Get Out of Jury Duty
While in many countries it is a citizen's duty to serve occasionally on a jury, there are some ways to avoid such duty if it would prove a true hardship. Failure to respond to a summons for jury duty is not a good idea: that could result in up to two years' incarceration or a substantial fine. However, if you have a legitimate reason for avoiding jury duty, you should go through the legal process of getting yourself excused. Courts issue summonses through random selection, so there's nothing you can do to avoid being called for duty. Merely being called does not mean you will actually sit on a jury. This article will give you some advice on to avoid the experience while still fulfilling your civic duty.
Getting Out of Jury Duty
- Prove economic hardship.
In many U.S. states you can prove that serving on a jury would cause a serious financial burden on you. Use this excuse only if you honestly believe that you would not be able to get by if you had to miss work for one or more days. When you first report for jury duty bring with you proof of employment and/or wages, a full financial statement, and the previous year's tax return. If you can persuade the judge that you cannot afford to miss work, you'll have lost only one day of your time.
- Exemptions based on financial need are extremely rare, even if you're facing serious challenges. Don't count on the court's taking financial need into consideration.
- Don't lie about your financial situation. Lying to a court is called perjury. It's a felony. You could also be charged with obstruction of justice.
- Request a change of date. Almost all federal, state, and local jury-selection processes are computerized. If your name appears on the list, they send an automated notice of jury duty to your registered address. When you receive it, mark on the jury form that you need special accommodations and cannot make the requested attendance date. Include an explanation.
- For example, you might say that you are quite sick, going out of town, studying for the bar, or planning on joining the military. Any acceptable excuse will likely set your next jury summons back at least a year.
- If you have young children, consider using them as an excuse. You would have to convince the court that you cannot arrange for day-care or a babysitter.
- Request a date in December. If you can get a change of date, ask for December, when there's a far greater chance that trials will be delayed or moved. You may never actually get called in, but you're still fulfilling your civic duty.
- Try asking them to move the date up, not back. This means you would serve your jury duty sooner than originally scheduled. The lawyers have likely already made the jury lists for closer dates, and there's a chance they won't be able to seat you. So when your date is moved they have to put you at the end of the list. You may not get called to serve on a jury at all.
- Use your student status as an excuse.
Many states excuse full-time students from jury duty. Even if you live in a state that doesn't excuse students (e.g., California), you still have options.
- Request that your jury duty be rescheduled for your next break (winter, spring, summer).
- The call center can authorize this even if you have gone beyond the one-year postponement limit. They will say that it will be your final postponement.
- In most cases, missed student work can be made up, but not missed lessons and lectures. Some states will even exempt students enrolled in online classes.
- Consider using a risky loophole if you're in California. California trials often last ten or 20 days. Use this to your advantage. Lawyers assess potential jurors for each specific trial.
During the process the judge will ask if anyone has any significant reason not to serve on a trial. Most excuses will not be accepted. Some, however, such as medical situations, will get you dismissed.
- If you have a medical procedure scheduled in the next two weeks, let the judge know. You may be excused to reschedule jury duty.
- Under some state law you will be considered to have fulfilled your duty. When you return to reschedule your jury service, they will hand you a piece of paper certifying that you have completed it.
- Be completely truthful. If they catch you lying about your circumstances, you could face a possible 20 days in jail.
Getting Yourself Dismissed From a Jury
- Explain that you can't maintain objectivity. There are specific things you can say during jury questioning to try to get rejected in a criminal case. Keep in mind that it is illegal to make such claims if you don't really believe them. For each of these excuses, you will be asked if you could just set your beliefs aside. Even if you feel you could do so, attorneys in the trial may not want you on the jury.
- If the concept of proof beyond a reasonable doubt seems a bit fuzzy, that may work in your favor. How much doubt is reasonable? Are you supposed to be 99% certain? 99.99%? You might decide that you could never vote to convict someone of a crime unless there were no doubt whatsoever about their guilt. If you tell this to the court, the prosecuting attorney may want to dismiss you.
- Perhaps you believe that the great majority of people arrested for crimes are guilty. After all, the prosecutor wouldn't file charges unless he was very sure, right? So at this stage of the process, the defendant is probably guilty. Even so, you can say, you'll just pretend the defendant is innocent until the trial is over. If you tell that to the court, the defense attorney may want to dismiss you.
- Another line of reasoning: police officers are better witnesses than the average person. They've trained to be more observant than most people. They have a lot of experience with crime and giving testimony. In addition, they must have a high moral standard if they were hired as police officers. The defense team won't like this.
- Consider this: defendants often don't testify on their own behalf. How can a person judge a case without hearing from the accused. If he/she can't even look the jury in the eye and declare their innocence, that looks pretty guilty.
- Perhaps you're not a confrontational person. If you're in the minority, maybe you cave in to the majority pretty easily. Characterizing yourself this way could lead an attorney to dismiss you.
