Did you know that an average of 32 million Americans get summoned for jury duty each year? That is 15 percent of the adult population in the US, and if you are a citizen, you will most likely receive a jury duty summons at some point in your life.
Not everyone does end up serving on a jury, however. If you have ever asked yourself “What happens if you miss jury duty?” There are some things you’ll want to know, especially if you live in California.
Many may be ecstatic to serve their country by being on a jury to decide important cases. However, there are others that don’t want to exercise this civic duty, and would want to use as many excuses as possible to get out of jury duty. If you receive a summons in the mail asking you to appear for jury duty, the Court is most likely waiting for a response.
What is jury duty?
Jury duty is an American duty where citizens are required to serve on a jury in court and decide on an outcome of the case. While on a jury, citizens are expected to be impartial. Many citizens are called to serve on a jury through physical mail sent to their home. California citizens must serve on a jury once every twelve months. But, this does not mean that you will be called every year. In Los Angeles, 30% of jurors fail to show up once they are summoned for jury duty.
Since people accused of a crime have the right to a trial by jury, citizens have an obligation to serve as jurors. To notify you that you may need to serve as a jury member, you get a jury duty summons. Getting a jury duty summons does not mean that you will necessarily be chosen as an active juror. You may not even end up in the jury pool.
If you get a summons for jury duty, it will usually be to a court near where you live. It is always wise to call the court to make certain that you need to show up. When you arrive at the court, you will have a questionnaire to fill out. The answers you provide will determine if you are eligible to serve on the jury. Those people who are not selected are sent home while those who are will have to be available for the entire length of the trial.
How has covid-19 affected jury duty?
Around October 2021, several Courts opened back up after being closed for months during the covid-19 pandemic. Currently, cases are physically being tried in courts, especially in California, and so many cases require jurors. However, many potential jury members are opting out of serving on a jury because of their fears for covid-19.
What kind of cases will I sit in as a jury member in California?
Juries are called to hear two different types of cases: civil and criminal cases. The dream must make a unanimous decision in court. In criminal cases the prosecution must bring enough evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In civil cases, the party bringing the food, also known as the plaintiff, has a standard of proof for a preponderance of the evidence.
- Civil cases are those in which one party sues another. Examples of civil cases include car accidents, traumatic brain injury accidents, slip and fall accidents, etc.
- Criminal cases are those where the prosecutor of California is charging someone for a specific crime. Examples of criminal cases include charges for murder, robbery, battery, etc.
How does jury duty work?
You most likely will receive a summons in the mail to your registered residence calling you to be on a jury at a specific courthouse near you, along with the date and the time you should show up. When you arrive at court on the specified date and time, you will most likely be given a questionnaire. This is the first step of the jury process.
In most jurisdictions, such as Los Angeles County, potential jurors must have to call in or check their online juror portal the night before to determine if their services will be needed. Jurors can also request a postponement for a convenient time. California, compared to other states in the United States, will most likely need a valid reason for the postponement.
Does my employer have to pay me for jury duty?
The federal labor standards act does not require that employers pay their employees for jury duty.
What are valid reasons for missing jury duty in California?
There are instances when missing jury duty is valid. Some of the reasons that can allow you to avoid reporting for jury duty are:
- Financial hardship
- You have served on a jury in the past 12 months
- Medical emergencies and other medical reasons
- You care for a dependent
- Military status (deployment)
- Public necessity
- Full-time student status
- Felony convictions
- You are 70 years of age or older
- Physical or mental incompetency
- You are a home study program teacher
- No transportation to and from court
- Any other reason the court approves
If you need to miss jury duty, you have to make a request to the court. Most of the time, the instructions for doing this are in the jury duty summons. Provide any proof that you have that can show the request is a valid one.
The court will decide if the reason is valid or not at its own discretion. To be certain of whether or not you can apply to be excused, turn to a lawyer for help.
What happens if you miss jury duty?
