What are the Penalties for Missing Jury Duty?

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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
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  • Last Modified Date: 30 November 2018
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The penalties for missing jury duty vary by jurisdiction. In come cases, potential jurors who fail to meet their obligations may be required to appear before a judge to explain themselves and may face fines or even jail time for refusing to serve. Most jurisdictions make provisions for potential jurors for whom serving would be a hardship, but in order to avoid penalties, these potential jurors must communicate their situation to the appropriate court officials.

In countries where juries regularly decide criminal and civil cases, the responsibility for serving on a jury falls on average citizens who likely have significant work, community, and family responsibilities. In many cases, a summons for jury duty is issued on a random basis with little consideration for the schedule of the potential juror. For this reason, many people who receive a summons may be unable or unwilling to show up in court. No matter how legitimate their reasons for missing jury duty, in most places doing so is against the law.


Once a person misses jury service, the court that summoned the person may take one or several different actions. The potential juror may receive a letter in the mail explaining that he missed jury duty and that he must serve on a different date. If a potential juror repeatedly ignores a summons to jury duty, a judge may issue an order to show cause, which requires the potential juror to come to court and tell the judge why he has ignored all summons. In cases where a potential juror persists in not appearing, or does not respond to a judge's order to appear in court, a warrant for his arrest may be issued. Though it is rare in the United States, recalcitrant jurors have on occasion been sentenced to jail if they continue to try to dodge their jury duty obligation.

Many court systems recognize that not appearing for jury duty is often a scheduling matter and allow potential jurors to defer their duty if they need to. In some cases, courthouses have automated telephone systems that allow jurors to call in the night before they are scheduled to report for jury duty to find out if they are actually needed. Some jurisdictions also set limits on how often an individual can be called to serve, in some cases restricting individuals to only one trial every two years.


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Post 7

I resent the fact that we are forced to serve on a jury. I imagine there are a lot of people out there who love to serve on juries. They should be the one's to serve, not someone who does not want to. This is supposed to be the land of the free! Being forced to do something and doing something because we want to are two different things. I don't call being forced to serve on a jury one of our "freedoms" at all.

Post 6

How can an individual be summons to jury duty every four years like clockwork, even to the day they receive the summons in the mail? If this is truly a random selection, there should be no way to predict their next summons. This is my fourth, maybe fifth summons.

I have lived here in Indianapolis, IN for 14 years now. Both my wife and I receive these summons regularly. We have talked to many friends and business associates and most have only served once in their lifetime, many not at all. So how can this be random?

Post 5

@TreeMan - That's interesting that one of the deputies would make a visit to help him out.

I wonder if the penalties for missing jury duty are different depending on where you live. If you live in a rural area where there aren't many trials and the courts are not as busy, maybe they give you more leeway than if you live in a populated area where there are constant jury trials. I'm sure a good deal of it probably just depends on the judge or the case.

I'm curious too if there would be any differences between how jury duty laws are handled for a state or federal case. In my experience, federal judges seem to be more serious about making sure the laws are upheld to a T.

Post 4

I had a friend who got a summons to be on a jury. He was actually kind of excited about the chance, even though I'm sure the case was probably something minor.

On the day he was supposed to report, he got busy at work and completely forgot to leave and go to the courthouse. Since we live in a small, rural county, someone at the sheriff's office knew who he was. One of the deputies showed up at his job and had him fill out some paperwork explaining why he was absent.

I assume the paperwork got sent back to the judge, and he accepted the excuse. Since there aren't a lot of jury trials here, I don't think his jury duty ever got pushed back to another case. At least he didn't get in any real trouble over it.

Post 3

I'm not familiar with the whole process of jury duty selection. I know in some cases they have a pool of potential jurors and the sides have to agree to the final jury. I think it is usually 11 or 13 people. I don't remember for sure. Maybe it varies.

For smaller cases, do they just pick the set number of people and there is no selection process by the two sides of the case?

Is there ever a fine for missing jury duty? It seems like that might be an easy way to make sure people are there.

Post 2

There is a big difference between not showing up for jury duty and not being able to serve because of certain conditions.

My mom has received jury duty notices more than once. She is unable to serve because she takes care of my sister on a full time basis who is physically disabled.

All she had to do was return a letter stating why she was unable to serve and they said she did not have to show up.

I imagine that skipping jury duty once you are assigned a case is a whole different story.

Post 1

My husband recently served on jury duty and we had a huge snowstorm one night during the time he was serving.

We live in the country and there were a lot of snow drifts over our roads. Even though he was driving his truck, he ended up getting stuck and called a neighbor with a tractor to pull him out of the ditch.

After all that, he was only a few minutes late for jury duty that day. He found out after he got there that if he had not been able to make it in, they would have found someone else to take his place for the remainder of the trial.

I always wondered what would happen if you missed jury duty. Apparently in his case, they had alternate people who could step in and take his place.

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