How To Get Out of Jury Duty

Jury Service as a Civic Duty and a Privilege

Your participation is important to Texas!

Both the Constitution of the United States and the Texas Constitution guarantee the right to a trial by jury. That right has long been considered a fundamental safeguard of each American’s civil liberties. With your participation as a Texas juror, our constitutional right to an impartial jury is protected. As noted by the Honorable Tom C. Clark, Texan and former justice of the United States Supreme Court, “The jury system improves the quality of justice and is the sole means of keeping its administration attuned to community standards.”

Jury service is a privilege that offers the average citizen an unequaled opportunity to influence and deliberate over fundamental matters of justice. As a juror, you are in a position of responsibility. You will need to be fair, impartial, and be willing to make decisions that are not based on your personal feelings and biases.

“The men and women who are called upon to serve on juries in both our federal and state courts have maintained a standard of fairness and excellence throughout the history of our country. They have demonstrated a vision and a will toward the administration of justice that is a wellspring of inspiration.”

-U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren (1962)

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16. Are jurors subject to search when entering a court facility?

All jurors entering the courthouse are required to go through a weapons screening process conducted by the Sheriff’s Department. If you have items that are not allowed, you may be asked to leave the courthouse and return without them. For a list of prohibited items please click here.

How Long Can You Expect to Serve on a Jury?

It completely depends on the type of case which you are assigned. You can receive civil or criminal jury duty.

Just because your assignment is civil does not mean that it will be for a shorter period of time. Jurors often serve weeks on a complex civil case when there is a high-stakes trial.

There are some jury cases that could be done in a very short period of time, even as little as a day.

The defendant may even change their plea to guilty at some point during the proceedings.

On the other hand, some criminal trials can last weeks or months.

You may even end of sequestered and away from your family, depending on whether the judge believes that you need to be cut off from the outside works in order to render an impartial verdict in a trial.

What to Do After You Receive a Jury Summons

You will receive the notification of a jury summons by mail (that has not changed, even with e-mail).

When you see the envelope marked “summons,” it is bound to get a strong reaction. Nonetheless, it is a legal duty and something that must be taken seriously. Service as a juror when called is a legal obligation.

Every jury summons will come with a date. This is when you must report to the courthouse for service. It is important to be on time because it can be a long day.

It used to be that you had to call the night before jury duty to learn of the numbers that would be called. With the advent of the internet, the process has changed.

Now, you can check the official website to learn ahead of time whether you must report to the courthouse on the day of the summons.

Sometimes, the court does not need as many people as have been called because of the trial schedule for the day. Then, you get out of jury duty without even needing to show up in court.

Make sure that you have cleared your calendar at least for the day of the summons.

You should also review your coming engagements and schedule to see if jury duty would be overly burdensome for you.

If you have anything on your plate at work, you should plan ahead for how the job will get done when you are out of the office.

What Happens If You Miss Jury Duty?

An individual who misses jury duty could face severe charges. Penalties vary by state and could range from jail time to hefty fines. Check your county's listings for more details on the potential consequences of missing voir dire or jury duty.

To prevent this from happening, call the courthouse or provide notice online at least one week before your summoned date of service. You may then reschedule your jury duty for up to 2 to 6 months after your original date. This will leave you in good standing with the law.

For a great, more detailed explanation of what can happen, see the article: What Happens If You Miss Jury Duty?

Jury box, Jackson County Courthouse, Edna, Texas, USA

Patrick Feller on Flickr

There you have it. Being a juror isn’t all that bad unless you're participating in a special case. And if you simply can’t serve on a jury, try using one of these proven excuses and exemptions!

Rules of Juror Conduct in Civil Cases

(Supreme Court Rule of Civil Procedure 226a)

The judge will instruct you to adhere to the following basic rules:

  • Do not mingle with nor talk to the lawyers, the witnesses, the parties, or any other person who might be connected with or interested in the case, except for casual greetings. They will have the same instructions and you will understand it when they do.
  • Do not accept from, nor give to, any of those persons any favors however slight, such as rides, food, or refreshments.
  • Do not discuss anything about this case, or even mention it to anyone whomsoever, including your wife or husband nor permit anyone to mention it in your hearing until you are discharged as jurors or excused form this case. If anyone attempts to discuss the case, report it to the judge at once.
  • Do not even discuss this case among yourselves until after you have heard all of the evidence, the court’s charge, the attorneys’ arguments and until I have sent you to the jury room to consider your verdict.
  • Do not make any investigation about the facts of this case. Occasionally, we have a juror who privately seeks out information about a case on trial. This is improper. All evidence must be presented in open court so that each side may question the witnesses and make proper objection. This avoids a trial based upon secret evidence. These rules apply to jurors the same as they apply to the parties and to me. If you know of, or learn anything about, this case except from the evidence admitted during the course of this trial, you should tell me about it at once. You have just taken an oath that you will render a verdict on the evidence submitted to you under the judge’s rulings.
  • Do not make personal inspections, observations, investigations, or experiments nor personally view premises, things or articles not produced in court. Do not let anyone else do any of these things for you.
  • Do not tell other jurors your own personal experiences nor those of other persons, nor relate any special information. A juror may have special knowledge of matters such as business, technical or professional matters or he may have expert knowledge or opinions, or he may know what happened in this or some other lawsuit. To tell the other jurors any of this information is a violation of these instructions.
  • Do not discuss or consider attorney’s fees unless evidence about attorney’s fees is admitted.
  • Do not consider, discuss, nor speculate whether or not any party is or is not protected in whole or in part by insurance of any kind.
  • Do not seek information contained in law books, dictionaries, public or private records or elsewhere, which is not admitted in evidence.

At the conclusion of all the evidence, the judge may give you a written charge that asks you some specific questions. Because you will need to consider all of the evidence admitted by the judge, it is important that you pay close attention to the evidence as it is presented at trial. You will not be asked, and you should not consider, whether one party or the other should win.

Note that jurors and others can be called upon to testify in open court about acts of jury misconduct. As a result, you need to follow all of the jury instructions given by the judge throughout the case very carefully.

Ask to be excused if you cant make it to court

In very rare cases, if it would be an extreme hardship for you to come to the courthouse at all to ask to be excused, you can submit a written request to be excused under OJC Regulation 9. Common difficulties such as inconvenience, no childcare, or business obligations don’t qualify. The regulation applies to cases such as:

  • People living in religious orders that restrict outside travel 
  • People with rare medical conditions that prevent them from leaving their homes

If you believe you qualify for an extreme hardship disqualification, you must explain your circumstances in writing, sign it, and send it to:

Operations Manager Office of Jury Commissioner 560 Harrison Avenue, Suite 600 Boston, MA 02118

You should submit your request at least 30 days before your date of service to allow time for review, action, and notification of decision.

How Long Does It Take to Complete Jury Duty?

Jury duty may be a short commitment, or it may be a long one. The average juror will serve three to four days on trial, and many jurors will be in and out after only a one-day or two-day commitment.

If you are unlucky enough to find yourself on a long, drawn-out case (like a serious crime or a major civil dispute), you may end up working on that case for months, but that is very rare. Jury service is very unpredictable, and that is why so many people are eager to get out of it.

21. Why do I always get summoned but other people don’t?

The process of summoning jurors is random. If you have already responded to a summons or have served in the past 12 months, call the court at (619) 844-2800 from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday and 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. Friday. Explain to the staff person that you have been summoned twice in 12 months.

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