What Happens if I Don’t Show Up for Jury Duty in California?

While jury duty isn’t always a top priority or an enjoyable experience, everyone should take it seriously. A robust judicial system, including both criminal and civil courts, cannot survive without jurors. The United States Constitution and most state constitutions even guarantee the right to a jury trial in certain situations.

In California, every eligible resident is required to serve one day of jury duty per year if they are summoned. 

The requirements to be eligible for service include:

  • You must be a U.S. citizen
  • You need to be 18 years of age or older
  • You need to be able to understand English
  • You must be a current resident of the country in which you have been summoned
  • You must not have served on a jury in the last 12 months

If you meet the requirements and are summoned to serve, you are required by law to do so. Several less common eligibility questions can be found on the California Courts website. In some cases, even those with a criminal record are now eligible to serve on juries in California. 

California courts are required to pay those they summons and selects for jury service. The state pays jurors $15 a day starting on their second day of service. The courts do not pay government employees who are entitled to full pay and benefits while on jury duty.

Excuse from Service

If you have been summoned but cannot serve for some legitimate reason, you might be able to seek an excusal. 

Excuse from service may be granted if:

  • You have a physical or mental impairment of some kind
  • It would be a great financial burden for you to complete your service
  • You have no way of getting to the courthouse
  • You take care of a dependent, and it would cost too much to find another caretaker for the day

If you don’t meet any of these requirements, you still may be able to postpone your jury service. Contact the court in your county to see if you can obtain a postponement.

Failure to Serve

If you fail to show up for jury duty, you will most likely receive a second summons. Though a failure to serve for the first summons is rarely punished with a fine, failing to serve when you have received a second summons is a different matter. Each court, in its discretion, can pursue cases against individuals who have failed to report for jury duty. 

When you don’t report for jury duty after a second summons, there is a good chance you will be fined. You could also face jail time and even be held in contempt of court which will go on your record. You could spend up to five days in jail for ignoring a second summons. The court might impose a fine as high as $1000 failing to report after a second summons as $1500 for failing to report after a third.

Of course, judges don’t want to issue multiple summonses or have residents pay fines. What they want are jurors to show up for jury duty. It is always easier to show up and do your duty to the best of your ability. Fortunately, if you are summoned for jury duty, you won’t be summoned again until the following year at the earliest. In fact, if you actually are picked for a jury, it might be years before you are called again.