What Happens if I Don’t Show Up for Jury Duty?

Most people may not look forward to serving on jury duty, but it is an important part of our civic duty. If you file a lawsuit and go to trial, you expect and want a jury available to hear your case.

Civil juries decide cases involving a variety of claims, including, but not limited to, cases related to car accidents, wrongful death, contract disputes, boating accidents, slip and fall injuries, and medical malpractice. Accident victims and other parties depend on juries to hear evidence and render fair and just verdicts.

Even though you may not want to serve on a jury, it is not wise to ignore a jury summons. A jury summons is a legal order to appear in court for jury service. Ignoring a jury summons could result in penalties. 

What Happens if I Ignore a Jury Summon?

If you fail to show up in court for jury duty, the court might hold you in contempt of court. Contempt of court means that you failed to obey an order from the court. If a judge finds you in contempt of court, you must appear at a court hearing.

The Order to Show Cause requires you to appear before a judge and explain why you did not appear in court. Depending on your explanation, the court can take several actions. The judge could reschedule the date for you to serve on jury duty, require you to pay a fine, and/or require you to perform community service.

Even though jail time is not a common punishment for failing to appear for jury duty, it is an option the judge can use in certain cases. Jail time might be ordered if a person fails to appear at the hearing to explain their actions or have ignored multiple jury or court notices.

Who is Qualified for Serving on a Jury in Florida?

By law, persons who meet the following qualifications can serve as a juror in Florida:

  • Age 18 years or older
  • A citizen of the United States
  • A resident of the county in which the jury summons was issued

The person cannot be a felon or being prosecuted as a felon to serve on jury duty. However, if a person has had their civil rights restored after a felony conviction, the person can serve on a jury.

Potential jurors are chosen from the lists of individuals holding driver’s licenses or identification cards issued by the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles within the county where jury duty will be performed. Names are also chosen from a list of individuals who have executed an affidavit according to §40.011 of the Florida Statutes. 

Are There Exemptions to Jury Duty in Florida?

Some individuals who are qualified to serve on a jury might be exempt from jury duty. Reasons that a person might request to be exempt from jury duty in Alachua County include:

  • Persons who are 70 years of age or older
  • A pregnant woman
  • The caregiver of a disabled person or a child who is under the age of six years
  • Police officers

There could be other exemptions that might apply to jury duty. If you believe that you might be exempt from jury duty, you can contact the clerk of the court’s office for additional information. You may also appear in court to request an exemption from the judge.

Can I Delay Jury Duty?

You might not be able to get out of jury duty, but you could delay jury duty in some cases. Judges understand that jury service can be very disruptive to a person’s life. In some cases, a disruption could be costly or overly burdensome for the person.

In those cases, a judge may grant a postponement of jury service. However, it is important to contact the clerk’s office immediately if you want to request a jury service postponement. Most courts handle requests for postponement on a first-come basis.

Therefore, waiting until the day you are to appear for jury duty could be too late to request a delay. The court must have a minimum number of jurors available for jury duty during each term of court. If the judge grants the maximum number of postponements, your request could be denied.

Respond to a Jury Summons Immediately

Regardless of whether you intend to serve on jury duty, request an exemption, or request a postponement, make sure that you respond to the jury summons immediately. A jury summons has detailed instructions for responding to the summons. Follow the instructions and contact the clerk’s office with any questions or concerns.