The right to trial by jury is a central right upon which the United States judicial system depends. Unfortunately, the low pay, inconvenience and boredom associated with jury duty cause many people to avoid it. Highly educated, fair-minded and culturally competent people often avoid jury duty despite the fact that they might bring fairness and insight to a criminal or civil case. Being self-employed does not excuse a person from jury duty, though in some cases self-employment might be a factor judges consider in excusing jurors.
Jury Duty Qualifications
Being 18 isn't enough to qualify for jury duty, and many people may be able to get out of jury duty because they are unqualified. In order to serve on a jury, a person must be a U.S. citizen, reside in the district for at least one year, speak English, not currently be facing felony charges and must not have ever been convicted of a felony. If a person has been convicted of a felony but has had her civil rights restored, however, she is eligible for jury duty. A self-employed person who does not meet these qualifications can avoid jury duty.
There are only three situations in which a person will always be exempted from jury duty. Firefighters and police officers are exempt if they are employed as officers and not just volunteers. Military troops on active duty are also exempted from jury duty. Finally, full-time officers of federal, state or local governments do not have to serve on a jury. Because self-employment does not fit into any of these categories, it does not afford an automatic exemption.
Being self-employed will never provide a jury duty exemption without some extenuating circumstance. There are several situations in which a self-employed person may not want to serve on a jury but will likely still have to. Not wanting to give up work income, a busy schedule or concern about the length of the trial are not valid excuses. People employed by a boss are legally permitted to participate in jury duty without consequences to their employment status. Because the self-employed person is his own boss, however, no such exemption is available to him. This may pose a difficulty for self-employed people who must cancel plans with clients or delay projects, but this hardship is considered minimal and will not get you out of jury duty.
Any exemptions that do not fit inside the legally mandated three are at the sole discretion of the judge. In some cases, an attorney may ask to dismiss you if she believes your self-employment prejudices you against her client in some way. For example, a man suing a small business might prefer not to have small business owners on the jury panel. Judges also offer exemptions if jury duty will pose an extreme hardship. If you are the sole worker in your business and your business will not be able to function without you, you may get out of jury duty. Illnesses and disabilities may also excuse you in some cases.