The penalties for missing jury duty vary by jurisdiction. In come cases, potential jurors who fail to meet their obligations may be required to appear before a judge to explain themselves and may face fines or even jail time for refusing to serve. Most jurisdictions make provisions for potential jurors for whom serving would be a hardship, but in order to avoid penalties, these potential jurors must communicate their situation to the appropriate court officials.
In countries where juries regularly decide criminal and civil cases, the responsibility for serving on a jury falls on average citizens who likely have significant work, community, and family responsibilities. In many cases, a summons for jury duty is issued on a random basis with little consideration for the schedule of the potential juror. For this reason, many people who receive a summons may be unable or unwilling to show up in court. No matter how legitimate their reasons for missing jury duty, in most places doing so is against the law.
Once a person misses jury service, the court that summoned the person may take one or several different actions. The potential juror may receive a letter in the mail explaining that he missed jury duty and that he must serve on a different date. If a potential juror repeatedly ignores a summons to jury duty, a judge may issue an order to show cause, which requires the potential juror to come to court and tell the judge why he has ignored all summons. In cases where a potential juror persists in not appearing, or does not respond to a judge's order to appear in court, a warrant for his arrest may be issued. Though it is rare in the United States, recalcitrant jurors have on occasion been sentenced to jail if they continue to try to dodge their jury duty obligation.
Many court systems recognize that not appearing for jury duty is often a scheduling matter and allow potential jurors to defer their duty if they need to. In some cases, courthouses have automated telephone systems that allow jurors to call in the night before they are scheduled to report for jury duty to find out if they are actually needed. Some jurisdictions also set limits on how often an individual can be called to serve, in some cases restricting individuals to only one trial every two years.