Attorney’s Office

Frequently Asked Questions (Jury Duty)

  • What is the difference between a Trial Jury and a Grand Jury?

    We have two kinds of criminal juries: the Trial Jury, the one with which most citizens are familiar; and the Grand Jury, the one with which most citizens are not familiar.

    The Trial Jury is the one you see on TV. Twelve people determine whether an alleged criminal is guilty. Jury trials occur in a public courtroom, with a judge present, where attorneys for both sides question the witnesses, and where a conviction can be obtained only when all 12 jurors are convinced of the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

    The Grand Jury is quite different. It functions only at the beginning of the criminal investigation. Seven citizens (not 12) will have the responsibility of investigating allegations of crimes against the laws of Iowa in Polk County. The investigation usually consists of witnesses testifying before the Grand Jury, with a Prosecutor and Grand Jurors asking questions.

  • What does a Grand Jury do?

    After the Grand Jury investigates the allegations of the crime, they may decide to indict an accused. If a Grand Jury indicts, the person is charged with a criminal offense and will have to continue in the criminal justice process. The Grand Jury has no further responsibility in that case. The prosecution is taken over by either the Polk County Attorney or the Iowa Attorney General.

    As a member of a Grand Jury, you stand in a very real sense between the government and the accused. A Grand Jury must never be made an instrument of private prejudice, vengeance, or malice. It is your duty to see that indictments are returned only against those persons you find probable cause to believe are guilty of a criminal offense under State law and should be prosecuted and held accountable. In addition to this primary function, a Grand Jury has several other statutory obligations, which would be explained by the judge if you are chosen to be a Grand Jury member.

  • How long is Grand Jury duty?

    If you are selected to sit on the Grand Jury, you will be on-call for three months. No one knows in advance how often you will meet. When there is a need for the Grand Jury, the Jury Clerk will notify you when to report. On average, the Grand Jury meets three days during each three months.

  • What are the hours of a Grand Jury?

    The Grand Jury meets from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 a.m., Monday thru Friday, when in session.

  • How long is Trial Jury duty?

    If you are selected to sit on a Trial Jury, you will need to be present during the entire course of the trial. Once the trial is finished, your duty ends. Generally, the hours are from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

  • Can I be excused from jury service?

    The judge may excuse anyone with a mental or physical disability if they provide a written excuse from a physician or health care provider stating they are unable to serve as a juror, stay-at-home breast-feeding mothers, a care giver to an invalid, and a person in the military.

  • What if I have a vacation, wedding, or a medical appointment?

    Alternates are selected for both a Grand Jury and a Trial Jury. The system usually works around conflicts such as vacations, illness, or other emergencies.

  • How much do I get paid for jury duty?

    Pursuant to Iowa law, jurors receive $30 a day for serving up to seven days and are entitled to reimbursement for travel to and from the courthouse and for parking expenses.  Jurors receive $50 per day for each day that exceeds seven days of service.  While employers are not required to pay the salaries of employees on jury duty, many do so in recognition of the importance of jury service.

  • Do I have to pay for parking if I have jury duty?

    No, as long as you park in any parking ramp owned by the City of Des Moines. Bring your parking ticket to the Jury Clerk for validation each day. Parking in any other facility or overtime parking tickets will be at your own expense. The closest parking ramps are: 422 Walnut, 210 2nd Ave., and 4th and Grand.

  • How are juries chosen?

    Jurors may be chosen from the current voter registration list, the current motor vehicle operators list, and/or a list of public utility customers.

  • Who do I talk to if I have questions about jury duty?

    Call the Jury Clerk at (515) 286-3769.

Contact Us

Polk County Attorney's Office
Polk County Justice Center
222 Fifth Avenue
Des Moines, IA 50309

Phone: (515) 286-3737
Fax: (515) 286-3428