A jury duty notice is rarely received with great enthusiasm. It can feel like a burden, requiring time away from work and interrupting your routine. However, jury duty is really your opportunity to oversee the work of the judicial branch. In addition to ruling on the facts of a case, your job is to evaluate the judge, prosecutors, attorneys and the court system itself.
When jury service causes a hardship, you can be excused by following the court prescribed process. Simply not showing up for Jury duty is a not a good idea, and may result in serous penalties.
Penalties for Skipping Jury Service
Jury duty dodging is a big problem that’s burdening our judicial system. In some California counties, for example, the jury duty no-shows rate is more than 30%. Judges are cracking down on people who skip out of jury service with a court-authorized excuse. Penalties are set by state or federal law, and can include the following penalties:
State Court Jury Duty
Ignore a jury duty summons and the court may receive a Failure to Appear Notice, Delinquency Notice, or a Notice of Hearing on an Application for Criminal Complaint. If there is no valid excuse for your failure to appear, you could face the following:
Federal Court Jury Duty
There are two types of juries serving different functions in the federal system--trial juries and grand juries. If you fail to report for jury duty and are not excused by the court, you may be served with an Order To Show Cause by the U.S. Marshal Service. You must appear before a U.S. Magistrate Judge to explain why you should not be held in contempt of the Jury Service and Selection Act (Title 28 U.S.C. § 1866). Contempt penalties include:
Lying about Jury Service Excuse
Lying to the court is a crime. It’s easy to believe that telling a little lie to get out of jury duty is no big deal. However, if you're caught, the government can prosecute you for perjury. In some instances, perjury is a felony and you can end up in prison for up to five years for committing it. Although it’s unlikely you would be prosecuted, you could receive a five-day sentence and a fine of $1,000.
If you are caught lying, it’s more common to be held in contempt. Unlike perjury, you don't have to be convicted to be punished for contempt. The moment the judge holds you in contempt, you go directly to jail.
How to Lawfully Avoid Jury Service
Generally, you can postpone jury service for reasons outside your control such as illness, death or illness of a family member, disability, undue hardship, care-giving, or public necessity. If you want to be excused from jury service you must get the court's permission before the date you’re summoned to appear. Otherwise you must go to court and ask to be excused. Reason you may have jury service excused or postponed may include:
Facing Charges for Skipping Jury Duty? An Attorney Can Help
Jury duty always seems to come at the least convenient times. Maybe you thought no one would notice if you didn’t report, and now you’ve learned that missing jury duty can result in serious penalties. If you’ve been charged with missing jury duty, an experienced criminal attorney can help negotiate your case.