How to Get Out of Stuff: Jury Duty

In 1995, fresh off his success in the hits Encino Man and Son in Law (where he played the delightful character ‘Crawl’), Mr Pauly Shore, comedian / actor / legend, starred in the movie Jury Duty. It was about an unemployed, lazy stripper (!!) who finds out that if he is selected for jury duty on a murder trial, he can earn $5 a day and get a free room at a local hotel, and all he has to do is watch a trial.

Needless to say, hilarity ensues, and he finishes up with the girl of his dreams, the innocent are freed from the clutches of prison, and the guilty are punished by the blind warrior that is the criminal justice system in America. I watched this movie way too many times.

I think it is fair to say that this fine movie is a highly fictionalised work that does not truly capture what it is like to be called upon to participate in a jury trial.

It does not show the stress involved in getting a summons letter requiring that you attend a jury selection process, nor the feeling of dread that comes with having to tell your boss and co-workers that you will need to take some unexpected time off work and will need everyone else in the team to carry your matters while you are gone. Given that most law firms seem to judge people badly for taking a lunch break, the idea of one to two weeks off to go to jury duty is, understandably, a point of friction for most workplaces.

The movie also places way too much emphasis on how supposedly awesome it is to be part of a jury. It doesn’t show the disruption to normal routines, the mad shuffling and juggling of family responsibilities, or the incredible boredom that comes if you are ultimately selected to be on a jury.

So, today, I want to give you an overview on the ways in which you can try and get out of your civic duty to form a panel of your peers on a jury. I understand how horrible it can be, and want to make sure you know what to do if and when your time comes.

Of course, I am not saying you should not do your civic duty of forming a jury of your peers. I am just saying there are good reasons not to, if you qualify.

Quick note, this applies to New South Wales only. Other States and Territories are on their own on this one.

You must have a ‘Good Cause’ to be excused

It is getting harder and harder to get out of jury duty, if you are called. Back in the day, it was sufficient to simply say that your work commitments would not allow you to participate without adversely affecting your career. Now, since changes to the law around jury trials and supposed ‘protections’ against recrimination from your employer if you do need to miss work to attend a jury trial, work commitments are not sufficient to give you a ‘good cause’ to be excused from a jury trial.

Instead, you must be able to fall within one of the following exemptions:

  • jury service would cause undue hardship or serious inconvenience to you, your family or the public. Politicians love to use this one, leading to hilarious jokes about how it would be more convenient to the public if they did have to be on a jury rather than in Parliament. Oh, political humour is the best humour. So elitist and patronising;
  • you have a disability that makes you unsuitable or incapable of effectively serving as a juror, without reasonable accommodation. This really relates to reasons of mental illness rather than physical illness in most cases, as particularly in personal injury matters the person claiming damages for injury will want a jury that is made up of people with physical injuries that might be more sympathetic to the injury claim;
  • there is a conflict of interest or some other knowledge, acquaintance or friendship that you have which may result in your being perceived as lacking impartiality as a juror. So fortunately, my brother can’t be on the jury that sends me to the gallows (and I KNOW he would if he could, just for fun); or
  • you must have a permanent mental or physical impairment that makes you incapable of doing jury service or that would injure your health if you do jury service.

Other grounds for being excused, if you are desperate

The sheriff of the court (who is the person making the ultimate decision as to whether you can be excused or not) may also consider excusing you in other circumstances, including if:

  • you are a sole trader or contractor – YAY, I could use this one if I had to;
  • you have care of school aged children and are unable to make alternate care arrangements. Kids are useful for something, apparently;
  • you are in an advanced stage of pregnancy and/or are having medical difficulties during your pregnancy. A medical certificate is required though, as apparently a pregnant belly is not sufficient evidence;
  • you have a medical condition which would make jury service onerous. I can’t even think of what medical condition would cover this, other than death or near death.
  • you are an emergency service operational employee. These guys are heros, and they should not need to do anything they do not want to do;
  • you are enrolled in education and need to attend lectures or exams, or are living outside your jury district to undertake studies. This would be the one time students might actually choose to go to lectures;
  • you have a mental or physical impairment. Note: being too lazy to participate does not, as far as I can tell, qualify you for this exemption;
  • you are absent from New South Wales (why would you want to leave our fine State?!);
  • you have transport difficulties, such as unsuitable or unavailable public transport (this should apply to everyone in Sydney); or
  • you are unable to read and understand English (which would make it difficult for you to read this blog post as well, so this one is pretty much for reference purposes only).

