It's a letter most people are afraid to get in the mail: the letter informing you that you must complete jury duty. Most people do not like setting aside time to potentially serve on a jury; it can feel inconvenient and scary. Much of that fear, however, actually comes from uncertainty. If you learn a bit more about the jury selection and jury duty processes, your sense of dread and frustration may ease up. Here are three things you need to know if you just received that dreaded jury letter.
1. You may not be selected at all.
A jury duty letter does not automatically mean you will have to serve on the jury. It just means that your name is going into the hat as a potential participant in the jury. Look at the letter closely, and there should be a number for you to call. Call that number, which is typically the number for your local courthouse, and they will inform you if and when you need to report for jury selection. Sometimes, not everyone who gets a letter even has to appear for selection. Even if you do have to go to the courthouse for selection, only a few of those who show up will ultimately be chosen.
2. Certain people can be excused.
If serving on the jury is a huge inconvenience for you and will present considerable hardship in your life, you may be able to get the jury selection committee to excuse you. "I would rather do my job" and "I don't want to look for a babysitter" are not strong enough reasons for exclusion in most cases. However, if you are the caretaker for an elderly person and nobody else can provide their care, you are self-employed and don't have anyone else to do your work, or you have a physical disability that will make sitting in the court painful, you may be excused. Talk to the jury selection team about your problem, and they'll help guide you.
3. Not all court cases are murder and burglary trials.
You may fear that you'll be on a jury that has to decide the fate of a potential murderer or hardened criminal. But while this type of case is often tried by a jury, the vast majority of cases are much more mundane. Chances are, if you are selected, you'll be sitting through a trial about a property dispute, someone who fell in a parking lot, or a dog who bit a neighbor. If you're scared of guts and gore, know that you probably won't have to face this fear in jury duty. If this type of thing really does bother you mentally, you may even be able to get a doctors' note excluding you from the jury.