To be clear, it is one's civic duty to serve as a juror when called upon. Carrying out this responsibility gives one the privilege of participating in the justice system and provides a means of escape from the monotony of regular day-to-day tasks. However, there are scores of people out there trying to figure out how to get out of jury duty for various reasons; most of them are related to convenience (or the lack of it in this case).
One of the justice system's fundamental aspects involves being tried by peers as opposed to the court being judge, jury, and executioner. In line with this, most people find themselves randomly selected for jury duty at some point in their lives.
This selection might not always come at the best time, and often, despite one's good intentions, fulfilling this civic responsibility becomes impossible. Do you know how to get out of jury duty if you ever need to?
What happens if you don't show up for jury duty?
If you are trying to come up with the perfect jury duty excuses, you must have wondered, 'what happens if you don't go to jury duty?' The laws vary slightly from one country/state to the other, but there are repercussions in all cases.
Here is a look at the general outcomes of failing to show up for jury duty, starting from the least to the most severe.
- Nothing happens: While this used to be quite common years ago, most courts have been streamlining their processes to follow through on penalties. All the same, you might be lucky and get no penalty.
- Summons for an alternative date: If you miss the first summons, the court can follow up with a second one for a different case and date. How soon this is will depend on the particular laws that govern your area of residence.
- An order to show cause is issued: This is a court order that requires you to show up in court and explain why you did not honor the summons for jury duty.
- A bench warrant for your arrest is issued: A sheriff's deputy might even show up at your door to arrest you in some states. You could also get pulled over in traffic for any reason, and if the police officer learns about the warrant, you end up in jail.
- Paying a fine: If you are found in contempt of court, you may be fined. Fines vary by jurisdiction, but you could end up paying quite some significant amount.
- Serving jail time: If you are found in contempt of court, you may get time, which can vary from a few days to a few months.
- Criminal record entry: If you are sent to jail for contempt of court for missing jury duty, it will undoubtedly appear on your criminal record.
How to get out of jury duty
Now that you know what could happen if you missed your summons, here is a look at how you can avoid being a juror.
1. Appearing subjective
When you arrive at court and take a seat in the jury selection room, the prosecution and defense will interview all potential jurors. There are numerous ways you can use the questioning process to avoid selection for a trial.
For this, your beliefs play a central role in your selection. You can use the questions to create uncertainty and doubt of your efficacy as a juror in the attorneys' minds. For instance, you might say that you lost your faith in the criminal justice system after seeing a certain person walk free.
You could also make a statement where you say that you do not believe that it is possible to prove someone guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The prosecuting attorney will not like this statement, and they might excuse you from the jury selection process.
2. Demonstrate a conflict of time
You can get out of jury duty if you can prove that you have a true time conflict on your hands. If you will have a hard time finding someone to watch your children, for instance, or if you cannot miss work, these are items that can provide you with an excuse many judges will accept to excuse you from jury duty.
What are excuses to get out of jury duty through a conflict of time?
- Use your student status: It is also possible to get out of jury duty by asking for a different date. If you are a student and are concerned about school, or testing, be sure to mention it in your jury duty excuse letter.
- Ask for an earlier date: In many cases, if you ask for an earlier date to report, jury lists will probably have been already made up.
- Aim for December: As a student, it makes sense to ask to serve during Christmas break. Many trials are postponed during the holidays, so this request could result in you getting out of it altogether.
3. Claim and prove economic hardship
In most areas, one can easily get out of jury duty if they can prove that they would lose financially by serving as jurors. To use this excuse, though, one needs to provide sufficient documentation to prove their claim.
The jury's commissioner will look at your bank account, tax returns, wage slips, and other necessary documents to ascertain your claim. If you are a sole proprietor in your business, this is the easiest excuse since you can prove that your business relies on your presence to make an income.
4. Prove relation to the case
If you know someone involved in the case, there are chances that you will not be chosen to serve as a juror. This holds when working for an employer involved within the case or personally knowing any of the witnesses.
If you know someone or something about the case, be sure to speak up. If you live in a small town, you most probably know someone remotely involved with the case, which could be enough to get you excused.
5. Request a later date
If you are an accountant and get called for jury duty during tax season, it is perfectly reasonable to postpone your serve date for a better time. The same goes for any other big event going on in your life: wedding preparation, vacations, or anything really.
