Jury duty is an important civic responsibility, and all citizens should take it seriously. Unfortunately, life can sometimes get in the way of fulfilling this obligation, leaving those summoned to jury service wondering what will happen if they miss their court date.
In California, missing your jury duty date can have serious legal and financial consequences. So what happens if you miss jury duty in California?
In this article, we’ll explore what happens when you don’t show up for jury duty in CA, how to request an excuse from your service, and tips on avoiding a missed appearance altogether. With the right information, you’ll be able to fulfill your civic obligations while easily navigating potential penalties.
Overview of Jury Duty in California
Jury duty is a legal process that allows ordinary citizens to decide the guilt or innocence of someone accused of a crime in a court of law. All adults over 18 years old who are US citizens, California residents, and licensed drivers for at least one year are eligible for jury duty in California. According to CA state law, additional requirements also include:
- Must have enough command of the English language to understand case matters and discuss them with the jury
- Must be a resident of the county where summoned
- Must not have served on a jury within the past year
- Must not currently be serving on another trial or grand jury
- Must not be under conservatorship
- Must have had civil rights restored for previously convicted felons
Jury selection is random. Courts pull names from voter registration lists and the Department of Motor Vehicles lists. If they pull your name, you’ll receive a jury summons in the mail with instructions to appear in court for jury selection on a particular day.
When summoned to jury duty you must report to the court on your assigned date and time. The term of service can last up to one week, depending on the trial, and you will be required to sit in the jury box during proceedings.
However, just because you qualify as a juror and get summoned for jury selection, it doesn’t mean you’ll be selected to be a juror for the trial. The selection process is called “Voir Dire,” and is run by prosecutors, defense attorneys, and judges.
During this process, they will ask questions to determine if you are suitable for jury service. The questions can range from your knowledge of the case to any preconceived opinions about the trial or questions to learn more about your beliefs, background, and prejudices.
If, at any time during Voir Dire, a member of the jury selection team feels like you cannot be impartial in making a decision, they may excuse you from jury duty.
After selection day, the court will tell chosen jurors the trial date on which they will need to return to court. If you were not selected, you can go home having completed your jury duty obligations.
What Happens If You Miss Jury Duty in California?
If you miss your jury duty date, you will receive a second summons similar to your first. However, it will include information warning that a failure to respond to appear for a second time will result in legal penalties.
Complying with the second summons and appearing in court is usually enough to fulfill your jury requirements, freeing you from punishment. In some cases, however, a CA court will not tolerate missing even one jury appearance.
If you miss your second summons, you may receive a “failure to appear notice,” which demands your appearance in court, and an order to show cause, which requires you to appear and explain your jury absence. The judge may schedule a hearing for it.
Failure to appear for jury one or two times can lead to charges for contempt of court, a criminal charge in California. The penalty may include a fine of up to $1,000 and up to five days in jail. The penalty also goes on your public record.
Potential Penalties for Missing Jury Duty
What happens if you miss jury duty in California can be serious, ranging from fines to jail time. The judge will have the final say on the severity of the punishment, but potential penalties include:
- Fines of $250-$1,000
- Jail time up to five days in jail
- A criminal record showing the conviction for contempt of court
- Having a warrant issued for your arrest
Penalties may vary depending on the county, the case for which you failed to show up for jury duty, and the judge handling the case. As for fines, the first violation is capped at $250, the second violation is capped at $750, and the third (or beyond) violation is $1,500.
One thing to note is that you cannot be faced with these fines more than once every juror pool cycle, which is 12 months.
How To Request an Excuse from Jury Service
The California courts understand that some people cannot fulfill their jury duty obligations due to extenuating circumstances. In cases such as illness, disability, childcare responsibilities, or if you are a full-time student, you can request to be excused from jury duty.
If you need to be excused for any of the reasons mentioned above, contact your local court and explain your situation. You will usually receive an excuse form to fill out and give to the court.
Once your excuse is approved, you won’t receive any further jury summonses for a certain amount of time (up to 12 months).
Allowed Absences from Jury Service
The courts in California have made provisions for some absences from jury service by permitting requests to be excused for specific reasons. These include:
- Prior jury service within a year
- Illness or disability
- Caregiving responsibilities
- Being a full-time student
- Other hardships such as extreme financial hardship, unavoidable travel, etc.
- No reasonable means of transportation
- Active military duty
- Risk of mental or physical hardship from serving on a jury
- Personal caregiving obligation
- Prior felony conviction
- Failure to meet the minimum requirements to serve on a jury
To prove your excusable absence to the California courts, you will be required to provide proof via evidence. Evidence may include, but is not limited to:
- Verification of income (to show financial hardship)
- Evidence of illness or disability
- Student enrollment documents
Tips for Avoiding Missing Your Jury Service Date
If you want to ensure you don’t miss your jury service date, try using one or all of the following methods.
First, mark the date of your jury duty on your calendar ahead of time (and be sure to double-check that you have the correct date). Set up an alert or reminder via your phone or email a few days before the date so it won’t catch you by surprise.
Communicate with your employer that you will be out on the day of your jury appearance so they can prepare for your absence.
Prioritize jury duty in your schedule and allot enough travel time (particularly if public transportation is involved). If you need transportation, arrange it ahead of time. Additionally, contact the court if you suspect that you may be late for any reason so that they can better plan accordingly.
Finally, if you’re concerned about missing your jury service date because of an emergency, consider contacting the court ahead of time and requesting to reschedule.
Steps to Take If You Have Already Missed Jury Duty
If you have already missed jury duty in California, the first thing you should do is contact the court to see if your absence can be excused. You should explain why you were unable to make it on the date and provide any evidence or documents that support your reasons for missing jury duty.
If your excuse is accepted, the court will usually require you to reschedule your jury service at a later date. If not, you may be required to appear before the court with your excuse. If you fail to make a second appearance, you may face penalties.
Concluding Remarks on the Importance of Fulfilling Juror Responsibilities
Jury duty is an important civic responsibility, and it should be taken seriously. Failing to fulfill your jury service obligations can have serious consequences, so make sure you understand the laws in California regarding excuses from jury service and how to avoid missing your court date.
It’s also a good idea to contact the court ahead of time if you think there may be any issues with attending on schedule. If you’re unable to attend your jury summons and failed to let the court know ahead of time, you may receive another summons or a failure to appear notice. If you fail to respond to that, you may face legal penalties.
By taking the steps above, you can ensure that you’re fulfilling your responsibilities as a juror while avoiding potential penalties or fines for missed appearances.
Contact Garret T. Rice for Help
Now you know what happens if you miss jury duty in California.
Worried about missing jury duty or what penalties you may face if you’ve already missed jury duty in California? Navigate the situation with help from a skilled trial attorney with over 12 years of experience. Contact attorney Garret T. Rice to get started and don’t go it alone.