Is It Possible To Get Out of Jury Duty in West Palm Beach?
Gregg Hollander | October 27, 2022 | Florida Law
Jury service is a civic duty that helps keep Florida courts in check.
Every day, thousands of Sunshine State residents are summoned to serve on criminal and civil trials. While some cases may last only a few hours, complex matters have the potential to take weeks or even longer to resolve.
Due to the time-consuming nature of jury service, many people across West Palm Beach may wonder how they can get out of service.
If you’ve received a jury duty summons in the mail, you should know about your options for requesting an excusal or postponement. Failure to respond to a summons can result in serious consequences.
Jury Duty in West Palm Beach, FL
Jury service is an essential court function that relies on randomized members from the community to make informed decisions about the outcome of cases. From felony crime trials to personal injury claims, jurors are tasked with making critical decisions to determine the outcome of a case.
In Palm Beach County, the following elements make individuals eligible for jury service:
- At least 18 years old
- A United States citizen
- Lives in Palm Beach County
- Has no felony convictions or pending criminal matters
When Florida residents apply for a state ID, their names and addresses are entered into the jury pool. This means selection can happen anytime, often when you least expect it.
Although hundreds of people show up each day to serve on Palm Beach County trials, due to the limited number of actual jury seats, most people are usually dismissed through the initial jury selection process, called “voir dire.”
Depending on the trial you’re assigned to, voir dire can vary slightly, but the process generally consists of attorneys for both parties asking questions and dismissing jurors until they’ve reached the required number. Should an attorney suspect some type of bias, they will likely request that you be sent home.
Excusals for Jury Duty in Florida
School, work, family, and other activities can make serving on a jury difficult. Whenever this happens, you may wonder if you can avoid going to court altogether.
In Palm Beach County, various recognized reasons make individuals automatically exempt from serving on a jury:
- Expecting mothers
- Anyone 70 years or older
- Stay-at-home parents of children six years or younger
- Full-time law enforcement officers
- Caretakers of medically or mentally incapacitated individuals
- Students aged 18 to 21 attending classes full-time
- People who served on a Palm Beach County jury within one year of summons
Generally, a jury summons is dated with plenty of time to contact the courts and request an excuse, should you meet any exemptions. In Palm Beach County, excusal requests for jury service can be made in writing or submitted through the county’s website. You may have to provide evidence to support your excusal.
If your reason for skipping jury service isn’t listed under Palm Beach County statutes, you can still file a request, though the decision is up to the judge’s discretion.
Some common reasons people may request to be excused include:
- Work or financial hardship
- Lack of reliable transportation
- Non-English speaker
- Personal hardships
Should you receive a summons that interferes with important matters, you can also file up to two postponements. While not everyone may always get out of service, the courts can be flexible regarding dates to accommodate your attendance.
What Are the Consequences of Skipping Jury Service?
In Florida, failure to respond to a jury summons has serious consequences.
When you fail to show up, the judge may issue a contempt of court charge. This will require you to attend a separate hearing and explain your situation.
Depending on the circumstances, some outcomes of contempt of court hearings include:
- Financial penalties
- Community service
- Jail time
Failure to attend a contempt court hearing will likely result in a warrant being issued for your arrest.
If you believe you have a viable reason for avoiding jury service, make sure to submit your request for excusal before any deadline listed on the summons.
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