A jury summons is not something most people look forward to receiving in the mail. However, jury duty is an important civic responsibility that helps keep our justice system going. Criminal defendants and parties to personal injury lawsuits depend on juries in Miami every day. So, while spending a day or more at the courthouse might not be your first choice of activities, your attendance and participation are mandatory if you are summoned.
Now, in Florida, if you are over 18 and have a state driver’s license or identification card, you are on the list of potential jurors. You may be called for jury duty once per year, and service typically lasts for one day, unless you are placed on a trial. But, note that federal jury service and state jury service are separate. This means that you could be called for both in the same year.
Keep in mind that a jury summons is an official order from the court. It’s critical that you don’t ignore this notice or you could face fines and be held in contempt of court. That said, there are legal reasons that can excuse you from service. But, it’s always best to let the court know as soon as possible rather than simply not showing up.
Penalties for Not Showing Up to Jury Duty in Miami, FL
Under Florida law, there is a $100 penalty for failure to participate in jury service without an excuse. You may also be held in contempt of court. Contempt means that you are found to have refused to obey a legal order issued by a judge.
Note that contempt charges require you to appear before the court on what is called an Order to Show Cause. At the hearing, you will have an opportunity to explain why you skipped jury duty. The court may then order you to serve on a new date, pay a fine, perform community service, and in serious cases, serve jail time.
Although rare, jail may be appropriate in instances where you failed to respond to several notices and/or orders from the court.
Qualifications for Jury Duty in Florida
Now, by law, you are only required to serve as a juror in Florida if you meet the following requirements:
- You are over 18 years of age
- You are a US citizen
- You are a resident of a county where you were summoned, and
- You are not a felon or currently being prosecuted for a crime.
However, if you are a convicted felon but have had your civil rights restored, you would be eligible to serve.
Jury Duty Exemptions in Florida
In some cases, even those that are eligible for jury duty may be exempt from service. Being considered exempt means that you are allowed to serve if you want to, but you are not legally required to.
If you meet any of the following criteria you would be classified as exempt:
- You are over 70 years old
- You are an expectant mother
- You are not employed full-time and are responsible for the care of children under 6 or infirmed family members
- You are full-time law enforcement or an investigator
- You attend school out of county/state
- You are in the military out of county/state, or
- You already did jury duty in the county within the last year (excluding federal court).
Bear in mind that you are not considered exempt if English is not your primary language. In this case, you could request a court interpreter.
Further, concern over losing your job is also not a valid excuse. It’s against the law in Florida for employers to take action against you for serving on a jury. If you are salaried, your employer may even be required to pay you during this time. Finally, the court won’t excuse you for financial hardships or difficulty traveling to the courthouse.
Postponing Jury Service in Miami
Even if you don’t have a valid excuse to skip jury duty, you may instead be able to postpone the date of service. Every person summoned is entitled to one postponement, and you may defer your service for up to six months. This can be a convenient option if you have an important event planned or a vacation coming up.
Responding to the Jury Summons If You Live in Miami-Dade County
Whether you plan to serve on the date you are called, or wish to seek exemption or postponement, it’s important that you don’t ignore the summons. Once this document comes in the mail, you must follow the instructions. You will be required to click on the E-juror link on the Miami-Dade County court website. You will then be asked to complete a questionnaire.
In the questionnaire, you will have the opportunity to either request a postponement or indicate why you do not qualify or should be excused. If you are able to serve, you must log in to E-juror or call the Clerk’s office on the Friday before your jury service. This is to confirm the correct time for you to arrive, which is subject to change. If there are severe weather conditions, like a tropical storm, it’s always a good idea to call to confirm that you are still expected to show up.