Missed Jury Duty? Face Fines, Jail Time

By Cynthia Hsu, Esq. on October 13, 2011 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

Unless you're really enamored with the law, most Americans dread getting a jury summons in the mail.

But if you're thinking of playing hooky when it comes to jury duty, you might want to reconsider. After all, did you know that missed jury duty can result in fines and sometimes even jail time?

This is something that jurors in Florida and Texas probably wished they knew before they decided to skip out on jury duty.

One Texas judge has issued letters to about 294 individuals who failed to report to jury duty in late September. These jurors will be asked to show cause in a hearing (i.e. explain their absence to the judge). And yes, they all could face jail time or fines.

Another judge in Florida has issued similar letters to about 387 individuals who missed jury duty in October. Again, the individuals will have to show cause and could face penalties if their excuses don't add up.

This might sound extreme, but almost all jurisdictions have punishments for missed jury duty. Monetary penalties can be as little as $100 or as much as $1,000. Jail time can vary from just a few days to a few months.

Jail time for missing jury duty can result if the judge finds that you are in contempt of court. Contempt can either be a civil or a criminal charge, and usually arises out of situations where someone has defied the court's authority, cast disrespect on the court, or has impeded the court's ability to perform its functions.

If you've missed jury duty, it's a fair chance that you've hindered the court. A jury must be assembled before a trial can proceed. This is probably why some judges are taking missed jury duty so seriously. They're simply stressing the importance of this civic duty that so many of us seem to loathe.

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