Is Skipping Jury Duty a Crime?

Is Skipping Jury Duty a Crime?

Jury duty is considered an important civic responsibility in the United States. However, many people try to get out of serving on a jury for various reasons. Can you get in trouble legally if you ignore a jury summons? Let’s take a look at what the law says about skipping out on jury duty.

What is Jury Duty?

Jury duty refers to being called for service on a jury trial. When you serve on a jury, you and other jurors are responsible for listening to the evidence presented and making a decision about the guilt or innocence of the defendant in a criminal trial. In civil trials, the jury decides whether the defendant is liable or not liable. Juries play a vital role in the U.S. justice system.

Citizens who meet certain requirements like being a U.S. citizen, proficient in English, and having no felony convictions, can be called for jury service. Both federal and state courts summon people for jury duty using lists like voter registrations and driver’s licenses.

Is Jury Duty Required?

The short answer is yes – jury duty is mandatory for U.S. citizens. The jury summons you receive is an official court order requiring you to show up. Unlike other civic responsibilities like voting, jury duty is compulsory. All citizens must serve when called unless they fall into a disqualified category.

What Happens If You Skip Jury Duty?

You can face penalties if you fail to show up for jury duty after receiving a summons. The court issues the summons under its authority, so ignoring it can amount to contempt of court. The judge decides whether to find you in contempt and impose sanctions based on the jurisdiction.

According to federal law, the penalty for contempt could include:

  • Fines up to $1,000
  • Up to 3 days jail time
  • Community service

Some states like California and Florida have laws allowing fines up to $1,500 and jail time for up to 6 months. The penalties tend to increase if it’s not your first offense. For instance, the second time you skip jury duty in Michigan, you could face up to a $500 fine and up to 30 days in jail.

What About Just Showing Up Late?

You must report for jury duty on time. Arriving late after the scheduled start can also constitute contempt. The court may fine you $50-100 for being tardy. In some jurisdictions, judges issue a bench warrant if you’re really late which means facing arrest.

Can You Get a Warrant for Not Going?

Yes, judges can issue a bench warrant if you fail to appear for jury service. This warrant authorizes law enforcement to arrest you and bring you before the judge. At that point, you would need to provide an explanation for missing jury duty and face potential contempt charges.

What If You Had an Emergency?

Most courts understand if you miss jury duty because of an emergency like sudden illness, accident, or death in the family. You need to contact the court as soon as possible and explain the emergency. Be prepared to provide documentation like a doctor’s note.

While the court may excuse your absence, you’ll likely have to report for jury duty again at a future date. Claiming fake emergencies won’t get you off the hook.

Do You Have to Respond to the Jury Summons?

Yes, you must respond to a jury summons by the deadline even if you want to be excused. The summons provides instructions on how to request being excused for reasons like financial hardship, travel, or medical excuses. Simply ignoring the summons can lead to penalties.

Can You Get Out of Jury Duty?

There are some excuses that can legally get you out of jury service either permanently or postponed. Common legal excuses include:

  • Age – some states excuse people over 70 years old
  • Non-U.S. citizen
  • Recent prior jury service – within 1-2 years
  • Active military service
  • Resident student living elsewhere
  • Mental or physical disability
  • Primary caregiver responsibilities
  • Felony conviction

You’ll need to follow the court’s process to be excused and may have to provide proof. Otherwise, just ignoring the summons can lead to penalties.

What About Financial Hardship?

Missing work and wages is one of the main reasons people try to skip jury duty. However, financial hardship alone is usually not enough to be excused from service. The court expects employers to continue paying employees during jury duty.

If serving would cause extreme financial distress, you can request being excused but typically must provide documentation. The judge decides whether to grant excuses on a case-by-case basis.

Can You Postpone Jury Service?

Most courts allow prospective jurors to postpone service for up to six months. You’ll need to promptly respond to the summons and request a deferral for reasons like:

  • Pre-planned vacation
  • Work travel/conferences
  • School exams
  • Medical procedures scheduled

While postponements give you more time, you will still need to report for jury duty within six months. Failing to show up on the new date can lead to penalties.

What About Lying to Get Out of Jury Duty?

Lying or providing false information to get excused from jury duty is never a good idea. If you get caught, it constitutes another crime like obstruction of justice or perjury. Penalties can include hefty fines and jail time on top of sanctions for skipping jury duty.

Judges understand most people don’t want jury duty but expect citizens to take it seriously. Abuse of the system undermines justice for all.

Key Takeaways

  • Jury duty is mandatory – you can face fines and jail time for skipping it.
  • Always respond to a jury summons even if requesting to be excused.
  • Let the court know immediately if an emergency prevents you from serving.
  • You can request a postponement of up to six months in many courts.
  • Lying to get out of jury duty can lead to criminal charges.

While jury duty can be inconvenient, it’s vital to ensuring everyone’s right to a fair trial. When called, take your responsibility seriously or face lawful penalties.