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

Courts describe jury duty as a privilege of citizenship. As a juror, you help with the administration of court cases. You might get summoned for a criminal case, like a theft case, or a civil case, like a car accident case.

Jurors act as finders of fact. They listen to the evidence and evaluate credibility. At the close of evidence, they render a verdict.

But jury duty takes time, and some people who receive a summons choose not to appear. Here is a quick guide to what can happen if you do not show up for jury duty in Pennsylvania.

Penalties for a Failure to Appear

The Lebanon County court selects prospective jurors from the tax rolls. When you get selected for jury duty, you will receive a jury summons in the mail. A jury summons is a court order. This means that failing to comply with it can expose you to punishment by the court.

When someone disobeys a court order, the judge issues an order to show cause. This order means you need to come to court for a hearing. If you cannot give a good reason why you missed jury duty, the judge can hold you in contempt of court.

The punishment for missing jury duty can include a fine of up to $500, a jail sentence of up to ten days, or both a fine and jail time. Most judges will order a minimal fine.

Alternatives to Failing to Appear

Rather than missing jury duty and risking punishment, you can appear for jury duty and get excused. Some of the common grounds for getting excused from jury duty include:

  • Service as active military personnel, including people serving in the Pennsylvania National Guard
  • Previous service as a juror within the past year
  • People who can show proof of undue hardship or extreme inconvenience
  • Spouses, children, siblings, parents, grandparents, and grandchildren of victims of criminal homicide
  • Prior service on a grand jury for at least 18 months
  • Seniors at least 75 years old
  • Judges
  • Breastfeeding women

If you fall into any of these categories, you should call the jury services number on your summons to request excusal from jury service.

A court can also disqualify you from serving on a jury. You will probably need to report for jury duty and explain the reasons for your disqualification. 

Some examples of grounds for disqualification in Lebanon County include:

  • Non-English speakers
  • Felony convictions
  • Non-U.S. citizens
  • Non-residents of Pennsylvania or Lebanon County

Finally, one of the parties could exclude you from the jury during jury selection. When you appear for jury duty, you will wait as judges request jury pools. The clerk will assign pools to each judge as requested. If the judges do not need all of the jury candidates summoned, your jury service will end, and the clerk will send you home.

Jury Selection

In many cases, the clerk summons more jurors than the judges need on any particular day. This happens for a few reasons.

First, jury pools have more people than needed for a jury. This virtually guarantees that the judge will have enough to fill out a jury, even after jury candidates get excused or disqualified. 

For example, the clerk might assign a jury pool of 30 to a criminal case that needs 12 jurors. If you do not get picked for a jury, your jury service ends, and you get to go home.

Second, the lawyers and the judge can exclude jury candidates from the jury. The process of selecting a jury is called voir dire. 

During voir dire, the judge and the lawyers ask questions. Based on your answers, you might get excluded from the jury. For example, if you know one of the parties in the case, you will probably be excluded and sent home.

Avoiding Jury Duty

Pennsylvania law gives you ways to avoid jury duty. You should use one of those processes if you do not want to serve on a jury rather than ignoring the summons.