Serving jury duty is a civic duty, but it's not always feasible. Work, childcare, illnesses and other duties can get in the way of serving. Courts might summon you, but they do understand that people have busy lives. They can't always get to the courthouse and serve indefinitely if selected.
An excuse letter can sometimes help you legally get out of this duty if you have a legitimate reason not to attend.
Check Your State and Federal Exemptions
Simply not wanting to be on a jury isn't a legal excuse for dodging the duty. You must have a reason that the court will accept.
Check which court sent your summons. It might be federal, state, or county. Then check the corresponding laws for a list of legitimate jury excuses. For example, you might be excused from federal court jury duty if you're an active military member or employed as a police officer, firefighter or public official. Exemptions for state courts vary, but some of the more common include medical, financial and family issues.
Finding Guidelines for Acceptable Reasons Not to Attend
You might claim financial hardship as a reason not to attend if you're the only worker in your household and missing work would dock your pay. If you care for children or sick family members at home, you can tell the court that you have no other means for caring for these people. If you have a mental or physical disability that keeps you from performing any part of a juror's duty, or if you don't live in the court's jurisdiction, you can write an excuse letter. Some courts will allow you to at least postpone jury duty if you have a previously scheduled trip away from the area, but this simply kicks the can down the road.
Call the number on your summons for the most accurate and detailed information on the court's accepted excuses. The court clerk might be able to save you some time by telling you if your excuse is valid and where to submit your letter.
Where to Find Jury Duty Excuse Forms or Letters
Some states include excuse forms with their jury summonses. Start here if yours has such a form or a link for an online version. There's usually no reason to submit an additional letter when you complete this form, but you must write a letter yourself if you don't live in a state that provides these forms.
Every jury excuse request is considered on an individual basis, but some general guidelines apply. Start by including the date, your mailing return address and your juror number. Your letter can be informal, but it should begin with a declaration of your inability to serve as a juror. For example, you can say something as simple as, "I am requesting deferral/excusal from jury service."
Explain Your Excuse
Detail your reasons for requesting an excuse from jury duty. Include reasons why you can't serve. If it's your workplace’s policy that your employer won't pay for days lost due to jury duty, you can cite this and explain that serving will cause you financial hardship. Back up your excuse with documentation, such as a statement from your employer or a copied excerpt from your employee handbook.
Be sure to suggest a new date that's more workable for you if you're requesting that your jury service be delayed.
Hope for the Best
Proofread your letter and make a copy for your own records. Mail or fax it to your court. Wait to hear back from the court on its decision as to whether officially release you from jury duty. Follow up with a phone call if the jury administrator doesn't reply within a reasonable period of time.
No response is a good response in some states – the clerk of the court will only respond if your request has been denied. But don't just assume that you're off the hook if you hear nothing.