Jury duty is one of the few responsibilities that comes along with the rights of citizenship. Our nation’s court system would not function if not for everyday men and women taking this responsibility seriously. In the state of Maryland, just about every adult is eligible for jury duty. The state checks voter registration lists, driver’s license lists, and other lists too to make sure they have a comprehensive database of Maryland residents. 

If you get a Juror Qualification Form in the mail it is important that you fill it out accurately and promptly. Failure to do so could result in a $5,000 fine, 30 days in jail, or both. The form is designed to help court officials determine whether or not you are eligible for jury duty. Criteria for eligibility include:

  • Citizenship
  • Being older than 18 years of age
  • Being a resident of Maryland
  • The ability to read and write

If you meet these criteria and answer truthfully on your Juror Qualification form, you will most likely be summoned to jury duty at some point. 

Penalties For Ignoring a Jury Summons

When you receive a summons for jury duty, it is imperative that you appear on the date and at the location specified in the summons, first and foremost because, as noted above, our court system relies on juries comprised of an accused’s peers. 

But there are other reasons you should show up to jury duty when summoned. Just as a failure to properly fill out the Juror Qualification form can lead to fines and jail time, a failure to show up for or complete jury duty are also subject to legal punishment.

If you don’t show up for jury duty on the date listed in your summons, you could be fined up to $1,000 dollars, put in jail for up to 60 days, or both. If you do show up but later fail to complete your jury duty the penalty is even more harsh. While the fine is still $1,000, jail time could get as high as 90 days.

What About My Job? Can I Skip Jury Duty For Work?

One reason some people worry about jury duty is they think it will put their job in jeopardy. However, Maryland has strict laws in place that make it illegal for an employer to fire an employee solely for the reason of missing time due to jury duty. If necessary, you can even get official documentation from the court to prove your jury service.

While some employers may opt to do so, it should be noted that your employer does not have to pay you for the time you serve on a jury. You will however receive a small per diem from the state for your jury service. This usually ranges between $15-30 dollars for the first five days of service, but does increase to $50 starting on the sixth day and continues at that rate for any subsequent days. 

What if I am Exempt from Jury Duty?

It is possible to be exempted from jury duty. However, in the state of Maryland, such exemptions can be quite rare. You will have to prove that temporarily foregoing jury duty is required because of “extreme inconvenience, public necessity, or undue hardship.” 

If you do believe an exemption or excusal could apply to you, you should contact the jury office in your county. You can also get in touch with jury officials in your area if a sudden injury, illness, or death in the family occurs. While these reasons might not automatically exempt you from jury duty, officials will take them into consideration.

You should know, however, that even if you are excused from jury duty, it will most likely only be for a specific period of time. At the end of that time, you will still need to report for jury duty on the agreed upon date.

What if I’m in the Military and Can’t Show Up For Jury Duty?

There is one more valid reason to request excusal from jury duty: military service. While being excused isn’t guaranteed, if you believe jury duty would negatively affect your ability to perform your military duties, then you can ask to be excused. You can even have your commanding officer complete and submit a form that explains why you should be excused.

If none of these circumstances apply to you, it is best to show up for jury duty on the date you have been assigned. By doing so, you will be fulfilling your responsibility as a citizen and making sure those accused of a crime or trying to settle a dispute after a car accident have access to a fair trial.