Avoiding Jury Duty Legally
Posted: January 30, 2023
According to the United States Constitution, every citizen of legal age is required to fulfill their civic duty of serving on a jury if called to do so. While some people see this as an exciting opportunity to participate in democracy, to many, jury duty is a significant inconvenience. If you fall into the latter category, understanding how to follow the laws while avoiding jury duty is essential if you want to avoid legal penalties.
Is Avoiding Jury Duty Illegal?
There are two kinds of juries that U.S. citizens may be required to serve on: trial jury and grand jury. These juries serve different purposes but are both mandatory if you are called. Jurors selected to serve on either of these are paid at their state’s current minimum wage.
While it is illegal to avoid jury duty without being excused, there are a number of completely valid ways to get out of serving. To make use of these, however, you generally still need to show up to the initial selection meeting at the courthouse to be properly dismissed.
Attempting to avoid jury duty by simply ignoring your summons can result in being held in contempt of the court. The penalty for contempt of court varies from district to district but may include fines of up to $1,000 or anywhere between one and five days in jail (as well as a permanent mark on your record).
How to Be Dismissed from Jury Duty
In many cases, you don’t need to take any active steps to avoid jury duty. Often, you can go years without receiving a summons, and even if you receive your letter, the majority of people who do show up are not actually selected to be one of the jurors for that case.
If you have been called and want to be dismissed from your duty, then you will have to provide an excuse that is accepted by the courts. The Jury Selection and Service Act outlines the requirements and laws about who can serve on a federal jury. Each U.S. federal district court maintains its own jury procedures and policies regarding excuses from jury service, but common disqualifications include a lack of fluency in English, active military service, and prior felony convictions.
Aside from these reasons, valid excuses for avoiding jury duty include things like having recently served on another jury, being required to travel during the time of the trial in question, or if serving on the jury will cause you “extreme financial hardship.”
In trial juries, potential jurors can also be dismissed by the attorneys for either side. Lawyers may request the dismissal of a particular juror due to any connection between the juror and one of the parties involved, having been involved in a similar case themselves, perceived prejudice against either the plaintiff or the defendant, or other such reasons.
It is important to note that, while avoiding jury duty can certainly be done, attempting to be dismissed by lying can result in you being charged with perjury, which is a federal crime and may carry significant jail time.
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