I'm wondering what happens if I can't appear on my date I'm assigned for jury duty? For example, if I get into a car accident on the way to the courthouse or my kid gets sick on the day of jury duty. If I explain to the court what happened, will they be understanding and give me a new date or will I be thrown in jail and fined?

Along the same lines, if I had asked for a postponement and on the date of my new jury summons I can't appear (car accident, Covid, sick kid), what happens? I had already used my postponement but bad luck hit me. Will I be allowed to set another date again or because I already used my postponement, will I be thrown in jail and fined?

In case anyone is going to troll me, no, I don't intend to bail on my jury duty responsibilities but the last 2 times I received a summons, I've had to go into the courthouse. My earlier times I was called in for jury duty, the phone message said they didn't need me to appear at the courthouse so I didn't have to worry about this hypothetical situation occurring.

  • 3
    I don't know how it works in California, but in New York and in the federal courts you aren't limited to one postponement. I was summoned for a week I was planning to be out of the country on vacation. They granted my postponement request and then summoned me a few months later for another time I was planning to be out of town. No problem.
    – phoog
    Commented Jun 20 at 22:37

1 Answer 1


From the Juror FAQ for the Southern District of California

The Court realizes that from time to time jurors may need to request a temporary absence from jury service. These absences are generally for appointments with a physician, scheduled vacation time, business obligations, etc. Because the Court will make every effort to accommodate temporary absences during your jury term, these absences do not constitute a valid reason for complete excuse of your service.

When requesting a temporary absence, you must telephone your request immediately or as soon as you know the dates for which you need to request a temporary absence by notifying the Jury Office at 1-800-998-9035 & press "2" and listens to one of the five options and press #8 (between 9:00 am and 4:00 pm Monday through Friday, excluding federal holidays). The Court will make every effort to work around your schedule.

For other California courts, there should be similar accomodations. The juror information you receive should have a link to their FAQ, as well as the relevant phone number.

You will hardly be the first person with a last-minute emergency during their jury duty. As long as you're honest about it, there's no need to worry.

Maybe if you have an emergency every time you're called, they might get suspicious about these coincidences. But I suspect you'd get away with it, as they probably don't have the resources to investigate whether your excuses are valid.

  • 2
    of course they may well require you to provide evidence of the stated reason for your absence as soon as prudent, especially if, as you state, you're absent frequently.
    – jwenting
    Commented Jun 21 at 7:14
  • 3
    @jwenting I suppose. I somehow missed a jury summons a few years ago. I didn't even find out about it until my next summons, which mentioned that I couldn't get a deferral because I never responded to the previous one. So it doesn't seem like they're extremely dilligent about investigating these things.
    – Barmar
    Commented Jun 21 at 14:53
  • Most likely someone who got in a car accident on the way to court, as suggested in the question, wouldn't have the time or resources to make such a formal request prior to them being noted absent.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jun 22 at 20:27
  • @Barmar I almost missed one--arrived the day before a trip that I wouldn't get back from until after the appearance date. They were very casual about it when I called in which strongly suggests it wouldn't have been an issue had it arrived a day later. Commented Jun 23 at 2:36
  • Note: you generally only get temporary absences granted if the reason for the absence is either an unforeseen circumstance or an activity that had been planned already before you received the jury summons. you can't get out of jury duty by planning a week to Tahiti the day after you get the summons...
    – Nzall
    Commented Jun 23 at 13:50

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