ROCKFORD, Ill. (WTVO) — The United States Constitution guarantees all criminal defendants a right to trial by a “jury of their peers.”

In Illinois, a jury is selected at random from individuals who are eligible for jury duty.

To become a juror in Illinois, a prospective juror must be:

  • citizens of the United States
  • at least 18 years of age
  • inhabitants of the county in which summoned
  • free from all legal exception
  • of fair character
  • of approved integrity
  • of sound judgment
  • well informed
  • able to understand the English language, whether in spoken or written form or interpreted into sign language.

When someone is summoned to be part of the jury pool, that doesn’t necessarily mean they will serve on a jury.

If there is no available case for trial, or if a juror is excused from a court proceeding, they may be sent home.

But — can you be arrested if you don’t show up to jury duty in the first place?

The answer is: yes. Failing to appear for jury duty in Illinois is against the law.

A juror who does not answer a summons can be found in contempt of court and can be fined up to $100 for a state summons; or spend up to three days in jail, or be ordered to perform community service, for a federal summons.

If you respond to your jury summons and explain that you have a valid excuse, the state will generally allow you to postpone service or remove yourself from the potential pool of jurors.

Valid excuses for missing jury duty include:

  • Medical and physical conditions
  • Disability
  • Presently out of the country
  • Not a citizen
  • Not of age
  • Felony conviction
  • Currently serving probation
  • Deceased
  • Full-time student
  • Breastfeeding mother
  • Job complications
  • Obligation to care for another person during the day, or
  • Financial hardship.