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049 What is one responsibility that is only for United States citizens?

49. What is one responsibility that is only for United States citizens?
• Serve on a jury
• Vote

People who come to live in the United States as resident aliens (or people who can live and work in the United States but are not citizens) can do almost everything that American citizens can do, but there are two important differences. Only U.S. citizens can vote and serve on a jury.

In most countries, the right (or freedom) to vote is only for citizens. It makes sense that only the people who officially belong to a country should have the right to vote there. Serving on a jury, though, is not a right that is talked about as much as voting.

In the United States, all people have the right to a trial by jury. A trial is a lawsuit or a case heard (or argued and discussed) in a court. If someone says that you have done something illegal (or against the law), you can argue about it in a court. This is your trial. The people who decide whether you are guilty (or that you have committed a crime) are the jury. The jury is the small group of people who will listen to the whole trial and then make a decision about whether or not you are guilty. They bring their decision back to the judge (or the person who manages the trial and courtroom) and he or she decides what your punishment will be (or how much money you will have to pay or how long you will be in jail for what you have done).

American citizens have the responsibility to serve on a jury. We call this jury duty and it begins when you get a letter in the mail summoning you (or telling you to come) to jury duty. Then you go to the court on the date stated (or written) in the letter. Many other people who were also summoned go to the court that same day. If you are selected for jury duty, then you have to watch the whole trial. Employers (or the people or company that you work for) give their employees time off (or permission to not come to work) for jury duty. Usually jury duty lasts only a few days, but if you are put on a very long and difficult trial, it can last weeks or even months.

Since people in most states are paid only a very small amount of money by the court to be on jury duty, some people try to avoid (or not serve on) jury duty. But if everyone avoided jury duty, we wouldn’t have enough people to decide cases. So serving on a jury is an important duty (or responsibility).


resident alien – a person who can live and work in the United States but is not a citizen
* How many years have you been a resident alien of the United States?

right – the power or ability to do something; a freedom
* If you are arrested, you have the right to remain silent and not say anything to the police officers.

trial by jury – a lawsuit in a court where a small group of people decides whether or not a person has done something against the law
* In a trial by jury, people just like you and me make decisions about whether people have broken the law.

guilty – having committed a crime; having done something wrong
* The man said that he was not guilty of robbing the store, even though there was a video that showed him doing it.

jury – a small group of people who listen to a trial and decide whether or not a person has done something against the law
* The members of the jury discussed the case for hours, trying to decide whether or not the woman had stolen the money.

judge – a person whose job is to manage a trial and courtroom and decide whether a person should be punished for breaking the law
* The judge said that the criminal would go to jail for 10 years.

punishment – something that one must pay or do as a penalty for having done something wrong; how much money one will have to pay or how long one will be in jail for what one has done
* Maggie took away her son's cell phone for one week as a punishment for getting bad grades.

jury duty – the period of time when a person stops doing his or her regular job and goes to court to listen to a case and decide whether someone has broken the law
* William was on jury duty for several weeks because he was assigned to a famous murder trial.

to summon (someone) – for someone with power or authority to tell someone else to come to a particular place at a particular time
* All of the employees have been summoned to an emergency meeting this afternoon.

time off – permission to not come to work for a specific period of time
* Torsten plans to take some time off when his son is born next month.