It is tempting in this time when we are all reporting our lives on social media to tweet or post from court if you’re a juror. Your jury service is indeed interesting but it’s also one time when you might not want to express yourself.
As a juror, you are part of a legal proceeding; you’re not present as a spectator or a journalist. Disobeying the rules is punishable but it also can lead to a mistrial. Now a bill in California proposes to fine smart tech use by jurors, reports CBS Sacramento, up to $1,500.
Cost of Expression
Assemblyman Rich Gordon authored the proposal, Assembly Bill 2101, and believes jurors should abstain from all forms of social media and Internet use during a trial. “We are all on our cellphones and iPads all the time,” he said.
“The problem with that is that it can lead to a mistrial. We’ve seen that happen across the country where verdicts have been tossed out, trials have had to be redone.” Gordon’s proposal authorizes California judges in some counties to fine jurors up to $1,500 for misusing social media and the Internet during a 5-year pilot program.
Currently, judges can hold jurors in contempt, including incarceration, or dismiss them from proceedings. But these are costly responses for a criminal justice system already financially strapped. In some senses then, the measure kills two birds with one stone, not only preventing prohibited social media posts but punishing them in a way that serves the courts rather than costing them time and money.
Interestingly, Snapchat, the social media app, just filed a brief in a New Hampshire case about taking pictures in voting booths, arguing that the culture has changed and people can no longer be prevented from using their tech. A similar sentiment was expressed about the proposed California legislation by potential jurors.
Sacramento reporters spoke to locals who found the $1,500 penalty quite stiff and admitted it would be a good deterrent. But they still expressed an attachment to technology. Myell Jenkins told reporters, “It’d be really hard to give up the phone since you’re already giving up the time and then to not be able to connect with people online would be really hard as well.”
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