Tweeting Jurors to Face Jail Time in CA

By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on August 10, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Tweeting jurors in California will be facing steep punishments as a result of new legislation signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown on Friday.

California trial judges must now inform all jurors that they risk being jailed on charges of criminal contempt for up to six months if found to be using electronic and wireless communications to conduct research or disseminate information about the trial.

This includes use of Twitter, Facebook, the internet, and texting.

It's always been the case that jurors are to keep quiet and not consider or seek outside evidence, but in recent years, internet-savvy and tweeting jurors have become somewhat of a problem for courts around the country.

More specifically, jurors in California have put criminal convictions in jeopardy by using the internet and their phones to look into a defendant, the crime scene, and to make statements about "whacked out" defense attorneys and boring testimony.

While it appears to be the first in the country to codify the punishment for tweeting jurors, California is not the first state to address the issue.

Along with counties across the country, Michigan's Supreme Court has propagated a rule requiring judges to instruct jurors about the use of electronic devices.

However, tweeting jurors aren't only punished in those jurisdictions where such rules have been put into force.

Judges in jurisdictions without specific rules are still permitted to hold tweeting jurors in contempt for using electronic devices during trial, as doing so still violates the basic rules of juror conduct.

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