What Are a Citizen's Legal Duties?

The duty of all U.S. citizens is to live by and uphold local, state and federal laws.
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Citizen duties in the United States include following local, state and federal laws, which includes complying with all regulations, attending school if a minor and paying applicable taxes. However, only citizens are required to perform jury duty and register for the selective services.

Obeying Laws

It is the duty of all citizens (and anyone else within the U.S. borders) to comply with all local, state and federal laws. Citizens are protected by the law and criminal justice system; in return, they are required to comply with the same rules and accept the same punishment for crimes and offenses committed.

Jury Duty

Among the most dreaded of civil duty requirements, jury duty is compulsory for any citizen who is randomly called to take part. Juries are randomly selected from lists of residents at the city, county or state level. If called to duty, a juror must comply to the summons or be found in contempt and can face a short period in jail and/or a fine of anywhere up to $2,000. Serving on a jury is a duty, and though (by the draw) some may never serve during their lifetime, ignoring a summons is a crime.

Read More: Valid Excuses to Get Out of Jury Duty

Selective Services

All male U.S. citizens are required to register with the Selective Services once they are 18 (and up until 25) years of age. Though the Selective Services is not the draft, it is a precaution for if the draft should ever occur. Failure to register with the SS can result in up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine; if not prosecuted, denial of federal aid for college or federal employment is a possibility. Registration can be done online or at any post office.

School (Minors)

State and federal law requires that all children (minors) attend school. School can be either public, private or approved home-school programs. Once a child reaches the age of 18, school is no longer compulsory and is up to the individual to complete if not already graduated.


All citizens--and legal permanent residents, for that matter--are required to file and pay both federal and state taxes truthfully and on time or risk being audited. Tax fraud and tax evasion are both federal crimes punishable by trial with penalties that can include jail time and steep fines.


The difference between a duty and a responsibility is that you must perform a duty or risk facing legal consequences; whereas, a responsibility is something you should do, but are not required by law to do. This includes voting. While many believe voting to be a duty, it is not a compulsory requirement for citizens. You have the right to vote and you also have the right not to vote. Other responsibilities include patriotism and a concern for the welfare of those around you.

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