Jury Service can pose a challenge for those with Tourette’s. This post will explain briefly what jury service is, and how Tourette Syndrome can have an impact.
Jury Service can pose many problems for people with Tourette’s. Motor and vocal tics are difficult if not impossible to suppress in a courtroom, and any co-existing conditions such as anxiety and ADHD can make the experience overwhelming.
I will link Tourette Syndrome charities and organisations from around the world at the end of this post. The post will focus on how the UK and USA systems work purely because these are my biggest audiences, but I am sure much of the information can be useful if you are elsewhere.
This article will hopefully give you a better understanding of what might be expected with a tic disorder, but this varies from person to person, country to country.
What is Jury Service?
law.ac.uk provides the following insight into Jury Service:
‘When people are accused of serious offences, they generally have a right to be tried by 12 members of the public.’
This is to be fair to the person being charged. In the England and Wales there is a 35% chance that a member of the public being called up to jury duty. Roughly only half of those spend time in court.
In the USA, a list of registered voters and those with a drivers licence are used to randomly select citizens for jury duty. Similar to the UK, this does not guarantee the person selected will serve on a jury.
With roughly 1% of the population having Tourette Syndrome, there’s no doubt that some sufferers are called upon for jury.
How will jury service affect my tics?
The main concern here is that tics cannot be suppressed for long periods.
Tics are often described as ‘involuntary’, due to the initial unwanted urge that manifests before the motor or vocal tic is carried out.
This urge is intolerable at best and impossible to control at worst.
In a courtroom, those present are required to remain seated and silent at all times, unless spoken to.
Although I have not been required to carry out jury service, I know what it is like to be asked to remain seated and silent for long periods. Meetings, university lectures, movie theatres. Tics can really pose a challenge, and a courtroom is a much more tense environment.
Does Tourette’s disqualify me from Jury Service?
On uscourts.gov, The Jury Act is mentioned. This Act provides a list of those legally disqualified. These range from being under 18 years of age to having a criminal record.
It states the following people are legally disqualified from service:
‘If they are incapable by reason or mental or physical infirmity to render jury service’
‘Have no disqualifying mental or physical condition’.
So we know that some people are disqualified. However with Tourette (as is often the case with this syndrome), there are grey areas in terms of what a sufferer is or isn’t capable of doing.
A juror with Tourette’s qualifying or being disqualified for jury service will therefore be on a case-by-case basis.
In the UK, jurors can be excused in ‘exceptional circumstances’. gov.uk explains what these circumstances are, including:
‘you have a serious illness or disability that prevents you from doing jury service.’
Tourette Syndrome is considered a disability in the UK. However whether or not jury service is possible with Tourette Syndrome depends on the severity of the tics in the individual.
Does Tourette Syndrome prevent you from doing jury service? If you feel it would, it is wise to let them know.
Should I state that I have Tourette Syndrome in advance?
Absolutely. It is sensible to let the authorities know of your Tourette’s in advance.
This will help them understand your position ahead of time, and also prevent problems arising that could have been addressed much sooner.
Let’s remember that Tourette Syndrome is still a very misunderstood condition. Despite it being a neurological disorder, many- if not most people in the courtroom- will be uneducated on it.
Being open in advance will help prevent the awkward explanations to those sitting around you.
What we know are involuntary tics, could well be seen as a voluntary disruption. It will save so much time to let them know beforehand and not in the moment.
Be cautious of co-occurring conditions affecting your wellbeing
Tics are just the tip of the iceberg with Tourette. Many co-occurring conditions create additional problems for sufferers such as myself, and these problems would no doubt increase in this environment.
Anxiety, restlessness, intrusive thoughts and hyperactivity are just a few obstacles sufferers face. Even if the tics are mild, these other factors may cause problems.
If jury service with Tourette Syndrome is possible, it would be wise to plan ahead.
Whether this is consuming food and drink that reduces stress and tics, wearing clothes that don’t cause sensory issues, and getting a better nights rest if at all possible.
The little things really can go a long way to help us in our day-to-day lives.
Tourette Syndrome and jury service conclusion
No matter where you are in the world, jury service will share similar structures.
If it is possible to contact the courts in advance, do so. Stating Tourette’s as a possible problem will let them know in good time, and they can decide accordingly.
There isn’t much out there regarding Tourette Syndrome and jury service, so we have to take each case differently.
As Tourette Syndrome gains more recognition however, courts will make more informed decisions on whether or not individuals will be able to attend.
The more we let them know about our condition, the better the process will be for everyone.
If you’re looking to connect with your national organisation or charity, tourette.org compiled a list of global contacts. This can be viewed here.