What Happens if I Forget to Report for Jury Duty?

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

The process for serving on a jury often begins with a letter in your mailbox from a local court system's clerk. This is the first shot the court system fires across the civil service bow, called a "jury duty summons". This document should inform you of a specific time to appear at a designated location in the courthouse building.

Judges may serve an FTA warrant to individuals who do not comply with a summons to jury duty.
Judges may serve an FTA warrant to individuals who do not comply with a summons to jury duty.

At this point, you may still have a few weeks to plead your case for a release from jury service to the court clerk. You may be able to prove what a professional or personal burden serving on a jury would be, and the clerk may release you from the obligation or agree to change your jury summons to a later date. You are still obligated to appear for jury consideration at some point, however.

A judge may view an absence from jury duty as contempt of court.
A judge may view an absence from jury duty as contempt of court.

Even if you cannot get released from your jury duty summons, you may not be selected to serve on a jury once you arrive at the courthouse. Attorneys have the right to strike a number of potential jurors for any reason or no reason at all. If you are selected to serve on a jury, however, you will be given a specific date to reappear in court, and most people do not forget to report for jury duty once it reaches this stage. You and the other selected jurors have now become vital parts of the legal process, and the judge, prosecutors, and defense attorneys all expect your complete and undivided attention.

Jury duty is mandatory for all summoned citizens unless excused.
Jury duty is mandatory for all summoned citizens unless excused.

So what would happen if you do forget to report for jury duty? The answer can vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but the universal consensus is that you are not going to like it. If you forget to report for jury duty, the judge may view your absence as contempt of court. While the court may appoint an alternative to serve on the jury, you are not off the hook legally. A summons may be issued to force you to appear before the court and provide an explanation for your absence. Depending on the circumstances, you may be required to serve on another jury or even fined for contempt. These fines may be substantial, so it pays not to forget to report for jury duty if at all possible.

The penalty for failing to attend jury duty differs by jurisdiction.
The penalty for failing to attend jury duty differs by jurisdiction.

Many court cases are settled before a jury is ever formally struck, and even those that reach the court rarely last more than a week or so. A juror usually receives a nominal payment for his or her services, and employers cannot punish employees for serving on a jury. Considering the financial and legal consequences if you should forget to report for jury duty, it may be best to bring a book or two to pass the time between sessions and just allow the legal process to unfold on schedule. In many jurisdictions, a citizen cannot be selected for jury duty again for a specific number of years, so you may not have to serve on another jury for the rest of your adult life.

A "jury duty summons" will include the location of the courthouse where you are required to report.
A "jury duty summons" will include the location of the courthouse where you are required to report.
Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick

A regular wiseGEEK contributor, Michael enjoys doing research in order to satisfy his wide-ranging curiosity about a variety of arcane topics. Before becoming a professional writer, Michael worked as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.

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Discussion Comments


I have major depression, anxiety, and panic attacks. I once worked for a judge who screwed me out of my last paycheck, I live far out with no car and there is no public transit, and I hate cops. That's what I wrote on my jury summons. Oh -- and I've been arrested twice. Got the papers to prove all this. Awaiting their response.


I have jury duty in less than four hours. Sigh. Grand juror! Yay. How exciting.


If you make it into the courtroom where lawyers are cherry picking, and they give you a paper with questions on it, just answer them with bias. Example: "do you believe in the legal system"? Say no. Boom. That gets you kicked out quick.

I served twice and I got out of one by being a bookworm and the last time I got in because I answered the questions with no bull crap. Usually they ask you, "Can you be unbiased and follow the evidence?" Well, technically, as a juror, you don't have follow the evidence. You can find someone not guilty just because you felt like it. Look up jury duty powers.


What? Getting arrested just because you didn't show up for jury duty. Now that is messed up! Has this country gone crazy or something?


I live in Oregon. My boyfriend didn't show up for jury duty and there's now a warrant out for his arrest.


I don't know how people are selected but I've been called to serve three times in nine years but other people I know have never been called. If it was random, then statistically I shouldn't have been called so much.


Wow, nice to see the patriots out in full force. What ever happened to being civic minded, or having a sense of participation in this thing we call a Democracy? I weep for my country.


I agree with anon, it's crap. Just throw away the summons and don't go. They really can't prove you got it. I've never gone whenever they've summoned me. Nothing happened. My friend didn't go to his, but later he got nervous and called them. The guy on the phone told him that it didn't really matter, he wouldn't be arrested or anything crazy like that, and all that would happen is he would be more likely to get called again soon. That was like a year and a half ago and he never got called again. We are in North Carolina.


Jury duty stinks. The justice system in this country stinks. I don't care to waste my time sitting in a stuffy courtroom listening to some petty crime crap, and I don't want to hear that "It's your civic duty nonsense." Civic duty, my butt. Face it, the majority of people avoid this like the plague. It's too time consuming and with a meager pay. I'll do whatever I can to get out of this crap whenever possible.


Sunny27- I agree. Serving on a jury sounds exciting, but I guess it depends on the types of cases. Some cases would be more exciting than others. A friend of mind told me that she served on a jury once, and the case involved wrongful termination.

The plaintiff lost because the defense was able to justify the termination by displaying his attendance record, which was awful. He missed a lot of work and that was simple enough for the jury to side against him. You can’t expect to keep your job if you don’t show up to work.


Kilorenz- I bet the jury case you served on was interesting. I have never served on a jury before, I always get exempt. I received a jury summons once while in college and I was exempt because of my full-time student status.

Many years later when I stayed home to raise my children, I also asked for an exemption because I was the primary care giver to my children who were not old enough to attend school. But I do think that serving on a jury would be interesting. I love learning anything legal and debating the merits of the case with the rest of the jury sounds fascinating.


I got lucky on my first (and so far only) jury summons. I had to drive a few towns over, and the group I was in had to sit quietly in this room while the parties involved tried to come to a settlement. After three hours or so, the case was settled without the use of a jury, so I got to go home. Even though you can usually get out of going to jury duty once before they make you do it, it’s usually a good idea to just get over with. In most cases, you can get it out of the way like I did without the case becoming a continuing burden on your life.

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