HOW TO GET OUT OF JURY DUTY
Ways To (Honestly) Avoid Juror Service
Scroll down to see information on the following topics:
Instant Excuses - People Who Get Eliminated Just For Asking
Temporary Excuses - How To Easily Postpone Service
Hardship Excuses - Get Excused Through The Mail
The BEST Way To Get Excused Honestly
Getting Excused During Jury Selection
Your Last Chance For An Excuse
Outrageous Statements To "Throw" The Process
If you have received a jury summons and feel you can not serve, you have options. While court rules vary around the country, these principals generally apply everywhere.
Note: This site is for general information purposes only. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be accepted as such. Any court summons should be responded to in a prompt and honest manner.
If you have a compelling reason why you can't serve, you can ask for an excuse by writing the court. Excuses are generally given for the following reasons:
You are over 70 years old.
You are a volunteer firefighter, rescue squad member or ambulance crew member.
You must care for young children or elderly adults, if your absence will put them at risk.
You are so important to the operation of a business that your absence will cause that business to fail.
You are an attorney, physician, dentist or registered nurse.
You do not have a car and are unable to use public transportation.
Excuses are usually not given through the mail for general work or family care responsibilities. These problems will be considered during the jury selection process (after you actually report to the courthouse on the first day.)
POSTPONEMENTS - DEFERMENTS - "TEMPORARY EXCUSE"
Instead of being excused, you can request (by writing the court) that your jury service be postponed. Deferments are common. You shouldn't feel bad about asking for one if jury duty conflicts with your work load, personal obligations or travel schedule. My work travel schedule required me to ask for two deferments. Of course the court didn't forget about me. After each temporary excuse was granted, I was summoned again three months later.
With your summons will be a questionnaire. It must be filled out truthfully and returned right away. These questions will weigh into whether you have to serve as a juror. Questions may include:
Are you a U.S. citizen?
What is your age and birth date?
Have you live in this county for the past year?
Do you speak English?
Are you charged with or been convicted of a felony?
Do you have an disability that would interfere with your service as a juror?
Do you hold elected public office?
Are you a police officer or firefighter?
Are you a member of the armed forces?
What is your gender, education level and occupation?
TIP--The questionnaire may include a space for you to write comments. Use it. Write-in any commitments you have that would conflict with jury service such as work/family responsibilities or conflicts of interest.
HARDSHIP EXCUSE - GET EXCUSED THROUGH THE MAIL
If you have a legitimate hardship that prevents you from serving, write a letter to the court. Do so even if the court doesn't specify your situation as "excusable." You may be let go through the mail.
Remember that the court may empathize with your situation, but may not let you off the hook easily through the mail. If your request for excuse is rejected, don't worry. You will generally find the court more reasonable when you appear for your first day of service.
THE BEST WAY TO BE EXCUSED - DURING JURY ASSEMBLY
If you have been unsuccessful getting excused through the mail, the next step is to get and excuse when you report to court.
Shortly after reporting for service, a court employee may ask if anyone has a compelling problem that will keep them from serving. THIS IS THE BEST TIME FOR YOU TO REQUEST TO BE EXCUSED. If you have a legitimate reason (such as work, travel, medical or family care responsibilities), you may very well be excused at this time.
People wanting excuses will be asked to come to the front. You will be questioned by the court employee. You will then either be excused or told to return to your seat. If you are excused, you will have to continue to phone-in for the remainder of the jury duty call-in period. You may be required to report again for jury selection. If you are not excused, you may still have a chance to get out of service during the jury selection process.
LAST CHANCE FOR EXCUSE - JURY SELECTION
Once the initial jury assembly is complete, the remaining group ("panel") is eligible for the jury selection process. You will be asked to line up in a specific order. You will be taken as a group to the courtroom and guided to a specific seat. A seating chart has been created so everyone in the courtroom will know who you are.
The judge will then offer a greeting and general instructions on what is about to happen. The judge's instructions may take 30-45 minutes. Following the judge's initial welcome and instructions, questioning of jurors will begin. You may hear this process called "Voir Dire" (pronounced 'voy dare'.) Voir Dire means "to speak the truth."
You will be sworn to tell the truth and answer questions in open court. The questions are designed to reveal any conflicts of interest you may have in judging a specific case. For instance, if the case is about bank fraud, the court wants to make sure you're not a banker who is too biased to judge the case fairly. Expect questions about your employment, friendships and family relationships. You may also be asked if you have friends/family members in law enforcement. You will be asked standard questions about your belief in the jury system and if you can judge the case fairly. Questions may be asked by attorneys or from a list of prepared questions presented to you by the judge.
You will likely be asked at this time if you have any scheduling or personal conflicts that will prevent you from serving as a juror. Regardless of whether the question is asked, at this time you must make it clear that you have a conflict with jury service. Be prepared to state why you can serve (work, family, philosophical difference.) If you are passionate enough you will shouldn't be asked to serve (though you won't immediately know the court's decision.) The court only wants to select jurors how want to serve. If you make it clear that you do not want to serve, chances are you will not be asked.
During questioning you will be asked if you believe in the jury system and if you can judge the case fairly. Answering with a simple "no" is a sure way to get dismissed. However, you should tell the truth... you are under oath at this time. Expect the judge to ask you why you feel as you do.
Following questioning, the group of potential jurors will be excused for a break. During the break the judge will decide which jurors will be excused "for cause" (meaning they have a legitimate conflict in fairly hearing the case.) Attorneys will also reject potential jurors using a limited number of "peremptory challenges." Peremptory challenges can be used against you for any reason. They are mostly used to eliminate jurors that either the defense of prosecution thinks will be too detrimental to their side. Once the final list of jurors is determined, you will be asked to return to the courtroom. The names of the chosen will be called by the judge. The people who were not selected as a juror or an alternate will be excused for the day (though they'll have to continue calling in each day for the remainder of the phone-in period.)
ONE MORE "LAST CHANCE" TO BE EXCUSED
If for some reason the improbable has happened and you've been seated against your will, there is still "one more last chance." Send a note to the judge requesting a meeting. After the first break in proceedings, the judge will see you the courtroom with both the defense and prosecution there to watch. You can then restate your objection to serving and ask to be excused.
OUTRAGEOUS STATEMENTS TO "THROW" THE PROCESS
Once your friends find out that you've been summonsed for jury duty, they will tell you their favorite "get out of jury duty excuses." These generally are humorous or advocate that you make some kind of outrageous statement to the court. Of course you can always pretend to be an idiot, a bigot or a radical. However, this is unnecessary. As you can see from the techniques above, the court leaves plenty of opportunities for you to honestly get out of jury duty.
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