Stephen Hasner | Georgia Law | March 6, 2020
It may be tempting to skip jury duty, but it is not advisable. Not showing up for jury duty can have severe consequences and penalties. While you might not enjoy the thought of serving on a jury, you may have no choice but to serve as a juror.
Eligible residents in Georgia can serve of criminal cases. They can also serve in civil cases, such as a personal injury case. While you can serve in both federal and state courts, we will limit our discussion of jury duty to state court.
Penalties for Not Showing Up for Jury Duty in Georgia
A Jury Summons is a court order to appear for jury service. You should read the entire summons and any letter or documents accompanying the summons. Failing to read the summons or other documents is not a valid defense for skipping out on jury duty.
You must respond to the jury summons. Even if you have a valid reason for not serving on a jury, you must answer the summons. The jury summons provides the contact information for the Clerk of Court and instructions on how to respond to the summons.
Failing to respond to a jury summons or show up for jury duty generally results in contempt of court. The judge may issue an order requiring you to appear at a hearing to explain your absence. You could face fines, jail time, or both for ignoring a jury summons.
Who Can Serve on a Jury in Georgia?
Jurors for cases heard in Georgia state courts are chosen from a master jury list. The court compiles the list of potential jurors from individuals living in Georgia who are registered voters, have a state identification card, or a driver’s license.
The qualifications for a juror in state court are:
- United States citizen
- Resident of Georgia
- Live in the same county as the court that is hearing the case
- Understand and speak English
- An adult 18 years of age or older
If you meet the above qualifications, you can serve on a jury. However, you may get out of jury duty if you are disqualified or meet one of the exemptions from serving on a jury.
Can I Legally Get Out of Jury Duty?
There are ways you get legally get out of jury duty in Georgia. You can be disqualified from serving on a jury for a variety of reasons. You may also be excused from serving on a jury.
For example, some individuals are automatically disqualified from serving on a jury. Anyone with a felony conviction cannot serve on a jury unless his or her legal rights have been restored. Also, a person who is incompetent because of a physical, mental, or cognitive condition or illness cannot serve on a jury.
The attorneys representing the parties in the case may also request to strike a person’s name from the jury list for cause. An example would be a member of MADD or SADD who may potentially hear a drunk driving case. The attorney for the defendant may request the court remove the person from the jury pool for cause.
You may be excused from serving jury duty in Georgia’s state courts for several reasons. Examples of reasons for excusal from jury duty include:
- You are 70 years of age or older;
- The sole caregiver for a child who is six years of age or younger;
- The sole caregiver for a person who is permanently disabled;
- Full-time student; or,
- A home study program teacher.
You may also have a valid excuse from service on a jury if your doctor signs an affidavit stating that you cannot serve on a jury because of a medical condition.
Also, if you are mentally or physically disabled, you may be exempt from jury duty. An exemption from jury duty exists for military men and women during active service dates.
Postponing Jury Duty
In some cases, a judge may postpone your jury duty instead of excusing you from jury duty. A judge might also postpone jury duty if you have a valid reason for requesting a deferment to another session of court. In most cases, a judge only grants one deferment or postponement per juror.
Check with the Clerk of Court
Each court may have various rules and procedures for jurors. For instance, most courts have rules regarding electronic devices, parking, and attire. It is wise to check with the Clerk of Court for the court in which you are to serve as a juror if you have questions about jury duty.
When in doubt, call the Clerk of Court’s office. It is better to ask questions before the deadline to report for jury duty than to be in contempt of a court issued summons for jury duty.