How To Get Out Of Jury Duty

Unless you watch C-SPAN on a regular basis, you will probably want to know how to get out of jury duty. While serving on a jury is an important civic responsibility, a valuable real-life lesson in how our legal system functions, and a great way to get out of work, it can also be about as exciting as watching paint dry. Use any of the following tactics to get out of jury duty.

  1. Plead hardship. When you get your letter in the mail, there will be instructions on how to request an excuse due to hardship. If there’s been a death or serious illness in the family, you will almost certainly be excused. For that matter, if you can claim that serving in the jury would be unusually inconvenient (boredom doesn’t count) you might be able to get off. Write a letter to the clerk, and ham it up. Be careful, because there’s always the chance you’ll be asked to provide documentation.
  2. No habla Ingles! This is risky, but if you can convince the clerk of court that you don’t speak English, you will get out of jury duty. Not a recommended technique unless you speak another language fluently. Also, if you’re a redhead named Sean McMurphy, claiming that you only speak Swahili will probably not fly.
  3. Don’t shave. When you are called for jury duty, you will spend some time waiting in the courthouse as part of the jury pool. Look scruffy, be hungover, and generally seem like a reprobate, and there’s a good chance that you won’t get picked by either attorneys to serve on the jury.
  4. Know a cop. When the attorneys pick jurors, they might ask you some questions to determine what kind of a juror you might be. They’re looking for objectivity. Have an uncle who’s a cop? Say so. Dad’s a judge? Drop his name. Know the defendant, the victim, or the area where the crime was committed? Bring it up. Attorneys will be less likely to pick jurors who have a connection to the case that will affect their judgment.
  5. Play dumb. Have a little fun with this one. Talk about how excited you are to have the chance to convict someone. Loudly. Make sure you let everyone know how good you are at spotting guilty people in a crowd. Tell the court with a straight face that you’re sure the police would only arrest someone if that person was guilty.
  6. Play smart. This requires some homework. Quote relevant case law. Take an overactive interest in the court procedures, particularly jury selection, and critique the attorneys’ legal knowledge. Mention that you’ve been thinking about law school, but just haven’t had the time. Talk about “CSI” with fellow jurors. The last thing either attorney will want is a juror who thinks that he knows the law better than they do.
  7. Be honest. This is ironically the riskiest move of all. When you’re being questioned, tell the attorney that you don’t think you could be unbiased, that you won’t be able to pay attention to the testimony of the case, and that you aren’t interested in being a juror. Who knows? They might send you home.

Common sense warning: almost all of the tactics listed above entail some risk. Skipping jury duty is a crime, as is lying in a court. It might not be worth trying to get out of jury duty if you wind up seeing the process from the defendant’s side of the courtroom. But, if you’re not interested in sitting around for a week in a room of your peers, give it a shot. 

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