6

I have a mental disability called high-functioning autism. The biggest relevant effect is an increased social ineptitude, to the point that even thinking about the possibility of having to do jury duty gives me stress and anxiety about the many ways I could make a faux-pas without even realizing it.

I don't want to debate the merits of doing jury duty and doing your civic duty. I am sure that some people consider it an honor, but I would rather never have anything to do with it. I know there's not much chance of being summoned for jury duty in Belgium, but suppose I do get a summons, what ways are there for me to avoid having to sit through the case?

4

The details depend on jurisdiction, but all jurisdictions I know of will excuse jurors if they are medically unfit for jury duty.

So the best option would be to try and obtain a medical/psychological certification that you are not fit for jury duty. Of course this assumes you have someone (such as your psychologist, your psychiatrist or your general practitioner) who is willing to write such a certification. Also, find out what it takes for this to be accepted by the court; for example, must it be from a physician, can it be from a psychologist?

Finally, if you are honest with the authorities, you will hopefully be excluded. Keep in mind that the court system needs reliable jurors; if you have a nervous breakdown in court, that could cause a mistrial with significant cost, it's in the court's best interest to avoid that.

5

I cannot speak for Belgium but in general there are ways to be exempted from jury duty. This is self-evidently the case as there must be ways of excusing people who are, for example, chronically ill or so severely disabled that they cannot function as jurors. I am sure that a quick search on the Belgian court's website will have this all explained.

To illustrate how this works for another jurisdiction (NSW, Australia):

  • Everyone enrolled to vote (which is compulsory) is eligible to be placed on a jury panel for a period of 3 years. Only people on the panel are called to act as jurors.
  • If you are selected, you have the opportunity to ask to be excused for a number of reasons including: being a lawyer, being a NSW government employee, being a member of the NSW parliament, having a physical or intellectual disability which would make you unsuitable, being over 80 years old, being already on the panel etc. The Sheriff will consider your application and either excuse you from the panel or not.
  • If you are on the panel you can expect to be called for service once a year on average (3 times per empanelment). When you are called you can ask to be excused from that particular call for a number of reasons: medical conditions, pre-existing travel arrangements, work or study commitments etc. The Sheriff will consider your application and either excuse you from that call or not.
  • If you are not excused you must attend the court. After the charges are read the judge will ask if anyone has a reason for being excused; now you can make your case in person to the judge and they will either excuse you or not.
  • If you are not excused, you still may not end up on the jury due to being challenged by either the defence or the prosecution or because the jury is filled before your turn comes up; there are typically about 40 potential jurors available to fill a 12 person jury.
  • 1
    I've been called (U.S.A.) six times, serving only the first. After the juror interviews for the second call, and after being excused, I realized that it was because I answered truthfully and directly. Since then, I've seen that strongly held beliefs are almost necessarily rejected by one party or the other. The beliefs themselves are effectively irrelevant. The idea has bothered me for the past 30 years or so. You almost only need to know your own beliefs and to know solid reasons why. – user2338816 Sep 30 '16 at 6:43

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