The Goldberg Law Firm Co., LPA

The Goldberg Law Firm Co., LPA

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The jury is out on “getting out”

Serving on a jury is an act of citizenship, an important part of our nation’s system of jurisprudence. Most citizens consider it an honor to serve.

The Sixth Amendment guarantees the accused the right to a speedy and public trial by an impartial jury. The phrase "jury of one's peers" is not included in the Amendment, however, the courts interpret peer to mean equal. The jury pool must include a cross section of the population of the community in terms of gender, race, and national origin. The jury selection process must not exclude or intentionally narrow any particular group of people.

While it is your duty to serve on jury duty and, as a citizen to fit it into your life, there are some secrets to "getting out."  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.

There are, however, ways to be excused from jury duty. Here a few:

Prove economic hardship. 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 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.

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.

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.

Ask the court to move the trial  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.

Use student statu. Many states excuse full-time students from jury duty. Even if you live in a state that doesn't excuse students you still have options. Request that your jury duty be rescheduled for your next break (winter, spring, summer).

How to be dismissed from a jury

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.

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.

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.

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.

Try comedian George Carlins 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.