Not Showing Up for Jury Duty
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, such as interference with childcare responsibilities, 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 serious penalties.
Penalties for Skipping Jury Service
Jurors not showing up for jury duty 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 percent, according to a 2015 report. 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.
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's no valid excuse for your failure to appear, you could face the following:
- A warrant for your arrest;
- Days in jail; and/or
- A civil contempt or misdemeanor conviction on your record.
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.
Contempt penalties include:
- Fines up to $1,000;
- Not more than three days in prison; and/or
- Order to perform community service.
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're 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.
Reasons for having jury service excused or postponed may include:
- Active duty member of the U.S. Armed Forces
- Active duty firefighter or police department
- Over the age of 70
- Served on a jury in the past two years
- Attending college or certain occupational classes
- Primary care giver to young children
- Serving would cause you undue hardship
Facing Charges for Not Showing Up to 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 not showing up for jury duty can result in serious penalties. If you’ve been charged with missing jury duty, an experienced criminal defense attorney can help negotiate your case.