Penalties for Not Serving Jury Duty in North Carolina

Jurors in Jury Box
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In North Carolina, as in all states, jury duty is a civic requirement for those who meet the court’s requirement of eligibility. Jury service is a mandatory civic duty, but if a person has an acceptable excuse for missing jury duty, they can let the court know and show supporting documentation.

Whether they are a juror for the state or on a federal grand jury panel, ignoring a jury summons won’t make it go away, in fact, it can lead to significant fines or even jail time.

What Is a Jury Summons?

A jury summons is an official court summons. It is a notice sent to prospective jurors informing them that they have been picked for jury selection. A summons gives the date, time and location of the court to which the juror must report.

Receiving a summons isn’t a guarantee that the person will actually serve on a jury. In many cases, they don’t get picked and, after just one day, they’ve fulfilled their civic obligation.

A juror in North Carolina is paid for the time they serve jury duty:

  • Trial jurors receive $12 for their first day and $20 for each additional day.
  • Jurors who serve more than five days receive $40 a day.
  • Jurors serving on a grand jury receive $20 a day.

Jury Duty Process in North Carolina

Potential jurors stay in a courthouse waiting area during jury selection on their first day. Some will be sent home the same day and will have fulfilled their duty, while others will be picked to potentially serve on a jury.

The jurors that pass this first hurdle are asked if serving on the jury will cause them any hardships, and lawyers from both sides question potential jurors to gauge their preexisting knowledge of the case and their potential bias. After questioning, the lawyers begin excusing potential jurors that they believe are not qualified, able or fit to serve.

Those who make the cut as jurors must serve until the trial is completed, which could take a few days or several weeks, depending on the case. Most jurors go home at the end of each day – they are rarely sequestered. Jurors will take an oath before serving on a jury and will be given a badge to wear until the court releases them. Jurors cannot:

  • Use their phones during a court session.
  • Talk about the case to anyone while serving as a juror.
  • Receive or send digital communication regarding the case while serving as a juror.
  • Look for information about the case from an outside source while serving as a juror.

Ignoring a Jury Summons

It is not wise for a person who receives a jury summons to ignore it and not show up. If they cannot attend on the date of the summons they can move the date. North Carolina has a list of valid excuses a juror can use to be excused from jury duty.

The potential juror must make their excuse request with the clerk of the superior court office or the office of the chief district court judge.

A person who ignores a jury summons may receive a Delinquency Notice, a Failure to Appear Notice, or a Notice of Hearing on an Application for Criminal Complaint. Missing jury service can result in penalties, including:

  • Fine of $50 for each day the juror fails to appear.
  • Arrest warrant.
  • Jail time.
  • Civil contempt or misdemeanor conviction on the juror’s record.

What Are Jury Qualifications in North Carolina?

Every two years, a county Jury Commission compiles a list of residents who are registered voters or licensed drivers in North Carolina. The commission then draws prospective juror’s names randomly and sends them a summons via U.S. mail. Potential jurors must meet certain requirements to be on a jury in the Tar Heel State. They must be:

  • Citizens of the United States.
  • Residents of the county where the summons was issued.
  • At least 18 years of age.
  • Competent mentally and physically.
  • Able to understand English.

A prospective juror must not have been on a jury in the two years prior to receiving the summons or have served on a grand jury full term in the six years prior. They must not have a felony conviction unless their citizenship rights have been restored.

Excuses for Jury Duty in North Carolina

A potential juror may have a valid excuse for not attending jury duty. They may request an exemption by filling out the information requested on the summons at least five business days before they are scheduled to appear for jury selection. There are valid excuses for not attending jury duty in the state of North Carolina, including:

  • Residents at least 72 years old may request an age exemption from jury duty by mailing their summons with their reason to the court with supporting age documentation.
  • Individuals on active military duty may request a military exemption by mailing their summons with their reason for not attending to the court with proof of their military orders.
  • Full-time students can seek an exemption from jury duty by showing supporting documentation of their enrollment.
  • Disabled jurors with a disability that interferes with their capacity to serve must give an explanation of their condition on the summons. The court may request additional medical documentation supporting their claim.
  • Elected officials, breastfeeding mothers, police, medical workers and firefighters are also exempt from jury duty.

An excuse from jury duty is granted only if the individual’s service is contrary to the public welfare, health or safety, or would cause compelling personal hardship of the juror. Those who do not meet these exemptions can still submit an excuse letter if they believe jury service would cause them undue hardship. Their excuse from jury duty is then at the discretion of the court.

Jury Duty and Work

Work is not a valid reason for skipping jury duty in North Carolina. A business cannot penalize a worker for attending jury duty – they cannot fire or demote that worker.

State law does not require a worker to receive full wages during jury duty. The employee should notify their employer of their jury service as soon as they receive the summons and ask about the business’ payment policy in regard to jury duty.

State Grand Jury Selection in North Carolina

A state grand jury is enlisted by a superior court for twelve months; nine jurors are replaced in six-month increments. Two grand juries can be convened simultaneously in one county.

A senior superior court judge may set a grand jury’s term of only six months if serving 12 months places a burden on the jurors. In that instance, half of the jurors will be replaced in three-month increments.

Occasionally, a grand jury may extend to 18 months of service. A grand jury’s jurors are chosen from a master list of registered voters and licensed drivers, and picked by the jury commission from each county randomly.

Selection From the Master Jury List

In the initial session of a county’s criminal superior court after January 1 and July 1, nine names are selected from the master jury list. These nine people join nine other people already serving on the grand jury for the past for six months. In North Carolina, jurors meet up to three days per month.

They get reminders mailed to them approximately one week before each scheduled meeting. If a meeting is canceled, the court will send the jurors a notice of that cancellation.

Federal Grand Jury in North Carolina

Federal grand juries also convene in North Carolina. They are made up of 18 jurors who hear testimony and look at other evidence to determine whether an organization or individual should be formally charged with a crime.

A federal grand jury does not determine a party’s guilt or innocence; it only concludes whether or not there is sufficient evidence to reasonably believe that the party should be charged with a crime. If the grand jury panel returns an indictment, the party may then be charged and go to trial before a jury to determine their fate.

Failing to Report to Federal Grand Jury Duty

Like any jury duty commitment in the state of North Carolina, attendance when called for grand jury duty is mandatory, and ignoring a summons for grand jury service or skipping sessions could lead to potential legal problems.

Failing to report to grand jury service can lead the U.S. Marshal Service to serve the juror with an Order to Show Cause. The juror will then be required to appear before the U.S. Magistrate Judge to explain why the court should not hold them in contempt. Penalties for contempt of court include:

  • Maximum fine of $1,000.
  • Up to three days in prison.
  • Community service.

Jurors should contact their jury foreperson if they wish to excuse themselves for a short term. Those who need to be excused for a longer term of more than three months will need the approval of a judge. When filing a long-term excuse request, the juror writes a letter of explanation to the jury clerk, who consults with the judge to give the juror their decision.

Federal Court Jury Duty and Work

Work responsibility is not a valid reason for skipping federal jury duty in North Carolina. A company cannot penalize a worker for sitting on a grand jury. If they do, the employer:

  • Is liable for damages for the worker’s loss of wages and other benefits.
  • May need to provide other appropriate relief, including, but not limited to, the employee’s reinstatement if they were discharged because of jury service.
  • Will be subject to a civil penalty of up to $1,000 per violation.

Any North Carolina juror that experiences unlawful actions from their employer should contact the jury clerk or court officer where they are serving jury duty.