Petit Jury Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Petit Jury, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Petit Jury?

Petit is a french term meaning “small”.Petit jury is an old fashioned name for a jury that hears a lawsuit or a criminal prosecution.

History and Meaning of Petit Jury

Petit jury is a term used in the legal system to refer to the group of jurors selected to hear a trial and decide a verdict. The word "petit" comes from the French word for "small," and the term petit jury arose as a way to distinguish it from the grand jury, which has a different purpose in the legal system. Petit juries are used in both civil and criminal trials.

The modern use of petit juries comes from the English legal system, where they were first established in the 12th century. The use of a jury of one's peers was seen as a way to ensure fairness in trials and provide a check on the power of the government. The petit jury system was also adopted in the United States, where it became a cornerstone of the legal system.

Examples of Petit Jury

  1. In a criminal trial, the defendant has the right to a trial by a petit jury of their peers.
  2. A petit jury in a civil trial might be tasked with deciding whether a defendant was responsible for damages to a plaintiff.
  3. The judge will instruct the petit jury on the law they are required to follow in making their decision.
  4. A petit jury might include twelve members or fewer, depending on the jurisdiction and the type of trial.
  5. Petit juries are sometimes referred to as "trial juries" to distinguish them from "grand juries" which have a different role in the legal system.

Legal Terms Similar to Petit Jury

  1. Grand Jury - A grand jury is a group of jurors that investigates potential criminal conduct and decides whether to indict someone for a crime.
  2. Jury Selection - The process of choosing individuals to serve on a petit or grand jury.
  3. Jury Nullification - A jury's power to acquit a defendant even if they are technically guilty, if they believe the law is unjust or being improperly applied.
  4. Judge - The person who presides over a trial and is responsible for interpreting and applying the law.
  5. Verdict - The decision or conclusions reached by a petit or grand jury at the end of a trial.