When someone gets hurt in an accident in Texas, they may have the right to file a personal injury lawsuit against the negligent person who caused them to get hurt. While most personal injury lawsuits settle before trial, some do not. There will be times when insurance companies will refuse to cooperate, or parties can’t agree on a settlement. When this happens, the case will go to trial.

At trial, both parties will have the opportunity to argue their side of the story in front of a jury. In order for that to happen, though, there has to be a jury. Members of the community have to sacrifice their time, travel to the courthouse, and sit on a jury.

Jury duty is seen by many as an inconvenience. An aggravation. Most people roll their eyes when they got a notice that they’ve been chosen for jury duty. Can you just ignore your jury summons? What happens if you just don’t show up for jury selection?

Most Texans Have an Obligation to Show Up for Jury Duty

You might get a notice to appear for jury duty if you live in Texas and:

  • Are over the age of 18, and
  • Are registered to vote
  • Have a Texas driver’s license or identification card.

Specifically, you’ll receive a jury summons. A summons isn’t a request. It’s an official court order. If you live in Texas and meet basic minimum standards (e.g., you can read and write, speak English, etc.), you have to comply.

However, just because you’ve been chosen for jury duty doesn’t mean that you’ll actually be picked to sit on a jury. You’ve just been selected to be a member of a pool of potential jurors. You’ll have to go to court at the time and date stated on your notice to find out if you’re actually selected for a jury.

You Might Qualify for An Exemption

Serving on a jury is seen as one of the greatest privileges a person can have. When you sit on a jury, you help to protect the constitutional right to have a dispute or criminal trial decided by an impartial, unbiased group of citizens. However, there are times when serving on a jury would impose an unreasonable burden on you. In these situations, the state understands that you might not be able to show up and perform your legal responsibility.

You may qualify for a legal exemption to jury duty if you:

  • Are 70 years of age or older
  • Have a child under the age of 12 and jury duty would force you to leave them without adequate supervision
  • Are a student at a secondary school
  • Are an officer or employee of the senate, house of representatives, or legislative branch of government
  • Have served as a petit juror in the past 24 months
  • Are the primary caretaker of someone who is unable to care for themselves (except for health care workers)
  • Have served as a petit juror in a county with at least 250,000 in the past three years
  • Are in the military, on active duty, and have been deployed away from your home station and the county where you live.

Just because you qualify for an exemption doesn’t mean that you have to ask to be excused from jury duty. You’re still encouraged to show up if you can make things work.

Ignoring Your Texas Jury Summons Can Have Serious Consequences

You can’t just toss your jury summons in the trash and move on with your day. You have to show up for jury duty with your completed juror questionnaire (if you haven’t already mailed it back to the state) or request an exemption. If you don’t, you could potentially face harsh consequences. The penalty will depend on specific details of your case, including the type of jury summons you ignored.

County or District Jury Summons: Ignoring a jury summons from a county court or district court can be considered contempt of court. If convicted, you could face up six months in jail and be required to pay $500 in fines.

Municipal Jury Summons: If you ignore a summons from a small claims or municipal court, you could be sentenced to three days in jail and told to pay up to $100 in fines.

Federal Jury Summons: You may be seized by a federal marshal if you fail to show up or ask for an exemption after receiving a federal jury summons. A court will ask you to provide a good reason for your absence. If you can’t provide one, you could be required to pay up to $100 in fines and/or spend a maximum of three days behind bars.

This isn’t to say that ignoring one jury summons will definitely result in jail time or a fine. Courts might not want to spend countless resources tracking you down and holding hearings to penalize you for ignoring one summons. Criminal penalties are much more likely if you repeatedly ignore your jury notice and show a pattern of disrespecting the court.

However, it’s important to remember that the court system can’t function properly without your help. If someone gets into a car accident, they might need your help getting the money they need to cover medical bills, lost wages, and other damages.

In fact, you might even have to rely on a jury one day. Even though it might be an inconvenience at the time, it’s an incredibly important role you’ve been asked to play.