You Probably Don't Want to Risk Skipping Jury Duty (Without a Good Reason)

What happens if you don't go to jury duty? It tends to not be many people's favorite things to do, but what if you skip out?

Chris Barilla - Author

Oct. 11 2022, Published 5:02 p.m. ET

A gavel
Source: Getty Images

As an American citizen, you are afforded quite a few things inherently. On top of that, you are also tasked with a few responsibilities that — let's face it — aren't everyone's favorites. Taxes are needed to keep the country running, but does anyone really enjoy paying them? In that same vein, the courts are a necessary function of the U.S. judicial system, but many would shudder at the thought of receiving a letter in the mail prompting them to appear for jury duty.

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Yes, jury duty. Everyone knows about it, but not everyone has been tapped to take part in it. If you haven't before (or even if you have), you've probably wondered at least once what happens if you just plain ignore the call to action. With that being said, what actually goes down if you don't go to jury duty?

A gavel
Source: Getty Images
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What happens if you don't go to jury duty?

Skipping out on jury duty isn't as simple as the government just forgetting that they asked you. According to the official website of New York Jurors, "Jury duty, like paying taxes, is mandatory. Skipping jury duty can result in civil or criminal penalties. In addition, anyone who skips jury service will be assigned a new date for future jury service."

These penalties vary from state to state, but almost all seem to include monetary fines as well as additional juror time. For example, in the state of Tennessee, "You may be found in civil contempt of court and can receive a fine of up to $500, plus the cost of the show clause order. If you end up serving out your summons, the penalty can be reduced to $50," per Chiozza Law.

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States like California make it even clearer about what happens to an individual who doesn't appear for jury duty. "Any prospective juror who has been summoned for service, and who fails to respond as directed and be excused from attendance, may be found in contempt of court, punishable by fine ($1,500), incarceration (5 days) or both," per the Superior Court of California.

So it seems like a bad idea to outright skip out on jury duty, but what legally exempts you from it?

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What are the legal exemptions to get out of jury duty?

Just like their methods of punishment for those who skip out, individual states have different exemptions regarding who can legally get out of participating in jury duty. However, most have commonalities that can be generalized

Reasoning for not attending jury duty includes being in the military, being an elected official, a student, breastfeeding, too young, a member of the police, a medical worker, a firefighter, or a person with a disability," per Jury Duty 101.

If you have any questions about your eligibility to serve as a juror, the best bet is to call your local county court and see what steps are needed to submit a request to be removed from jury duty for any of the aforementioned reasons. Otherwise, the criminal and civil charges seem largely, by design, to outweigh the burden of being a juror.

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