How to Get Out of Jury Duty

Two Parts:Getting Out of Jury DutyGetting Yourself Dismissed From a Jury

While it is your duty to attend jury duty, there are some secrets to "getting out" of it if it does not fit into your life at the moment. Just ignoring it could result in up to two years' incarceration. You must go through the legal process of getting yourself excused. Courts determine jury duty through random selection, so there's nothing you can do to avoid a summons. Still, just being selected for jury duty does not mean that you will actually sit on a jury.[1]

Part 1
Getting Out of Jury Duty

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    Prove economic hardship.[2] In many states, you can prove that you can't serve on a jury for financial reasons. Only try this excuse if you honestly believe that you would not be able to get by if you had to miss work. Bring proof of employment and/or wages, full financial statements, and the previous year's taxes to court with you on the first day you report to jury duty. If you can persuade the judge that you can't miss work, you'll have lost only one day of your time.
    • Exemptions based on financial need are extremely rare, even if you're facing serious challenges. Don't count on the courts taking financial need into consideration.
    • Don't lie about a financial crisis. Lying to a court ("perjury") is a felony. You could also be charged with obstruction of justice.
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    Request a change of date. Almost all federal, state, and local jury selection processes are computerized. If your name appears on the list, they send an automated notice of jury duty to your registered address. When you receive it, mark on the jury form that you need special accommodations and cannot make the requested attendance date, and include your explanation. For example, you might say that you are quite sick, going out of town, studying for the bar, or planning on joining the military. Any accepted excuse will likely set your next jury summons back at least a year. If you have children, don’t be afraid to use that card.
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    Request a date in December. If you can get a change of date, ask for December, when there's a far greater chance that trials will be delayed or moved. You may never actually get called in, but you're still fulfilling your civic duty.
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    Try asking them to move the date up, not back. This means you would serve your jury duty sooner than originally scheduled. The lawyers have likely already made the jury lists for closer dates, so there's a chance they won't be able to seat you. So, when your date is moved, they have to put you at the end of the list. You probably won't get called in to serve jury duty at all.
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    Use your student status as an excuse.[3] Many states excuse full-time students from jury duty. Even if you live in a state that doesn't excuse students (e.g. CA), you still have options.
    • Request that your jury duty be rescheduled for your next break (winter, spring, summer).
    • The call center can authorize this even if you have gone beyond the 1 year postponement limit. They will say that it will be your final postponement.
    • In most cases, missed student work can be made up, but not missed lessons/lectures. Some states even allow online class to count.
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    Consider using a risky loophole if you're in California. In California, trials often last 10 - 20 days, and this can come in handy. The voir dire is when the lawyers assess potential jurors for a specific trial.[4] During that process, the judge will ask if anyone has any significant reason not to serve on a trial. Most excuses will not be accepted, but some, such as medical excuses, will get you dismissed.
    • If you have something scheduled in the next two weeks, let the judge know. You may be excused to reschedule.
    • Under state law, you will be considered to have already served.
    • When you return to reschedule your jury service, they will hand you piece of paper certifying you have completed it.
    • If they catch you lying about your circumstances, though, you could face a possible 20 days in jail.

