Throwing Out That Jury Duty Notice Could Get You Arrested

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A jury duty notice isn’t the most exciting piece of mail. For some people, it’s downright annoying. With jury duty comes the hassle of taking time off work and going to court, often sitting around for ours only to be told you won’t be needed that day, and can go home. As a result, many people look for ways out of jury duty, while others just don’t bother showing up. However, before you decide to play hooky from jury duty, you should know that failing to appear can result in a warrant for your arrest.

Low Participation in California

A recent report by California Citizens Against Lawsuit Abuse found that jury participation in California’s most populous counties was only about 30%. The report analyzed jury duty participation rates in 15 California counties, including the number of juror summons sent out and the number of jurors that failed to appear from 2012 to 2014. Over 7.5 million jury notices were sent out with 1.5 million people failing to respond.

Alameda County showed the lowest level of juror participation, with a “participation rate” of only about 12%. San Diego County, Ventura County and Los Angeles County were all among those with a participation rate of below 30%. Meanwhile, San Mateo County showed the highest level of juror participation with almost 58%, with Contra Costa County and Riverside County also coming in with more than 56% juror participation.

As a result, the Alameda County Superior Court reports a “failure to appear” rate at 68%. The Chief Public Defender of Alameda County, Brendan Woods calls the American jury system as “still the best system,” but finding a diverse jury reflective of the community can be a problem. Woods cites economics as one factor keeping people from showing up, and suggests having employers pay for jury service would help. Another reasons for low participation may include a mistrust of the court system by some people, especially in minority communities.

Don’t Skip Out on Jury Duty

Under California law, a Failure to Appear notice for skipping out on jury service can result penalties. These penalties include a contempt of court hearing, fines, or even possible imprisonment. Under the California Code of Civil Procedure, a failure to appear can result in a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 5 days in jail. In actuality, most jury dodgers face little punishment.

You Will Not Get a Phone Call

While an arrest for failing to show up for jury duty is possible, you will not get a phone call. Take caution with anyone who calls you to say your arrest is imminent. Your failure to appear does not come with a house call.

There is a particular scam making the rounds right now in California.  It involves threatening people with arrest if they don’t pay jury duty fines. Con artists are calling up people across the country, pretending to be from the Sheriff’s Department. The caller with threaten arrest if they don’t pay a fine over the phone using a pre-paid debit card.

In light of this scam, county courts, including Alameda, warn people to be careful. According to the warning, the court indicates that they never contact people by telephone asking for payment. A failure to appear notice does not carry an immediate financial penalty. Instead, the court will send a Failure to Appear notice by mail. If you ignore the notice, a warrant is issued. You will not get a phone call for a warning. If you receive a call asking for payment for a jury duty fine, contact your county’s Jury Commissioner’s office.

Call The Kavinoky Law Firm

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John Devendorf
John Devendorf
John Devendorf is a California barred attorney and graduate of Seton Hall University School of Law. He writes on a range of legal topics including criminal law, immigration, and legal marketing. While he is not a member of The Kavinoky Law Firm, we share his legal insights on topics important to our clients.