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How to Get Out of Jury Duty: 15 Excuses That Work

Kate holds a Bachelor of Science (B.S.) degree from Sonoma State University. She has worked as a police officer in California's bay area.

Most of us don't have the luxury of dedicating weeks or months to sitting on a jury.

Most of us don't have the luxury of dedicating weeks or months to sitting on a jury.

Jury Duty

It is very likely that someday you will receive a notice stating that you’ve been randomly selected for jury duty. What does this mean for you, and is there any way to get out of it? Don't worry about rearranging your daily schedule or missing out on your other obligations because of jury duty. There are definitely ways to get excused from service.

Common Effective Jury Duty Excuses

This is just a brief summary. To learn more about each position you can present to the court to get you out of jury duty, please scroll down further.

Excuse/ExemptionExample Explanations

1. Extreme Financial Hardship

My employer won't pay me for time spent on jury duty, and my family cannot afford to lose that income.

2. Full-Time Student Status

I attend an accredited college or university and participating in jury duty would make me miss a significant number of classes. Missing classes will prevent me from graduating.

3. Surgery/Medical Reasons

I'm recovering from back surgery and I cannot sit for extended periods of time. (Bring a doctor's note to support your claims.)

4. Being Elderly

I am over the maximum age of participation for jury service in this state. (The maximum age is typically 70 years old, but it varies by state.)

5. Being Too Opinionated

I have strong opinions and beliefs that will prevent me from being a fair juror. I always side with the police (or I always side against the police) on criminal matters.

6. Mental/Emotional Instability

My mother recently passed away and I am having a difficult time dealing with it. I am seeing a counselor two times a week just to get by.

7. Relation to the Case/Conflict of Interest

My son works closely with the defendant in this case. I hear stories about the defendant all the time. He sounds like a great kid, and I could never do anything that might negatively affect his future.

8. Line of Work

I work as a contractor with the local police department and most of my friends are police officers. I do not feel that I could be an impartial juror.

9. You Already Served

I already completed jury service within the last two years. (Be prepared to explain when and where.)

10. You're Pregnant

I am currently having a high-risk pregnancy, and as a result I have a tight schedule of doctor's appointments that I cannot miss.

11. You're Breastfeeding

My child is currently breastfeeding and I need to be able to feed him/her every few hours.

12. Childcare

I am the sole provider of childcare for my niece. My sister is not able to watch the child and cannot afford childcare. We also have no other friends or family in the area who can watch the child.

13. You're a Small Business Owner

I own a small business that provides the only source of income for my family. If I can't open my business during the day, my family will suffer significant financial hardship.

14. You Recently Moved

I recently moved into a neighboring county. I am no longer a resident of the county where the trial is taking place and therefore I do not qualify to be a juror.

15. Put It Off

No explanation necessary. You can usually put off jury service for up to six months, two or three times after being summoned. This option varies by state.

The Selection Process

In the United States, the act of registering to vote automatically places people into a pool of potential jurors, and those people are randomly selected to serve on a jury. Potential jurors are questioned during a process called "voir dire" to determine whether or not they are capable of serving without partiality or bias.

If you receive a request for jury duty, which is also known as a "summon," keep in mind that receiving a summon doesn't mean that you are officially part of a jury, nor does it automatically mean that you will be listening to a case for weeks. Receiving a summon means that you need to show up for the juror selection process. During juror selection, about 100 people will report for duty, and only about 15–20 of those people will end up participating as members of a jury.

According to The New York Times, 82 percent of New Yorkers never make it past the voir dire stage. For example, out of a group of 100 summoned citizens, only 18 will be considered during voir dire, and out of that, only 6 to 12 will be used for the full duration of a trial. Everyone else will be excused.

For most people (whether they're exempt or not), receiving a letter in the mail does not mean you will have to sacrifice your time for weeks and weeks. Typically, you’re just called in for the selection process and sent home within a few hours.

Jury selection process

Jury selection process

How Long Does It Take to Complete Jury Duty?

Jury duty may be a short commitment, or it may be a long one. The average juror will serve three to four days on trial, and many jurors will be in and out after only a one-day or two-day commitment.

If you are unlucky enough to find yourself on a long, drawn-out case (like a serious crime or a major civil dispute), you may end up working on that case for months, but that is very rare. Jury service is very unpredictable, and that is why so many people are eager to get out of it.

Proven Excuses That Work

Now that you know the fundamentals of juror service, it is easy to understand why you may still be interested in avoiding jury duty completely. Below is a list of proven ways you can avoid serving jury duty and can stay committed to your normal routine.

