Show Up for Jury Duty or… Go to Jail?

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Jeffrey Johnson is a legal writer with a focus on personal injury. He has worked on personal injury and sovereign immunity litigation in addition to experience in family, estate, and criminal law. He earned a J.D. from the University of Baltimore and has worked in legal offices and non-profits in Maryland, Texas, and North Carolina. He has also earned an MFA in screenwriting from Chapman Univer...

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UPDATED: Jan 10, 2013

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Jury DutySome people look forward to jury duty and see it as an opportunity to fulfill an important obligation as a US citizen. Others avoid it like the plague. At the courthouse in Pasco, Florida, it doesn’t matter how you feel about jury duty, if you aren’t exempted or don’t have a valid excuse, you better show up or you could be in major trouble. Circuit Judge Michael Andrews of the 6th Judicial Circuit in Pasco, Florida, doesn’t play around. Last month, Judge Andrews summoned 103 citizens to his court to answer for why they failed to show up for jury duty at least twice in the past year. Some were shamed, some were defiant, but Judge Andrews was not in the mood for excuses.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, excuses such as lack of time, being a caregiver or not receiving the multiple notices for jury duty fell on deaf ears and, one by one, each person was given a new date to appear. In Pasco, Florida, about 20% of those summoned for jury duty were no-shows with no excuses this past year. Under Florida law, those who do not show up to jury duty and do not otherwise have a valid excuse may be fined up to $100 and/or found in contempt of court. Most states have laws that require jury service unless a person is exempted as a member of the armed services, a firefighter or police officer, or the person has a valid excuse, such as illness, being elderly or a student, or being a caregiver for young children.

Over the years, many jurisdictions have been lenient in their enforcement of jury duty obligations and many people think that showing up is optional, but it’s not. Of the 103 people called to appear before Judge Andrews, the Tampa Bay Times reports that 35 were, again, no-shows. They are likely to receive another notice, this time to appear in court for contempt proceedings, where, if convicted, they could be sentenced to 5 months and 29 days in jail and a $500 fine.

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