Called for Jury Duty? You May Be Excused Based on Your Age

Lady of justice statue, blindfolded and holding scales.In many states, seniors have the right to decline jury duty based on their age. But the age limits and rules vary by state and by type of court, so if you are summoned for jury duty, check with the court to determine if you are exempt.

The majority of states have a rule in place that allows individuals over a certain age to choose not to serve on a jury if called. How this works varies by state and by court. Some states allow anyone over a certain age to be permanently exempted; other states allow seniors to be excused from serving if they are called. Some states require notice in writing; other states have a box the senior can check on the jury summons form.

What Is the Jury Duty Age Limit?

It depends on your state. The ages at which seniors can be exempted or excused are currently as follows:

  • Age 65 (Mississippi and South Carolina)

  • 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, Indiana, Missouri, New Jersey, New Mexico, Ohio, and Pennsylvania)

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

Some states have more complicated rules regarding seniors and jury duty. In Nevada, for example, everyone over age 65 who lives 65 miles or more away from the court is exempted from serving on a jury. Once you reach age 70 in Nevada, you are exempted from serving on a jury no matter where you live. In California, individuals with a permanent health problem can be excused from jury duty, but if you are 70 years or older, you don't need a doctor's verification of the health problem.

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. You are legally obligated to answer a jury summons.

Potential jurors are selected at random from among those individuals in a given state who meet certain qualifications. For instance, to qualify for jury service, you must:

  • Be at least 18 years old
  • Be a registered voter
  • Be a proficient English speaker
  • Have a driver’s license

Prospective jurors for a case are then narrowed down to those who are determined eligible to serve. In certain circumstances, you may be excused 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.

You may be selected to serve as a juror on a criminal case or a civil case. As a member of a jury, you are responsible for listening to the evidence in a case and, with your fellow jurors, making an impartial decision about the case based on the evidence that has been presented.

What Happens If I Miss Jury Duty?

Failing to appear for jury duty is against the law. If you receive a summons, be sure to mark your calendar. You will be notified weeks, and often months, in advance of when you will be scheduled to appear. Ignoring your summons may result in a fine, and if you do this numerous times, you could even face jail time. Read about a case that explains why age might be a factor in a jury trial.

If you are a senior summoned for jury duty and want to know your rights, consult with an elder law attorney near you.