As a 30-something who has been a registered voter since 18, I have gotten the letter requesting my attendance for jury duty many times since registering. I have showed up for jury duty as requested on more than one occasion and have even had the privilege to sit on a jury for a murder trial. My boss at the time would have loved for me to have followed the advice I am about to give and to be honest; I was surprised that I was chosen to serve on that trial. By the end of it, I could have probably even gotten out of it because my work was really breathing down my neck about the time off I was taking.
Given that I was in Texas and the company in California, they should have been happy it was just a murder trial and not one of the MANY celebrity trials that last months that go on there. They still were not happy and to this day I suspect it was one of the reasons I was chosen as someone to be laid off when the economy went sour. What I did take away from the experience of actually serving was an appreciation for those who do show up, plus verification of some of the ways to get out of jury duty. From personal experience alone, here are some suggestions on avoiding jury duty:
Beating Jury Duty Tip Number 1: Ignore the Summons
In Texas, they can threaten to take you to jail for not showing up on the date and time you were assigned. However, they cannot actually prosecute you. The reason for this is simple: they mail out the letters via standard, first class mail. There is no way to prove that you received the letter; therefore there is no way to prove you ignored the summons. If the courts were to send the letter certified or by some other means where it could be proven that you did in fact receive the summons, it would be a different matter. However, the cost to send out certified jury summons would be staggering, so it is cheaper to simply hope people will show up. It should be noted that the bailiff for the case I sat on was the one who confirmed this.
Avoiding Jury Duty Tip Number 2: Lie on the Summons
Again, these jury summons are sent out in bulk. While a little less ethical than simply ignoring the summons, it does guarantee you will not see one for a long time by checking one of the boxes that exempts you from jury duty. Obviously, selecting deceased may raise suspicion but other check boxes such as being a student or being the parent of a newborn are selections many people choose even if they are not true. The bailiff told us that selecting student was very common and the best one to choose if someone did this. Student is very broadly interpreted at times. I may not be enrolled in school but I am a student of life, after all.
Get out of Jury Duty Tip Number 3: Be a Completely Negative Person
If you show up to your summons, as some states are much more apt to force you to do, you can still beat jury duty by being negative. Not mean, nor a curmudgeon, simply give answers to questions that you know will get you excluded. The lawyers on a jury are looking for rational human beings capable of ignoring any biases they may have so they can look at the facts presented and render a verdict based on those facts alone. If you can’t do this, you will be excluded. If you don’t have strong opinions either way and want to be successful at beating jury duty, you need to decide on some.
For example, in the murder trial I sat on, there were many interview questions where I could have answered more strongly that would have likely had me excluded. An example that came up was the question “have you ever been the victim of a crime?” to which I answered “yes.” The follow up question is where I failed to get myself kicked off the jury. The attorneys will ask “Will that experience affect your ability to listen to evidence and not assume the person is guilty because he has been charged with the crime?” My honest and given answer to that was no; however, a yes would have all but guaranteed that I would have been excused. The catch here is that if there is a suspicion that you are lying about your answers, there can be consequences; contempt of court type consequences which could be a fine or even jail time so you must be subtle if you opt to use this method.
While I do not condone skipping jury duty, it is a big inconvenience for most people. Time must be taken off from work and while you cannot be fired for serving on a jury, there are people who find themselves out of a job weeks or months later because of their non-vacation that they took. That said, if you can serve on a jury, please do so. My peers are the ones who always try beating jury duty which is sad because I would much rather have them serving should I ever go to court than some of those who willingly show up and lie to get on jury panels so they have something to do for a week, not to mention some income and free lunches.