Civic Duty

The term civic duty refers to a responsibility expected from all members of a society. It follows the principle that citizens have an obligation to serve their society. In return, they receive certain rights and protections. An example of civic duty is serving on a jury. To explore this concept, consider the following civic duty definition.

Definition of Civic Duty


  1. A responsibility expected from citizens of a country.


Mid-16th century    French (civique)

What is Civic Duty Meaning?

Citizenship connects Americans in a nation bound by shared values of liberty, equality, and freedom. Being a citizen comes with both rights and responsibilities. Civic duty embodies these responsibilities. Such civic duties help uphold the democratic values of the United States.

Types of Civic Duties

While some differentiate between civic duties and civic responsibilities, the two are essentially the same. The law makes some types of civic duties mandatory. Some examples of civic duty responsibilities required by law include serving on a jury and paying taxes. Other examples of civic duty include:

  • Registering with the Selective Service
  • Obeying the law

A voluntary civic duty is voting in elections. Other examples of civic duty that citizens can voluntarily perform including serving on boards or commissions.

Jury Duty

The United States Constitution guarantees the right to trial by jury in criminal prosecutions. In order to safeguard this right, citizens must perform juror service. Though many view jury duty as an inconvenience, it is vital to the administration of justice.

It also helps maintain America’s system of checks and balances and educates citizens about the justice system. Jury duty is a mandatory civic duty in the United States, and failure to appear can result in criminal charges.

Voir Dire

A jury is a group of people sworn to render a verdict in a court case based on the evidence. When the courts must choose a jury for trial, they select potential jurors from members of the community using jury lists.

The lists contain names gathered from voter registrations, as well as driver license and ID renewals. The members selected receive summonses ordering them to appear in court at a particular date and time.

In court, lawyers and the judge question each of them to see if they qualify as fair and impartial jurors. This process is known as “voir dire.” Throughout the questioning phase, the prosecution or defense can challenge potential jurors and dismiss those not suited for jury duty. At the end of the voir dire process, the remaining individuals take an oath and prepare for trial.

Registering for Selective Service

The selective service is a federal agency in place to resume a draft if necessary. This ensures that the nation has enough men available to serve in the armed forces in the event of war.

Registering for Selective Service is mandatory for all males ages 18 to 25. Failure to register can result in fines and incarceration. Registering for Selective Service is also a requirement to sign up for certain federal programs and benefits, including student loans.


One of the important civic duty examples includes paying taxes is a critical part of supporting the infrastructure of the government. The money collected through taxes pays for many things including salaries of government workers.

Tax dollars fund public resources such as Medicare, food stamps, and school systems. They also pay for the nation’s military as well as the roads, parks, and libraries people use. Without taxes, the government could not operate, and society would collapse.

As part of their civic duties, citizens pay different types of taxes, including:

  • Income taxes
  • Payroll taxes
  • Sales taxes
  • Property taxes
  • Real estate taxes
  • Excise taxes


Though citizens of the United States are not required to vote, this is another of the important civic duty examples. Voting provides them with a way to participate in democracy. It offers people the chance to make their voices heard and shape the type of society they want. The outcomes of elections can impact the daily lives of citizens and jeopardize personal freedoms.

In order to vote in federal elections, citizens must register to vote in their jurisdictions. The laws on voting requirements vary by state. Once registered, citizens can vote in local, state, and federal elections in person at assigned polling locations, or, in many states, they can vote early by mail.

Obeying the Law

Obeying the law is another example of civic duty. The government has established the criminal justice system and enacted laws to protect the general safety of citizens. These laws exist on the local, state, and federal levels, and they help establish a peaceful society.

In return for the protection, citizens have a civic duty to obey the law. Those who fail to comply with a law can face consequences such as fines, probation, community service, and incarceration. The exact punishment in failure to uphold civic duty examples varies depending on the law violated.

Civic Duty Example in the Selective Service System

In 2011, four men filed a lawsuit against the federal government claiming they were wrongfully terminated from their government positions. The terminations came after a routine background check revealed they had failed to register with the Selective Service. In 1987, Congress passed a bill that barred men who failed to register from federal employment.

The lead plaintiff, Michael Elgin, had worked for the Internal Revenue Service for 11 years. In 2002, a routine background check revealed his failure to register for the Selective Service. The IRS did not want to fire him, but the Office of Personnel Management terminated him 5 years later.

The men claimed that the Selective Service System was sexist since it did not require women to register. They lost the case and appealed to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which disagreed with the lower court and sent the case back for review.

The case finally went before the Supreme Court in February 2012, which upheld the lower court’s decision. The High Court ruled that federal employees could not sue if they lost their jobs for not complying with the law.

Related Legal Terms and Issues

  • Criminal Charge – A formal accusation by a prosecuting authority that an individual has committed a crime.
  • Jury – A group of people sworn to render a verdict in a trial, based on evidence presented.
  • Obligation – A promise or contract that is legally binding; the act of binding or obliging oneself, as in a contract.
  • Trial – A formal presentation of evidence before a judge and jury for the purpose of determining guilt or innocence in a criminal case, or to rule in a civil matter.