1. Claiming Extreme Financial Hardship

As a juror, you will likely receive $40–$50 daily for your time. Some employers will still pay their employees during this time; however, legally employers do not have to pay their employees. If you can prove via payroll and last year’s tax return that losing your standard pay rate will be detrimental to you and your family, the court may excuse you.

2. Full-Time Student Status

Most states will excuse full-time students, and occasionally part-time students who are attending an accredited college or university will also be excused. This does not apply in the state of California, so be sure to check local rules and regulations.

3. Surgery/Medical Reasons

If you are asked to serve on a jury, you may need to set aside a few weeks of your time. Do you have a knee surgery scheduled for next week? Is there an important appointment with your neurologist scheduled tomorrow? Missing these appointments could be harmful to your health. Bring records of your scheduled appointments to voir dire if you want to present these medical necessities as reasons to be excused .

4. Being Elderly

Depending on your state of residence, your age can excuse you from jury duty. In many states, men and women over age 70 are exempt from serving as jurors. Check your state's age requirements for jury service.

5. Being Too Opinionated

This goes hand-in-hand with being too vocal. Lawyers want to know they are choosing a juror who will be persuaded by details and evidence presented in the courtroom, not blinded by fake news they researched prior to the case. Being a know-it-all and being vocal about it may just get you excused from your seat.

6. Mental/Emotional Instability

Did your family member recently pass away? Are you going through a divorce? Was your son paralyzed in an accident? Yes, mental disorders are also inclusive in this case, but emotional turmoil based on recent circumstances is a valid excuse as well. Just make sure you are okay with making your personal life public.

7. Relation to the Case

If you know someone involved in the case, chances are that you won’t be serving as a juror. This holds true when working for an employer involved within the case or if you personally know 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 may know someone remotely involved with the case, and that could be enough to get you excused.

8. Your Line of Work

Workers in the line of public service are usually excused from jury duty. 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 that's in court, make sure you speak up. Doing so could get you fully excused.

9. You Already Served

You may be summoned again and again, but you will not have to serve on a jury if you acted as a juror in a federal or state court at any time within the previous 2 years. If you have served in that time period, then you will be excused immediately.

10. You're Pregnant

This circumstance is considered to be the same as a medical excuse. If you are pregnant, then you will potentially have a long list of doctor's appointments to attend in the near future. There may also be unforeseen issues that arise throughout your pregnancy. Make sure you inform the court that you are expecting, and you may be relieved of your obligations.

11. You're Breastfeeding

If you aren't pregnant, but you're currently breastfeeding a child, you'll most likely get excused. It is not uncommon for children to be breastfed up until they're at least 1 year of age. The courts understand that breastfeeding a child is a serious commitment, and courts consistently excuse breastfeeding mothers for this reason.

12. Childcare

If you are the primary caregiver for a young child and attending court would create a hardship in providing care for that child, then you have a valid reason not to be a juror. If you use this excuse, be prepared to explain to the judge why no one else in your family can care for the child except for yourself and why daycare is not an option.

13. You're a Small Business Owner

If you are a small business owner, it may be a very easy to convince the courts that participating in jury service would negatively impact your business and therefore affect your livelihood. This is especially true if you run a business by yourself and do not have any employees to cover your responsibilities if you are in court.

14. You Recently Moved

Most criminal courts have jurisdiction over one county and cannot accept jurors who are residents of a different county. If you recently moved out of a county, it is very possible that you may still receive a summons from the county where you used to reside. If this is the case, contact the court before your summons date and you will certainly be excused from having to show up at all.

15. Put It Off

Worst-case scenario, if it isn’t an appropriate time for you to serve, you can always put it off. As long as you reschedule within one week of your original date, you can push the date forward up to 6 months!

How Much Money Do People Typically Earn From Serving on a Jury?

The good news is that if you are selected to serve, you will be compensated for your time on both a petit jury and a grand jury. Both typically pay a base rate of $40 a day. For a petit jury, the day rate increases to $50 daily once the trial has exceeded 10 days in length.

As for a grand jury, the day rate increases from $40 a day to $50 a day after serving 45 days on trial. All transportation, room and board fees (if jurors are serving out of state/county), meals, and parking are also covered during this time. You will receive your payment within 4 to 6 weeks. The pay rate for jurors can vary by state.

Payment policies vary among employers and states of residence, but many employees will still be paid their normal salary for an allotted amount of days while they serve as part of a jury. All federal employees are entitled to their full salary regardless.

The Jury Act was created to ensure that employers cannot wrongfully fire, harass, or intimidate an employee while they participate in jury duty; however, there is no law stating they must compensate you for your participation.