 

You might be able to be excused from jury duty – now what?

To claim an exemption from jury duty, you need to put together evidence to support your claim (see above), and lodge it all through the New South Wales Jurors’ website at juror.nsw.gov.au or send it in physically to the address that’s on the back of your jury duty summons. Electronic is easier.

The most important things to remember are:

  • you have to lodge your claim at least one week before the date you’re meant to rock up to court for the jury selection process; and
  • you need to get confirmation from the Office of the Sheriff that you have been excused. Much like breaking wind in a crowded lift, please don’t assume you’re excused just because you don’t hear anything.

 

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How to Get Out of Stuff: Speeding Fines

Sorry for the lack of posts recently, dear reader (yes, all one of you – hi Mum). Our little family has been moving home and oh boy was it a delight. There were lows and lows, bad times and bad, darkness at the end of the tunnel, and I may have verbally abused a retiree. Who completely deserved it!

To make up for my lack of posts recently, I want to try and give something back to you all, so will spend some time over the next 2 weeks writing about various ways you can hopefully get out of things you don’t want to do, or that generally just suck. To be clear, I am focussing on using the law to get out of stuff or minimise its impact. I am not talking about getting out of cleaning the bathroom or going to work. There are some things in life that are just unavoidable and you will need to be just accept it.

However, there are other bad things in life that it might just be possible to get out of with a little bit of effort or knowledge of the way the law works. If I really try hard, I hope I can write semi-coherently and give you some guidance in a few of these areas, particularly where I’ve used these tips myself to get out of bad stuff that has happened to me.

First up – what you can do to get out of a speeding fine and loss of demerit points. And more importantly, how to get out of one if you do get done.

Now, a couple of quick qualifications. Firstly, I’m just covering New South Wales law here. Unfortunately I don’t know enough about the way the speeding laws work in other States and Territories to offer any advice on how to get out speeding fines anywhere else.

Secondly, don’t speed. It is dangerous and there are speeding cameras everywhere.

Thirdly, I offer no judgement on the morality of some of these options. If you want to use the summaries below in contravention to the law, that is between you and your soul.

To begin, there is a formal list of ways you can get out of a speeding fine. These are:

  • The penalty notice was issued contrary to law;
  • The issue of the penalty notice involved a mistake of identity;
  • The penalty notice should not have been issued, having regard to exceptional circumstances relating to the offence;
  • A caution should have been given instead of a penalty notice, having regard to the relevant caution guidelines;
  • The person to whom the penalty notice was issued is unable, because the person has an intellectual disability, a mental illness, a cognitive impairment or is homeless
    • to understand that their conduct constituted an offence, or
    • to control such conduct.

I’m not going to cover all of the above, but rather focus on the three that are most likely to apply to the average person who isn’t speeding to hospital with their pregnant wife, or has an evil twin.

 

Option 1 – Blame it on someone else

Ah, a classic. This option involves you nominating someone else as the driver of the car at the time the speeding offence was committed.

Two points I need to make very clear, at this point:

  1. It is illegal to nominate someone else as driving your vehicle at the the time of the offence if you were actually the one driving, so no blaming an former lover or some person from work you don’t like; and
  2. It is illegal to agree to be nominated as the person driving if you weren’t actually the one doing it, so if your grandmother (to take an example not at all related to my particular father’s mother) is on her last point of her licence, it would be illegal for me to say I was the one driving her car if and when she gets done for speeding the next time.

This also won’t work if the police pull you over for speeding. This one is strictly for when you get a notice in the post saying ‘too fast buddy’ (story of my life).

If you really were not driving at the time the offence was committed, you need to lodge a statutory declaration with the State Debt Recovery Office, which is currently in the form available on this page. There are different forms for individuals and companies, so make sure you grab the right one. You have to get a Justice of the Peace or a lawyer to certify it for you though, so I hope you know someone that can do this (or just ask me).

