Content of the material
- Selection Processes in the U.S
- You Have Young Children
- 4. Plead hardship
- How Are People Chosen for Jury Duty?
- 8. Date a convict
- How to avoid penalties
- Legally Getting Out of Jury Duty
- 1. Severe Financial Hardship
- 2. Studies and School
- 3. Medical Reasons
- 4. Age
- 5. Attitude or Emotional Instability
- 6. Relatives and Bias
- 7. Industry Experience
- 8. Recently Served or Need to Put the Date off
- 9. Pregnant, Breastfeeding, and Primary Childcare Providers
- 10. Small Business Owner or Recently Moved
- What Happens If You Miss Jury Duty?
- The Selection Process
- Juror Selection
- Juror Oath
- How Long Does It Take to Complete Jury Duty?
- Lying in a Letter to the Court
- Coronavirus Announcement
- Getting Excused From Jury Service Without Lying
Selection Processes in the U.S
When you register to vote in the U.S., you are automatically placed as a potential juror. Selection on a jury is random after that. Anyone summoned for jury duty doesn’t automatically become part of the jury, but they undergo a selection process to determine their capability to serve. The selection process is known as voir dire, and it involves questioning to identify any bias. After voir dire, those people not chosen are excused from the duty.
You Have Young Children
Some people just do not have the capacity to come into court every day on a regular basis.
The court does not expect you to hire a babysitter for an extended period of time if you are the primary caregiver of children.
Courts recognize that you have an important function and cannot spend extended time away from the children.
However, the situation may be different if the children are older, or if you work outside the home and already have childcare coverage during the day.
Courts need you to be present for every day of testimony given the importance of a trial. They cannot risk that you would be unable to come in because you have a childcare issue.
4. Plead hardship
Using the hardship excuse is a fine line to walk — for most, hardship means that being called to serve on a multi-day or multi-week trial would be impossible from a financial standpoint. Private employers don’t often pay for missed days of work that you accrue while serving on a jury and the stipend you receive from the court is very minimal.
If you have 10 kids at home and no babysitter or if you are the sole financial provider for your family and can’t afford to miss work, then this excuse is fair. But if you’re a retiree who believes it would be a “hardship” to miss your afternoon soap operas, forget it.
Next: Be vocal about your bias.
How Are People Chosen for Jury Duty?
Some people think that they are just plain unlucky when they get the jury summons in the mail.
In a way, that is partly true. Potential jurors are randomly selected from the pool.
This is why some people can get jury duty twice in a short period of time, while others may not be called for over a decade, or even at all. The selection system is completely random.
Unfortunately, for some, it means that they will be called for civil cases or a criminal case at the worst possible time. The only restriction is that you cannot receive a jury summons twice within a 12-month span.
As you see, there is no rhyme or reason for when you may get a jury summons. The process is designed to be as random as possible.
8. Date a convict
Romantic relationships spring from prison pen pal correspondence all the time. It’s almost foolproof — if you can prove you have a lover serving time, there’s basically no chance of getting picked to serve on a jury.
Next: Give your opinion about cops.
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.
Legally Getting Out of Jury Duty
When you try to get out of jury duty, there is a level of risk of being held in contempt of court. However, there are several legal ways to potentially get out of it.
1. Severe Financial Hardship
The compensation you receive serving as a juror may not be enough to sustain your family if your employer does not pay you for the days missed at work. Remember, employers do not have a legal obligation to pay employees. However, you will have to prove that this loss in income will be detrimental by showing your payroll and possibly your last tax return before a court considers excusing you.
2. Studies and School
Students, full-time and part-time students attending an accredited tertiary educational institution, are eligible to be excused in most states. However, check the regulations before applying because it does not apply to all states, e.g., California.
3. Medical Reasons
If you have a planned surgery or significant doctor’s appointments already scheduled, then you may be excused if missing them could harm your health. However, you will most likely have to present proof before getting excused from jury duty.
In some states, residents over 70 don’t need to participate in jury duty. However, first, check before seeking an exemption.
5. Attitude or Emotional Instability
Being vocal, opinionated, hostile, or a know-it-all often makes lawyers uncomfortable because they are unsure if the evidence will persuade such a person. You can try this risky tactic to get yourself excused, but don’t expect this to be easy or automatically work.
A documented mental disorder typically will get someone excused, but a recent family loss, divorce, etc., may also be a valid excuse if you are going through a difficult emotional time. However, you will have to give the court details, and possibly in a public setting.
6. Relatives and Bias
Speak up if you know something about the case or someone involved because this is a legal excuse not to serve as a juror, including relatives, employers, or any other personal relationship, even with a witness. The same may apply to a specific bias about the case; tell the court, which may excuse you.
