WARNING: BEWARE OF TELEPHONE SCAM
Hidalgo County Sheriff Eddie Guerra and District Clerk Laura Hinojosa are warning the public about a scam to extort money from Hidalgo County residents. Criminals, posing as county court or law enforcement officials, are calling victims to collect fines for failing to appear for jury service. In most cases the impersonator(s) instruct their victims to pay the “fine” by using prepaid debit cards.
Victims are further instructed to provide the card number and 3-digit card security code located on the back of the card, all while the impersonator remains on the line with the victim. The victims are then directed to the courthouse where a supposed court official will remove the warrant for arrest as a result of the payment. Hinojosa says the County does not call residents and ask them to pay fines over the phone.
“This is extremely unfortunate for our constituents, particularly those who have fallen victim to this scam and have suffered monetary loss as a result of this criminal activity,” said Hinojosa.“ Our office will generally send a failure to appear notice by mail or reschedule jurors if necessary before taking any action. We encourage potential jurors to contact our office directly should they have any doubts or inquiries regarding the jury process. We further encourage residents to be extremely cautious when any payment demands are made over the phone and report the incident immediately.”
The law provides for a fine of $100 to $500 for failing to appear for jury service; however, no county court or law enforcement official will ever contact potential jurors over the phone to demand they make a payment. Only through normal court proceedings can a judge order a potential juror either be arrested or pay a fine for failing to comply with the law.
“The Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office encourages any victims of this ‘jury duty scam’ to report the incident immediately with the law enforcement agency that has jurisdiction over the address they reside in,” said Guerra. “We want to let the community know that we are concerned about their financial well being and we advise against sharing any information over the phone that may be used for a financial transaction, whether it be credit card/debit card numbers, checking account information, or cash card information. The Hidalgo County Sheriff’s Office does not collect fines for violations of contempt of court or for failure to appear to jury duty over the phone.”
County residents are asked to be vigilant and to help stop this type of criminal activity by reporting similar incidents.
To avoid becoming a victim of these scams remember:
• You can only be ordered to pay a jury fine by a judge through court proceedings.
• County court or law enforcement officials will never ask for credit or debit card information over the phone.
• County court and law enforcement officials will never threaten arrest for not making a payment over the phone.
Jurors perform a vital role in sustaining the American system of justice. As intended by the United States Constitution, the impartial and random selection of jurors is performed without regard to race, sex, occupation, education, or economic level, and is done so as to assemble a representative cross-section of the county's population.
The conclusions made by a juror are critically important. The case being heard may be as complex as a contract suit involving millions of dollars, or as simple as one involving a traffic violation. To insure that the decision of the court is a fair and just one, each juror must take their duty seriously. If the juror fails to serve and serve well, then he or she has failed as a citizen of this country, and has injured the rights of the people who go to court seeking justice.
We appreciate your time and service! We cannot do it without you.
If you've received a jury summons you can now use eJuror online to do the following:
- Complete the jury questionnaire (Note: Do not mail in your jury questionnaire if you are completing it online. However, you will need to bring with you the top portion of the summons on the date you are required to report for jury service, which also serves as your parking permit.)
- Request a one-time postponement
- Claim an exemption or disqualification
Juror Parking & Directions
is available for jurors in the large public parking area east of the county courthouse. Jurors are required to bring with them the top portion of the jury summons which serves as a parking permit.
The Jury Auditorium is located in the Hidalgo County Courthouse
at 100 N. Closner, Edinburg, Texas
. Click here
for a map/directions
to the courthouse.
Effective January 14, 2013, street parking is prohibited on the west side of the courthouse near the fire station on McIntyre between 9th and 10th Streets. Cars will be towed.
Jury Reimbursement Donation Program
Pursuant to Sec. 61.003 of the Texas Government Code, a juror has the option of donating their juror pay to the programs listed below:
- Hidalgo County Child Welfare Board - The mission of the HCCWB is to support victims of child abuse and neglect; ensure the needs of Hidalgo County children in foster care are met and educate the community regarding these issues; to help children in foster care lead the most normal lives possible under less than ideal circumstance; and to help reduce cases of child abuse and neglect in the future.
- Compensation to Victims of Crime Fund - The Crime Victims' Compensation Program is administered by the Office of the Attorney General and is dedicated to ensuring that victims of violent crime are provided financial assistance for crime-related expenses that cannot be reimbursed by insurance or other sources.
- Mujeres Unidas/Women Together: Victims of Domestic Violence - The mission of Mujeres Unidas is to provide shelter and programs for women, men and children who are victims of domestic violence and sexual assault while enabling them to break the cycle violence and live a life free from oppression.
- Rainbow Room - The Rainbow Room is an emergency resource room stocked with items to assist Child Protective Services Caseworkers in helping families and children in crisis. When there is a child in need, the caseworker can access the Rainbow Room for emergency supplies such as food, diapers, baby formula, and clothes.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is jury service mandatory?
