Nearly every citizen in the country is required to serve on jury duty at some point. The service is mandatory, and a person who has been summoned for jury duty must attend. Failing to do so could result in a range of penalties, none of which are appealing. Speak to a Pennsylvania criminal defense attorney to learn more.
Consequences of Not Showing for Jury Duty in Pennsylvania
Jurors are the finders of fact when it comes to the court system in Pennsylvania and throughout the US. This is an incredibly important duty that remains the backbone of our criminal and civil justice systems. Individuals who fail to show up for jury duty when summoned could face fines and/or imprisonment for contempt of court under 42 Pa. C.S. § 4584.
Under this law, individuals who fail to show up and those who face a contempt of court charge could face a fine of up to $500 or time in jail of up to 10 days, or both of these consequences. In most situations, a judge will order a minimal fine, but we strongly encourage individuals not to ignore a jury duty summons anywhere in Pennsylvania. There are alternatives to simply not showing up.
What if You Can’t Make It?
As opposed to skipping out on jury duty and facing punishment, individuals can appear for jury duty and work to get themselves excused. There are various common grounds for getting excused from jury duty, some of which include:
- Prior service as a juror within the last year
- Proof of undue hardship
- Relatives of victims of criminal homicide
- Prior service on a grand jury for at least 18 months
- Individuals aged 75 years or older
- Those who serve the active duty military, including those serving in the Pennsylvania National Guard
- Women who currently need to breastfeed
Individuals who believe they fall into an excused category should call the phone number on the jury duty summons and request an excuse from service.
The court may also be able to disqualify an individual from serving on a jury, but they will still likely need to report for jury duty and explain the reasons. Some reasons where disqualification may be acceptable include those for non-English speakers, convicted felons, non-US citizens, and non-residents for the particular jurisdiction where the summons occurred.
If you are unable to get excused from jury duty, you will have to sit for jury selection. During jury selection, one of the parties involved in the case could exclude you from the jury. Exclusions are very common but not a guarantee. When you appear for jury duty, you will wait with your assigned jury pool as requested. If a judge does not need all of the jury candidates who have been summoned, then the jury service duty will end.
If You Can Serve, Please Do
Jury duty is important. Under our legal system, we have a right to face judgment from a group of our peers. While this system is not always perfect, it does typically accomplish the goals intended by individuals who created the US Constitution as well as the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania Constitution. Serving as a juror gives you a chance to see the inside of the justice system and participate in the judgment of your peers.