Skipping jury duty is such a common occurrence that it’s even a trope on television and movies. But while it may seem like no big deal, it’s actually considered contempt of court in California and while not frequently enforced, it could leave you in jail. If you are accused of contempt of court after skipping jury duty, a Vista criminal lawyer can help you fight the charges.
How Jury Duty Works
In California, you can be called to serve on jury duty once every twelve months and if you serve on a jury, you cannot be called on again for three years. Fortunately, few people are called that often although because the system is completely random, some people might be called far more often than others.
While jury summons have a date on them, you can show up any day two weeks prior to that date or two weeks after if the date is inconvenient to you. You can also request to postpone service for up to six months. When you show up, you will be asked to spend one day at the court to see if you can be assigned to a jury and if not, you will be excused. If you are selected for a jury, you will probably be there for 3-7 days, although some cases take more or less time.
While some employers choose to pay employees for time spent on a jury, the law does not require employers to pay employees for this time. They are legally required to give you time off for jury duty though.
Getting Out of Jury Duty
First, it’s important to express that juries are a vital part of our criminal justice system and that Vista defense lawyers agree that every client deserves a fair an impartial jury of their peers. That being said, if you can’t serve, you should fill out the appropriate section of your summons for jury duty and mail it back to the jury commissioner as soon as possible. Valid excuses for missing jury duty include but are not limited to:
- Being on active military duty
- Being a breastfeeding mother
- If spending time on a jury would present a significant mental or financial hardship
- Having an obligation to care for someone during the day
- Being on a grand jury
- Being a peace officer
- Not having your right rights restored after a felony conviction
- Not meeting the minimum requirements such as being over 18, speaking English and being a U.S. citizen
The state will not send you a notification if your excuse has been accepted, only if it is rejected.
It’s worth noting that if you are selected for a long trial you can still claim financial or other hardship to be excused from jury duty.
Contempt of Court
A jury summons is an official court summons and as such, ignoring the summons can result in contempt of court charges. If you fail to show up for jury duty, the state will usually assume you made a mistake and send you a second notice. If you still ignore the summons, you could be at risk for criminal charges.
If you are charged with contempt of court for skipping jury duty, it is critical you work with a top Vista defense attorney can help you fight the charges. Common defenses include not getting the summons, not getting a notice that your excuse was rejected, sending an excuse but not having it received by the courthouse or having a temporary or long-term mental or physical condition that prevented you from sending in an excuse.
Contempt of court is a misdemeanor crime punishable by up to 5 days in jail and a $5,000 fine. And for those wondering, having a misdemeanor on your record will not excuse you from future jury duty.
If you have been accused of contempt of court after ignoring a jury duty summons, please call Vista criminal attorney Peter M. Liss at (760) 643-4050 to schedule a free initial consultation.
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