- Consider this line of reasoning if it applies to you: "I was the victim of a crime. They never caught the guy. I'm angry about that. The system doesn't work." The defense may not like hearing this.
- My friend/family member is a police officer/prosecutor/defense attorney. We talk about a lot of his cases. That guy sure is opinionated. One side or the other may not like hearing this.
- "The defendant is about the same age as my son. My son has been in a little trouble himself." The prosecution may not like this.
- Act stubborn. A conviction in a criminal case requires a very high standard. The prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Go into jury duty acting like you think you know everything before even hearing the case. The more stubborn you can appear, the better.
- Play up your intelligence. A more respectable alternative to the above "play stupid" tactic is to "play smart." Many attorneys want jurors they can persuade one way or the other. Showing education, intelligence, and logical reasoning may make you less desirable in their eyes.
- Many jurisdictions bar lawyers, judges, and police officers from jury duty. They consider these people too informed on the subject to be effective jurors.
- Similarly, doctors are almost always excused from malpractice cases, bankers from embezzlement cases, etc.
- It is not, however, unheard-of for a sitting judge to be seated as a juror.
- Mention the right of a jury to "veto." If you're selected to be on a jury, the judge will ask you to swear to find a verdict based solely on the facts presented in court.
Refuse to swear this on the grounds that the jury has a right to find a verdict as it sees fit. This right is called "jury nullification." In short, it allows a jury to return a verdict of "innocent" when the accused is clearly guilty. The jury can do this if it disagrees with the law itself. Although the Supreme Court has affirmed this right, prosecutors and judges usually hate it. Any prosecutor will almost certainly reject you for the jury if you suggest there's a chance you would use your right to veto.
- Ask the judge if he/she would have convicted Harriet Tubman for violating the federal Fugitive Slave Laws. Was her role in the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves punishable?
- Would the judge have convicted Rosa Parks for violating the segregation laws in Montgomery, Alabama? Was her refusal to move to the back of the bus when the bus driver told her to give up her seat to a white passenger punishable?
- The judge might say that he/she would have instructed juries to convict these women because "the law is the law." You should have a response prepared for that:
- "Blind obedience wasn't accepted as a defense during the War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg. Many Nazis claimed that they were just "following orders."
- Read about cases that demonstrate the power of jury nullification. Recommended cases include State of Georgia v. Brailsford, 3 U.S. 1, 4 (1794); U.S. v. Moylan, 417 F.2d 1002 (4th Cir.1969); United States v. Dougherty, 473 F.2d 1113; United States v. Wilson, 629 F.2d 439, 443 (6th Cir.1980); US v. Krzyske, 836 F. 2d 1013 - Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit 1988; and U.S. v. Thomas No. 95-1337 (2nd Cir. 5-20-97).
- Question the legitimacy of grand jury proceedings if summonsed to one. Mention the old saying that “a good prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.” Point out you disapprove of grand juries because they are basically a rubber stamp for the prosecutor. Voice support for the Commission to Reform the Federal Grand Jury's position to reform the process.
- Try the George Carlin technique as a last-ditch effort. His advice for getting out of jury duty was to tell the judge that you would make a great juror, because you can spot guilty people just by looking at them.
- Be wary of grand jury duty. It's more tedious and time-consuming than regular jury duty.
- Follow the law when dealing with the judicial system, and maintain a serious attitude. You can, however, present yourself as unstable and stubborn in order to avoid jury duty.
- If you are seeing a mental-health professional on a regular basis, ask him/her for a letter asking that you be excused.
- If given the option, try to avoid registering online. Instead, use the "call-in" method. It is possible that the people who register online may be more likely to be chosen over the people who call in to register by phone.
- Members of volunteer organizations (fire and EMS, especially) are sometimes excused from jury duty. Such people can argue that they are already doing their civic duty. They can ask their superior to write a letter stating that they are an active member and have been for a given period of time.
- In New Jersey they provide a list of excuses on the back of the jury questionnaire. However, using one of those excuses could result in denial of the request. You improve your chances if you have a letter from your employer stating that your time will not be paid while you serve on a jury.
- If you don’t want to be a poor sport, consider sitting on a jury as an educational and learning experience. The worst part of jury duty is waiting to be selected and going through the process of examination by the court.
- This article provides legal information but NOT legal advice.
- Don't ignore a call for jury duty. Failure to respond to a summons could result in fines, driver’s license suspension, even criminal charges leading to jail time.
- Do not drink alcohol or take drugs to render yourself unfit to serve. If you are unfit to serve due to alcohol or drugs, you may be committing a criminal offence with a maximum fine of up to £1,000 or the equivalent.
- Don't use any of the above suggested self-representations unless you actually believe them. Getting caught lying about yourself to a court would be much worse than serving on any jury.
- Enjoy Jury Service
- Address a Letter to a Government Official
- Write a Law Essay
- Get Evidence Thrown out in Court
- Survive Jury Duty
- Find Information Regarding Any Former Supreme Court Case Online
- Get Ready for Jury Duty in Portland, Oregon