Legitimate Reasons for Excusal from Jury Duty in Florida State Court
Being summoned for jury duty is a random process that may someday happen to you. And while it may be tempting to put that letter away in the 'ignore' pile, you should never ignore a jury duty summons. Just like paying taxes, jury service is a mandatory civic duty. The right to be tried by an impartial jury of one's peers is the basis of our judicial system.
Since a jury duty summons is essentially a subpoena from the court, you are legally obligated to appear, and ignoring the summons can lead to you being held in contempt and being sentenced to jail. While taking the time to serve may be an inconvenience to the majority, you must either do your civic duty and attend or have a legitimate excuse for not being able to do so. Usually, most excuses will only postpone your service temporarily, not indefinitely.
The following are reasons a person may be excused from jury service:
- A showing of hardship or extreme inconvenience - good examples are a person that just started a new job and fears losing it, a person in financial straits that would be unable to pay his or her bills if required to serve, etc. However, if a person has a job that pays for jury duty during the entire time of service, most judges will not excuse that person from jury service under the hardship or extreme inconvenience category.
- In state court, if a person has been summoned for jury service and reported, that person is excused for one year from further state court service.
- An expectant mother or a parent who is not employed full-time and who has custody of a child younger than 6 years of age is excused from service. This request should be made prior to reporting for jury duty to avoid wasting your time and unnecessarily going to court and losing half a day.
- A person 70 years of age or older is excused from jury service.
- There are certain persons who are disqualified from serving. Any person who has been convicted of a felony is disqualified unless their civil rights were restored.
- A person who is the caretaker for someone who is physically or mentally incapacitated and who is unable to care for herself or himself is excused from jury duty upon request.
- Full-time state, federal, or local law enforcement officers are also excused.
- A person with a pre-paid vacation or essential business plans that cannot be canceled may be excused.
- A person dealing with a serious illness, if the person has essential doctor's appointments that he or she can't miss and needs to attend or that person's health may be jeopardized.
- A person suffering from narcolepsy may be excused, or if a person works nights and will be unable to stay awake during the trial.
- A person who is physically unable to sit for long periods because of pain may be excused.
- A person who needs to take frequent breaks for any reason may be excused.
- If a person is on any medications that will not allow him or her to concentrate or to comprehend the issues in the case, that person may be excused.
- If a person is unable to understand or speak adequate English to understand the issues in the case or to communicate with the other jurors in deliberations.
- Sometimes jurors will be excused if they cannot serve for a lengthy trial, but may be sent back down to the jury room to potentially be sent up to another judge's courtroom.
- A person who is biased or prejudiced against any of the parties, or regarding the type of case, or has any financial interest in the case may be excused.
- If a person is somewhat closely related by family to anybody involved in the case.
- If a person knows any of the witnesses who may testify in the case.
If you have a legitimate reason to be excused from jury duty, you can write to the court with your request for excusal, which can simply be made on the form that you get when you receive the summons. You can also submit your request electronically through the website of the clerk. The clerk may then grant a postponement. Excuses 2, 3, 4, 5, 6 and 7 above should be automatic excusals if you simply complete the form and send it in electronically or by mail. Make sure you take action in a timely manner; otherwise, you may have to unnecessarily waste a day and give your reasons in person at the courthouse. But you need to either be excused, or show up, or you can be in big trouble with the court.
Click here to view the 2009 Florida Statutes regarding jury service.
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