Our system of law considers jury duty one of the biggest civic services that a person can provide. What does this mean? It means that you owe your community simply for living there. When a crime is committed, our legal system requires a group of peers to determine a person’s guilt. Many people are excited for this opportunity! Others are not. They will usually try to escape service.
When the court sends a notice in the mail that a person is required to perform jury duty, escaping service might be as simple as suggesting that impartiality is impossible. For example, a person might know the accused or already have prejudices about the specific case. These are completely legal avenues for dodging jury duty. They have few, if any, consequences. The juror in question will likely be asked to perform jury duty again in the future.
But there are also illegal methods of dodging jury duty.
One of those methods is simply failing to appear in court during the specified time. The legal consequences for this are usually minor, but they depend on your local jurisdiction and whether or not you were scheduled to appear in state or federal court. The consequences for failing to appear in a federal court are likely more severe than failing to appear in your own town’s court, for example.
What might happen if a potential juror fails to appear in court? Sometimes, nothing at all. The person will simply be placed back into the system and asked to serve again later. Sometimes, there will be a fine for each day missed. Other times, the person will be asked to appear in court to explain his or her absence. In rare cases, a person might be arrested and escorted to court by the police.
Should the person fail to provide an appropriate reason for missing the scheduled court appearance or give the judge attitude, he or she might be penalized with criminal contempt. This often carries more severe legal consequences. Judges have a lot of leeway in how they approach this charge. It could even include incarceration!