How can I get out of jury duty?

Ask to be excused at court

You must report to the courthouse on the day of service and speak to a judge if you feel you need to be excused from jury duty for a reason other than one of the 10 disqualifications. Before reporting to the courthouse, be sure you have confirmed your jury service and reviewed the information found on the what you need to know before your jury service page.

There Are Limited Reasons to Be Excused from Jury Service

You can ask to be excused from jury duty, but the court may not always accept your request. They must draw a line and be relatively strict when people do not want to serve as a juror.

Otherwise, they will have tremendous difficulty in finding enough people to perform this important function. However, you need to come to the judge with legitimate reasons to be excused.

The reasons for being excused from jury duty can vary considerably. It is all about your own unique situation and why you may not have the capacity to serve.

You may either have things that are preventing you from being physically present or reasons why you could not be an effective or impartial juror.

While the reasons for being excused are limited, it is certainly far from extremely rare to get out of jury

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16. Are jurors subject to search when entering a court facility?

All jurors entering the courthouse are required to go through a weapons screening process conducted by the Sheriff’s Department. If you have items that are not allowed, you may be asked to leave the courthouse and return without them. For a list of prohibited items please click here.

What Happens in the Jury Room?

Once all the evidence has been presented in open court at trial, and the attorneys have made their closing arguments, the jury will go into a room to talk discuss the case.

They do not begin their deliberations without guidance. It is the judge’s job to give jury instructions. These will be points of law for the jury to consider as they discuss the facts of the case.

The jury is not an expert on the law. While they are finding facts, they need to know what the elements of the case are and how to plug the facts into the law.

After discussion of the case, the jury will take a vote. There may be different rules for civil and criminal trials, depending on the state.

Every state holds that a criminal verdict must be unanimous. You cannot convict a defendant on a hung jury.

Some states will allow for jury verdicts in a trial when there is less than a unanimous vote from every juror.

11. What if my employer won’t give me time off to complete my jury service?

Labor Code section 230(a) provides that an employer may not discharge or in any manner discriminate against an employee for taking time off to serve as required by law on an inquest jury or trial jury, if the employee, prior to taking the time off, gives reasonable notice to the employer that he or she is required to serve.

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

Wikimedia Commons

Advice for your First Day of Service

  • Be sure that you know where you are supposed to report. If you are unfamiliar with the courthouse and its surroundings you should carefully review the instructions that are included with summonses. You might also contact the judge or the district clerk’s office or check the local web page for additional information.
  • Your attire should show respect for the court. Because you may serve on a jury the first day you report to serve, you should wear clothing reasonably befitting the dignity and solemnity of the court proceedings. Local judges may restrict certain attire, such as shorts, cutoff, sleeveless shirts, sandals, and hats. Also, you should dress comfortably because you may be in the courthouse for the entire day. You might also bring a light sweater or jacket in case the temperature in the courthouse is somewhat cold.
  • Take advantage of any free parking offered to prospective jurors. Also, you might want to avoid parking in metered parking spaces because you do not know how long you will be in jury service.
  • Bring money. Though the court or the county may provide parking or reimburse parking costs, you might have to pay them initially. Also, you may need money to pay for snacks, lunch, or pay phones.
  • Because jury duty involves some waiting, bring something to read to help you pass the time.
  • Be aware that you will likely be asked to shut off pagers and cellular phones before entering the jury room or courtroom.

Some courthouses may have additional accommodations for you, such as internet access, lap to stations, and reading. You will need to check with your local courthouse regarding special amenities.

Courthouse Security

To ensure the safety of everyone at the courthouse, expect to be screened through a metal detector and X-ray unit. Entering the courthouse with a prohibited weapon is against the law. Pointed items, such as pocket knives or knitting needles, are not permitted in the courthouse. Anything considered to be a weapon or that is deemed unacceptable by the security staff will be confiscated.

Length of Duty

The length of jury service will vary considerably for summoned jurors. While the jury selection process may require your attendance for a day or a fraction of a day, jury duty generally lasts about one week. However, the majority, usually more than two-thirds, of all summoned jurors are NOT actually selected for service, therefore, their duty ends after a short time with the completion of the jury selection process. For those jurors who are selected to serve in a jury panel, the judge and the attorneys may be able to estimate how long that particular trial will last.

Delay

Unfortunately, prospective jurors who appear and participate in the jury selection process will spend a great deal of time waiting. Although the courts make every effort to avoid delays, they sometimes will occur. If a delay occurs while you are present for jury service, please try to be patient with the court staff. Rest assured that there is usually a valid reason for any delays and the judge is aware that you are waiting. Also, try to keep an open mind about your jury service and remember that you are playing an essential role in our justice system.

How to avoid penalties

As fun as it may seem, this is no time to pull a Liz Lemon. Never lie openly in court, or make false claims in front of the judge—you could end up paying for it with jail time. In cases where the judge thinks you’re trying to make a mockery of their court, they have the right to sentence you to a jail term of up to two years. That’s a lot longer than your jury service in the first place.

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!

Contact

Office of Jury Commissioner

Address

Street Address 560 Harrison Ave., Boston, MA 02118

Directions 

Mailing Address 560 Harrison Ave., Suite 600, Boston, MA 02118 Directions 

Phone

Juror helpline (toll-free in Massachusetts) Call Office of Jury Commissioner, Juror helpline (toll-free in Massachusetts) at (800) 843-5879 (THE-JURY)

Monday-Friday 9 am – 4:30 pm

Delinquent jurors Call Office of Jury Commissioner, Delinquent jurors at (877) 966-7469

From outside Massachusetts Call Office of Jury Commissioner, From outside Massachusetts at (617) 338-6409

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