What Is “voir Dire”?

Voir dire is a legal term derived from French, meaning “to see to speak”. It is a term used in many common law jurisdictions, including Virginia. Voir dire refers to the process of questioning prospective jurors in a trial to determine their suitability to serve on the jury. The purpose of voir dire is to select impartial and unbiased jurors who can fairly and objectively decide the case.

In Virginia, voir dire is an important part of the jury selection process. It involves a series of questions that the judge, attorneys, and sometimes the defendant themselves, ask jurors to assess their ability to serve as jurors in a specific case.

The Importance of Voir Dire in Virginia

Voir dire is essential to ensure that the selected jurors can apply the law impartially and that they are not biased or influenced by any factors that may affect their judgment. The ability of the jurors to be objective and unbiased is critical in determining the outcome of a trial. The jury’s job is to weigh the evidence, evaluate the credibility of the witnesses and reach a fair and impartial verdict.

The U.S. Constitution guarantees every person the right to a trial by an impartial jury. Therefore, voir dire is an important constitutional requirement for the selection of a jury in any trial.

The Process of Voir Dire in Virginia

In Virginia courts, the trial judge oversees the jury selection process, including voir dire. The judge asks the initial questions to the jurors to determine their general qualifications to serve on the jury. Then, the attorneys from both sides are allowed to ask more specific questions aimed at identifying any bias or prejudice that jurors may have.

The questions asked during voir dire vary depending on the specific case. Typically, the questions focus on the juror’s background, work experience, education, and past experiences that may influence their ability to be impartial in the case. The attorneys may also ask open-ended questions to gather more information about the juror’s thoughts, opinions, and attitudes towards the subject matter of the case.

During voir dire, the attorneys have the opportunity to exercise peremptory challenges, which means they can reject a limited number of potential jurors without giving a reason. However, peremptory challenges cannot be based on race, gender, or any other protected status.


The voir dire process is an essential part of the jury selection process in Virginia’s legal system. It is designed to ensure that the jurors selected for a trial have the ability to be impartial and not influenced by any factors that may affect their judgment. The process of voir dire is complex, and the questions asked during the process vary depending on the specific case. However, it is one of the critical steps in ensuring that a fair and impartial jury is selected for a trial.

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