Serving on a jury is a legally enforceable, civic duty and the fact that you are an independent contractor doesn't automatically excuse you from this obligation. You may, however, be able to defer your jury service to a time convenient for you. Some courts may also allow you to request an exemption from jury duty if you can show that serving would cause you, or your family, undue hardship.
In the United States, adult citizens who have not been convicted of a crime have an obligation to serve on a jury upon request. This is because defendants in court cases have a right to trial by jury: If citizens don't serve as jurors, the court system can't operate properly. The clerk of court in your jurisdiction will usually notify you by mail that you must appear for jury duty on a particular date. Jurors usually receive minimal compensation for their work, sometimes as little as $10 per day, which can create a financial strain for independent contractors, the self-employed, or those who are employed by companies that do not pay employees during periods of jury service.
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Many court systems allow you to defer jury duty if necessary. If you can't immediately serve on a jury, follow the instructions on your jury notice for requesting a deferment. In some areas, you can do this online or by calling the courthouse. The court representative that you speak to, or the automated system that processes your request, may be able to tell you when you will next be eligible to be called for jury duty. If possible, plan for the possibility for being called again for jury service by increasing your savings.
Courts generally do not release potential jurors from their responsibilities without good cause, and work-related excuses are often not sufficient for receiving an exemption from jury duty. If you are certain that serving on a jury would have a significant, negative impact on your finances, the court may give you the opportunity to explain your situation. Each court operates differently, but you may be able to offer an explanation in writing, on the phone to a court representative or to a judge when you arrive to court for jury selection.
Do not ignore a summons to jury duty. Doing so can result in your having to pay fines, which can be as high as $1,000 in some areas. You may also be charged with contempt of court.
- State of Connecticut Judicial Branch: Frequently Asked Questions About Jury Duty
- Palm Beach County: Court Services; Jury Duty
- King County Superior Court: King County Superior Court; Jury Service -- Frequently Asked Questions
- Minnesota Judicial Branch: Frequently Asked Questions
- Superior Court of California, County of Los Angeles: Jury, Learn More
- Legal Explorer: Legal Q & A; Answering Your Questions About Jury Duty
- United States Courts: Juror Qualifications, Exemptions and Excuses
- FindLaw: Time Off for Voting and Jury Duty