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Missing a Jury Duty Date

Posted by Neil Shouse | Feb 20, 2020 | 0 Comments

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Most jurors who miss jury duty will just receive a second summons.

Missing a jury duty date will usually lead to a second summons for jury duty. However, ignoring a summons may be penalized. It can be treated as contempt of court. Jurors can prevent this from happening by showing they were excused from jury service.

California courts have a great deal of discretion as to how to handle missing jurors. Some courts are far stricter than others.

Do most missing jurors get summoned, again?

Yes, most jurors who miss jury duty will just receive a second summons.

That second summons to jury duty will be like the first one for jury duty. However, the second summons will likely include a warning. The warning will say that missing jury duty can be penalized with a fine.

The second summons cannot be sent earlier than 90 days after the initial failure to appear.1

Appearing in court for the second summons can satisfy the juror's requirements. It can avoid further repercussions and penalties.

However, some courts will issue a fine after just one missed jury duty date. If a fine is issued, jurors may have to pay it or excuse their initial absence to resolve the situation.

Are there penalties for missing a second jury duty date?

Missing the date listed on the second summons is more severe. It can lead to fines or even criminal contempt of court.

The issuing court can send a missing juror a failure to appear notice. This notice demands the juror to appear in court. If no response is made to the notice, the court can impose a fine. It will also issue an order to show cause. This order demands that the juror explain why they missed their court date. A hearing can be scheduled.

Missing this hearing can be considered contempt of court.

Can ignoring a jury summons in California lead to contempt of court?

Yes, especially if a juror misses the date listed on their second summons.

Contempt of court is a criminal charge under Penal Code 166 PC. It can carry up to:

  • 5 days in jail, and/or
  • $1,000 in fines.

It will also show up on the juror's California criminal background check.

How expensive are the fines?

Courts can fine jurors who miss their court date. They are more likely to fine jurors who miss their first and second summons, rather than just their first.

California law caps the fines at:

  • $250 for a first violation,
  • $750 for a second violation, and
  • $1,500 for a third or subsequent violation.

These fines cannot be imposed more than one every juror pool cycle.2

Are there valid excuses for missing a jury duty date?

There are several valid excuses for missing jury duty. Showing that one of these excuses apply can keep the court from issuing a fine or a contempt charge.

Proving an excuse can be done at the show cause hearing after a missed jury duty summons. It can also be done in response to a jury summons. It always has to be done in writing.

The excuses include:

  • prior jury service within the last 12 months,
  • no reasonably available means of transportation to the court,
  • the juror would have to travel more than 90 minutes to the court,
  • extreme financial burden of serving on a jury,
  • a significant risk of undue mental or physical hardship from serving on a jury,
  • the juror is needed for the protection of public health or safety, often as a police officer,
  • a personal obligation to care for someone during the day,
  • a prior felony conviction prohibits jury service, and
  • active military duty.3

The juror also has to meet the minimum requirements of jury duty to serve. These include:

  • U.S. citizenship,
  • a basic understanding of English, and
  • being at least 18 years old.

In many cases, especially those claiming financial hardship, the claim has to be supported with evidence. Courts may want to see:

  • income verification,
  • employer's refusal to reimburse the expenses of jury duty, and
  • evidence that the juror would lose the ability to financially support dependants.

Legal References:

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

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