Getting a letter in the mail telling you about jury duty always comes at the wrong time. Jury duty seems to come up when you're busy, going on vacation, or just don't have the free time to take a few days off to see if you'll be selected for jury duty. If you are not excused for jury duty, you are expected to show up at the courthouse on the date and time listed. What happens if you don't go?
What Happens If I Miss Jury Duty?
According to the Contra Costa County Courts, “willful failure to appear is contempt of court. Contempt of court is punishable by fine or possible county jail time.” In reality, jail time and fines for missing jury duty are rare.
Jury service is an integral part of our justice system. In a criminal trial, a defendant has the right to have their case heard before a jury of their peers (people from the community). Without jurors showing up, a defendant would not get a fair trial by jury.
There are plenty of legitimate reasons why you miss jury duty. You may have never gotten notice of jury duty. The notice may have been sent to an old address or someone could have stolen your mail. However, in most cases, people simply forget about jury duty or misplace the summons and don't show up.
According to the Alameda County Courts, if you missed or forgot about your summons date, you are supposed to “contact the court immediately to reschedule your jury service.”
Watch Out for the Jury Duty Warrant Scam
The fact that missing jury duty can lead to contempt of court and a possible bench warrant has become the basis for a common scam for people in California and across the country. The Alameda County Courts jury duty website even has a notice about the “Scam Alert.”
“The Jury Services unit of the Superior Court of Alameda County does not call citizens to request payment for failing to appear for jury service. California law does not permit citizens to pay a fine in lieu of jury service; a fine may be assessed, but the citizen would still be required to reschedule jury service for a later date. Please be advised that any requests for such information may be a scam.”
The target of the scam gets a phone call threatening that there is a warrant out for their arrest for failing to show up for jury duty. The caller may even have information about the target's name and address. It may sound legitimate, representing your county or the U.S. Marshalls, complete with a fake case number. Your caller ID may also say it is from a law enforcement agency or court.
The scammer will “allow” the target to clear up the problem by paying a fee or fine over the phone. The caller may ask for personal identifying information, such as your Social Security number, date of birth, or credit card information. The caller may also try to get the target to go to the store and buy gift cards, giving the gift card information over the phone. This is a red flag for a phone scam.
East Bay Criminal Defense
If you do end up with a bench warrant for failing to go to court because you lost a summons or notice of your court date, you can call your attorney to clear things up so you don't end up under arrest for a misunderstanding.
East Bay attorney Lynn Gorelick has more than 39 years of DUI and criminal defense experience and understands the consequences of a criminal record. Representing individuals and their families in Contra Costa and Alameda County, Lynn Gorelick is familiar with the local criminal defense laws, local officers, and the prosecutors involved. Contact East Bay criminal defense lawyer Lynn Gorelick today.