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A personal finance guide to jury duty

Any financial advisor with a pulse will tell you to stash away emergency funds. You may not necessarily have 'jury duty' in mind for these so-called rainy days, but you should. 

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Any financial advisor with a pulse will tell you to stash away emergency funds. You may not necessarily have "jury duty" in mind for these so-called rainy days, but you should. About 1.5 million of the 32 million summoned end up on juries, according to the National Center for State Courts. No citizen is immune — pop singer Taylor Swift was dismissed from serving in August 2016, and then-presidential candidate Donald Trump was similarly let go in August 2015 — but some are more prepared than others for the incidental costs, such as transportation and meals, as well as potential loss of income.

Your Employer

The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that 87% of employers give paid leave for jury duty, at least covering the gap between an employee's pay from the court and the employee's regular salary. More specifically, according to the Department of Labor, federal law and that of some states does not require your employer to do so.

That said, employers can be fined for attempting to issue any sort of punishment, such as termination, to an employee who has been burdened by a jury summons or selection. It's best to remain communicative with your employer as soon as you receive your summons. Then you won't need to get your own lawyer.

But if you're not a full-time employee, you're in a more precarious situation, potentially missing out on projects or missing deadlines without any safety net.

Your Pay

Like your regular income, whatever you earn from your local government for showing up to court or serving on a jury is taxable. Below is what states pay their jurors. Some pay an immediate daily rate even if you're just going through the motions of voir dire; others increase this rate the more days you are asked to return to the courtroom. (It's worth noting that, according to the Department of State, the average criminal trial spans five days and the average civil trial concludes after four.)

State Daily Payment Days to Get Rate
Alabama $10  
Alaska $25 1
Arizona $12  
Arkansas $50  
California $15  
Colorado $50 3
Connecticut $50 5
Delaware $20 1
District of Columbia $30  
Florida $30 3
Georgia Varies by county  
Hawaii $30  
Idaho Varies by county  
Illinois Varies by county  
Indiana    
Iowa $50 7
Kansas $10  
Kentucky $12.50  
Louisiana $12  
Maine $15  
Maryland $15  
Massachusetts $50 3
Michigan $40 1
Minnesota $10  
Mississippi Varies by county  
Missouri Varies by county  
Montana $25  
Nebraska $35  
Nevada $40  
New Hampshire $20  
New Jersey $40 3
New Mexico Federal minimum wage (hourly)  
New York $40  
North Carolina $40 5
North Dakota $50  
Ohio Varies by county  
Oklahoma $20  
Oregon $25 2
Pennsylvania $25 3
Rhode Island $15  
South Carolina Varies by county  
South Dakota $50  
Tennessee $10  
Texas Varies by county  
Utah $49 1
Vermont $30  
Virginia $30  
Washington $10-25  
West Virginia $40  
Wisconsin Varies by county  
Wyoming $40  

Arizona and Oklahoma are among the states to offer higher daily rates, as much as $350, as part of "Lengthy Trial Fund" programs. Colorado and Connecticut are among the states to put the initial onus of payment on the jurors' employers.

In the case of being called to come to a federal court, you could be paid $40 per day of service and $50 after you accrue 45 days on a grand jury or 10 days on a petit jury.

No matter where you serve, see if your local government provides reimbursements for incidental costs like transportation (perhaps in the form of a per-mile rate) and meals. For example, D.C. offers its jury members a $4 travel subsidy.

Whether you're a salaried executive or a fast food worker on an hourly rate, it's best to prepared to take a massive pay cut, even if only for a few days.

Getting out

There are many ways to get out of serving on a jury, but only a few of them pertain to your wallet.

Have a cacation planned? Your state probably includes an exception with the language of "undue hardship or extreme inconvenience," allowing you to apply for a deferral instead of going through the hassle of rescheduling your already-made plans. (If you purchased traveler's insurance and don't mind postponing your trip, your policy may provide benefits for cancelling due to jury duty.)

Apply for economic (or medical) hardship by bringing your tax (or medical) records and financial statements with you on day one. Your business can't function without you? Enlist your employer to make a strong case to the presiding judge that you should be excused or have your day in court postponed.

There's one bad personal finance decision you can make — not responding to a summons at all. In Texas, for example, doing so could result in a $100-to-$1,000 fine.

This story originally appeared on ValuePenguin.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

 
 
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