What happens if I skip jury duty?

Q:

What happens if I skip jury duty?

A:

Jurors play an important role in the American justice system. In fact, jury duty is one of the highest duties of U.S. citizenship. Honest, intelligent and fair jurors are critical to ensuring that anyone charged with a crime receives a fair trial. Jurors also play an important role in ensuring that the defendant is protected from governmental abuse. In fact, it’s fair to say that your willingness, as well as those of your fellow citizens, to serve on a jury is critical to ensuring that Americans maintain their privileges, freedoms and protections.

If you have been called to serve on a jury, this means that you have the civic and legal obligation to appear at the date and time outlined on the jury summons. If you are selected for the jury panel, you will be required to listen to the evidence presented in a criminal case and render a verdict about whether the person charged with a crime is innocent or guilty. Jurors in a civil trial must decide whether to award damages to an injured party.

What happens if I do not appear for jury duty?

Although your first response to a jury summons may be to simply toss the summons in the trash, this is not a good idea. In fact, if you decide to ignore the summons and you fail to appear in court, a judge can issue a bench warrant for your arrest. And while this may not result in your immediate arrest, if you are stopped by the police for any reason – at any location and at any time – you can be arrested and taken before a judge who will ask you to “show cause,” which means that the judge wants to know why you did not appear. If the judge does not believe you had a sufficient reason for your failure to appear, you may be required to pay a fine or spend time in jail.

For example, in the State of Texas, if you do not appear for your jury summons for a justice court, small claims court or a municipal court, you can be fined up to $100 and/or spend three days in jail. Other courts, such as the county or district courts, have potentially higher fines and longer jail terms.

In other states, however, you can face higher fines and penalties. For example, in states that have decided to crack down on repeat, no-show jurors, you may have to pay more than a thousand dollars in fines. In other states, such as Phoenix, Arizona, sheriffs have been instructed to follow up on bench warrants issued to residents who have not shown up for jury duty, leading to increased arrests.

All the above is what could happen if you fail to appear for jury duty. But what generally happens if you fail to appear in court for jury duty? With so many jurors failing to appear and with limited resources, the courts generally do not spend a lot of time on trying to locate jurors who fail to show. In fact, in some counties like Dallas County, it’s estimated that only one in five residents who are summoned for jury duty actually appear.

Unfortunately, failing to show for jury duty is a serious problem. According to one Texas state district judge, the lack of citizen involvement in the judicial system and the failure to show up for jury duty continually causes an endless cycle of frustrations for courts, which could eventually affect all of us.

Can I get excused from jury duty?

There are a variety of reasons you may be legally disqualified from serving on a jury. For example, you will only be legally allowed to serve on a jury if you are an American citizen, you are 18 years or older, you have not been convicted of a felony, you have the mental or physical fortitude to serve, and you can proficiently speak, read, and write English. Additionally, other public officers such as the firemen, policemen, or active duty military are often excused from jury duty. Finally, courts routinely dismiss jurors from serving if the juror can prove that serving will cause “undue hardship.”

Each state may also have different reasons that you can avoid jury duty. For example, in the State of Texas, you may be exempted from jury duty if you are over 70 years of age, you have custody of a child under the age of 12, you are a full-time student, you have served on a jury in the last 24 months, or you are the primary caregiver for an adult who cannot care for themselves.

Will I be paid for jury duty?

Jurors do receive compensation for their time. For example, you can expect to receive $6 to $50. The court may also provide other types of compensation such as free meals, free parking and transportation reimbursement. Unfortunately, however, unless your employer offers some type of additional jury compensation, the monies you are likely to receive could be substantially less than you could earn from working.

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Whether you're facing a legal issue or just seeking information, Justipedia aims to be your most trusted resource for legal information on the Web. With the help of legal professionals across the country, we put the law in plain language to help answer your top legal questions.

Justipedia was founded by Internet veterans Cory Janssen and Mitchell Allen. Janssen founded Investopedia.com and grew it one of the largest investing sites on the Web. Allen is an author, speaker and the founder of LeadRival, the leading provider of pay-per-action advertising in consumer legal services.

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