You reach your hand into the mailbox only to pull out the most dreaded letter feared by all adults: jury duty. Immediately, you start calculating how to get out of what already feels like a life sentence to you. Rest assured, there are ways to not only avoid jury duty, but to do it legally.
New York State currently offers you a one-time postponement which you can do online or by calling in at least one week before you are expected to serve. If you ever request another postponement or excusal, the process becomes slightly more complicated because you will need to contact your local Commissioner of Jurors Office. They may ask for proof. If you have documentation detailing a medical or financial hardship that prevents you from serving, these could be submitted to your local Commissioner of Jurors Office, states nyjuror.gov. If you are already selected as a juror and serving, there is a process that has a slim chance of dismissing you without any legal repercussions but still carries a number of risks.
It seems like a no-brainer but the one thing you have to do as a juror is to pay attention to the proceedings going on. It is the only way you will be able to make an informed decision at the closing of the trial. But let us say you were daydreaming or worse, caught full-on dozing during the trial. If this is the case, then the defendant’s counsel could claim misconduct on your behalf. The Sixth Amendment completely grants the right of a fair and impartial jury to the accused. The Fourteenth Amendment briefly discusses the right to due process of law. These are rights each defendant enjoys. If a defendant feels their trial is being compromised by your lack of attentiveness and they make the effort to call you out on it, you can be dismissed. The process, though, is not as easy as surfing through social media during the trial and hoping to be discharged from jury duty. The defendant would first need to notice your behavior and from there, obtain eyewitness statements or affidavits from those in the courtroom to prove that you indeed missed extremely pertinent information to the case. It gets one last determination from the court.
Your aim may be to be terminated and replaced without any trouble but while this is an option, you could also be held in contempt. The judge could also just issue a warning remark to the jury to prohibit this kind of behavior for the remainder of the trial. If none of those options occur, a mistrial or new trial is granted. This process does not guarantee you will get out of serving and carries repercussions you may not be comfortable with.
A more surefire way to be exempt from serving jury duty comes with age. In New York, if you are 75 years of age or older, you may be excused from jury duty at your request. No medical excuse is required.
While these tidbits of information offer a potential way out, nyjuror.gov would like to remind us that “Jury duty, like paying taxes, is mandatory. Skipping jury duty can result in civil or criminal penalties. In addition, anyone who skips jury service will be assigned a new date for future jury service.” So buckle up. If you are a citizen and 18 years of age, have not been convicted of a felony and can communicate in English, be ready for jury service.
Dana Mathura is a senior at Baruch College majoring in Communication Studies and minoring in Journalism, class of Spring 2019. Dana has written for the online publication Odyssey and is currently a News and Feature Writer for Caribbean American Weekly, as well as Workers World Today. Her work has been published both in print and online. Fascinated with journalism from a young age, she is an aspiring Broadcast News Analyst, hoping one day to write her own memoir. Dana’s interests include fashion, photography and film.