The jury is an essential part of the American legal system. Even though only a small fraction of civil cases actually go to trial, those that do rely on the impartial consideration of jurors. As a member of a jury, you’re presented with facts, evidence, and arguments. You’re then trusted to digest that information and make a decision that will affect many lives.
Being asked to sit on a jury should be a great honor. You’re being asked to perform a fundamental role within your government. Unfortunately, jury duty is often perceived as a waste of time or unimportant. Our lives have become so hectic that we don’t have the time or energy to perform the most basic civic duty.
Without jurors, civil lawsuits and criminal trials would come to a screeching halt. What happens when negotiations break down in a car accident lawsuit? A victim needs to know that a jury is standing by to listen to their case and award compensation, when necessary. What happens when someone is wrongfully accused of a crime? They need to know that they’ll have their day in court before a jury of their peers. If you’re called for jury duty, it’s important to show up and do the best you can.
Who is Eligible for Jury Duty?
If you live in California and are eligible for jury duty, you can be called to serve once every 12 months. You will be eligible for jury duty if you:
- Are an American citizen
- Are at least 18 years old
- Understand English
- Live within the court’s jurisdiction
- Aren’t on active military duty
- Aren’t serving on another jury or grand jury, and
- Haven’t been convicted of a felony.
Just because you’re eligible for jury duty doesn’t mean that you’ll get a summons. Many people go years without being asked to serve on a jury.
Don’t Ignore Your Jury Duty Summons
If you receive a jury duty summons, you have a legal obligation to respond. The summons is a formal order from a court to appear before it. You must respond even if you have a legitimate reason for why you cannot serve on a jury at this time.
Failure to respond to a jury duty summons, or failing to show up for jury duty, can be considered contempt of court.
Contempt of court is a crime in the state of California. If this is your first offense, a judge may simply issue a warning and require that you pay a fine. If you don’t comply with the judge’s orders, or if you have skipped out on jury duty in the past, you could face more serious penalties.
A judge could sentence you to up to 5 days in a Los Angeles County jail and impose a fine of up to $1,500 for missing jury duty.
What If I Really Can’t Show Up For Jury Duty?
Life is complicated. There will certainly be times when it’s just unrealistic for you to donate your time to serve on a jury. You have two options if you can’t show up for jury duty.
First, you can respond to the summons and ask to have your service postponed or rescheduled. You may be entitled to a postponement if you:
- Scheduled and paid for a vacation
- Are dealing with health issues
- Are a student, or
- Have personal commitments that can’t be rescheduled.
You can generally only ask to postpone your jury service once in a 12-month period. A judge may require you to come in an explain why you need to have your jury duty delayed if you request multiple postponements.
Second, you can explain that you cannot serve on a jury because it would create an undue hardship. Undue hardships include:
- Mental or physical impairment
- Extreme financial burden
- No access to transportation
- Excessive travel, or
- Caretaker with no other alternative options.
If the court agrees that serving on a jury would create a hardship, your service can be excused. However, you may still receive a summons to serve on a future jury.
Juries are critical in both civil and criminal cases. If you’re an adult and an American citizen, you have a legal obligation to show up when you receive a jury duty summons. You can speak with an attorney if you need help finding a way to postpone or excuse your service. Just failing to show up isn’t an option. Call a personal injury lawyer at Citywide Law Group for help today.