What if I Don’t Show Up For Jury Duty?

If you’re like most people, receiving a jury summons in the mail is not something you look forward to. However, juries serve a critical function in the legal process.

Being on a jury gives you the opportunity to learn more about the justice system and fulfill your civic duty. Further, it is important not to ignore a summons or you could face pretty stiff consequences. 

About Jury Selection in Ohio

Now, you may be wondering how people are selected for jury service. In Ohio, names are randomly pulled from registered voter and licensed driver lists. This means that you will only be called in the county or city where you are currently registered or licensed.  

That said, you may be called to appear at a variety of courts. These include:

Jurors are also sometimes selected for juvenile and probate courts as well. Keep in mind that there are very few requirements for serving on a jury. So, most people are eligible. In fact, you qualify as long as you: 

  • Are a resident in the geographical area (city or county) served by the court
  • Are over 18 years of age, and
  • Have not been convicted of certain crimes or had your rights restored.

If you meet these requirements, you must serve unless you meet one of the exceptions listed below.

Penalties for Ignoring a Jury Summons

It’s important to note that a jury summons is an official order from the court. If you choose to ignore the order, the court may issue a warrant for your arrest. Keep in mind that arrest warrants are serious and do not go away on their own. They can also follow you to other states and may be visible to officers even during minor traffic stops.

You may also be found in contempt of court. This can result in you being fined up to $1000 and serve a maximum of three days in prison. Because of these consequences, avoiding a jury summons is never a good idea. If you do find yourself facing criminal charges, it’s important to consult a criminal defense attorney near you for help.

Legal Excuses to Not Serve Jury Duty

That said, there are reasons why you may be legally excused from jury duty in Ohio. Specifically, a person that falls under one of the following categories can choose not to serve:

  • Members of cloistered religious orders
  • Those incapable because of mental and/or physical conditions – if under 75 years of age, you must request a physician’s release from jury service certificate 
  • Spouses or close relatives of someone that recently died or is seriously ill
  • Those that jury service would cause extreme financial or physical hardship
  • Individuals over 75 years of age
  • Amish
  • Armed forces on active duty, and
  • Full-time students whose studies conflict with court hours – must provide current class schedule and college ID.

Note that unlike the qualification requirements, the above reasons are optional grounds for not serving on a jury. This means that you can elect to serve even if one or more of these conditions apply. 

Further, bear in mind that concern about losing your job is not grounds for being excused from jury duty. This is because it is illegal in Ohio for an employer to use jury service as a basis for terminating your employment.

How to Request Excuse from Jury Duty 

Now, if you are eligible for being excused from jury service for a Federal district court, you may send your request by mail. For all state courts, including those in Franklin County, the process is completed online.

In your request, you must explain the facts that make you unable to be on a jury at this time and include a future date when you may become eligible. You should include any documentation you have to substantiate your claim. 

Once your request is submitted, a judge will need to rule on the matter. If you are excused from service, you will become eligible to be summoned again after one year. 

Postponement or Deferral 

In cases where you do not have a valid basis to be excused from service, you may instead request a postponement or deferral. This can be based on anything that would get in the way of you being able to serve, such as pregnancy, an appointment, or a planned vacation.

To request postponement or deferral, contact the court as soon as possible after you receive the summons. When speaking with the court clerk, you should indicate when you would be able to serve. Keep in mind that, in Franklin County, your original summons may specify that service cannot be rescheduled. In all other cases, the court will generally grant a one-time deferral.