What Happens If You Miss Jury Duty?

An individual who misses jury duty could face severe charges. Penalties vary by state and could range from jail time to hefty fines. Check your county's listings for more details on the potential consequences of missing voir dire or jury duty.

To prevent this from happening, call the courthouse or provide notice online at least one week before your summoned date of service. You may then reschedule your jury duty for up to 2 to 6 months after your original date. This will leave you in good standing with the law.

For a great, more detailed explanation of what can happen, see the article: What Happens If You Miss Jury Duty?

Jury box, Jackson County Courthouse, Edna, Texas, USA

Jury box, Jackson County Courthouse, Edna, Texas, USA

There you have it. Being a juror isn’t all that bad unless you're participating in a special case. And if you simply can’t serve on a jury, try using one of these proven excuses and exemptions!

More Ways to Get Excused From Jury Duty

This content reflects the personal opinions of the author. It is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and should not be substituted for impartial fact or advice in legal, political, or personal matters.

Questions & Answers

Question: Is it legal to only be paid $13 a day for jury duty (the judge said that's all we'd get) while not being excused? I'm a single working mom and can't afford to miss work.

Answer: Is it legal? Yes, it is. Is it right? That's a different question.

Here's the deal, if the judge told you this then that is your answer. He or she will not excuse you because you are a single working mom and can't afford to miss work.

Now, if you inform the judge that you respect that answer and fully understand the court's decision but you don't believe you would be able to focus on the case due to the stress you'll be feeling from the financial burden being there will cause your family, you may get a different answer.

Here's the thing, if you inform a judge that you will not be able to focus on the evidence being presented or make a sound decision based only on the evidence due to your mental state, they'd be risking a mistrial by keeping you on the jury.

Even if the judge still insisted that you stay, I'm sure the attorneys would be very eager to eliminate you during the juror selection process.

Question: Can I get off of jury duty if I am a full time college student?

Answer: Yes! This is a very common exemption from serving on a jury. The only catch here is that it is not an "automatic disqualifier." What that means is you will most likely not be able to be excused by calling into the courts or by writing a letter since the judge will be the only one who can excuse you for this reason. This will have to be done on the first day of jury service. However, this can vary by state.

This means you will need to speak up! So don't be shy and make sure that the court knows you are a full time college student. It is important to go further than that though and make sure you explain how missing classes can very easily cause you to fail those classes, which would be detrimental to your education (if that's in fact the case in your situation).

If you take your time and fully explain the situation, you are likely to be quickly excused. Just remember that you will still need to go on the first day of service and explain it straight to the judge.

Question: Can a person get out of jury duty if they are the primary caregiver for their disabled parents?

Answer: Yes! I have seen that same excuse used many times with success in the past. This is especially true if you are able to articulate why only you can provide the level of care necessary for your disabled parents.

For example, you may be the only reasonable person to provide this care if there is special training that you have had on how to care for their specific condition, how to administer medications, or any other special knowledge you have that cannot be easily taken over by someone else.

Consider all the reasons why it might be detrimental to the care of your parents if someone else, who was not familiar with their specialized care requirements, took over while you were serving on the jury. Articulate this to the judge and you have a very high likelihood of being excused.

Just be prepared for when the judge asks you, "Who is caring for them now while you are in court today?" and the follow up question of "Why can't they care for your parents while you are serving as a juror?"

Question: Is not having transportation to and from court a valid reason to get out of jury duty?

Answer: I have never seen this excuse work in the courts. I'm not saying that it can't, but you'd probably need to have a very convincing reason as to why you wouldn't be able to get to court.

If you attempt to use this reason for not being able to serve on a jury, be ready for follow up questions from the judge such as:

- Why are you unable to use a friend, family member, public transportation, a taxi, Uber, Lyft, or some other means to get to court?

- How did you get to court today (if you make this excuse in person to the judge)?

If you have a disability in some way that would prevent you from getting to court by any of the means mentioned above, you may have some success. If this is the case, call the court before your scheduled appearance date and see if you can be excused without making an in-person appearance.

Question: Am I eligible to serve on a jury if I have received a deferred sentence in the past?

Answer: Although every state is slightly different, if you have any felony convictions then you are likely disqualified. There are also certain misdemeanors that will disqualify you in some states, but those are somewhat rare.

If you received a deferred sentence while you finish probation or parole and have since completed probation or parole, then you will likely not be disqualified. However, if you are currently on probation, then in most states you will be disqualified from service until after probation is complete.

Call the court and explain the situation. You may be excused without having to come in at all. Your situation sounds like one that, in most states, may allow you to be disqualified by a clerk over the phone and not have to see the judge.

