What Happens If You Miss Jury Duty?

Updated on November 24, 2018
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Kate is married to a seasoned police officer for the state of California.

What Happens if You Miss Jury Duty?

Most people aren't super psyched to find out they're summoned for jury duty, so how do you get out of it? What happens if you avoid it all and just don't show up?

What Happens if You Don't Show Up for Jury Duty?

If you don’t show up for jury duty without the court's permission, you could find yourself in trouble with the court. The court may issue an “Order to Show Cause” which is a judicial order for you to explain your absence. In extreme cases, the court may issue a bench warrant for your arrest.

Consequences of Skipping Jury Duty

The bottom line is that if a court summons you to appear, you need to show up. This is as true for a summons for a civil or criminal case as it is for a jury summons. Failure to appear without permission could have serious consequences. Even if you intended to appear for jury duty and missed due to unforeseen circumstances like illness, an injury, or heavy traffic, you need to make an effort to notify the court ASAP.

Even so, you could wind up with a bench warrant which comes with the potential for jail time or at least your own special day in court. So, if you choose to skip a day of jury duty because it's super inconvenient, you might just rack up even more days of court appearances and fines. Skipping isn't worth it!

Postpone if Possible

If you have a prior commitment that keeps you from being able to show up for jury duty on the date requested, then try calling the courthouse and letting them know why you can't make it and request to postpone. Most courts allow you to postpone your appearance for up to 6 months for any reason. Although there is usually a limit to the number of times you can postpone your service (typically 2 times).

Generally, courts don't force you to appear for jury duty if it'll cause an undue hardship or an extreme inconvenience like rescheduling a surgery or overseas trip.

What are courts less lenient with? Your job. Yikes. Since most people have to miss work to sit on a jury, you'll need an epic excuse like that it's your first day on the job or you have to make it to a conference of major project.

By the way, once you know you have jury duty, don't schedule a trip, work project, surgery or another conflict on the same date. The court is less likely to be lenient if you scheduled a conflict despite knowing you were obligated to serve jury duty on the same date.

Common Jury Duty Exemptions

There's certain things that mark a potential juror as exempt from jury duty. It doesn't mean you don't have to show up for jury selection, but once you're there, you can present one of these exemptions to be excused from serving.

Undue Hardship

Undue hardship is an exemption that can be raised to avoid lengthy trials or jury duty altogether. Undue hardship can include:

  • You would lose income.
  • You would be unable to care for a minor child or an elderly parent. This is one of the few exemptions that can be raised even before you are potentially selected for a jury.

Have a newborn at home? Chances are you're not an ideal candidate for jury duty.
Have a newborn at home? Chances are you're not an ideal candidate for jury duty.

Health and Focus

You might be able to avoid serving on a jury if you have certain health conditions. For instance, if you have a condition that would be negatively impacted by serving on a jury and/or being stuck in a courtroom for several hours, you may be excused. Your mental health could also be a factor, particularly if the subject matter of the hearing could harm your mental health, like triggering your PTSD, worsening your depression, etc.

Focus can also be a factor for the court to consider. If you can provide a strong argument to the court that you are under too much stress, that you're going through a great deal of conflict, or that your life is otherwise in shambles, the court or even the attorneys on the case could decide that you're not really fit to serve on a jury anyway.

Connections to the Case

Even if you didn't get out of the initial summons, you might avoid serving on a jury if you're connected to the case you're scheduled to serve on. These connections could be:

  • Knowing the attorneys, the defendant or the witnesses in the case.
  • You have been a victim of a similar crime, suffered similar malpractice, or were charged with a similar crime in the past.
  • Your job. Most attorneys want the jury to include only laypeople who don't have expert knowledge about the subject matter. For instance, if the case involves medical malpractice for a heart issue, the attorneys will probably exclude cardiac specialists from serving on the jury.


Attitude

If you demonstrate to the court that you don't like to follow the rules or you seem to have a negative attitude or bias, then the court or the attorneys might choose not to place you on a jury at all. Let's say your older brother is a police officer - this could cause you to have a bias towards law enforcement.

For a more complete list of how to get out of jury duty, check out How to Get Out of Jury Duty: 15 Excuses That Work.

If your spouse or a close relative works in law enforcement, the attorneys on the case may not want you to serve on the jury at all.
If your spouse or a close relative works in law enforcement, the attorneys on the case may not want you to serve on the jury at all.

How Counties Get Their List of Potential Jurors

Most counties get their list of potential jurors from the voter registration lists for given counties and districts. The courts are supposed to choose these jurors at random to avoid potential bias in the jury pools.

Why Jury Service is Not So Bad

Here's the thing - jury duty isn't all that bad, if you even get selected after showing up for selection. Oftentimes, counties call way more people than they need to ensure there's a diverse and qualified jury pool. Any "extras" are excused from serving on a trial and don't have to return.

If you do get picked, most trials only take a day or two and you might even find the hearing kind of interesting.

At the very least, if you serve jury duty, you know that you've done your service of helping the judicial system work the way it was designed. Your voice will be heard and you'll help to make an important decision that impacts the lives of people in your community.

Related Questions about Jury Duty

  • Can you go to jail for skipping jury duty?

Although rare, there is a possibility that the court could issue a bench warrant for your arrest for missing jury service. More commonly the court will serve you with an “Order to Show Cause.” This is an order to appear to the courts and explain your absence.

  • How do you find out if you have a warrant for missing jury duty?

If you suspect you may have a warrant for your arrest as a result of missing jury service, you’ll need to contact your local Sheriff’s Department for the county in which you live and ask them to check for any outstanding warrants.

  • What should you do if a bench warrant was issued because you missed jury duty?

If you find out that you have a bench warrant for your arrest, you’ll need to go down to the courthouse and see a judge. You’ll likely need to explain to the judge why you missed jury service. Only a judge can withdraw the warrant for your arrest.

© 2018 Kate Stroud

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