The United States judicial system ensures that every citizen has the right to a speedy trial by a jury of their peers. However, many people misunderstand what it means to have a “jury of one’s peers.” It doesn’t necessarily mean that the jury will be comprised of individuals who share the same race, gender, age, or socioeconomic status as the accused. Instead, it refers to a jury of fellow citizens who can make fair and unbiased judgments.
The process of jury selection begins by randomly choosing residents who may potentially serve as jurors. These potential jurors are then sent jury duty summonses that require them to appear at the courthouse on a specific date and time. Once at the courthouse, each potential juror is questioned by the judge, prosecution, and defense attorneys to determine if they can serve impartially.
If you are selected to serve on a jury, it is your duty as a US citizen to deliberate impartially and reach a fair verdict. However, what happens if you fail to show up for jury duty? It may be tempting to simply ignore your summons, but doing so can have serious consequences. Here’s what you need to know.
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What Happens if You Ignore a Jury Summons?
The jury summons you receive in the mail is an official court document ordering you to appear for jury service. It is crucial to read the entire summons carefully, along with any accompanying letters or documents. Failure to do so is not a valid defense for missing jury duty.
Even if you discover that you have a valid reason not to serve on a jury, you must still respond to the summons. The contact information for the Court Clerk’s Office will be provided in the summons, along with instructions on how to respond.
If you fail to answer the summons or show up for jury duty, you could be held in contempt of court. This may result in a judge ordering you to appear at a hearing to explain your absence. Ignoring a jury summons can lead to hefty fines or even a jail sentence.
Who is Eligible for Jury Duty?
State courts compile a pool of potential jurors from a list of residents who are registered to vote and have a driver’s license or another form of state identification. In Georgia, for example, any state resident who meets the following criteria can serve on a jury:
- US citizen
- 18 years or older
- Reside in the same county where the trial is taking place
- Able to speak, read, and write in English
- Mentally competent
- Physically able to sit in a courtroom
- Not a convicted felon without restored voting rights
Even if you meet these criteria, you may still be able to get out of jury duty if you can prove that you qualify for an exemption.
Can I Legally Get Out of Jury Duty?
If you have a valid reason, there are a few options for getting excused from jury duty.
Not required to report
Call the juror information line on your summons at the specified time, typically after 6:00 pm on the Friday before your designated reporting date. Listen carefully to the recorded message. If your juror number falls outside the specified range, you are excused from service, and you can discard your summons without any penalties.
Excused from reporting
In Georgia, you may request to be excused from jury duty if you:
- Are a full-time student currently enrolled in classes
- Are the primary caregiver to a child age six or younger with no alternate childcare available
- Are a primary teacher in a home study program with no alternate childcare available
- Are the primary unpaid caregiver of a person who is unable to care for themselves (doctor’s note required)
- Are 70 years old or older
- Are on active military duty
Eligible to have your jury service postponed
You may ask to have your jury duty rescheduled if you:
- Are ill
- Are traveling for work or have a previously scheduled vacation
- Have a medical procedure scheduled
- Are involved in work necessary for public health, safety, or good order
- Have another valid excuse
Call the court at least a week before your summons date to find out if your excuse is valid and how to submit your postponement request.
Contact a Personal Injury Lawyer
Receiving a jury summons today doesn’t mean you won’t find yourself in need of legal representation tomorrow. If you’re involved in a personal injury case, you’ll be grateful to know that the court provides your lawyer with a pool of jurors from which to choose.
If you have any concerns about the jury selection process or questions about taking your case to court, don’t hesitate to reach out to Zevin & Rosenbloum, P.C. They are experienced personal injury lawyers in Atlanta, with a long-standing history dating back to 1971. Request your free case evaluation today by visiting 5 WS.