OK, So You Were Summoned to Jury Duty — but What Happens if You're Late?

Sarah Walsh - Author

Jan. 9 2024, Published 6:11 p.m. ET

Woman Checking The Mail, frustrated
Source: Getty Images

Jury duty is an essential civic responsibility— even if getting your summons may elicit an eye roll. Balancing work, school, and personal obligations can make getting to the courthouse challenging.

But you need to know the consequences of being late to jury duty and understand what’s coming if you miss your summons altogether.

Even if your jury duty summons isn’t the most thrilling piece of mail you’ll get, the legal system relies on everyday citizens to participate— and being late can have consequences.

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As we look at the potential repercussions, it's important to recognize the gravity of these responsibilities and the impact they have on the functioning of the justice system.

Not to mention, sometimes serving as a juror isn't all that bad. I mean, who knows, maybe you'll stumble upon a reality TV show and end up $100,000 richer, like Ronald Gladden from Amazon Freevee's Jury Duty.

What happens if you're late to jury duty?

Jury Summons
Source: Getty Images

Courts operate on strict schedules, so being late can have serious consequences. Tardiness disrupts the proceedings, inconveniences others, and can delay the court.

If you find yourself running behind schedule, the best thing to do is communicate with the court as soon as possible. Depending on the jurisdiction, some courts may be more lenient and understanding of unforeseen circumstances. However, repeated lateness or a blatant disregard for punctuality may result in fines or being in contempt.

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Now, if you miss your summons altogether, the situation becomes more complicated. The court might just issue you a second summons with a new date.

But, ignoring this second summons can lead to big fines and penalties. For example, in certain areas like Ventura County, Calif., fines can escalate from $250 for the first offense to $1,000 or five days in jail for the third offense!

Ronald Gladden from Amazon Freevee's Jury Duty
Source: Getty Images

Got jury duty? Who knows, maybe you'll stumble upon a reality TV show and end up $100,000 richer, like Ronald Gladden (pictured) from Amazon Freevee's 'Jury Duty.'

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Being in contempt of court means serious consequences.

Skipping jury duty altogether can result in being held in contempt of court, a situation with serious legal consequences. So that is definitely something you want to avoid.

Courts view contempt charges seriously, and penalties can range from fines to potential jail time. A judge determines whether the contempt amounts to a criminal or civil charge. And they are not kidding! There have been plenty of times when people went to jail for missing jury duty.

Understanding the potential legal ramifications of contempt of court is important.

After all, it is a privilege to be able to help the courts, so you might as well fulfill your civic duty promptly.

Courts rely on individuals to ensure the justice system operates smoothly, and contempt charges are the last thing you want attached to your name!

The importance of serving on a jury when called cannot be overstated.

Timely participation ensures the justice system functions effectively, and you can play a real role in upholding the principles of fairness and justice. By approaching jury duty with a sense of responsibility, you are able to contribute to the overall integrity of the legal system.

And if you think you might be late or miss jury duty, make sure you communicate with the court right away so you don't end up in the slammer!

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