The jury system is the cornerstone of our criminal justice system. Without jurors being available to hear cases, the mechanism by which cases are resolved will come to an abrupt halt. Under New York law, skipping jury duty can result in both criminal and civil penalties.
Who is Required to Serve on Jury Duty?
To be eligible to serve as a juror in New York State, you must need the following five requirements:
- Be a United States Citizen,
- Be at least 18 years old,
- Reside in the County in which you are summoned to serve,
- Be able to understand and communicate in the English language,
- No felony convictions.
How Frequently Are You Required to Serve on Jury Duty?
Generally speaking, you are eligible to serve on jury duty every 6 years. If you serve on a jury for 10 days or more, then you will be eligible to serve on the jury in 8 years. Juror service that is 10 days or longer can be Grand Jury or a trial jury (originally called a “Petit Jury” or a small jury).
What Happens if You Skip Jury Duty?
If you do not show up for your jury duty, you will automatically receive a new summons for jury duty on a different date.
What Are Civil Penalties for Skipping Jury Duty in New York?
Under Judiciary Law Section 527, you may be subject to a fine of up to $250 for not responding or failing to attend jury duty. In order for the fine to be imposed a proceeding has to be brought against you for non-compliance. Importantly, a proceeding for non-compliance cannot be brought against you for skipping jury duty, unless there is proof that you have received the jury summons and later, a notice of non-compliance.
That requires proof that you were served personally or by first-class mail, with a notice of noncompliance. Although it is not clear how many civil penalties are imposed for skipping jury duty, it appears that it must be repeated non-attendance of jury duty.
What Are the Criminal Penalties for Skipping Jury Duty in New York?
In theory, you can be arrested and charged with Criminal Contempt in the Second Degree, in violation of Penal Law 215.50 for skipping jury duty. Criminal Contempt requires intentional disobedience of a court order of which you have knowledge of. This charge is a Class “A” Misdemeanor, which can be punishable by:
- Up to 1 year in prison,
- Conditional Discharge (with conditions imposed by the court),
- Unconditional Discharge (no conditions imposed by the court), OR
- Time served.
With that being said, search of New York cases has not revealed a single case that an individual was arrested and then criminally prosecuted for skipping jury duty. It appears that although this law is on the books, it is infrequently if not never used.
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