There are three ways to legally get out of jury duty. We’ve already covered How to Avoid Jury Duty (illegally), so now we’ll cover how to get out of jury duty (legally). You can get out of jury duty if you are not qualified to serve as a juror, if you are exempt from jury duty, or if you are biased. Let’s dive in.
Get Out of Jury Duty for Not Being Qualified
The easiest way to get out of jury duty is by not being qualified in the first place.
The law says that all individuals are competent jurors unless specifically disqualified.
To be qualified to serve on a jury, the person must:
- be at least 18 years of age;
- be a citizen of the United States;
- be a resident of this state and a resident of the county in which you are to serve as a juror;
- be qualified under the Constitution and laws to vote in the county in which you are to serve as a juror (Note: You do not have to be registered to vote to be qualified to vote.);
- be of sound mind and good moral character;
- be able to read and write;
- not have served as a juror for six days during the preceding three months in the county court or during the preceding six months in the district court; and
- not have been convicted of, or be under indictment or other legal accusation for, misdemeanor theft or a felony.
What about Municipal Court?
There is also a special eligibility to serve on a jury of a municipal court. Municipal Courts typically handle speeding tickets, code violations, and other city ordinance matters.
To be eligible to serve on a Municipal Court Jury, a person must be a resident of the municipality where the court is established. That means, if you are summoned to a municipal court, and you don’t live in the city limits of that Court, then you aren’t eligible to serve.
Something to take note of:
The law doesn’t say that you must be registered to vote, just that you are qualified to vote. If you aren’t registered to vote, then that doesn’t mean that you are disqualified. The law specifically says that “failure to register to vote does not disqualify a person from jury service.”
So, DON’T let your desire to get out of jury duty be the reason you aren’t voting. GET REGISTERED AND VOTE!
Get Out of Jury Duty for an Exemption
If you are qualified to serve on a jury duty, you may be able to claim an exemption to get out of jury duty. Being exempt doesn’t mean that you can’t serve, but it means that you can choose not to serve.
You can claim an exemption and get out of jury duty if:
- You are over 70 years of age.
- You have legal custody of a child or children younger than 12 years of age and service on the jury would require leaving the child or children without adequate supervision.
- You are a student at a public or private high school.
- You are enrolled and in actual attendance at an institution of higher education.
- You are an officer or an employee of the senate, the house of representatives, or any department, commission, board, office, or other agency in the legislative branch of state government.
- You are the primary caretaker of a person who is unable to care for himself or herself. (This exemption does not apply to you if you are a primary caretaker only in your capacity as a health care worker.)
- You are a member of the United States military forces serving on active duty and deployed to a location away from your home station and out of your county of residence;
- You have served as a juror in this county during the 24-month period prior to the date you are required to appear by this summons.
- You have been summoned for jury service in this county and you have served as a petit juror in this county during the three-year period prior to the date you are required to appear by this summons.
Get Out of Jury Duty by Claiming Exemption or Disqualification
When you receive your jury summons, it will state the date, time, and place of where you need to appear. The location is likely the Court that you’re going to serve in, but if you’re in a larger city, then there may be a Central Jury Pool that you’ll be summoned to.
The date on the summons is very important because you’ll need to claim your exemption or disqualification prior to that date to avoid any penalty.
The summons should provide a portion for you to sign so you can claim your exemption or qualification. In Texas, that notice will likely look like this:
Sign and return your summons to the Court’s Clerk before your date of service, or at least contact the Clerk to see if you can claim disqualification or exemption without having to appear.
Sitting in the Hot Seat
In case you didn’t know, your seating arrangement during jury selection is very important. The closer to the front you are seated, the more likely you are to be seated on the actual jury panel. Jury selection is actually more about de-selection than selection.
Therefore, if no one is dismissed for a good reason, then the first twelve people sitting closest to the front will automatically be seated on the jury to hear the case.
Get out of Jury Duty for Bias
This is the big one. When people ask about excuses to get out of jury duty, then they’re usually asking about what to say that will get them dismissed.
If you are trying to get out of jury duty, and you can’t claim disqualification or exemption, then your only option is to be labeled as biased. At the beginning of jury selection, the attorneys will ask you questions to try and determine whether anyone is biased.
The fastest way to get out of jury duty is to speak up and answer every question that applies to you. Being quiet during jury selection is the fastest way to get on a jury. So, don’t be shy if you want to get out of jury duty!
For example, if you have a friend or family member that is a police officer, then you might believe that police officers are always truthful and give the testimony of a police officer extra credibility.
If your trial is a breach of contract case, and you believe that contracts are against your religion, then your views may be biased in favor of one side and against the other. There is nothing illegal about having a bias, it just means that this trial may not be the best one for you to sit on as a juror.
If you have a bias for, or against, a police officer, then that wouldn’t matter in a breach of contract case if no police officer is expected to testify.
The important thing to remember is that you must speak up and tell the truth. Don’t fake a bias by saying that you can’t be fair, that you won’t apply laws that you don’t believe in, or that you’ve already decided in your head which side should win based on looks.
However, if those things are true, then you definitely need to speak up because those are great reasons to get out of jury duty.
–Authored by Matthew L. Harris, Esq.,
Matthew Harris Law, PLLC – Civil Litigation Division
1101 Broadway, Lubbock, Texas, 79401-3303
Tel: (806) 702-4852 | Fax: (800) 985-9479