How to Get out of Jury Duty: 15 Excuses That Work
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? There definitely are ways to get excused from serving, but before I address that, let's cover the basics of jury duty.
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 one hundred 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 one hundred 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.
Don’t worry, 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 at a time. Typically, you’re just called in for the selection process and sent home within a few hours.
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 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.
Common Effective Jury Service Excuses
1. Extreme Financial Hardship
My employer won't pay for my 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 full time and this would cause me to miss a significant number of classes. Missing classes will likely prevent me from graduating.
3. Surgery/Medical Reasons
I am currently recovering from back surgery and I cannot sit for extended periods of time without it causing me significant pain. Also, I am currently on prescription pain medication. (Bring a doctor's note to support your claims.).
4. The Elderly
I am over the maximum age for performing jury service in this state. (The maximum age is typically 70 years old, but it varies by state.)
5. Too Opinionated
Strong opinions and belief's will cause me to be an unfair 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 his stories from work all the time and he sounds like a great kid. I could never do anything to hurt his future.
8. Line of Work
I work for a contractor who does work with the local police department and as a result most of my friends are police officers. I do not feel that I could be impartial.
9. Already Served
I already completed jury service within the last two years. (Be prepared to explain when and where.)
I am currently in the midst of a high risk pregnancy, and as a result I have a tight schedule of doctor's appointments that I cannot miss.
My child is currently breastfeeding and I need to be able to feed him/her every few hours.
I am the sole provider of childcare for my niece. My sister is not able to watch the child and cannot afford child care. We also have no other friends or family in the area who can watch the child.
13. Small Business Owner
I own a small business which provides the only income for my family. If I can't open my business during the day, it will cause a significant financial hardship.
14. Recently Moved
I recently moved from this county into a neighboring county. I am no longer a resident of this county and therefore do not qualify to be a juror.
15. Put It Off
No explanation necessary. You can usually put off jury service up to 6 months, two or three times after being summoned. This option varies by state.
Even More Ways to Get Out of Jury Duty
If none of these excuses seem to be the perfect fit for your situation, take a look at Corey Esquire's kindle ebook "Jury Duty Duck Out." He writes this as a guide to getting out of jury service while remaining 100% ethical and honest with the courts, which is very important! I have read it and it taught me about a few legal reasons you can get out of jury duty that I didn't even know were viable options. It's an easy read and Corey has formatted the book in a way that makes it extremely easy to jump to the part of the book that best applies to you.
Proven Excuses That Work
Now that you understand the fundamentals, we also understand why you still may 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. 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 1 or 2 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 will excuse you from jury duty. In many states men and women over age 70 are exempt from serving as a juror. Check your state's 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 current 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 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, do some asking around, you may know someone remotely involved and that could be enough to get you excused.
Important: Speak Up!
It may be uncomfortable to speak up in court, but if attending jury duty will cause a serious hardships for you, make sure you speak up and tell the judge. They will consider your reason and they may excuse you from service.
8. 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, it could get you fully excused.
9. You Already Served
You may be summoned again and again, but you will not have to serve on the final jury if you acted as a juror in the federal or state court 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.
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. Small Business Owner
If you are a small business owner it may be a very easy to convince the courts that committing to 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 pick up the work 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 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 served 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 make sure no employer wrongfully fires, harasses, or intimidates an employee while they serve 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 local listing for more details.
To prevent this from happening call the court house or file online at least one week before your summoned date of service. You may then reschedule your jury duty for 2 to 6 months from your original date. This will leave you in good standing with the law.
There you have it. Being a juror isn’t all that bad unless it’s a special case. And if you simply can’t serve on a jury regardless of the time restraints or reasons, try one of these proven excuses and exemptions!
Questions & Answers
I watch my minor grandchildren, can I be excused from court for this reason?
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!
Can a person get out of jury duty if they are the primary caregiver for their disabled parents?
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?"
Can I be excused from serving jury duty if my ex-boyfriend works for the DEA (Drug Enforcement Administration)?
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.
My husband works in the news media. Could this cause a problem if he's called for jury duty?
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