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  • Brian Foley

Can you give a juror a beer during deliberations? For real, this could be a thing.

When you're a nerdy lawyer sometimes you open the code of criminal procedure and just start reading. That can be a fruitful endeavor because sometimes you find out that there is a statute that implies you could give jurors beer during their deliberations!

Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Art. 36.21 provides designates the responsibilities of certain county officials to provide various things to jurors during their deliberations. Last passed in 1965 the Texas Legislature believed it was important to announce that the sheriff of each jurisdiction shall be required by law to provide a room for the deliberation of the jury. It also mandates that the sherif provide food and lodgings. This kind of begs the question, "Which sheriff was starving the jurors prior to enacting this law?" Then as to avoid any confusion about food and lodging they included a restriction.

"No intoxicating liquor shall be furnished them." Tex. Code Crim. Proc. Art. 36.21.

Now last time I checked a reasonable statutory construction would say that you give words their plain meaning. And the plain meaning of liquor is not in fact beer. So by this statute it appears that a sheriff or bailiff could hand the jurors a Shiner Bock but not a glass of scotch!

The statute has never been interpreted by a court but I suppose I could see one making a balancing test where 151 is clearly excluded and the closer you get to Michelob Ultra the more likely you are to be able to furnish it to the jurors.

Art. 36.21. TO PROVIDE JURY ROOM. The sheriff shall provide a suitable room for the deliberation of the jury and supply them with such necessary food and lodging as he can obtain. No intoxicating liquor shall be furnished them. In all cases wherein a jury consists partly of male jurors and partly of female jurors, the sheriff shall provide facilities for the female jurors separate and apart from the facilities provided for the male jurors.

If you're a bailiff reading this please do not give jurors anything with any alcohol content to consume. I suppose giving them some hand sanitizer with alcohol in it is okay but just make sure they don't drink it because the lawyers are boring them to death!


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