A summons for jury duty is similar to any other type of court summons. Penalties for disobeying a North Carolina government-issued summons range from stiff fines to possible jail time. While there are no automatic exemptions from jury service, North Carolina courts excuse summoned jurors for a variety of reasons. It is always best to first show up for jury service and then explain why it is impossible to serve on that particular day.
In North Carolina, courts regularly issue a summons to each citizen required for jury service. The summons can be for service in a county criminal or civil court. A summons is an official document stating the person named is legally required to appear in court on the date and time and at the location stated in the summons. The document essentially "summons" one to the courthouse. Ignoring a summons can result in a contempt-of-court charge, which is a crime, and punishable by up to a $50 fine, as of 2011.
Contempt of Court
Failing to appear for jury duty is considered contempt of court. As such, certain criminal penalties are applicable to any defendant found guilty of contempt. Upon being charged with contempt of court for failing to appear for jury duty, the court has multiple options. For defendants having pleaded a legitimate reason why they were absent for jury duty, the court in its discretion may opt to dismiss the charges. The court also may find the defendant guilty of criminal contempt and order him to pay fines, serve jail time or remain in custody of the county sheriff until he purges himself of the contempt by paying costs.
Inability to Serve
North Carolina courts understand that not all jurors can serve on the date named in the summons. Therefore, the law allows citizens to provide valid reasons to the court why they are unable to serve. For instance, if a person has been summoned and has served as juror in the past 2 years, he is not required to serve again until 2 years have passed. Citizens with significant medical impairments are excused from jury service as well. For all other reasonable conflicts, the judge will order jury service to be deferred to a date more convenient for the juror.
Requirement of Candor
Before a trial begins, jurors are expected to answer questions with candor. These questions include whether the juror personally knows any of the litigants or attorneys in the case. Also, the juror must reveal whether he has formed an opinion as to the guilt, innocence or liability of any party involved in the action. Lying in this stage of the juror selection process in an attempt to evade jury selection amounts to perjury, which is a felony in North Carolina.