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Tips About Jury Duty - What to do when you're called for jury selection (and how to get out of it.)

Updated on May 22, 2008

It's everyone's civic duty to serve on a Jury if selected for jury duty. It is part of the price we pay for living in a just society where we may be tried by a jury of twelve of our peers. But sometimes it's just not a good time to be called for jury duty, sometimes you have important projects on at work, perhaps your job is threatened and you're afraid that if you have to take days or weeks off work that you may lose your job, perhaps you have other personal reasons why sitting in a small box listening to lawyers trying to mess with your mind is not at the top of your priorities. The good news is that it is possible to get out of jury duty. The bad news is that it is sometimes a little tricky. You see, a summons to jury duty is a command from the court. To simply ignore it is to commit a crime. If the summons arrived by registered mail and you signed for it, then there is no way to avoid the fact that you are going to have to at least respond to the summons in order not to end up before a court yourself.

There are some reasons that will enable you to avoid jury duty however. Here are some valid reasons which allow you to get out of jury duty:

  • Being over 70 years old.
  • Being a volunteer firefighter
  • Caring for young children or elderly adults, your presence being so vital to their wellbeing that your absence may put them at risk.
  • You are so important to your business or employer that the whole enterprise may fail if you are not there.
  • You don't have a car and cannot use public transportation.

The first step in getting out of jury duty is to write to the court. If your circumstances are extreme enough, you may be excused from going to court at all. If your excuse is a little less extreme, you may need to show up to court at the jury assembly time and ask to be excused there. During the jury assembly process there is a stage at which a court officer will ask assembled potential jurors if anyone has a reason that they are not able to serve on a jury. This is regarded as being the best time to state your case and be excused.

If you are denied in your request and told to stay you will then be required to be part of a panel from which the jury will be selected. The panel is sworn in and then questioned about various aspects of your life. You can be questioned on your employment, family, relationships, past criminal activity, essentially your life is an open book.

You will also be asked if you believe that you can be a fair and impartial juror. Answering this question in the negative should be more than enough to secure your dismissal.

If, for some bizarre reason, you are not dismissed, there is still the lawyer selection stage, where the lawyers for the prosecution and the defense will question you. If you appear wildly biased in any one direction, it is highly likely that one of the lawyers will then call for your dismissal.

Of course, if all else fails you can turn up in mismatched clothing and declare your belief in the great high lord Xenu and his consort the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Such tactics are usually unnecessary however.

There is usually a period of time for which you must make yourself available for jury duty. Even if you are excused from one jury you will have to return the next day to repeat the process again.


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    • Perspycacious profile image

      Demas W Jasper 

      5 years ago from Today's America and The World Beyond

      I actually look forward to serving (it pays more than HubPages, gives me something to write about...stay tuned, and I do regard it as a duty every patriot worthy of being called one should recognize as their civic duty.) Besides all that, I hope the guilty and the innocent will receive justice, and I can share in seeing that that might happen.

      My wife was not selected when she said that she had served several times in that particular judge's court as an interpreter (she speaks some or all of eight languages.) The judge was pleased to say she was excused.

    • Tammy L profile image

      Tammy L 

      7 years ago from Jacksonville, Texas

      Two true stories of people I know who got out of jury duty:

      My father-in-law said he was a free thinker and that he was not easily influenced. He heard one of the lawyers say they didn't want him.

      My sister didn't have a babysitter for her, then, infant daughter. She failed to mail in the exemption form in time and had to appear. She showed up to the courthouse with the baby. When the baby got hungry, my sister just whipped one out right there in the courtroom and started feeding her baby. The court clerk couldn't rush her and the baby out of the courtroom fast enough.

    • disneyvixen profile image


      9 years ago from Pennsylvania, USA

      Along the lines of what mroconnell said- look up jury nullification and read the first few websites that pop up. When you're called in for the selection, be sure to bring it up if the judge or attorneys haven't mentioned it (they usually don't). In most cases, you won't get picked simply because you know the term. Sad, but true, attorneys do not want intelligent or well-informed jurors.

      And a word of warning, if you show up dressed like a crazy person, or even what can be considered "sloppy" (shorts and t-shirt), you could be fined or jailed for contempt of court. :-/

    • spryte profile image


      10 years ago from Arizona, USA

      An easy way to get out of jury duty is to simply state that you are able to spot a guilty person from a mile away...use the same approach your mother did when convincing you as a child that she could see right through you.

      It unnerves both the defense AND the offense.

    • glassvisage profile image


      10 years ago from Northern California

      mroconnell, thanks for the political insight to jury duty. And it used to work for me to say I'm a college student, but I don't know if that holds up anymore.

    • Dave Saunders profile image

      Dave Saunders 

      10 years ago from Washington, DC

      One of the times I had jury duty, a professionally dress woman told the judge (in front of everyone) told the judge that she should be excused simply because she had more important things to be doing with her time than to be listening to "some case."

      The judge asked her back to his chamber. A few short minutes later she came out, makeup running down her face from crying, and she sat back down and served her duty.

      Careful trying to get out of jury duty....

    • Hope Alexander profile imageAUTHOR

      Hope Alexander 

      10 years ago

      Heh. Thanks for the stories Sally's Trove... that's pretty funny...

    • Sally's Trove profile image


      10 years ago from Southeastern Pennsylvania

      And then sometimes the strangest things happen that you could never have anticipated.  During the selection process, I realized that one of the lawyers, "Mr. Smith", was someone I knew, although he didn't exactly know me.  He asked of the potential jurors, "Does anyone have a past relationship with the attorneys, defendant, or plaintiff?"  I shot up my hand, and I said, "Yes, Mr. Smith, you represented my ex-husband recently in a civil suit."  Even the judge couldn't stifle a laugh over that one, and I was quickly excused.

      Great hub, Hope.  I hope you get more stories of Hubbers' experiences in these comments.

    • mroconnell profile image


      10 years ago from France

      Interesting. I've heard that it's useful to tell them you're a postmodern philosopher and you read a lot of Kafka. The one thing that scares lawyers more than racial prejudice is intelligent juries.

    • Eileen Hughes profile image

      Eileen Hughes 

      10 years ago from Northam Western Australia

      Good hub. And have to agree with you about everyone should do it, because no one enjoys it thats for sure. What upsets me is that some people never get called up. I have been six times, twice have been on the jury. And once called up but was challenged, so didnt follow through.

      Once I tried to get out of it , I said had to work as was driving a courier vehicle and had no one to do my run. He just laughed and said you think you the only one has job. He didnt understand that I had no one to take over as I was subcontractor.

      And then I tried once saying what if I am racial predjuced (I am not though) just using as excuse. He still wouldnt let me off.

      So yes can understand what it is like to be called up and go on jury.

      Thanks this is a great hub


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