When a Rhode Island resident—who is also a U.S. citizen—becomes 18 years old, he/she becomes eligible for jury duty in the state. The right to trial is one of the most fundamental principles of our nation’s democracy, according to the U.S. Constitution.
There are two types of trials: criminal trials and civil trials. When it comes to criminal trials, jurors must decide that a defendant is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt based on the evidence provided by the prosecution and defense. Regarding civil trials, jurors must decide who is at fault for an accident and the amount of monetary damages the plaintiff deserves.
Eligible state residents will be required to serve jury duty more than once every three years. However, only a select few individuals will ultimately serve as jurors at trial.
If you are randomly selected for the jury pool, you will receive a notice in the mail that will provide a pre-set day you are scheduled to go to court. But what happens if you end up missing your scheduled date?
Failure to appear when summoned for jury duty without an excuse can lead to legal repercussions. While this can result in a maximum $20 fine, it is possible a potential juror could be issued a bench warrant for contempt of court, which can lead to a jail sentence if a police officer pulls you over for a minor traffic offense.
However, the following are several valid excuses that can be used to legally get out of jury duty or jury selection:
- You are an active military member
- You are an elected official
- You are a police officer
- You are a firefighter
- You have a physical or mental disability
If none of the exemptions listed above apply to your situation, you may still be excused from jury duty or jury selection if going to the courthouse will cause “undue hardship.” Common examples of undue hardship include living a long distance away from the courthouse or not having transportation readily available to drive to the courthouse.
If going to court would cause you undue hardship, you must submit a jury duty excuse letter along with your summons response. The court will have the discretion to either accept or deny your excuse.
If you have missed jury duty in Rhode Island, contact The Law Office of Thomas C. Thomasian, Esq. today at (401) 312-4385 and schedule a free consultation to understand your charges and learn how you can avoid criminal penalties.