8

I got a jury summons letter last week and was asked to be in court Monday. I went and was there for 5 - 6 hours deliberating with other jurors whether or not this guy should've gotten a speeding ticket or not (really trivial stuff). Anyway, we made our ruling and I headed home.

I wake up the next morning and went to work and was discussing this with my coworker and he brought up people who couldn't serve in a jury. Now, I've been living in the US for 15+ years and I am only a permanent resident (not a citizen) I looked into this further and found that in Texas, non US citizens could not serve in a jury. What are the consequences (as I did not know at the time) for serving in a jury if you are not a citizen? Should I call the court house and tell them? I thought they only picked citizens!

UPDATE

I wanted to update you guys on this strange insistence. Didn't want to leave you guys guessing lol. Anyway I explained the situation at the court house and I was forgiven without any penalties but they did declare a mistrial on the case I was involved in

  • 2
    Holy cow. Your lawyer should handle this. – user6726 Jul 20 '16 at 21:29
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    If the defendant was found guilty, your not being a citizen is probably enough to cause a mistrial or grounds for appeal. – mkennedy Jul 20 '16 at 21:47
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    You didn't intentionally deceive the court. Even if you did something criminal I don't see you being prosecuted. – Ammar Bandukwala Jul 20 '16 at 23:44
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    Also, I would recommend that you post your update as an answer, andthen accept it, especially since it contradicts the answers others have given. I would add that I'm having trouble reconciling this question and the one about traveling abroad with your earlier question in which you say you are a US citizen. – phoog Sep 24 '16 at 3:12
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    I didn't think this would still be getting much attention. I'll clear things up, this occurred 3 years ago and right now I am technically a citizen but still without passport since I just finished up the paperwork etc. I was told showing up to the court house and taking the case was a 'non verbal consent' of me being a citizen. We were asked to identify i.e date of birth, address name SS# etc..Someone dropped the ball which is why I think they didn't try to prosecute me. I'm just thankful it wasn't a murder case or something serious. – Noah Oct 1 '16 at 15:53
7

The potential problem is if there is a form which you had to sign which says "I am a US citizen", and you signed the form (who reads the fine print, anyhow?). Unfortunately, that statement is false, and there are consequences for making a false statement. However, that law penalizes false statements with the intent to deceive, not mistaken statements. Nevertheless, this is a matter that a professional really needs to deal with. If there was no form and they didn't verbally ask you to assert that you are a citizen, then there is less of a problem (for you), but still one needs to be extremely cautious in dealing with the court.

[Addendum]

It is highly likely that the form contained wording like "swear" or "certify" and mentions "perjury", so the error would be in the ballpark of perjury. Perjury is making "a false statement under oath or swears to the truth of a false statement previously made and the statement is required or authorized by law to be made under oath". Aggravated perjury is perjury which "is made during or in connection with an official proceeding and is material". The term "material" means "matters; is not inconsequential". The consequence of a non-citizen improperly serving on a jury is that a mistrial has occurred, which is not inconsequential. Aggravated felony is a third degree felony. The penal code says that

An individual adjudged guilty of a felony of the third degree shall be punished by imprisonment in the Texas Department of Criminal Justice for any term of not more than 10 years or less than 2 years.

(b) In addition to imprisonment, an individual adjudged guilty of a felony of the third degree may be punished by a fine not to exceed $10,000.

I must emphasize that an essential element is "intent to deceive and with knowledge of the statement's meaning", an element that cannot be present if there is no awareness of such a statement. Thus an innocent mistake could be legally excused. When you become aware that a statement made under oath was false (assuming such a statement was made), then in maintaining the falsehood, that would be intentional deceit. This is why it is necessary to consult with a lawyer.

On the Houston form, you would have to check the "are a US citizen" box. The Fort Bend county form has you certify and sign on the front page: it does not require you to certify that you are a US citizen, only to certify (and sign) if you are not – so if you failed to read the back side, that isn't a literally false statement. I can't locate an online form for Tarrant county, so dunno if that out is available.

  • Nope, wasn't verbally asked if I was a citizen or signed any papers. Just got the summons in the mail with a date, and location. You would think they would put this in bold on the summons paper. I'm thinking of just forgetting about it and only bringing it up if I get a letter or a call from the court house. – Noah Jul 20 '16 at 21:59
  • @Killer066 Memory is fallible. Look at this form. It's for Fort Bend County, but is typical of a summons form and the citizenship question is required by Texas law. – user3851 Jul 20 '16 at 22:02
  • Harris County's Form – user3851 Jul 20 '16 at 22:08
  • Dallas County's Form says "please see exemptions and disqualifications on the back of this form" and the signature certifies under penalty of perjury that the info on both sides of the form is true and correct. – user3851 Jul 20 '16 at 22:13
  • Well, I'm in Tarrant County. I quickly scanned over the date and location and tossed the paper lol I will keep my mouth shut for now! Haha – Noah Jul 20 '16 at 22:17
-1

Should I call the court house and tell them?

Other answers here are throwing stuff out there regarding whether the OP (unintentionally) committed perjury and the like. The answer to your last question, which I reproduced above, is absolutely not. It is very pertinent that you have a Constitutionally-protected right to freedom from self incrimination. While there is a faint chance you could be charged with something if you spoke up, there is absolutely no penalty (or no additional penalty) for keeping your mistake a secret.

I suspect that the Fourth and Fifth Amendment protections of the Bill of Rights were written specifically to curtail frivolous prosecutions, especially those based on broad-brushed, draconian legislation that fails to take into account practical contingencies. Think of it is a statute of limitations, one based on favorable circumstances and your own prudence rather than the passage of time.

Plus, if the bad guys (DA's office, in this scenario) push the matter to the full conclusion, they could (if they wanted) demand the traffic violator face trial a second time (rather than allow the offense to be overturned). That means another slot booked at the courthouse, more jury summons for unlucky full-time workers, parents and caregivers, more court costs (possibly charged to the unlucky driver), overtime pay for law officers making another court appearance, failure-to-appear citations and possible arrest warrants if somebody's mailing address isn't current, etc.

Seriously, nobody's got time for that.

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