7. Industry Experience
In some states, those working in the public service sector are usually excused, including police officers, government officials, lawyers, and doctors, because their experience and industry knowledge can influence their views, depending on the type of case being heard.
8. Recently Served or Need to Put the Date off
If you have served in a federal or state trial within the past two years, there is a good chance you will be excused from jury duty. Check the summons or notice you received in the mail for details.
Sometimes, the summons comes at an inappropriate time, making it difficult for you to serve. You can ask to push the date forward for up to six months, but typically you must make such a request at least a week before the date you must appear.
9. Pregnant, Breastfeeding, and Primary Childcare Providers
In many states, pregnant women can use the medical excuse because of planned medical appointments and unforeseen issues during their pregnancy, as long as you inform the court. Breastfeeding mothers are also often excused by courts.
The primary caregiver to young children must prove that no one else can care for them and that daycare is not an option, creating hardship if they participate in their jury duty.
10. Small Business Owner or Recently Moved
In some states, small business owners may show the court that jury service can affect their livelihood by negatively impacting their business, especially if they don’t have employees.
In addition, courts with jurisdictions in a particular county don’t typically accept jurors residing in another county. If you have moved, let the court know before your summons date, and you may be automatically excused.
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?
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!
The Selection Process
Receiving a summons for jury duty does not mean that you will actually serve on a jury. However, if you are qualified to serve and you do not ask to be excused or exempted, you will be able to participate in the jury selection process which may take only a day or a fraction of a day to complete. The process begins as groups of prospective jurors, usually numbering fifty to sixty in district courts, are assembled in a courtroom with the judge, the lawyers, and usually the parties of a particular case. Lawyers then conduct what is called voir dire (which means to speak the truth), which allows the lawyers and the judge to have the opportunity to ask each prospective juror a series of questions. While the lawyers are aware of your answers to the questionnaire that you filled out earlier, the lawyers and the judge may still ask you some of the same questions and some additional questions to ensure that you are indeed qualified to serve, and that you are indeed able to perform your civic duty in a fair and impartial manner. After questioning the prospective jurors, the lawyers and the parties they represent will be given the opportunity to make any challenges for cause and peremptory challenges to individual prospective jurors (see definitions). After all challenges are utilized, a jury with one to four alternates is impaneled to hear the evidence in the case.
At some point during the jury selection process, prospective jurors are given an oath by which they swear or affirm to tell the truth when answering questions about their qualifications as jurors.
How Long Does It Take to Complete Jury Duty?
Jury duty may be a short commitment, or it may be a long one. The average juror will serve three to four days on trial, and many jurors will be in and out after only a one-day or two-day commitment.
If you are unlucky enough to find yourself on a long, drawn-out case (like a serious crime or a major civil dispute), you may end up working on that case for months, but that is very rare. Jury service is very unpredictable, and that is why so many people are eager to get out of it.
Lying in a Letter to the Court
Some people believe that a letter falsely claiming you are the only caretaker for your sick, elderly mother; or falsely describing the financial hardship that jury duty would impose on you, is the way to get out of jury duty. Other people may think a letter from an employer falsely claiming that the person summoned for jury duty is desperately needed at work can convince the court to excuse the person from jury duty. If your absence from your job truly would be a hardship for your employer, a letter explaining the circumstances is entirely appropriate and the judge may consider it and even excuse you. (Legitimate grounds for excusal from jury duty are addressed below.) If, however, you ask your employer to lie for you or forge a letter without your employer’s knowledge and the court learns that the letter is not truthful or is a forgery, you could be charged with contempt of court or other crimes and be sentenced to time in jail.
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.
Getting Excused From Jury Service Without Lying
Courts can and will excuse citizens from jury duty in certain circumstances. Laws regarding jury services sometimes provide grounds for excusal or deferral, and judges have the discretion to excuse potential jurors or defer their service on a case-by-case basis. The exact requirements vary by state and by court, but grounds for excusal can include:
- a physical or mental disability that would prevent the person called from participating in the jury process
- extreme financial hardship, or
- circumstances that prevent a person from being away from work or home such as an employee’s special role in the workplace or caring for a child or an incapacitated person (this situation might result in a deferral of service rather than excusal).
If you receive a summons for jury duty and believe you have legitimate grounds to be excused, you can contact the court and ask how to proceed. You may be directed to provide documents to the court, write a letter, or have your employer submit a letter. You should be truthful in all interactions with the court and provide only valid documents that do not misrepresent you or your situation.
If you have questions about jury service or concerns that the court is improperly refusing to excuse you, you can consult with an attorney. A qualified attorney will know the laws and rules regarding jury service in your area and can assist you in communicating with the court about your circumstances, if necessary.
The information contained on this web site is not intended to take the place of the instructions given by the judge or the court concerning any aspect of jury service. In the event of any conflicts, the instructions and procedures given to you by the judge or the court should be followed.