Got Jury Duty? We have 10 legitimate ways to get out of it

After a hectic week, I opened my mailbox to find summons to be part of jury duty. *Oh joy!*

Hey, maybe it’s an honor to be considered morally upright enough to be picked for jury duty. However, as I held the letter in my hand and walked across my room, the weight of it all set in.  I already had a lot on my hands and would not have the time to get through this. I started to ask myself, how can I get out of jury duty?

So I started doing some research. I learnt that lawyers have strict requirements to ensure if you are the right fit for that case or not.

If you fail their criteria, you technically should be able to escape jury duty.

Now, I’m not advocating that you lie. Instead, realize that there are a wide range of reasons that will be accepted by the court to exempt you being a juror.

Today I’m going to let you know of 10 legitimate reasons that you can claim to get out of jury duty. Let’s begin!

1. You believe that you could be biased

Of course, the courts want to be as impartial as possible. Therefore, if you prove that you cannot maintain objectivity then that could be your ticket out of jury duty. What kind of factors may constitute “not being able to maintain objectivity?”

  • You have certain prejudices that may cause you to believe that the defendant is guilty or innocent regardless of the proceedings
  • You have some expertise that prevents you from being an “average joe off the street”. For example, if you’re a (former) law enforcement officer – you’d likely have been trained in being extra observant with regards to witnesses and experts.
  • You have a non-confrontational personality that will prevent you from making your views known to the jury. If you’re easily influenced by the other jurors, there would be no reason to have you on the jury because you cannot state your own opinions, thereby defeating the purpose of having multiple individuals in the jury.

2. You’re facing economic hardship

If you’re struggling financially, this could be another good reason for being exempt from jury duty. You’d have to prove that you’re living hand to mouth, and that missing a day of work could put a big strain on your finances.

3. You’re a young mother or single parent

The court will allow you to be dismissed as a juror if you are:

  • pregnant or
  • have a child who is 6 years or younger and
  • are not employed full time

You could even try to make a case for other dependents like elderly parents that need your care 24/7. The courts understand that you need to be around to help and can grant you an exemption.

In such a scenario, you can usually apply for an exemption even before the hearing itself. This will save you a day of running around.

4. You’re not residing in the USA

This reason might seem weird but it’s not something that is rare. There have been many instances where individuals have been summoned for jury duty even if they are not living in the country. Often, the government will not keep records of where you’re residing. So if you happen to find yourself called for jury duty while working overseas, then it’s par for the course to just call up and have yourself excused.

5. Try rescheduling your duty

This is not escaping jury duty entirely, but it can help if you’re currently in a pinch and simply can’t make it for jury duty. When rescheduling however, you need to provide a legitimate excuse (like some of the ones in this list.) Other excuses that I’ve known friends to use are:

  • Studies and exams – if you have an important paper on the same day, you can get out of jury duty
  • Plans to join the military – this is viewed as service to the state as well. Plus given the strict schedules of enlistment, you can usually cite this as a proper excuse.

Usually, you’ll be able to set your jury duty back by a year if you’re successful in rescheduling.

6. You’ve already served as jury this year

Some states have a clause that you can serve as jury only once a year. Therefore, if you find that you’ve served recently then you need only inform the judge or jury commissioner of this fact.

7. You will lack concentration

Lot of us go through bad phases in our lives from time to time.  If the jury duty summons happen to catch you at such a time in your life, then the judge will accept that you won’t be able to concentrate on the case due to stressful events going on in your life.

In a similar vein,  you might be excused if you’re able to prove that you’re of “unsound mind”. This could be due to mental illness like depression or schizophrenia. While I wouldn’t wish that upon anyone, you should be aware that you can get out of jury duty due to this fact.

8. You’re against capital punishment

For cases where prosecutors are demanding for a death penalty, it is expected that jurors have an open mind regarding capital punishment. If you are adamant that you’re against the death penalty from the outset, then you are almost certain to get your hands of the case for jury duty.

9. You have work responsibilities

This sounds similar to the economic hardship excuse, but it’s not exactly the same. In this instance, you’ll be able to cite work commitments as a reason  to skip jury duty.  The difference here is that it’s not your financial situation that’s pushing you to work, but rather that no one else performs your tasks. Big projects are also fall under this category.

So if you are in the middle of harvest or project deadlines are near, make sure your judge is aware of them.

10. Request for an earlier date

A smart way to skip jury duty could be to ask to bring the dates forward. There are high chances that the jury lists would have been created for nearby dates, thus such a request puts you on the end of the list. Being on the end of the list, you might never be called for jury duty. Pretty sneaky compared to the other reasons above, but it’s worth a shot if you can’t get the other reasons to work above.

How do you go about submitting your reasons for skipping jury duty?

If you have a legitimate reason to skip jury duty, do make use of the form you receive along with the jury duty summons. Otherwise you can write to the court as well. Alternatively you can request for the same electronically, from the website of the clerk who will then then process your request. Have a look at your county court’s website for steps, like this one from the superior court of California. Prompt action can save you from having to visit the court personally to provide reasons, which might consume half a day or a full day of your time.

In the End

This article is not meant to encourage you to lie to the court. Rather, it’s to inform you that your reasons for skipping jury duty can actually be legitimate and accepted by the courts. Being a juror is an honor, it means that you’re considered a moral, judicious member of society. Try to experience it when you can!