Part 2
Getting Yourself Dismissed From a Jury

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    Argue you can't maintain objectivity. There are specific things you can say during jury questioning to try to get rejected in a criminal case. Remember that it is illegal and, for many people, immoral to make these claims if you don't really believe them. For each of these excuses, you will be asked if you could just set your beliefs aside. However, it won't make much difference to the lawyers if you admit that you can.
    • I don't understand the concept of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. It's too fuzzy; how much doubt is reasonable? Am I supposed to be 99% certain? 99.99? I don't think I could convict someone of a crime unless there is no doubt whatsoever that he did it.
    • I know that the great majority of people arrested for crimes did them. And the prosecutor wouldn't file charges unless he was very sure. So at this stage of the process, the defendant is probably guilty. (But I understand I'm supposed to pretend he is innocent until the trial is over -- I'm just saying).
    • Police officers are better witnesses than the average person. They've trained to be more observant that normal people. They have a lot of experience with crime and giving testimony. And finally, they must have a high moral standard if they were hired as police officers.
    • I don't see how I can judge a case if I don't hear from the accused. If he can't even look me in the eye and tell me he didn't do it, that looks pretty guilty to me. (Defendants usually don't testify on their own behalf.)
    • I am not a confrontational person. When I am in the minority, I usually cave in to the majority. (And of course, when the judge says, "nobody's asking you to be stubborn, but if you saw the majority was ignoring some piece of evidence, ...", you respond, "I suppose you're right.")
    • I was a victim of a crime. They never caught the guy. I'm angry about that. The system doesn't work.
    • My friend/family member is a police officer/prosecutor/defense attorney. We talk about a lot of his cases. That guy sure is opinionated.
    • The defendant is about the same age as my son. My son has been in a little trouble himself.
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    Act stubborn. A conviction in a criminal case requires a very high standard. The prosecution must prove its case beyond a reasonable doubt. Go into jury duty acting like you think you know everything before even hearing the case. The more stubborn you can appear, the better.
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    Play up your intelligence. A more respectable alternative to the above "play stupid" tactics is to "play smart." Many attorneys want jurors they can persuade one way or the other. Try to show education, intelligence, and logical reasoning.
    • Many jurisdictions bar lawyers, judges, and police officers from jury duty. They consider these people too informed on the subject to be effective jurors.
    • Similarly, doctors are almost always excused from malpractice cases, bankers from embezzlement cases, etc.
    • It is not, however, unheard-of for a sitting judge to be seated as a juror.
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    Mention the right of a jury to "veto." If selected to be on a jury, the judge will ask you to swear to find a verdict based solely on the facts presented in court.[5] Refuse to swear this on the grounds that the jury has a right to find a verdict as they see fit. This right is called "jury nullification." In short, it allows a jury to return a verdict of "innocent" when the accused is clearly guilty. The jury can do this if it disagrees with the law itself. Although the Supreme court has affirmed this right, prosecutors and judges usually hate it. Any prosecutor will almost certainly reject you for the jury if you suggest there's a chance you would use your right to veto.
    • Ask the judge if he/she would have convicted Harriet Tubman for violating the federal Fugitive Slave Laws. Was her role in the Underground Railroad for escaped slaves punishable?
    • Would he/she have convicted Rosa Parks for violating the segregation laws in Montgomery, Alabama? Was her refusal to move to the back of the bus when the bus driver told her to give up her seat to a white passenger punishable?
    • The judge might say that he/she would have instructed juries to convict these women because "the law is the law." You should have a response prepared for that:
    • "Blind obedience wasn't accepted as a defense during the War Crimes Tribunal at Nuremberg. Many Nazis claimed that they were just 'following orders,' too."
    • Read about cases that demonstrate the power of jury nullification. Recommended cases include State of Georgia v. Brailsford, 3 U.S. 1, 4 (1794); U.S. v. Moylan, 417 F.2d 1002 (4th Cir.1969); United States v. Dougherty, 473 F.2d 1113; United States v. Wilson, 629 F.2d 439, 443 (6th Cir.1980); US v. Krzyske, 836 F. 2d 1013 - Court of Appeals, 6th Circuit 1988; and U.S. v. Thomas No. 95-1337 (2nd Cir. 5-20-97).
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    Question the legitimacy of grand jury proceedings if summonsed to one. Mention the old saying that “A good prosecutor could get a grand jury to indict a ham sandwich.” Point out you disapprove of grand juries because they are basically a rubber stamp for the prosecutor. Voice support for the Commission to Reform the Federal Grand Jury position to reform the process.
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    Try the George Carlin technique as a last ditch effort. His advice for getting out of jury duty? Tell the judge you'll make a great juror, as you can spot guilty people just by looking at them.


  • Avoid being seated on a grand jury at all costs. Grand jury duty is longer and more tedious than normal jury duty.
  • Always follow the law when dealing with the judicial system, but cop a serious attitude at the same time. You need to present yourself as unstable and stubborn to avoid jury duty.
  • If you are seeing a mental health professional on a regular basis, ask him/her for a letter asking that you be excused.
  • If given the option, try to avoid registering online. Instead, use the "call-in" method. Although this is based on personal observation, it seems like the people who register online are more likely to be chosen over the people who call in to register by phone.
  • Members of volunteer organizations (fire and EMS, especially) are sometimes excused from jury duty. Argue that you're already doing your civic duty. Ask your captain to write a letter stating that you are an active member and have been so for XXX amount of time.
  • In New Jersey, they present you with a list of excuses on the back of the jury questionnaire. However, if you use one of the excuses, they may deny the request. You improve your chances if you have a letter from your employer stating that your time will not be paid if you attend jury duty.
  • If you don’t want to be a poor sport, consider sitting on a jury as an educational and learning experience. The worst part about jury duty is waiting to be selected and going through the process of voir dire..


  • Never ignore a call for jury duty. Failure to attend jury duty would or can result in fines, suspension of a driver’s license, or in some cases, criminal charges (i.e. spending 24 hours in jail.)
  • This article provides legal information, but NOT legal advice.

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Categories: Civil Litigation