Penalties for Not Serving Jury Duty in North Carolina

Jury duty is not a popular calling
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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 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.

Jury Summons

In North Carolina, courts regularly issue a summons to citizens 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 2018.

Contempt of Court

Failing to appear for jury duty is considered contempt of court. Because of this, any defendant found guilty of contempt can face criminal penalties, including jail time. When a person is charged with contempt of court for failing to appear for jury duty, the court has multiple options. For defendants with a legitimate reason for an absence from jury duty, the court can use its discretion and dismiss the charges. The court also may find the defendant guilty of criminal contempt and order them to pay fines, serve jail time or remain in custody of the county sheriff .

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 two years, they are not required to serve again until two years have passed. People aged 72 and older are not required to serve. Citizens with medical, mental or physical disabilities are excused from jury service as well if they provide a letter from a health care provider. For all other reasonable conflicts, the judge will order jury service to be rescheduled to a date more convenient for the juror. If you're not able to appear at the time you're summoned for, it's always best the contact the court and request a new date instead of just not appearing and risking a fine and contempt.

Requirement of Candor

Before a trial begins, jurors are expected to answer questions from the attorneys and the judge with candor. These questions include whether the juror personally knows any of the litigants or attorneys in the case. Also, the juror can be asked whether they have 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.