You’ve got 21 days to lodge the notice, and the State Debt Recovery Office assumes you received the notice 7 days after it was posted, regardless of whether you actually physically collected the notice or not.

Now, one last tip on this one, and this is all purely for educational purposes only. Foreign persons who are visiting Australia may borrow your car at some stage, and they may speed in it just before they go back home to, say, Germany. There is nothing stopping you nominating this person as the one who committed the offence, so long as this is the truth. The State Debt Recovery Office will then have to make an assessment on whether to pursue a foreign resident over the other side of the world for a speeding fine, and it’s not like they have a New South Wales licence to deduct points from. Like I said, EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY. Danke schön.

Option 2 – Take it to court

You always have the option of trying to plead not guilty to a speeding offence, and if you get done for doing 30 kilometres an hour or more over the limit, this is pretty much your only option if you want to avoid having your licence suspended.

To be clear, if you have been given a ticket by the police, and they were using a speed camera, your chances of successfully getting a not guilty pleading upheld are zero. Not close to zero, not 1 time in 100, but zero. So suck it up and be glad Sydney is getting a light rail system at some point. Besides, think of all the interesting people you’ll meet on public transport, and the various smells you won’t experience anywhere else.

To start this process, turn your speeding ticket over, and fill in the details to enter a plea of not guilty. That will start a formal court process, and if you know one, now is a really good time to get a lawyer with local court criminal hearing experience.

You’ll front up in court, and try (or get your lawyer to try) and get the charge of speeding dropped. Reasons might include evidence of a faulty fixed speed camera, mitigating circumstances, or you might have a really good alibi.

The court will either say you’re full of poo and find you guilty, and you’ll be disqualified from driving and have to pay court and legal costs. It’ll suck.

Your one hope here is you get what is colloquially known as a ‘section 10’, which means your case would be dismissed under section 10 of the Crimes (Sentencing Procedure) Act. This is pretty much a ‘yeah, you did it, but you’ve demonstrated to us that you’re not a bad egg so we’ll let you off this one time’ order. You might not even get your licence disqualified if you get one of these orders. The key here is to get as many good references from reputable people as you can, and any evidence to show you’re a valuable member of society and have learnt your lesson. The more people like you, the better.

Me? I’m friendless so I’d have no hope of getting a section 10.

Option 3 – Get out of Jail Free Card

There is one other good option, but you have to make sure you meet certain specific criteria first:

  1. You have to have held a driver’s license for 10 or more years and not had any demerit points off ever.
  2. You didn’t get done for going 30 kilometres or more over the limit.
  3. You didn’t get done in a safety zone, like a school zone (although you will earn my respect if you drive recklessly through a school zone. Stupid kids).
  4. There is nothing to suggest you were a little drunky or high at the time.
  5. You have always had a New South Wales licence, although you can rely on an interstate licence and a clean record but need to get evidence of this from the other State’s roads and traffic office.

Meet these criteria? Hey, good for you! I did once upon a time too, and I successfully used this option to get out of a small speeding fine during a double demerits long weekend. Please believe me when I tell you it is a great feeling to get a notice from the State Debt Recovery Office saying you’ve been given a ‘Caution’, rather than having to pay the fine and having points deducted from your licence.

To apply for this Caution, you need to submit an appeal with a letter that covers all of the five points online at: http://www.sdro.nsw.gov.au/fines/pn/review.php. You attach it to the application for review, which is available here. Don’t get creative or write a post as long as this one (sorry). Just list the above criteria and how you satisfy them. You should just be able to write ‘I have had a clean licence for 10 or more years, and understand the seriousness of the office I have committed. I can assure you it will not occur again and I request you exercise your discretion to grant me a caution in this particular circumstance.’

The legal result of this ‘Caution’ is that the speeding penalty notice is held to have been issued correctly and it is recorded that the offence occurred, but due to the circumstances and evidence provided you have now been issued a caution.

This is a one shot deal. Use it wisely and don’t waste it. If you get done for speeding for the first time and don’t use it for that offence, you can’t save it up for future speeding offences.

Finally, this caution will be recorded on your driving history.

Hope that helps. Next up? How to get out of jury duty.