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What Happens If I Forget to Report for Jury Duty?

Michael Pollick
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

While it may seem like there will be little consequence if you ditch jury duty by ignoring the summons, do so at your own peril. Jury duty is one of the few constitutionally-required responsibilities of all Americans age 18 and older. Just like paying taxes, you are required to comply, and real penalties arise from noncompliance.

Summons for Another Trial

The first likely consequence is that the county clerk will issue you a new summons for another trial date within the next week or two. If you missed the first call to report, absolutely do not miss the second, because the consequences only escalate from here. At the very least, call or write to the court clerk's office and explain the situation.

Fines, Arrest and Jail Time

If you fail to appear a second time and do not communicate with the clerk about your situation, the court may hold you in contempt, which can result in a large fine. A judge may also issue a bench warrant for your arrest. In this scenario, a law enforcement officer will look up your address and pay you a visit. The officer may then take you into custody and require you to appear before the judge.

What Are the Advantages of Serving on a Jury?

While some of us are naturally attuned to the personal benefits of volunteering and giving back to the community, others may see the jury experience as a way to learn about the legal system from the inside, up close and personal. Whether you are eager to take on your responsibilities as a citizen or are entering the jury pool as a learner, the advantages of serving are numerous.

Civic Pride

Most of us do not live in the state capitol or know an elected official. Usually, we simply do our best to vote, pay taxes and let the decision-makers do their job on our behalf. But jury duty is an exciting, rare chance to use your individual power as a citizen to contribute to the greater good. Before the jury system was developed, all legal decisions were made by a handful of aristocrats, landowners and figureheads. Now, each of us is empowered with the responsibility to make sound, rational, humane decisions on behalf of others.

Learn About the Legal System

There is nothing like being there. The novelty of the jury experience is worth the hassle and disruption to your routine. You will learn about legal strategies, what types of attorneys make the best arguments and personality traits that work for or against a witness, not to mention being a real, live character in a legitimate courtroom drama. Plus, you get to see all the things they don't show you on TV — truly a behind-the-scenes immersion into a major aspect of our government. Finally, if you or a friend ever find yourselves in legal trouble, you'll have received a free, high-quality education by taking the time to be a juror.

Will Jury Duty Impact My Job?

The short answer is yes, but exactly how much impact depends on the type of trial for which you are summoned. Some trials are resolved relatively quickly, while others take time to reach a unanimous verdict. Consider making a special arrangement with your supervisors if you end up on a trial that will likely last longer than one week.

Short-Term Duty

Some trials only last a day or two. These trials usually involve lower-level crimes such as simple assault (people getting into fights), petty theft and driving under the influence with no violent result. These cases usually wrap up within one week, with limited impact on your work schedule.

Long-Term Duty

There is no way to know what cases are on the docket when you are summoned. If you are called for a major felony case such as rape, murder, extortion or burglary, these trials can last weeks or months. Complex cases with high-stakes outcomes include expert testimony and dozens of witnesses for both the prosecution and defense. Not only this, but each legal team may have strategies to delay or change the proceedings. Also keep in mind that once the trial itself comes to a close, the deliberation process can also last for days because of the immense amount of testimony and evidence. While you will be modestly compensated for each day served, during long-term trials, you may need to ensure that your employer will hold your position until your service is concluded.

MyLawQuestions is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to MyLawQuestions, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By anon1001096 — On Mar 05, 2019

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.

By anon956329 — On Jun 13, 2014

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

By anon332915 — On May 01, 2013

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.

By anon325670 — On Mar 17, 2013

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?

By anon322813 — On Mar 01, 2013

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

By anon300522 — On Oct 30, 2012

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.

By anon283485 — On Aug 04, 2012

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.

By anon282754 — On Jul 31, 2012

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.

By anon194632 — On Jul 08, 2011

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.

By sneakers41 — On Jul 08, 2010

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.

By Sunny27 — On Jul 08, 2010

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.

By kilorenz — On Jun 16, 2010

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.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to MyLawQuestions, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide...
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