In the US, jury duty is obligatory for everyone aged 18 years or older because civil courts and the criminal justice system need jurors to resolve cases.
However, some people wonder if they can be excused from jury duty or what would happen if they didn’t show up.
At Schmidt & Clark, we’ve been advising people on jury duty summons for more than two decades. Today we’ll discuss everything you should know about missing jury duty.
Summary of the Key Findings
- Jurors are selected from registered Motor Vehicles Records in their county.
- You have to meet certain requirements to be selected for jury duty.
- Skipping jury duty can result in consequences such as a fine or jail time.
- There are several valid reasons you can use to get out of jury duty.
Jury Selection Process and Obligations
Serving on a jury is a civic duty, and it’s an important part of the judicial system in the US.
If you receive a jury summons, it doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll have to sit on a jury trial. In fact, most jurors who get summoned don’t sit on a jury.
Once you get the summons, you have to show up for jury selection, where you fill out a questionnaire.
Whether you’ll get selected for jury service depends on your questionnaire answers.
If you aren’t selected for serving on a jury, you can go home. If you’re selected, you have to be available on the court date for the entire duration of the trial.
When the trial starts, your chances of being excused from serving on jury duty are almost non-existent.
If you have a driver’s license or ID card and are of a certain age, you’re on the list of potential jurors.
You have to meet certain requirements to serve on a jury:
- Be a US citizen
- Be at least 18 years old
- Have an understanding of English
- Not be under prosecution at the time of the summons
- Live in the judicial district for 1 year
Consequences of not Showing up for Jury Duty
You are under obligation to respond to a jury summons, even if you have a reason not to serve.
If you fail to respond or show up for jury service, you’ll be in contempt of court.
The judge may ask you to show up at a hearing to explain why you were absent, and you could face a fine or spend time in jail.
In many states, such as California, nothing will happen to you for skipping jury duty one time.
You’ll get a second summons, which will include a warning stating that if you skip jury summons again, you’ll get a fine .
The second summons can be sent at least 90 days after the first time you miss jury duty.
If you show up after the second summons, you won’t face any penalties.
Note: Fine for missing jury duty also depends on the court. Some courts are more strict and will issue a fine after the first missed jury summons.
If you skip jury duty, the consequences are the following, ranked:
- Nothing will happen
- You’ll be summoned again
- A judge may issue an order to show cause
- The court can issue a bench warrant. In this case, a police officer will come to your home, and they can put you in custody. You’ll need to appear before a judge.
Valid Reasons to Avoid Jury Duty
You can be disqualified or excused from serving jury duty, but you need to give a valid excuse, and it has to be done in advance.
The most commonly accepted excuses are:
- You’ve served in jury duty in the last 12 months
- Financial hardship and loss— if serving will cause you financial loss or hardship, you can be excused
- Medical reasons
- Dependent care — if you are caring for someone and can’t make other arrangements, you’ll be excused
- You’re a full-time student
- You’re a home study program teacher
- You’re involved in ongoing criminal cases
- You have a felony conviction
- You’re 70 years of age or older
- You don’t have transport to and from the court
- You have physical or mental incompetency
- You’re the only caregiver of a child 6 years old or younger
- You’re on active military duty
Also, the attorney in charge of the case may strike a name from the jury pool if they have just cause, in which case you’ll be excluded from the list of prospective jurors and not asked to serve.
There’s a certain time period where you can postpone jury duty — one month, three months, six months, and a year.
Note: If you request your jury duty to be postponed, you’ll likely get a summons from the jury department again in the future.
What’s the Fine for Ignoring a Jury Summons?
The fine for ignoring a jury summons goes from $100 to $1,000. You can also be asked to do community service or face jail time.
How Often Do I Have to Serve on Jury Duty?
You have to serve on jury duty once during a calendar year. In reality, people serve less frequently than that. Some people never get the summons.
Get Advice from an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer
You should have a basic understanding of what will happen if you don’t go to jury duty.
The consequences can range from being in contempt of court and getting a fine to having to perform community service or spending time in jail.
You can avoid serving on a jury if you have a valid reason not to appear when summoned. If you’re not sure whether your reason is valid, consult a lawyer.
At Schmidt & Clark, we pride ourselves on every attorney-client relationship.
If you have to serve on a jury or need help with the legal process after not showing up, we can help.
Contact us as soon as today for a free consultation and get advice regarding your case.