Many Americans have had the honor of being called for jury duty. A trial by jury is guaranteed in the U.S. Constitution; this kind of legal agreement has a long history that dates to 12th century England. Juries are called upon to make life-changing decisions, so each juror must be qualified before serving. While many Americans are capable of carrying out the duties of a juror, certain factors may disqualify a particular citizen from participating in this aspect of democracy.
You must be over 18 to serve on a jury. A minor is not qualified for jury duty.
Citizenship and Residency
All jurors must be U.S. citizens. You should be prepared to provide documentation of your status in the event that you are called for jury duty. You may also be subject to a residency requirement and may be disqualified if you have not lived in the jurisdiction for a sufficient period of time.
Jurors must read and write well enough to fill out forms related to their jury duty. In addition, jurors must speak, read and write English.
Felons, unless they have had their civil rights restored, cannot serve on juries. States vary on the methods felons can use to restore their civil rights; felons should check with their parole officers for information on this process.
Mental or Physical Issues
Those who are not capable of a juror's duties by reason of health are disqualified from participating in jury duty. Check with the court clerk for specific information on your situation.
Anyone holding public office, whether elected or appointed, cannot serve on a jury. This disqualification extends to all levels of government, from local to federal.
Policemen and Firefighters
If you work as a police officer or a firefighter on a full-time basis, you are disqualified for jury duty.
Armed Forces Personnel
Anyone in any branch of service cannot participate in jury duty. Only active duty personnel are disqualified.
Some people may disqualify themselves from serving on jury duty by taking advantage of an exemption; these exemptions must be specifically requested. Each court jurisdiction has different qualifications, but in general, persons older than 70 are exempt from serving jury duty. In addition, people caring for children under 10 or the elderly may be exempt from jury duty. Previous service in a similar type of jury can exempt you from serving again for a period of time. Volunteer safety personnel can qualify for an exemption. If your business will cease to function as a result of your jury duty, you may be able to claim exemption from jury duty. Check with your court clerk for specific guidelines and procedures for voluntary disqualification.
Monika Weise has been a writer of both fiction and nonfiction since 1988. Her diverse experience includes publishing fiction in "Secrets" magazine, writing plays for the Live Wires acting group and creating manuals for area businesses. Weise is working toward a Bachelor of Arts degree in anthropology at Indiana University-Purdue University, Indianapolis.