In an attempt to keep jurors from researching a case online or chatting about a trial on any social media network, proposed legislation in California would give judges the power to fine a juror up to $1,500. This fine would be in the form of a citation, a less severe punishment compared to being held in contempt of court. Prior to this point, jurors have been dismissed from a trial for researching details online, potentially leading to a mistrial. Hypothetically, this new law could reduce the number of mistrials attributed to juror issues.
The severity of the fine would likely be up to the judge, perhaps based on the extent of the offense. Someone opening up the Twitter app to check out random posts from their friends would likely be fined far less than someone that posted extensive details of the trial on their Facebook account. Prior to the majority of trials, judges will warn jurors not to research the case online or post about the events of the trial on social networks.
Speaking about the natural tendency to break these rules, Assemblyman Rich Gordon of the 24th California Assembly District said “We are all on our cellphones and iPads all the time. 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, trial have had to be redone.”
According to the details of the legislation, California will hold a pilot program of this new fining system starting on or before July 1, 2017 and run for approximately five years in a number of unnamed California courts. If the system is successful, state officials would likely expand out to all courts in California. It’s also possible it could spread to other states if these types of juror incidents fall dramatically over the five year time period.