Serving on a jury or being available to serve on a jury is one of the responsibilities of all American citizens 18 or older, and is mandated by law. Jury summons are usually randomly-selected registered voters or driver's license holders. Though states have different rules, there are several common consequences for those who choose not to show up for jury duty.
Bench Warrant and Arrest
Judges have the authority to issue bench warrants for anyone who intentionally misses jury duty, though this power is only used on rare occasions. A bench warrant is an arrest order issued by a judge that authorizes any law enforcement officer to take you into custody and be brought to face the judge. A bench warrant for missing jury duty is not common, however, an Oregon man, Grant Faber, who left jury duty after a lunch break, received a bench warrant from an irate judge and arrested, according to a May 2009 article in "The Oregonian."
Many states instituted the imposition of specific fines for those who miss jury duty. Though the amount of the fine varies, states are using these monetary punishments as incentives to decrease the number of people who disregard their jury summons. In Milwaukee County, for example, the fine for missing jury duty raised from $40 to $500 in May 2009 because 40 percent of people summoned to serve on a jury in 2008, did not show up, according to a WTMJ 620 News Radio May 2009 article.
Warning Letter/Repeat of Service
If you elect not to respond to your jury summons or don't appear on your scheduled date, most states developed a system that sends out a letter informing you of your absence and asking you to provide a valid reason for missing your appointment. Typically, these letters also give you the opportunity to contact the court to reschedule your service date. If you fail to respond to this letter, a second letter is sent that warns you of the potential use of a bench warrant if you continue to avoid your responsibility.
To encourage you not to discard your jury summons, many courts established incentives designed to reduce the inconvenience of reporting for jury service. These incentives include paying jurors a daily amount that often includes mileage based on the distance between your home address and the courthouse location, making it illegal for an employer to prevent you from reporting for jury duty, offering "one-day" or "one trial" jury services, which require you to serve as a juror for one day and fulfill your duty, or one trial -- typically five to seven days.