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What’s the Penalty for Missing Jury Duty in North Carolina?

North Carolina, like all other states, regularly recruits people to come to courts and serve as a member of a jury. This allows citizens undergoing a trial to have one of their fundamental rights: a trial with a jury of their peers. However, despite the jury system being a cornerstone of our legal structure, many people feel dismayed when they receive a jury summons – and some don’t show up at all.

While a jury summons may just look like a regular letter, it is a type of court summons and a legally enforceable document. And like any other violation of a government-mandated court summons, missing jury duty is a punishable offense by law. For more information regarding the penalties for missing jury duty, speak with a criminal lawyer in Raleigh.

Punishments for Missing Jury Duty

Missing jury duty is a form of contempt for court, which can include criminal penalties. For those that miss jury duty without a legitimate reason, the resulting penalties in North Carolina can be:

  • A fine of $50
  • Jail time
  • Remaining in custody of the county sheriff

Depending on the circumstances, a judge may even order a deputy to retrieve a missing juror. Such actions are legally permissible, and avoiding or refusing a direct summons can lead to criminal charges of contempt.

While there is a chance of serving on a jury for multiple days when summoned, that is relatively low – in fact, many residents who arrive to court when summoned for jury duty don’t have to serve at all. While you may want to avoid serving on a jury, the potential legal consequences are not worth the avoidance.

When It’s Acceptable to Miss Jury Duty

While jury summons are a type of a legally enforceable document, North Carolina courts recognize that it’s not always possible for a juror to serve on a particular day – or to serve at all. Residents that have served on a jury within the past two years, are age 72 or older, or have a disability that prevents properly serving can request for the court to excuse them from jury duty. Medical emergencies can also apply as exceptions to summons.

Likewise, it is possible to not attend jury duty on your summoned day if there is a reasonable scheduling conflict, such as pre-scheduled travel arrangements or participation in another trial. In these cases, the court will work with you to schedule a new date to fulfill jury duty. It’s in your best interests to contact the court in advance and make new arrangements, rather than risking contempt and fines for not arriving on your summoned day.

The Impact of Missing Jurors in the Legal System

While a juror not arriving for his or her duty may seem like avoiding an inconvenience to that individual, missing jurors can create complications in the overall legal system. Trials are a necessary component in determining the outcome of many cases. When the court cannot produce an adequately-sized jury, a judge will postpone the case. If many trials are occurring at the same time, finding enough jurors becomes an even more complicated task.

Civil trials can have delayed outcomes for the involved parties, and criminal cases can stretch out even further, creating a backlog in trials. Even so, despite these complications, a judge may not decide to pursue a summons or a contempt of court charge for a missing juror. This lack of consequence leads to many more North Carolina residents not heeding jury summons, creating even further complications in the system.

Courts are not unreasonable in recognizing that not all jurors will be able to fulfill their duties. However, the legal system still has a responsibility to continue running in a fair manner. Properly enforcing the penalties for missing jury duty may lead to higher attendance rates, which will benefit the North Carolina legal system.