If you have received a summons from a court to appear for jury duty, do not ignore it. It can be daunting to think about potentially missing work or being taken away from your family while the court is in session. However, you may face severe consequences if you choose to not appear for jury duty.

What is Jury Duty?

Jury duty is an obligation of being a citizen of the United States. For many types of cases, an individual has a constitutional right to request a trial that is overseen by a jury of their peers. If selected as a juror, you will serve impartially by hearing the evidence in the case and rendering a verdict with your fellow jurors. Jurys can be used in both criminal and civil cases. Any U.S. citizen can receive a summons from a federal or state court to report for jury duty.

Depending on the court, you may receive a summons in the mail or online via email. Receiving this summons does not mean that you have been selected to be on a jury. Rather, it means that you are a potential juror who may or may not be selected to serve on a jury in court. The summons you receive will give you both a date and a time that you are required to show up for jury duty.

What is the Jury Duty Selection Process?

In Texas, there are a few reasons that you could be exempt from even attending the initial jury duty selection process. These are limited and include military service, being a student, being an elected official, or a disability. There will be instructions on the summons on how to report these exemptions.

If you do not qualify for one of the initial exemptions, you will need to appear in court. On the day of your jury duty, you will arrive at the court and be asked to fill out a questionnaire. Some courts allow this to be filled out online before you arrive. In a minority of jurisdictions, you may be able to even call the night before and answer the questionnaire.

After filling out the questionnaire, it is possible that you may be told that your services are no longer needed. If this happens, this means that you are excused from jury duty and that you have not been selected as a potential juror. Some common reasons you may be excused for jury duty include physical and mental disabilities, family or economic issues, conflicts of interest, or felony convictions. 

Another common reason for being excused involve your personal opinions that conflict with the case. For example, if you do not believe in the death penalty, the prosecution would more than likely seek to exclude you as a juror in a murder case where capital punishment could be used.   

If you are not immediately excused after the questionnaire, you will be questioned by attorneys representing the different sides in the case. This process will be supervised by a judge. The purpose of the interviews is to select an unbiased jury. Questions will generally focus on your life experiences as they may relate to the case to show if you can be impartial. After the interviews, jurors will be chosen and all that are not selected are excused from further jury duty.

Consequences of Skipping Jury Duty in Texas

Even if you have a compelling reason to be excused from jury duty, you still need to appear in court on your assigned date. If you do not appear, you may face serious penalties. For federal court cases, you could be seized by a federal marshal and taken to the court by force. You would then have a chance to explain why you did not show up for court. If the judge does not find your reason compelling, you can be fined and you could face up to three days in jail.

It is also important to show up for jury duty selection in state courts. States have the discretion to determine their own guidelines for punishing individuals who fail to show up for jury duty. Penalties usually involve some sort of fine and possible incarceration. In Texas, failure to appear after receiving a summons carries a fine between $100 and $1,000.

While skipping jury duty may be tempting, remember that your employer is not allowed to penalize you for missing work if you have been summoned or are serving on a jury. You will not receive compensation for serving on a jury, however, you will also not lose your job. Some organizations offer paid leave for jury duty, so it is best to check with your employer to see if this is a service they may offer.