What Happens If I Don’t Show Up For Jury Duty?
Ryan Zavodnick | October 4, 2019 | Personal Injury
Jurors provide an essential function in Pennsylvania’s court systems. Without jurors, the state can’t fulfill a criminal defendant’s right to have their case litigating in front of a panel of their peers. Without jurors, injury victims face an uphill battle in holding negligent parties accountable in a court of law.
A recent study revealed that more than a third of Philadelphia residents ignore notices telling them that they’ve been selected for jury duty. However, you might want to think twice before throwing your jury summons in the trash. You can face some serious consequences for not showing up to jury duty when you’re called.
Most Adults in Philadelphia Have an Obligation to Show Up For Jury Duty
Philadelphia is the sixth-largest city in the United States. There are an estimated 1.5 million people living in the city at any given point in time. If you’re a resident of Philadelphia and satisfy the following requirements, you can be summoned to serve on a jury.
- You’re at least 18 years old.
- You’re a United States citizen when you receive your summons.
- You can read, write, and speak English.
- You are physically and mentally capable of serving on a jury.
- You haven’t been convicted of a crime that’s punishable by more than one year in prison.
Here’s what you know about receiving a jury summons if you satisfy all of these requirements.
A Jury Summons Is a Court Order
When you get a notice in the mail telling you that you’ve been selected for jury duty, you’re receiving what’s known as a summons. A summons is an official order telling you to appear before a court. In other words, you’re being summoned by the court.
When you ignore a summons – or toss your jury duty notice in the garbage – you’re actually violating a lawful and binding court order. In Pennsylvania, ignoring a summons is a crime. Specifically, it’s contempt of court.
If you fail to show up for jury duty without a valid excuse – which we’ll discuss in a moment – you can be held in contempt. In Pennsylvania, penalties for contempt of court can include $500 in fines and/or a maximum of ten days in jail.
You Might Qualify to Be Excused From Jury Duty
You can’t just ignore the fact that you’ve been called to jury duty. However, the state understands that there will be times when you just can’t fulfill your duty to serve as a juror. If you find yourself in this situation, you can ask to be excused or postpone your service.
Requesting an Excuse
You can ask to be excused from jury duty if:
- You’re an active duty member of the United States military ;
- You’ve served on a jury at some point in the last three days. Note: your service must have exceeded two days; or
- You can demonstrate an extreme inconvenience or undue hardship.
The state will consider each request for an excuse on a case-by-case basis. You’ll have to mail a written request, outlining the reasons why you should be excused. Examples of extreme hardship or inconvenience might include:
- You have a debilitating medical condition or illness
- You work as a police officer, medical worker, or firefighter,
- You are a full-time student and attend a school outside of the area
- The time and/or expense required to travel to and from the courthouse would be unreasonable, or
- You are the primary caretaker of a young child or a person with a disability, and you wouldn’t be able to find other accommodations.
One excuse that won’t get you off the hook? Work. In Pennsylvania, employers can’t punish you for missing work to serve on a jury.
Requesting a Postponement
What if you’re happy to serve on a jury, but the request just came at a bad time? You can ask to postpone your service. A postponement is easier to secure than an excuse. In fact, the state makes it easier to ask for a postponement. Simply go online after you’re completed your jury questionnaire and select a new date.
Whether someone is arrested for a crime or injured in an accident, they might want the benefit of a trial by jury. You might find that, one day, that person is you. In order for that to happen, adults who live in Philadelphia have to sacrifice their time to serve on a jury. If you get a jury summons in the mail, don’t throw it away and don’t ignore it. That decision can have consequences for you and anyone who is need of a jury of their peers.