What’s “voir dire” and why is it important to your criminal case?

Jurors can be one of the biggest factors in the outcome of a criminal case. Those are the people who will hear the evidence in your case if you have a jury trial and ultimately make a decision about the facts — and whether you’re guilty of any crimes.

Voir dire is the process of interviewing the prospective jurors and deciding who does — and does not — get to sit in the jury box. Ideally, the process of voir dire should eliminate everyone who isn’t impartial to the outcome of the case so that the resulting jury goes in to the trial without biases that will prevent a fair decision.

That’s not likely to happen, however, since most people tend to carry a lot of hidden biases (including some they may not even recognize). That’s why it pays to have an attorney who really knows how to navigate voir dire.

During voir dire, both the prosecution and your defense attorney will seek to eliminate jurors who show biases that might work against their case. For example, if you’re facing a drug charge, the prosecution may hope to seat jurors who are older and highly conservative, since that group is less likely to be sympathetic to your situation. Meanwhile, your own attorney may seek to put younger, liberal jurors who are likely to consider drug use less of an issue.

Typically, the attorneys involved in the case will ask each juror about things like:

  • Their backgrounds, including their occupations, educational background, where they live, what media they view and their socio-economic status
  • Their experiences, including previous run-ins with the law or criminal activity
  • Their opinions and beliefs on various subjects and their willingness to set those aside, if necessary

If you’ve been charged with a crime and you hope to fight the charges in court, make sure that you have an attorney who is comfortable with handling a trial from beginning to end — and knows how to properly handle voir dire questioning.