Missing jury duty can have a number of consequences with varying degrees of severity. There are different actions the court can take depending on the state and even the judge since they have the discretion on how they want to handle the absence.
In California, for example, not showing up for jury duty is considered contempt of court which, under California Code of Civil Procedure § 1218 can mean a fine of $1000 ($1500 in Los Angeles) and/or days in jail. Contempt of court means that you are defying the court’s authority or impeding the court’s duty to perform as needed. Below are the different possible outcomes that you could face when missing jury duty in California.
1. Nothing Happens
If you forget a jury summons or if you ignore it, there is a chance that nothing will happen the first time you do so. Although it is a possibility, it is not something you want to depend on.
2. New Summons
It is much likelier you will receive a second summons quickly after the first one. Different states have varying regulations on how often a person can be called for jury duty, but if you missed the first summons the court will usually bypass the waiting period.
In the second summons, you will get a warning which tells you if you miss jury duty again, you will receive a fine. Some courts are stricter than others and you may get fined after the first missed summons.
3. Judge May Issue Order to Show Cause
In these circumstances, an order to show cause requires that you appear in court and explain why you did not show up for jury duty. If you receive an order to show cause, you need to consult with a qualified lawyer who can help you prepare for this hearing.
4. Bench Warrant
The court can also issue a bench warrant if you do not show up for jury duty or do not show up for the order to show cause. Police officers or other law enforcement officers will go to the address on file. If they find you, they will put you in custody and escort you to court.
5. Appear in Court
If you have ignored summons, an order to show cause, and anything else the court has tried, you will have to appear in front of the judge. The judge can decide on whether you need to pay a fine, ranging from $100 to $1500. If you are found in contempt of court, you may also have to perform community service or serve up to 5 days in jail.
Will I get summoned to be on a jury again?
Jurors most likely will get summoned a second time if they miss jury duty the first time. A second summons will most likely have a warning, along with an explanation of potential fines. Usually, a second summons to appear in a jury is sent 90 days after the first failure to appear.
California Fines for Jury Duty
if a juror misses their second summons, they could potentially be held in contempt of court. Contempt of court can have consequences that include:
- 5 days in jail or
- $1,000 in fees
Jury Duty in Nevada
Nevada jury trials usually last around three days. However, this number could be more or less depending on the circumstances of the case. For example, if it is a very complex car accident case involving multiple parties or severe injuries, then the jury trial will most likely last longer than 3 days.
Nevada makes missing jury duty punishable with a $500 fine. Nevada courts are also willing to excuse people if they could show hardships such as an illness. However, the people showing hardship must have permission prior to being called as a juror.
Nevada also requires employers accommodate their employees in order for their employees to serve jury duty. Nevada places very hefty fines on employers who fail to make accommodations to their employees. Fines against the employers could include six months in jail and / or $1,000 in fines.
Unlike California that requires citizens be on jury duty every 12 months, Clark County, Nevada sends out jury summons once every 18 months. If you are unsure whether you have a valid excuse to opt out or postpone your jury duty service in Nevada, contact our Nevada personal injury attorneys today. We represent clients all throughout Nevada, including Reno, Carson City, Henderson, Las Vegas, Searchlight, Mesquite, etc.
When in Doubt, Consult a Legal Expert
Still curious about what could happen if you’ve missed jury duty? Contact an experienced lawyer at Heidari Law Group today for a free consultation. During your free consultation, our attorneys will discuss your specific circumstance, and the next steps to take for jury duty. If you are unsure whether you could qualify for a valid postponement, contact our California personal injury attorneys today. Our attorneys are available to help you understand the duties associated with jury duty, and how you could avoid consequences for missing jury duty.
***Disclaimer: This page is created by Heidari Law Group for educational purposes. This article provides a general understanding of the law. It does not provide specific advice. By using this site and reading through this page, there is no attorney-client relationship created between you and any member of Heidari Law. Further, due to the constant change of the law, some parts of the information above may no longer be good law.