Every U.S. citizen will at one point or another be called for jury duty. Whether or not you actually have to attend will depend on the case and if it’s settled before the court date. As an American, jury duty is a civic responsibility and you are required, by law, to show up if you are called. There are, however, legal ways to get out of jury duty, including military service, attending school out of state, and proven financial hardships.
What is Jury Duty?
Jury Duty is, in short, your duty as a U.S. citizen to serve as a juror if requested. When you are called for jury duty, you will receive an official summons to attend the selection process at a specific date, place, and time. Upon arrival, you will be asked to fill out a questionnaire before participating in the actual selection process. Oftentimes, a court case is settled before the jury selection ever happens, and in this case you will be notified that you are not needed.
Do I Have to Go to Jury Duty?
You, by law, are required to attend jury duty when you are called. Federal laws help to protect the employee and require your employer to give you time off to attend jury duty, as well as require them to have your job available for you when you return. Some states try to protect the employee even more and prohibit employers from taking this time off from their vacation, sick, or personal leave. However, your employer is not required to pay you for this missed time. While you do get jury pay, if you believe that excessive time off work for jury duty will lead to financial hardship, you can request a postponement for duty. The pay rate for jurors depends on the type of jury you are on, and whether you actually get selected.
What Happens If I Don’t Show Up For Jury Duty?
If you fail to report to jury duty without an approved exemption, you can be fined or held in contempt of court. This is considered illegal, and your personal appearance before the court will become mandatory. In the state of Tennessee, you may be found in civil contempt of court and can receive a fine of up to $500, plus the cost of the show clause order. If you end up serving out your summons, the penalty can be reduced to $50.
How Can I Get Out of Jury Duty?
Tennessee has a list of eligible excuses to legally get out of jury duty, either completely or for postponement. The most common excuse is the inability to attend for geographical reasons, such as active military and college students who do not currently reside in the state. Financial or physical hardship is also a common excuse, either for the person summoned or someone in their care. In this instance, you may be asked to provide income tax returns, proof of dependency, or an affidavit. There may also be exceptions for mental and physical disabilities that make citizens incapable of participating in a jury. Invalid excuses, however, include having a job or a pre-planned vacation.
Although being summoned for jury duty does not always mean you will actually serve on a jury, you should make arrangements and be prepared for the predetermined day as far in advance as possible. Notify your job, your family or caregivers, and collect your excuse documents if you need to send them in. Have additional questions about jury duty and whether you are eligible for an exemption?
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