Is It Possible to Get Out of Jury Duty?
Ryan Bradley | September 19, 2022 | Missouri Law
Jury duty is a civic service designed to keep the courts in check and ensures trials are fairly decided.
Each day, hundreds of St. Louis residents are called to serve on juries in both civil and criminal trials. While some trials may only last one or two days, others may be complex cases that last weeks or months to resolve. Many people across Missouri wonder if they can get out of jury duty.
If you’ve been summoned for jury duty in St. Louis, learn more about how you may be able to bypass the process.
What Is Jury Service?
Jury service is a court process that selects members from the local community to sit in during trials, listen to the evidence, and decide the verdict.
In Missouri, anyone who meets the following description is eligible to serve on a jury:
- At least 21 years old
- A United States citizen
- A resident of the county or city where summoned
- Has no felony convictions
- Can read, understand, and speak English
Should you fit the description, your name and address are likely in your local jury pool, and you can be summoned anytime.
In a Missouri jury summons, you’ll first be asked to fill out and submit a questionnaire with basic information about yourself.
When you arrive at court on your scheduled date, hundreds of people may be in a similar situation, though only a select few will be chosen to stay in court and serve on a trial.
In most cases, individuals will be dismissed (or stricken) during the jury selection process, also known as voir dire. Attorneys may ask you to answer a series of questions and share your opinion on topics related to the case. Whenever an attorney suspects any bias, they can ask the judge to send you home.
Valid Reasons to Get Out of Jury Duty
Though jury duty may be important for many individuals, scheduling, work, and other preoccupations can make serving challenging.
The following are some valid exemptions that the Missouri courts consider:
- Anyone who served on a jury in the past two years
- Mothers who are nursing
- Medical professionals
- Religious leaders
- Anyone whose absence from their job could negatively affect public safety, welfare, or interest
- Individuals with disabilities, both physical and mental
- Active military personnel
- Convicted felons
In most cases, you’ll have plenty of time between receiving a jury summons and showing up to court. You should submit any appeal to the court promptly.
Not everyone may have the same reasons to skip jury duty. Although your reasoning may not fall within a specific category of exemptions, you can still file a jury duty excuse letter and explain your situation. A court may still approve your request to skip jury duty if you have a valid reason. Some situations that may result in an approval include:
- Financial hardships
- Difficulty with transportation
- Advanced age
- Natural disaster
- Death in the family
Additionally, if you want to serve on a jury but cannot do so during the scheduled time, you can request a postponement through the court.
What Happens If You Skip Jury Duty?
Failing to appear for jury service in Missouri is against the law and is punishable by the state courts. You face a civil contempt charge when you don’t show up for jury duty, which may land you a fine of up to $500.
If you’re summoned for federal jury service, you face fines of $1,000 and can be punished with jail time and community service.
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