Summoned for Jury Service? Your Age May Get You Excused

Lady of justice statue, blindfolded and holding scales.In many states, seniors have the right to request an exemption from jury duty based on their age. However, the age limits and rules vary by state and by the type of court that summons you. So, if you find yourself summoned for jury duty, you will need to check with the court to determine whether you can be exempt.

Most states have a rule in place that allows individuals over a certain age to choose not to serve on a jury if called. Again, how this works varies by state and by court.

Some states allow anyone over a certain age to be permanently exempt. Others allow seniors to opt against serving if they receive a summons. Certain states require notice in writing; other states have a box the senior can check on the jury summons form.

Jury Duty at Age 70: Is There a Jury Duty Age Limit?

You may become eligible to serve on a jury as of the age 18 or 21, depending on where you live. The upper age limit for serving on a jury also can depend on your state. The ages at which seniors may be able to opt out of the jury pool are as follows:

  • Age 65 (Mississippi and South Carolina; Note that legislators in South Carolina introduced a bill in 2023 that seeks to change the upper age limit in this state to 75.)

  • Age 70 (Alabama, Alaska, California, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Illinois (varies by county), Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Nevada, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Virginia, and West Virginia)

  • Age 72 (North Carolina, North Dakota (must submit a request in writing), and Wyoming)

  • Age 75 (Arizona, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, and Pennsylvania)

  • Age 80 (Arkansas, Hawaii, Maine, and South Dakota)

Some states have more complicated rules regarding seniors and jury duty. Here are some examples:

In Nevada, everyone over age 65 who lives 65 miles or more away from the court is exempt from serving on a jury. Once you reach age 70 in that state, you are exempt from serving on a jury no matter where you live.

In California, individuals with a permanent health problem or disability may be able to decline serving on a jury. However, if you are 70 years or older, you don't need a doctor's verification of the health problem.

Other states, such as New York, do not have an upper age limit in place.

Each of the federal district courts has its own rules about jury service. Many federal courts offer excuses from service, on individual request, to designated groups, including people over age 70.

What Is Jury Duty?

Jury service allows American citizens to take part in the government’s judicial process. Under law, as a citizen of the United States, you must answer a jury summons.

The justice system randomly selects potential jurors from among residents in a given state who meet certain criteria. For instance, to qualify for jury service, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old (or 21, depending on your state)
  • Be a registered voter
  • Be a proficient English speaker
  • Have a driver’s license

Prospective jurors for a case are then narrowed down during the jury selection process to those who are determined eligible to serve. In certain circumstances, the court may release you from jury duty. So even if you have received a summons for jury duty, you may not ultimately end up sitting in on a case. Again, note that laws regarding jury duty and applicable exemptions can vary by state.

In serving as a juror, you might hear a criminal case or a civil case. You are responsible for listening to the evidence in a case. You and other members of a jury must then decide fairly about the case based on the evidence shown.

What Happens If I Miss Jury Duty?

Failing to report for jury service is against the law. If you receive a summons, be sure to mark your calendar. You will receive notice weeks, and often months, in advance of when you will need to appear. Ignoring your summons may result in a fine, and if you do this numerous times, you could even face jail time. 

Not Excused From Jury Service? Consult With an Elder Law Attorney

If you are a senior summoned for jury duty and want to know your rights, consult with a qualified elder law attorney near you. Elder law attorneys will be familiar with your local regulations. They may also be able to provide helpful guidance on other important issues affecting seniors, including:

  • long-term care services
  • estate planning
  • guardianship
  • Medicare benefits
  • plans, or applications, for Medicaid
  • veterans benefits
  • and more