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.
How a Jury Duty Summons Works
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.
Valid Reasons for Missing Jury Duty
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.