How to Avoid Jury Duty

Written by Brian Newman

As you are flipping through the mail, sorting out the bills from the advertisement, you see a strange envelope. You open it up and, surprise, surprise, you have been picked for Jury Duty. This happens to almost everyone and everyone has the same two feelings about it: dread at the time involved and a feeling that, somehow, this is their duty.

Living in modern society has its price, and Jury Duty is simply a part of that cost. Should you feel that the cost is too high, should you wish to avoid the burden, the following tells you the best way to escape.

If you have just received the Jury Duty letter, DO NOT fill it out and DO NOT return it. The letter will, no doubt, inform you that not returning the form is a criminal offence, subject to various penalties. You can safely forget about those penalties. Each batch of mailed out Jury Duty forms gets about an 80% return rate. The 20% not answering include those who have moved, who have not picked up their mail or who do not, for whatever reason, want to get involved.

Almost always the 20% who do not answer are completely ignored and their names are removed from the process. Very rarely, a second request is sent out. The threatened penalty of criminal charges are so rare as to be virtually unheard of. In the extremely rare event of a "crack down" on people ignoring the call for Jury duty, the people in the Judicial process will have to prove that you received their notice. Normally this is done by sending a registered letter, something that has to be signed for.

All adults should have two `signatures', one good for cheques, contracts and credit cards, and another illegible one for anything you are not certain about. If you chose not to return the Jury Duty form, sign any future unexpected registered mail with a meaningless scrawl. The odds, however, of you receiving future mail from the Judicial process are extremely slim.

Perhaps you are one of the 80% who does answer and perhaps you have already sent back a completed form. Returning that form enters your name in future drawing process for possible future jury members.

If your name is picked, you will receive another letter, demanding your presence at a location noted in that letter. A penalty for not doing so will be spelled out. Again, a certain percentage (usually less than 10%) do not show up and generally one of the following things will happen:1. They are ignored.2. Their names are placed back in the lottery for future jury duty. Or,3. They receive a registered letter or a police visit asking why they did not show up.The letter, if signed for with that illegible scrawl, can be ignored. A police visit means show up next time, exactly as told.

Various regions have assorted ways of running the Jury Duty lottery. With any luck, you will be passed up. Receiving the second letter, asking for your presence (generally at the courthouse or at a hotel with the needed space) is your entry into a further lottery. In what can be a long and boring day, groups of people are picked for possible jury duty. Likely a Judge will speak or a film shown, thanking you for being there, outlining what may be ahead for you and congratulating you on being a fine citizen.

Fine citizen you are, but you can still very easily get out of this process. If you are picked as a potential juror, the Judge and lawyers for the prosecution and the defence will ask you a number of questions. Both lawyers have a number of opportunities to remove people from the potential jury and it is rather easy to get them to give you your freedom.

Each time a lawyer tries to pick people they think will agree with their side in the upcoming case. Both lawyers will approach all potential jurors as if they are long lost friends. This gives you a great chance to escape.

As soon as you see the lawyers for the prosecution and for the defence, pick one, or both, as a potential `enemy'. The stronger you can feel the emotion, the more powerful your body language is. Shake your head, glare, make faces. The lawyers and any staff with them are carefully noting all reactions by all potential jurors. They are trying to pick out any prejudice against them, against their client or even against their case. Showing a prejudice, even if you do not have one, gets you quickly out of the courtroom. Almost all lawyers will excuse any potential juror who they cannot see as a potential friend. Their questions will be delivered with so much fake charm and friendliness as they can master.

The Judge may ask questions of his own. For example, in a case involving car theft, the Judge may ask all potential jurors if they have ever been a victim of that type of crime. Even if you give a positive answer to that type of question, the Judge will only ask if that experience will influence your decision in the case they want you to hear. No matter your answer, the Judge makes his own decision on if you stay or go. Your answer to that second question may, however, cause either the prosecution or the defence to want you excused.

Almost sure to get you off, is a loud "What?!" after any question, from anyone, to anyone. You will be quickly asked if you have a hearing problem. Yell out "What?!", make them repeat the question and then loudly say that you do not have a hearing problem. No lawyer wants to yell throughout the case and a fake hearing problem does wonders to get you out.

Normally, financial concerns will not get you out from Jury Duty. Check with your employer to see if you will continue to get a pay cheque (a surprising number of companies do pay you while on Jury Duty). If not, this knowledge will aid your skill in acting the part of a juror neither side wants.

Health matters are more of a concern. If you are receiving any type of medical treatment, or if you will in the near future, a Doctor's letter will allow you to escape. Many have claimed non-existent health problems, often on the original letter form asking them to report for Jury Duty. As a firm rule, the Judicial system does not check on any claim of health concerns. Most Doctor's will supply a letter to excuse their patient, because of `stress', `headache' or even `inability to concentrate'. However a loud "What?!" to your Doctor will only result in an unnecessary hearing test.