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What Happens If You Miss Jury Duty the First Time: Navigating Next Steps

Editorial Team
Updated May 16, 2024
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What Happens If I Forgot to Go to Jury Duty?

Serving on a jury is a cornerstone of the judicial system, with the United States summoning millions of citizens each year to participate. According to the National Center for State Courts, an estimated 32 million Americans are called for jury service annually, yet the appearance rates can be as low as 5% in some jurisdictions. Understanding what happens if you miss jury duty the first time is crucial, as nonappearance can lead to significant repercussions. Courts typically enforce strict policies to ensure participation; for instance, the New York State Unified Court System warns that ignoring a jury summons may result in a fine of up to $250. If you inadvertently miss your initial summons, promptly contacting the court is imperative to mitigate potential penalties and reschedule your service, maintaining your civic duty and legal standing.

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.

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.

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?

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.

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.

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?

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.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the repercussions if I forget my jury duty?

If you fail to appear for jury duty when you are required to do so, you risk being charged with contempt of court. If you are unable to report for jury duty due to an emergency or another compelling reason, certain courts may let you reschedule your appearance for a later date. It is critical to get in touch with the court as quickly as possible, explain the circumstances, and inquire about any potential accommodations that may be available.

What are the repercussions of not showing up for jury duty?

Absenteeism from jury duty can result in a fine, jail time, or both, depending on the circumstances. There are circumstances in which a warrant could be issued for your arrest. Because serving on a jury is such an important part of the legal process and guarantees that citizens are active in the legal system, it is imperative that individuals take jury duty seriously and do everything in their power to be present.

What should I do if I miss the date when I am supposed to report for jury duty?

If you are unable to make it to your scheduled jury duty, you need to get in touch with the court as soon as you can and explain what happened. If you have a reasonable explanation for why you were absent from your jury duty on the scheduled date, you may be able to reschedule your service or have the charges for contempt of court withdrawn against you. While dealing with the court, it is imperative to do so in an honest and polite manner, and to follow any instructions that are provided by the court.

How can I make sure that I don't miss the date that I have to report for jury duty in the future?

Make sure to put the date of your jury duty on your calendar as soon as you receive the summons for it so that you do not run the risk of missing it in the future. In addition, you may prevent yourself from forgetting by setting reminders on your computer or smartphone. Contact the court as soon as possible if you have any difficulties with the schedule or other problems to determine whether or not any modifications can be made for you.

What are the repercussions of me skipping jury duty on purpose?

If you purposely skip out on jury duty, you could be subject to harsher penalties than if you simply forget about it. You run the risk of being prosecuted for contempt of court, which might result in monetary fines, time spent in jail, or both. In addition, evading jury duty on purpose is a violation of your civic responsibility and can bring into question the reliability of the legal system. It is essential to give jury duty the respect it deserves and to fulfill the commitment that comes with being a citizen and taking part in the judicial system.

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.
Editorial Team
By Editorial Team
Our Editorial Team, made up of seasoned professionals, prioritizes accuracy and quality in every piece of content. With years of experience in journalism and publishing, we work diligently to deliver reliable and well-researched content to our readers.

Discussion Comments

By Fa5t3r — On Nov 19, 2013

@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.

By clintflint — On Nov 18, 2013

@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.

By bythewell — On Nov 17, 2013

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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