discussed in front of the jury.  It could be something as simple as how certain evidence or items in the court room should be presented.  A lawyer could be asking the court room to be set up in a certain fashion.  More likely is that the judge is ruling on the rules of law and if certain evidence is allowed to be admitted. 

You may find side bar conferences very annoying.  After all, secrets are no fun, but it is important that you stay patient.  The point of side bar conferences is not to keep relevant information from the jury, but to keep irrelevant information from the jury.  If the jury hears evidence that violate the rules of evidence that can lead to an appeal or a mistrial.  If the court declares a mistrial it could make them restart the case in front of another jury.  Therefore, a little patience for side bar conferences can save the process a lot of time. 

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What can happen if I skip jury duty?


There are very few things that this great country requires a citizen to do. All males must sign up for the draft at the age of 18, people must pay taxes if they are working and everyone is required to serve on a jury. There are very few exceptions to the rule. People who are above a certain age are able to stop going to jury duty, but for the most part you are required to go. It doesn’t matter what you do for work because even judges are required to go to jury duty. As most of people already know, jurors are selected randomly through a computer system. Selected jurors get notified by mail and can be sent to any court that is within the county of the person’s residence.

If for some reason you can’t serve on the day that is given, you usually defer to another date. If you don’t attend jury duty, you can be charged with a misdemeanor. A person who doesn’t attend jury duty can be fined up to $2,000. When a person is charged the court will usually send a summons to the person’s last known address. If the person doesn’t show up on the date that they were summoned, then the judge could put a warrant for the person’s arrest. Through this process, a person that has never been in trouble with the law before, can be arrested and brought to court.

What usually happens with these types of cases is that the court will have the person sign up for jury duty and hold over the criminal case. After the person performs jury duty, the charges are usually dismissed. However, the best thing to do is to make sure that you go to jury duty or get the court to allow you move the date. The last thing you want to happen is to be arrested for not going to jury duty.

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Attorney-Jason-Chan/101494423854?ref=sgm Massachusetts General Laws regarding jury duty http://www.mass.gov/legis/laws/mgl/gl-234-toc.htm

Mass Juror Service Website https://juryduty.majury.gov/ojcweb/public/start.aspx

Boston Globe Article about courts cracking down on people who skipped jury duty http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2009/10/05/massachusetts_cracks_down_on_jury_duty_shirkers/?page=1

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Do you really know what a jury trial is about?


Unless you were chosen to serve as a juror, most people don’t know what jury trials are really about.  Sure, court room dramas are nice, but movies seldom explain the process.  Here are a few points about one of your most important consitutional rights. 

 The number of jurors: Depending on what court you are being tried, the number of jurors will vary.  The district court requires a unanimous decision by 6 jurors.  The superior court requires a unanimous decision by 12 jurors.  In short, the superior court requires twice as many jurors to return a verdict.  One reason for this difference is that the penalties are much more severe in superior court.  The stakes being higher, the amount of jurors are also higher. 

 Alternates: Most judges will sit more jurors than is required.  In both the district court and the superior court it is very common for the judge to impanel more jurors than required.  Judges will sit alternate jurors in case people have emergencies that arise.  If a judge empanels the minimum amount of jurors and a juror is unable to perform his or her duties, then the judge will most likley have to declare a mistrial.  To avoid this problem, judges will sit additional jurors. 

 Impaneling a jury:  The amount of time it takes to impanel a jury can very significantly.  Essentially, the court wants to impanel an impartial jury and for certain cases this can be difficult.  If you have jury duty, I am sure this isn’t something that you want to hear.  Cases that particularly take a long time to impanel a jury are cases involving sex offenses.  It can take days if not weeks to impanel a jury for a child molestation or rape case.  So if you are serving jury duty and find yourself as a potential jury in a sex offense case prepare for a long process. 

 Decision: As I have mentioned before, a jury decision in Massachusetts needs to be unanimous.  This means that the entire jury needs to agree with the decision of guilty or not guilty.  As you can imagine, this can make for long jury deliberations. 

 This post gives you a little background on jury trials.  Jury trials are complicated and it is never a good idea to represent yourself in a trial.  In the end, it is important to remember that it is not a perfect system.  However, it is bar far the best one ever created.

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 For more information:

 About the Massachusetts Jury System

http://www.mass.gov/courts/jury/introduc.htm

 Preparing for a jury trial

http://articles.directorym.com/Preparing_for_a_Jury_Trial_Agawam_MA-r935226-Agawam_MA.html

Glossary of trial terms

http://guides.gottrouble.com/Glossary_of_Jury_Trial_Terms_Massachusetts-r1204930-Massachusetts.html

Defense of Massachusetts Jury Service System

http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/1289579/defense_of_massachusetts_jury_service.html?cat=17

Anatomy of a jury trial

http://www.america.gov/media/pdf/ejs/0709.pdf#popup

Vanishing Civil Jury Trials

http://legaltalknetwork.com/podcasts/boston-bar/2009/04/the-vanishing-civil-jury-trial/

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