The United States Constitution and the Texas State Constitution guarantee the right to trial by jury. State law obligates all qualified residents to serve as a juror.
The also law says that failure to report for jury service carries a penalty of up to $1000 fine, and in some instances, the judge can hold you in contempt of court and order jail confinement.
What if I qualify for an exemption or disqualification?
If you claim an exemption or disqualification, then you are excused and will not have to appear on your summons date. You may claim your exemption or disqualification online using eJuror.
Where does the district clerk office obtain names of prospective jurors?
Jurors are randomly selected from a compiled list of Hidalgo County residents who's names are annually furnished by the county's elections/voter registration office and Texas Department of Public Safety.
I no longer can fulfill my duties as a juror. Can you permanently delete my name from your records?
State law does not allow us to permanently remove you from our records unless you are 70 years of age or older, or no longer reside in Hidalgo County.
How do I request a postponement from jury service?
A juror may reschedule their jury service once a year by loging on to eJuror Online.
Can my employer prevent me from serving as a juror?
State law prohibits an employer from discriminating against an employee for taking time off to serve as a juror.
Note to employers: Pursuant To Civil Practice and Remedies Code Sec122.001 Juror’s Right to Reemployment; Notice of intent to Return.
A. A private employer may not terminate the employment of a permanent employee because an employee serves as a juror.
B. An employee whose employment is terminated in violation of this section is entitled to return to the same employment that the employee held when summoned for jury service if the employee, as soon as practical after release for jury service, gives the employer actual notice that the employee intends to return.
Must jurors be paid by their employers while serving jury duty?
No. State law does not require employers to compensate their employees while on jury service. Many employers, however, do support the jury system. Please check with your employer regarding your company’s policy.
How long will I serve as a juror?
If you are selected as a juror to participate in a trial, the trial will begin immediately after jury selection unless otherwise ordered by the judge. Your jury service will end when the trial is completed. If you are not selected as a juror, your service will be finished at the end of jury selection on the date you appear.
While serving jury duty will there be a lot of waiting involved?
There will be some wait time. We suggest that you bring reading material or small projects to pass the time while waiting for assignment to a courtroom. The most common complaint of jurors is the unexplained time apparently wasted during jury selection and trials. What might appear to be a waste of time to you is actually time being used by the judge and attorneys working on matters that must be done outside the presence of the jury. These events often arise unexpectedly and cannot be planned for in advance.
Where do I park? Is there a fee for parking?
There is no fee for parking. Reserved parking is available for jurors on the east side of the courthouse. Jurors must bring the top portion of their summons which serves as a parking permit.
Do I get paid for my jury services?
Only jurors who are selected to serve on a jury will receive $16 (reimbursement) for their first day of service. Jurors serving two days or more will receive $40 (reimbursement) per day after the first day. A check will be mailed within one to two weeks upon completing your jury service. Checks must be redeemed within 90 days or payment is forfeited and void.
Can I bring food or drink?
Food or drink is not allowed in the Jury Auditorium.
Are business and economic reasons a valid reason to be excused from jury service?
No. State law does not allow a person to be excused for economic or business reasons. Hardships or concerns may be addressed in the court to which you are assigned.
How do I get to the location to which I am summoned to appear?
The Jury Auditorium is located in the Hidalgo County Courthouse at 100 N. Closner, Edinburg, Texas. Click here for a map/directions to the courthouse.
Is there security at the courthouse?
Yes. No weapons of any kind including objects that could poke, stab, or cut are allowed into the courthouse facilities. This includes pocketknives, scissors, knitting needles, etc. All individuals and items brought to the courthouse are required to go through the security metal detectors.
Can a person serve as a juror if he/she has a misdemeanor theft or felony?
A person is disqualified if they have been convicted of misdemeanor theft or a felony; or is under indictment or other legal accusation for misdemeanor theft or a felony.
A person is not disqualified as a result of a misdemeanor theft charge or a felony if:
- the person has successfully completed a deferred adjudication,
- the person has completed a term of probation and the conviction has been dismissed under Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Ann. art. 42.12, § 20
If the person is currently serving a term of deferred adjudication supervision for a felony or misdemeanor theft, they are disqualified because they are still under the legal accusation.
What should I wear to report to jury service?
"Business Casual" is considered an appropriate way to dress for Jury Duty. Nice jeans are also allowed. Shorts, uniforms, tank tops, inappropriate clothing, and any clothing with holes or tears are NOT allowed in the courtroom.
What if I have health issues that prevent me from attending?
Hidalgo County can try to accomodate anyone with a medical problem or a disability to help them complete their jury service. However, a juror may also choose to be excused as a result of a disability or medical condition.
If this is the case, a juror must present a Juror Disability & Medical Certification Form to their physician to be completed and returned to our office within 15 days of notification. Otherwise, the juror's name will be placed back in the jury pool for summons in the near future.
Certification forms can be mailed with your summons in the enclosed envelope, emailed, or faxed to 956.318.2251.