Law
Fact Checked

What Happens If I Forgot to go to Jury Duty?

Autumn Rivers
Autumn Rivers

Most areas require that citizens be available to serve as jurors in court, as jury duty is considered one of the main civic responsibilities. Of course, you might never get selected as part of the jury, but you still need to be available in case you are needed, which is why there are typically legal consequences of missing jury duty. In fact, a warrant may be issued for your arrest if you forget jury duty, and you may have to pay large fines unless you can provide a good reason for missing your date of legal service. The first step after you forget jury duty is to call the court as soon as you realize the error, as you may be able to plead your case without any consequences. Despite the possibility of legal penalties, it is likely that you will just be scheduled to appear in jury duty on a different date.

It is typically understandable for some people to forget jury duty, as the notice is usually mailed out weeks or even months prior to the scheduled court date. Thus, you should be aware that you are likely not the only person to have accidentally missed jury duty. If you have the summons, it is usually advised that you call the phone number to the court, which should be listed. If, however, you have misplaced the summons, you can typically find the phone number on the county court's website.

Jury duty is considered a civic responsibility.
Jury duty is considered a civic responsibility.

Let the court employee who answers know that you have missed your jury duty court date. You are likely not the first person to forget jury duty, and as long as it comes across that it was an honest mistake, the employee should be able to schedule you for a different date. Of course, make it a priority to do everything possible to remember the new date so that this does not occur again. Note that if you cannot get ahold of anyone on the phone, you should consider leaving a message with a brief explanation of what happened, as well as a number to reach you.

Those who skip jury duty and do not call could find themselves in the courtroom facing contempt of court charges.
Those who skip jury duty and do not call could find themselves in the courtroom facing contempt of court charges.

If, on the other hand, you ignore the summons and then neglect to contact the court, you could face legal action. For example, you may have to pay hefty fines if you ignore the initial summons, especially if you also ignore the court's attempts to contact you after you forget jury duty. If you do not call the court soon after the missed jury duty, you also face the possibility of having a warrant issued for your arrest due to contempt of court, though this is considered a rare consequence.

What Happens if You Skip Jury Duty?

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

Sometimes life gets busy, and jury duty can seem like an unnecessary inconvenience in your schedule. Unfortunately, skipping jury duty simply because you do not want to attend can create a long list of new issues you will have to deal with. Even if it was an honest accident that you did not show up to jury duty, you will most likely have to schedule a new date to serve on a court jury to avoid any legal consequences.

If a person ignores the jury summons, and then doesn’t contact the court, he could face legal action.
If a person ignores the jury summons, and then doesn’t contact the court, he could face legal action.

Some notable acceptions may justify your need to skip showing up in court. In these cases, it is important to contact the courthouse. The phone number will likely be provided with the letter your summons arrived in. Make sure that you are legally excused from jury duty before simply skipping it.

Acceptable Reasons To Skip Jury Duty

For some people, attending jury duty could put unnecessary strain on their well-being. If you fit one or more of these criteria, you can be excused as long as you follow the proper process of notifying the court.

A jury is a group of citizens who are tasked with determining whether an accused party is guilty or not guilty.
A jury is a group of citizens who are tasked with determining whether an accused party is guilty or not guilty.

If you are pregnant, have children that need to be watched by you, or have other family issues that prevent you from leaving home during times court is in session, you can be excused. Other logistical problems that may prevent you from attending, such as being a full-time student or being under financial duress that prevents you from traveling to the location are also considered valid reasons for excusal. Suffering from physical or mental health issues, or having a bias against the case in question may also exempt you, though this can depend on your personal circumstances.

What Happens If You Do Not Respond to Jury Duty?

A warrant may be issued for the arrest of a person who forgets to attend jury duty.
A warrant may be issued for the arrest of a person who forgets to attend jury duty.

Ignoring a jury duty summons can bring upon a variety of legal consequences, the worst of which can be jail time. If you receive a summons, you should follow the correct process of responding if at all possible. In most cases, it is easier to simply attend than to try and avoid it if you don't have a good reason. Serving on a jury is part of your rights as a citizen and is something that helps the justice system function fairly, and many people consider serving on a jury as an honor.

How to Respond to Jury Duty Questionnaire

Not everyone who receives a jury duty summons is required to appear in court. Part of determining whether you will need to attend or not is to fill out and return a questionnaire that will be available to you upon receiving the summons. If you qualify for any of the exemptions discussed above, the questionnaire may provide places for you to notify the court about it. Depending on the state where you live, you will need to either mail back the completed questionnaire or complete it and submit it online. Whether you are chosen to actually serve on the jury or not, completing the questionnaire is legally required.

What Happens If You Are Selected?

Out of the dozens of people who may receive a summons and have to fill out questionnaires for jury duty, a final panel of only about twelve people will be selected to serve as the jury. If you are selected you will be required to attend the trial over the course of a few days. There are legal protections for those serving on a jury that prevent you from losing your job due to attending, and you will receive some financial compensation for your time and money spent traveling to and from the location. During your time serving on the jury, there will be certain rules you will need to follow regarding your ability to make phone calls or discuss the case with anyone outside of court. You will be given periodic breaks, including a lunch break.

Your role on a jury is to listen carefully to the arguments being made and to help determine if the defendant is guilty or innocent. At the end of the trial, it will be up to you and your fellow jury members to make a decision about the case.

What Happens If You Miss Jury Duty in California?

Most states have their own rules and regulations regarding jury duty, and California is no exception. If you do miss jury duty in California, the court will send you a follow-up letter reminding you that you failed to appear and giving you instructions on what to do next. You will need to follow the instructions to reschedule a time to serve on a jury. If you do not do this, you may be fined money or even arrested.

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Discussion Comments

Fa5t3r

@clintflint - I don't see why, unless they've got something important on at the same time. I'd love to do jury duty. I think it would just be such a different experience from everyday life, and different is always good.

It might also be because I'm a writer and I'd like to know what jury duty is like in case I want to write a story with it someday. I know my grandfather, who was a lawyer, always wanted to do jury duty to see it from the inside as well. I'm not sure if people in the legal profession are allowed to though.

clintflint

@bythewell - If that's the case, then you were lucky. I know people who forgot jury duty and had to pay quite a large fine. I think jury duty laws vary according to where you live, but in some places they are fairly draconian, because they get so many people trying to wriggle out of it.

bythewell

I've been called in for jury duty several times now and I've never actually had to serve on the jury. It just ends up being a few hours in a crowded room, watching a video on how it all works and then they pick out the jury and that's it, everyone else goes home.

I don't know if that's how it works in all areas, but that's how I've always experienced it. The only time I've received a failure to appear for jury duty notice was when I went overseas for a year and didn't get the letter. They were pretty understanding about it when I called though.

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      By: Daniel Oines
      Jury duty is considered a civic responsibility.
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