What Happens If I Don’t Show Up for Jury Duty in Clearwater?

Jury duty gets a bad reputation. For many individuals, it’s considered to be a frustrating inconvenience. When you’re summoned for jury duty, you may have to miss days at work, arrange childcare, or find transportation – all for an ongoing and unspecified amount of time. 

When your summons comes in the mail, it can be tempting to ignore it. But there are penalties for failure to appear when you receive a summons. 

Failure to appear for jury duty can result in fines, community service, and even jail time. 

How Does Jury Duty in Clearwater, FL, Work?

In Clearwater, FL, the Pinellas County Clerk’s office summons around 74,000 jurors each year. In a county with a population of roughly 959,107, this means that about 13% of the population can expect to be summoned on any given year to serve as a juror in Pinellas County.  

Trial by jury is a right granted by the 6th Amendment of the U.S.Constitution. Serious offenses can be ruled on at a trial by jury. A serious offense is one that carries a potential sentence of imprisonment for more than six months. 

Trial by jury is also common in injury cases, like car accidents, wrongful death, or personal injury suits.

Sometimes, juries can decide by a majority vote. More recently, the Supreme Court ruled that in most states, including Florida, juries must arrive at a unanimous vote to convict someone of a serious crime.

When the right to trial by jury is invoked, the Clerk of the Court sends summons for jury duty out to citizens at random. After arriving at the courthouse, the jury selection process will begin. 

However, just because you’ve been summoned to jury duty doesn’t mean you’ll be chosen to serve. 

Are There Any Exemptions from Jury Duty?

There are reasons to be excused from jury duty. Those who can asked to be excused from serving include: 

  • Expectant mothers
  • Seniors over the age of 70 
  • Caregivers of a child under the age of six
  • Caregivers of a person with a significant disability
  • Students attending school out of state
  • Full-time law enforcement or military

This is a partial list of some of the most common reasons to be given an exemption from serving, but some other circumstances might qualify for exceptions, as well. 

Do I Have to Answer the Summons?

Jury duty is mandatory. Because a trial by jury is a right guaranteed by the Constitution, courts consider it to be a matter of importance for citizens to take a summons seriously. 

If you’ve been summoned for jury duty and don’t want to serve, remember that a summons is only the first step. As you go through the selection process, it may be possible to be eliminated from the pool of jurors. 

What Happens If I Don’t Go?

If you don’t show up for jury duty in Clearwater, FL, you’ll be met with some penalties. 

First, failure to show up to jury duty will result in a fine. The amount will not exceed $100. 

However, if you fail to appear for jury duty, you’ll be held in contempt of court. This means you’ll be given your own hearing date. You’ll be called to go before the judge and have to explain why you failed to appear when summoned. This is called an Order to Show Cause hearing. 

Depending on your explanation, a few different outcomes are possible. At best, the judge can order you to serve on a jury again. You might receive an additional fine or an order to complete community service. Depending on the situation, it’s possible to even receive a sentence for jail time. 

If you fail to appear for jury duty and also fail to appear at your Order to Show Cause hearing, a judge may issue an arrest warrant. Once arrested, you may face additional charges.  

Jury duty is considered to be an important part of a citizen’s civic responsibility. Because ignoring a summons can have serious consequences, it’s best to answer a summons when you receive it.