What Happens If I Skip Jury Duty?

In Personal Injury by Michele Mirman

Juries play a critical role in New York. When someone is accused of a crime, they have a right to have their case tried before a jury of their peers. When someone gets into a car accident, they may want to litigate their dispute against an insurance company before an impartial panel of jurors.

Unfortunately, many New Yorkers see jury duty as an inconvenience and aggravation, rather than a privilege to serve their community. You might even feel this way. However, regardless of how you view jury duty, it’s important to realize that it’s a legal obligation for most adults living in the city. That means there can be serious repercussions for ignoring a notice that you’ve been chosen for jury duty.

Am I Required to Show Up For Jury Duty?

Are you an adult who resides in New York City? Do you also satisfy the following requirements?

  • You are an American citizen.
  • You can read, write, and understand the English language.
  • You are a resident of the County in which you’ve been called to serve on a jury.
  • You haven’t served on a jury at some point in the past 8 years.
  • You haven’t been convicted of a felony.

If so, you are required to show up for jury duty when you receive a notice in the mail.

You May Qualify for a Postponement or Excusal

There are no exemptions from jury duty in New York City. However, you may be able to get out of jury duty by asking the court to postpone your service. Alternatively, you may also qualify to be excused from jury duty if you satisfy certain requirements.

Jury Duty Postponement

Let’s say you get a notice in the mail telling you that you’ve chosen for jury duty. There’s a specific date and time that you have to show up at the courthouse for juror selection. However, you already have something planned for that week. Maybe your sister is getting married. Maybe you have to travel for work or you’re in the military. Whatever the reason, there’s just no way you can show up. 

Don’t ignore the notice. If you’ve never done so before, you might qualify to have your duty postponed. If this is the first time you’ve requested a postponement, you can do that by calling or filling out an application online

Request to Be Excused For Very Limited Reasons

In 1996, New York City removed exemptions from jury duty. If you’re an adult who resides in the city and satisfies all other qualifications, you’re required to serve on a jury. However, the government does understand that sometimes that’s just not possible. In very limited situations, you may qualify to be excused from jury duty. 

You can request to be excused from jury duty if:

  • You have a medical condition that prevents you from serving on a jury, or
  • You are the main caregiver or a child or an elderly person.

In order to request to be excused, you’ll have to reply in writing with evidence to back up your request. For medical conditions, a full excuse may be granted. If you’re a caretaker, however, the County may simply grant you a postponement and require you to serve at another point in time.

You Can’t Be Punished For Missing Work to Serve on a Jury

Don’t think that you can use the excuse that you have to work to skip jury duty. New York law specifically protects you from retribution or punishment by your employer for serving on a jury. In fact, your employer could face some serious consequences – including 30 days in jail and thousands of dollars in fines – for interfering with yoru ability to show up for jury duty.

In other words, your employer can’t fire you, give your job away, or demote you because you’ve been called fo jury duty. Your employer can, however, withhold pay if you miss work. However, as a juror,  you are entitled to fees and travel expenses to compensate for your time.

A Jury Summons is a Court Order

The notice you receive explaining that you’ve been selected for jury duty is actually a summons. A summons is a lawful court order. Ignoring a summons is against the law. As a result, you could face some serious penalties – including up to $250 in fines – for throwing your jury duty summons away, failing to respond to request a postponement, or not showing up at court for juror selection. 

Repeatedly ignoring a jury summons and a court’s repeated attempts to get you to show up might result in even more serious consequences, including charges for civil contempt of court.