Jury duty is something the vast majority of American citizens must deal with at least once in their lives. Getting out of jury duty is considered by many to be shirking your civic responsibility, but sometimes circumstances require it. And even if circumstances don’t “require” it, if you are anything like me, you will do everything you can to get out of jury duty or spending the day at the courthouse altogether.
The first thing you should try to avoid is complaining to someone about receiving a jury summons. You’re more than likely to be talking to one of two types of people: either the person has a strong sense of civic duty, will be insulted by your complaint, and proceed to give you a history lesson on why jury duty is one of the cornerstones of our democracy; or the person will be someone who doesn’t want to do jury duty either and you both can theorize and conspire on ways to get out of it.
If you have legitimate reasons, then it usually isn’t too difficult to get out of jury duty. You have three basic ways to get out of jury duty: get excused permanently, get your date postponed to a later time, or go in for jury duty for one day and get excused from actually sitting on the jury.
The one thing you don’t want to do is just ignore the summons. If you just don’t show up, it could lead to being in contempt of court, which could mean up to 2 years of jail time. That would be an extreme sentence, most likely for repeat offenders, but why risk spending a few days in jail or a fine. If you want to avoid jail time, here are the best ways to get out of jury duty legally.
Get Out of Jury Duty Permanently
Getting excused permanently might be your ultimate goal, but it is extremely difficult to do unless you just don’t qualify for jury duty for the court that has summoned you.
You No Longer Qualify
The most common way for you to be disqualified is you no longer live in the area the court draws its pool of jurists from. If this is the case, it should be a simple process of providing proof that you have moved. Many jury summons that are mailed out provide a way to respond and give you the option of checking a box to claim that you have moved. The summons should provide instructions on providing proof that your permanent residence has moved.
You Are A Convicted Felon
Furthermore, if you are a convicted felon, many states do not allow you to serve on a jury. Even if there is no such law in your state, you would be most likely excused from a criminal trial, anyways. Just make sure to mention this to the court clerk. If you still have to go through jury selection, state this during questioning from the judge and attorneys.
Age – You’re Old
Many states allow you to be excused from jury duty after you reach a certain age. For example, once you are 70 years old in Texas, you can ask to be excused from jury duty based on your age. Since you aren’t getting any younger, you can use this excuse for the rest of your life.
Mental Illness or Poor English Skills
If you have been diagnosed with a mental illness or you cannot read and write in English (which you can try to fake), many states have laws that would allow you to skip jury duty. When claiming a medical condition or health issues, it certainly helps to have a doctor’s note or documentation to confirm your diagnosis.
Get Your Jury Duty Postponed
While it is generally difficult to be permanently removed from your county’s jury pool, it is much easier to have your jury duty postponed. Some citizens don’t want to neglect their obligations, but the timing is just bad for them. If this is the case, most courts are willing to work with people who are honest about their situation.
Planned Vacations, Away From Home
In fact, you can usually get your jury duty postponed even for something like a planned vacation or an extended business trip. The vacation will need to have been planned before you received the jury summons, and you might need to provide proof such as airplane tickets, hotel reservations, or other paperwork. After all, who wants to cut their trip short for jury duty?
Family Situation or Hardship
For some potential jurors, it may not be feasible to serve on a jury because of a home, family or financial situation. For example, if you are a stay-at-home parent, a single parent, or the primary caretaker of a child, disabled or elderly adult and cannot afford to hire temporary help to fill in for you while you are serving on a jury, then you can request to have your jury duty postponed for a year or more. However, beware that you may need to provide proof to the court for any of these situations.
An extension of the above excuse can be that you are your family’s primary breadwinner and your family cannot financially afford to have you skip work. If your employer won’t pay your salary while you are on jury duty and you cannot afford to go without your salary for the expected time of the jury duty, then you can probably use this as a reason to have your summons postponed.
Again, you might need to provide financial proof. If your employer cannot afford to have you miss work for an extended period, then your employer can provide you a letter to give to the court as proof that your jury duty would be too harmful to your employer.
If you have a pressing appointment, such as a hard-to-get medical procedure, you may be able to request a short postponement of your jury duty even if you don’t have proof of the urgent nature of this appointment. Again, you will need to be open and honest with the court about this matter.
Sell Your Car and Bike
If you don’t have your own transportation to the courthouse and there isn’t any public transportation between your house and the court, you can use the lack of a car or bike as a reason to have your jury duty postponed.
Students and Teachers
A student or teacher can also request a postponement. If jury duty will affect your grades or your graduation, ask the court to postpone until school is not in session. Teachers can suggest that their students’ educations will suffer and mention their additional responsibilities as advisors or coaches for extracurricular activities.
Doctor’s Note – Health Issues
If you have a physical ailment that makes it too difficult for you to serve on a jury, you can use this as a legitimate reason for a postponement. For instance, if you suffer from Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and it requires you to run to the restroom every 30 minutes, you will likely be pardoned. Any medical condition, disease, or illness gives you a great reason to get out of jury duty. However, you will most likely need to have a written letter from a licensed physician explaining the nature of your ailment.
Getting Excused or Pardoned From Jury Duty
If you don’t have a legitimate reason to have your jury duty postponed, you may very well find that you only have to serve one day, if that. Some courts will have you assigned to one case and require you to call in the night before the jury selection date so you can see if you have to come in. If the case was settled out of court or dismissed altogether, you won’t have to go in the next day, and you will just have your name added back into the jury pool.
Be Biased – Have An Opinion
Once you receive your summons, if you feel the need to limit it to one day, make sure you stay well-informed of current events coming up to the court date. Read the local and regional newspapers and watch the news. Chances are there will be something in the news with details about the case for which you are a candidate to be a jurist. If you know details of the case beforehand, you will almost certainly be excused from the jury for the trial.
You might find that your beliefs and convictions can help you get excused from a case. Lawyers don’t want jurists who are “know-it-alls” or “experts” and have already made up their mind about the case. Similarly, if you have been summoned for a murder trial and have a political opinion regarding the death penalty, voice your thoughts to the lawyer during questioning.
Have An Attitude
When you do go in for jury selection, you can increase your odds of being excused when you have a bad attitude. Make it extreme one way or another. Either come in with an attitude that you just don’t want to be there, which is quite true and would be easy to act out, or you can go with an overeager attitude of wanting to be on the jury. Lawyers and judges see so many people that don’t want to be doing jury duty that they immediately become suspicious of someone that desperately wants to be on the jury. A defense lawyer might be concerned that you are eager to convict someone in a criminal trial.
Personal Connections To The Case
Once you begin getting details of what the case is related to, you can begin looking for a personal connection to the case. If you know someone involved in the case or have a relationship with a law enforcement officer working the case, you will almost always be automatically excused. If you have a family member in an occupation that is the same as the victim or the accused, you might also be excused if a lawyer believes you will be biased. Additionally, if you or someone close to you was a victim of a similar crime, that will most likely get you excused from sitting on the jury as well.
Relationship To Law Enforcement
If you have a family member that is a police officer or lawyer, mention your relationship or affiliation to get pardoned. The key is to play up these personal connections to a case when talking with the lawyers.
This might be hard or embarrassing for some of you, but dressing inappropriately for your age or gender is a sure way of getting out of jury duty. Lawyers and judges don’t want distractions in the courtroom. By dressing flamboyantly or provocatively, you will deter the lawyers from picking you.