How To Get Out of Jury Duty

How To Get Out of Jury Duty

Determine if You’re Eligible

To be eligible for jury duty in Georgia, you must:

  • Be a U.S. citizen
  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be proficient in English enough to understand and discuss the case
  • Be a resident of the county that sent you the jury summons
  • Have not served on a jury in the last 12 months
  • Not currently be on a grand jury or on another trial jury
  • Not be under a conservatorship
  • Have had your civil rights restored if you were convicted of a felony or malfeasance while holding public office

The Selection Process

Juror Selection

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.

Juror Oath

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.

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Ask to be excused if you cant make it to court

In very rare cases, if it would be an extreme hardship for you to come to the courthouse at all to ask to be excused, you can submit a written request to be excused under OJC Regulation 9. Common difficulties such as inconvenience, no childcare, or business obligations don’t qualify. The regulation applies to cases such as:

  • People living in religious orders that restrict outside travel 
  • People with rare medical conditions that prevent them from leaving their homes

If you believe you qualify for an extreme hardship disqualification, you must explain your circumstances in writing, sign it, and send it to:

Operations Manager Office of Jury Commissioner 560 Harrison Avenue, Suite 600 Boston, MA 02118

You should submit your request at least 30 days before your date of service to allow time for review, action, and notification of decision.

Appear in Court

  • You must appear in person for jury selection at the date, time, and location noted on your jury summons. Bring a copy of your jury summons with you.
  • Employers in Georgia are required to grant employees time off, though it may be unpaid, to serve jury duty. 
  • During jury selection, the court and lawyers may ask you a series of questions to determine if you could be a fair, honest, and impartial juror for a trial.

What to Expect on Your First Day

When you report for jury service, you will likely find that there are well-trained court personnel available to assist you and to answer any questions that you may have concerning jury duty. You can also expect to receive a brief orientation in the courtroom or in the jury assembly room regarding jury service. Listen carefully and follow the instructions given by court personnel and the judge. With your cooperation and attention to detail, the jury selection process may run smoother and be completed faster.

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.

Risks of Intentionally Trying to Be Excused from Jury Service

There is a level of risk to consider when trying to get out of jury duty. If you are intentionally trying to get excused and just making up an excuse, the judge can actually hold you in contempt of court.

For example, if there is a case involving a car wreck at high speed and you go over the top with how much you hate all vehicles to the point of absurdity the judge can hold you in contempt because it is blatantly obvious you are faking it to get out of your civic duty.

There are numerous ways to get out of jury duty. If you have a valid excuse, or if you can just indicate that you might not be ideal for the jury, you can avoid serving time.

However, if you are called for jury duty, and you don’t have a good reason to avoid it, perhaps you should consider serving. After all, it is your civic duty.

And wouldn’t you want a jury on your trial to be made up of people who would do a good job rather than just the people that couldn’t figure out how to get out jury service?

photo credit: JasonUnbound via photopin cc

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