Question: I booked a non-refundable vacation, can I be excused from jury service for this reason?

Answer: Possibly, although it is unlikely. I have seen some judges allow this. However, most will not. Instead, you may want to ask the judge for a one-time postponement on your jury service as a compromise. He or she will be much more likely to allow for a postponement for this reason than to just excuse you completely.

The vast majority of "vacation" excuses I have seen in court have been denied. I think the reason for this is that many people will book a vacation as soon as they find out they have jury duty in an attempt to get out of it.

You would have the best chance of making this excuse work if you make the following clear to the judge during your chance to explain your situation (depending on what applies to your specific situation):

1 - Tell the judge the exact date that you booked the vacation and the exact date that you received your summons to court in the mail (hopefully you booked your vacation before you received your summons). Have proof with you if possible.

2 - Explain the cost you incurred on vacation and what aspects of the vacation are non-refundable. If others are relying on your presence, explain that as well.

3 - Explain the financial difficulty it will cause for your family if the money you saved up for this vacation were to go to waste.

Even with all these things prepared to explain to the judge, your chances are still relatively low on getting completely excused. That is why I suggest you ask for a postponement instead.

Question: Can I be excused from jury duty if my husband served time in federal prison?

Answer: The answer to this question is technically no; this doesn't disqualify you. This is because it is something that happened to your husband, and not you.

However, if your husband's experience has (for example):

1. Influenced you in some way to where you don't think you could be impartial.


2. Made it so you would be unable to make any decision that could send another human to prison.

... then it could be a reason for dismissal from jury service.

Since this excuse isn't one of the "check box" excuses that will automatically disqualify you, you'll still have to go to court and explain the situation to the judge.

Question: How do I get into the court building with a pacemaker?

Answer: You should be fine getting into the building with a pacemaker. Just make sure you notify security on your way in and they will accommodate you accordingly. It is very common for people with pacemakers to serve on a jury and there will be a procedure in place for this.

They will likely run you through a manual (hand held) metal detector taking note of the area where your pacemaker is.

Question: I watch my minor grandchildren, can I be excused from court for this reason?

Answer: A judge could choose to excuse you for any reason that they find compelling enough. However, watching children that are not your own will probably be seen as a hardship for their parents, and not for you. Therefore, I would guess that most judges will likely not excuse you for that reason.

However, the judge's job is to take all the facts of your situation into consideration. So if there are further factors that make you situation an extreme hardship, make sure you speak up and let the judge know when you are given the opportunity.

You may have to raise your hand when they ask for any hardships the jury service may cause on any of the jurors, and you may have to speak in front of everyone. Just remember that they hear these explanations by potential jurors all day long and your excuse or reason won't seem petty to the court. You will be taken seriously, and even if the judge denies your request to be excused, it will be done respectfully. Remember, speak up!

Question: Can I be excused from serving jury duty if my ex-boyfriend works for the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration)?

Answer: You can be, it's really up to the judge. This will likely heavily depend on what your relationship is like currently, if he discusses the cases, he works on with you, and how that has affects you.

As an example: if you made the case that the two of you have a long history together, you are still friends who talk almost daily, he often tells you all the details of the cases he works, you often experience a high level of anxiety about his safety on the job, and this has caused you a high level of sympathy for those in law enforcement, then you very well may be excused. This is especially true if you feel like you can't be impartial with your judgment of the accused due to your history with your former boyfriend.

You will still need to go to court on the first day and explain this to the judge in open court. Make sure you aren't shy about explaining your situation in detail. The better you do explaining your situation, the better the judge and lawyers can decide if you should be excused or not.

Question: My husband works in the news media. Could this cause a problem if he's called for jury duty?

Answer: It may, but only if he has been involved in the reporting or investigation of the case that he is being called to jury duty for.

Lawyers and judges alike do not want anyone to serve on a jury if they have any strong preconceived opinions about the case. These strong opinions may come from what they have heard from others or seen in the media. Ideally, they would like people who have never heard of the case that is being argued in court.

Another issue is if he has any special knowledge about the case, or it's evidence, beyond what will be discussed and argued about in court. Judges and lawyers want to decide everything each juror knows about a case. They do not like a juror who has extensive knowledge about a case beyond what is brought up in the court proceedings. If your husband knows certain information about the case that he was privy to because of his position in the news media, then this may disqualify him as well.

He will still need to go to court on the first day of jury service, but make sure he discusses his roll in the media or any experience he has with the case.

If he does not know any information about the case being argued, then he will likely not be disqualified for just the fact that he works in the news media.

© 2017 Kate Daily