6. Prove you have recently served as a juror
Some jurisdictions only require juror service once a year. This excuse is, therefore, an automatic waiver. To make sure you are officially excused, you need to communicate this to the court. The jury commissioner or judge will not know you have recently served unless you tell them.
When trying to figure out how to avoid jury duty, check the laws that govern your current residence area to determine how often you are required to serve.
7. Get disqualified as a juror
Even if you go down for jury selection, there are ways to get out of jury duty by being excused. Once again, you do not want to lie. You are usually under oath and absolutely should not risk the consequences of lying.
However, there are ways to imply that you might not be a juror that the attorneys for one side or the other are looking for. Here are some of them:
- Act as an expert: If you act as though you are an expert on the case's facts, many attorneys will want to excuse you. Most attorneys are more interested in jurors who are relatively new to the situation.
- Rebel: There is a very fine line between coming across as a smart juror who can follow directions and make a decision, and being a rebel. If you indicate that you are a free thinker/free spirit or have a hard time following the rules, you might be dismissed.
- Attitude: Sometimes, just having a bad attitude can be enough to get you dismissed. If you are negative and difficult the whole time, the judge and/or attorneys might decide to send you on your way.
- Extra enthusiasm: Believe it or not, if you are especially enthusiastic about serving on a jury, there is a good chance that you will be dismissed. If you seem overly interested in being on the jury, there might be questions regarding possible bias or a hidden agenda.
8. Prove you are pregnant or breastfeeding
This circumstance is considered to be the same as other medical excuses. If you are pregnant, then you will potentially have a long list of doctors' appointments to attend in the near future. There may also be unforeseen issues that arise throughout your pregnancy.
Ensure you inform the court that you are expecting, and you may be relieved of your obligations. If you are not pregnant, but you are currently breastfeeding a child, you will most likely get excused. It is not uncommon for children to be breastfed up until they are at least one year of age.
The courts understand that breastfeeding a child is a serious commitment, and courts consistently excuse breastfeeding mothers for this reason.
9. Let the judge know that you cannot be impartial
There is a difference between appearing subjective and actually being subjective. If you honestly feel that you cannot be entirely impartial in a particular case, communicate this to the court, and you might just get excused.
Attorneys on one or both sides might also hate having a juror who cannot be outrightly fair.
10. Prove that you are dating a convict
Romantic relationships between a convict and a person outside prison are not uncommon. This excuse is almost foolproof. If you can prove you have a partner serving time, there's no chance of getting picked to serve on a jury.
11. Mention veto rights
How can I avoid being picked for jury duty through veto rights? When you are selected to be a juror, the court asks you to swear that whichever verdict you reach will be solely based on factual merits presented by the defense and prosecution.
However, you are free to let the judge know that it is the jury's right to reach a verdict by whatever means they see fit. This is popularly known as jury nullification. Prosecuting attorneys and courts generally dislike jurors who decide to execute jury nullification.
12. Your line of work
How can I get excused from jury duty if I am a public service officer? Most police officers, lawyers, doctors, and government officials will be dismissed because of their extensive industry knowledge and experience.
If your line of work or personal experience will influence how you look at the specific case in court, make sure you speak up. Doing so could get you fully excused.
13. Employ the George Carlin Technique
If you have run out of options, you can try the George Carlin Technique to get dismissed from the jury. Carlin was a renowned comedian whose sets focused on complaints against politicians and the government.
To use the method, tell the judge that you think you will make the perfect juror since you can intuitively figure out who is innocent or guilty by merely observing their eyes. Since courts are not interested in this type of 'blind' justice, you will most probably be excused from duty.
14. Prove that you are elderly
Getting out of jury duty based on age is quite simple. In many states, men and women over the age of 70 are exempted from serving as jurors. Check your state's age requirements for jury service.
15. Prove emotional instability
Did your family member recently pass away? Are you going through a divorce? Was your son injured in an accident? Yes, mental disorders are also inclusive in this case, and emotional turmoil based on recent circumstances is a valid excuse as well.
It is advisable to get a note from a specialist saying that you are distressed, challenged, and emotionally incapable of fulfilling this particular duty at this time.
Now that you have learned how to get out of jury duty, feel free to employ one of the methods the next time you receive a summon at an inconvenient time. However, do not break the law while doing so as that could land you into serious trouble.