Whether you can get excused from jury duty because you're an independent contractor depends on how you articulate the reasons why jury duty would seriously impact your schedule and, thus, your earnings and livelihood. That being said, remember that the justice system depends on everyone fulfilling their civic responsibilities, regardless of how they work or where.
Courts obtain the names of potential jurors from their state driver's license records and voter registration rolls. Some states consider jury duty one of the most important civic duties a citizen has, while other jurisdictions consider it a crime if a citizen ignores a summons to appear for jury duty. In any case, you must respond to the summons for jury duty because it's an official order from the court. It's not unlike other summons that require you to appear before the court, such as a summons to testify in a trial. You wouldn't ignore that kind of summons, so neither should you ignore a summons for jury duty.
If you're an independent contractor with another source of income, such as a full-time job, it could be difficult convincing the judge to excuse you from jury duty. The judge might see your freelance or independent contractor work as a business venture that you can afford to put aside while you fulfill your civic responsibility of serving on a jury. And because employers cannot penalize employees for jury service, you cannot base your justification on being fearful that you'll lose your other source of income. The employment-at-will doctrine prohibits employers from terminating an employee who exercises her rights under public policy, and jury duty is considered one of those rights.
Although an independent contractor and a sole proprietor are virtually the same, the better your explanation that your livelihood rests entirely on your ability to work every day of the week, the more likely you are to convince the judge to excuse you from jury duty. For example, if you're the sole proprietor of a business that requires your presence on a regular basis and you have no one who can take your place, you could present a persuasive argument. You're seeking an excuse based on the hardship it may create for you financially, therefore, you should have documentation or a well-constructed explanation that specifically addresses how jury service would impact your life and work. But whether you'll be successful in convincing the judge to excuse you also depends on the rules of the court where you reside. Some jurisdictions have strict guidelines for being excused from jury duty. For example, if you want to be excused from jury duty in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California, you must provide information to document the type of financial hardship that jury service would create, such as household income, expenses and dependents.
In addition to your independent contractor status, you may have other circumstances that when combined would make it difficult for you to serve on a jury. For example, you may be committed to a project and cannot back out of it or unable to suspend your work on the project to fulfill your jury service. If you will be out of town for business reasons, you could present evidence of your travel plans and work status to the judge for consideration. Even with combined circumstances involving your independent contractor status, work commitments and travel arrangements, there is no guarantee that you will be excused from jury duty.
Ruth Mayhew has been writing since the mid-1980s, and she has been an HR subject matter expert since 1995. Her work appears in "The Multi-Generational Workforce in the Health Care Industry," and she has been cited in numerous publications, including journals and textbooks that focus on human resources management practices. She holds a Master of Arts in sociology from the University of Missouri-Kansas City. Ruth resides in the nation's capital, Washington, D.C.