How Can I Get Out Of Jury Duty in California?

Do most missing jurors get summoned, again?

Yes, most jurors who miss jury duty will just receive a second summons.

That second summons to jury duty will be like the first one for jury duty. However, the second summons will likely include a warning. The warning will say that missing jury duty can be penalized with a fine.

The second summons cannot be sent earlier than 90 days after the initial failure to appear.1

Appearing in court for the second summons can satisfy the juror’s requirements. It can avoid further repercussions and penalties.

However, some courts will issue a fine after just one missed jury duty date. If a fine is issued, jurors may have to pay it or excuse their initial absence to resolve the situation.

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.

Video

How to File a Jury Duty Excuse Request Using DoNotPay

If you want to file a jury duty excuse request but don’t know where to start, DoNotPay has you covered in easy steps:

  1. Search Jury Duty Excuse on DoNotPay, and enter your jury duty summons information, including the assigned date, court name, juror number, and more.Select your reason for excusal, and provide a few  
  2. Select your reason for excusal, and provide a few more details regarding your situation and upload evidence to prove your point.Enter the fax number or mailing address for the co 
  3. Enter the fax number or mailing address for the courtroom as displayed on your jury summons letter. 

We’ll generate the excuse letter for you and either fax it or mail it with supporting evidence to the courtroom you were assigned to. You should receive a response from the court soon, either through email, phone, or mail, once your request is processed.

What Happens If I Don’t Show Up for Jury Duty in California?

California Code of Civil Procedure Section 209 holds that any person who ignores jury duty when duly summoned may face fines of up to $1500, contempt proceedings, and possible jail time or both. It is never wise to ignore jury duty—instead, file for a deferment or permanent excusal with the help of DoNotPay.

Are there valid excuses for missing a jury duty date?

There are several valid excuses for missing jury duty. Establishing that one of these excuses apply can keep the court from issuing a fine or a contempt charge.

Proving an excuse can be done at the show cause hearing after a missed jury duty summons. It can also be done in response to a jury summons. It always has to be done in writing.

The excuses include:

  • prior jury service within the last 12 months,
  • no reasonably available means of transportation to the court,
  • the juror would have to travel more than 90 minutes to the court,
  • extreme financial burden of serving on a jury,
  • a significant risk of undue mental or physical hardship from serving on a jury,
  • the juror is needed for the protection of public health or safety, often as a police officer,
  • a personal obligation to care for someone during the day,
  • a prior felony conviction prohibits jury service, and
  • active military duty.3

The juror also has to meet the minimum requirements of jury duty to serve. These include:

  • U.S. citizenship,
  • a basic understanding of English, and
  • being at least 18 years old.

In many cases, especially those claiming financial hardship, the claim has to be supported with evidence. Courts may want to see:

  • income verification,
  • employer’s refusal to reimburse the expenses of jury duty, and
  • evidence that the juror would lose the ability to financially support dependants.

Legal References:

  1. California Code of Civil Procedure 209.
  2. Same.
  3. California Rules of Court, Rule 2.1008.

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

Patrick Feller on Flickr

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!

Ask to be excused if you cant make it to court

In very rare cases, if it would be an extreme hardship for you to come to the courthouse at all to ask to be excused, you can submit a written request to be excused under OJC Regulation 9. Common difficulties such as inconvenience, no childcare, or business obligations don’t qualify. The regulation applies to cases such as:

  • People living in religious orders that restrict outside travel 
  • People with rare medical conditions that prevent them from leaving their homes

If you believe you qualify for an extreme hardship disqualification, you must explain your circumstances in writing, sign it, and send it to:

Operations Manager Office of Jury Commissioner 560 Harrison Avenue, Suite 600 Boston, MA 02118

You should submit your request at least 30 days before your date of service to allow time for review, action, and notification of decision.

Excusals

However, there are a number of valid reasons to be completely excused from jury duty. According to the 2021 California Rules of Court, there are two categories of excusal: excusal due to previous jury duty service and excusal due to undue hardship. In either case, in order to be excused, the prospective juror must provide the reasoning in writing to the court or place it on the court record.

The first category (excusal due to previous jury duty service) is mostly self-explanatory. If a prospective juror has appeared for jury duty either on a grand jury or trial jury in the past 12 months, then they will be excused from their current summons if requested. 12 months is merely the minimum, however; the jury commissioner has the discretion to excuse a person for previous jury duty service even if the service was more than 12 months prior.

There are several reasons listed in the California Rules of Court for which a person may be excused from jury duty because of undue hardship. If any of the following apply, a prospective juror may request excusal:

  • They do not have reasonably available transportation to the courthouse, including both private and public transit.
  • They have to travel more than one and a half hours to the courthouse (unless stated otherwise in a local statute).
  • Jury duty will cause them an extreme financial burden. In determining this, the court will consider their income, the availability of income reimbursement, the length of service, and whether or not jury duty would compromise their ability to support themselves or their dependents.
  • They will face a risk of damage to their property.
  • They have a physical or mental impairment that would cause them to face undue risk of harm.
    • If they are below the age of 70, they may have to prove their impairment and why it might cause them to be harmed.
  • They protect public health and safety, and their serving on jury duty would reduce essential public services (for example, being the only doctor in a small town).
  • They have an obligation to provide necessary care to another (such as an elderly person or child) and providing alternative care would impose an undue economic burden.

As such, there are many reasons that a person could use to get out of jury duty, but it is generally more difficult than simply stating that one is busy or needs to work.  If merely having a job was a valid reason by itself to get out of jury duty, then nobody would do jury duty. It is important to remember that prospective jurors should never lie in order to be excused from jury duty; they could easily be found in contempt and placed in jail.

Coronavirus Announcement

The United States District Court for the Central District of California continues to closely monitor the national response to the respiratory illness caused by Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19). We would like to assure the public that we are following all recommended guidelines provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to ensure the safety and health of our customers and staff. Please see General Orders regarding access to court facilities, jury trials and other proceedings. Refer to the COVID-19 Notice for important information on courthouse access, court hearings, filing information and mandatory chambers copies.

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At the Law Offices of Bamieh & De Semth, PLC, we understand how important it is to make sure to follow court instructions. This is why we dedicate ourselves to guiding you and providing you with assistance in understanding how the court proceedings work in California. Our Ventura and Santa Barbara criminal defense attorneys bring decades of experience to every case we handle. It is always in your best interest to understand how court proceedings work to avoid decisions that may potentially put you in a difficult situation with the law. Schedule a free, confidential consultation with one of our skilled, dedicated attorneys today. Our phone number is (805) 643-5555.

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