Jail time a possibility for jury duty evaders

LIMA — Two Allen County residents who failed to appear for jury duty in Allen County Common Pleas Court last month walked out of court $50 poorer than when they entered on Tuesday.

One left the courtroom in handcuffs, a fate that could await similar scofflaws going forward.

Judge Terri Kohlrieser said individuals who ignore court-ordered appearances are subject to fines of up to $250, incarceration in the county jail for up to 30 days, or both. The two individuals who appeared in court Tuesday — one woman and one man — have 30 days in which to pay the $50 fine ordered by the judge.

The female was summoned to court to explain why she should not be held in contempt of court for failing to appear for jury service.

“I’ll be honest; I’ve been busy and time just got away from me,” the woman, a first-time offender, told the judge.

The male who appeared in court Tuesday not only failed to appear for jury duty but also did not return a questionnaire mailed to all county residents who had been selected for the jury pool that runs from August through December.

Kohlrieser also asked the man why, after failing to arrive for jury duty, he had ignored a summons to come to court for a follow-up “show cause” hearing last Friday.

“I forgot. I thought it was a later date,” he replied. “I made a mistake. I accept full responsibility for that and I apologize,” he said.

Deputies with the Allen County Sheriff’s Office issued an arrest warrant to the man Tuesday morning to ensure his court appearance. He entered the courtroom in handcuffs and exited in a similar fashion. Kohlrieser said residents who ignore jury duty summonses will likely face a similar fate, or worse, in the future.

“Part of the responsibility we have as citizens is occasionally we have to make sacrifices to ensure the U.S. Constitution is upheld,” the judge said. “It’s a big deal, and the next time it will be incarceration for people who ignore that responsibility. I’m tired of stopping the wheels of justice for people who forget.”

Kohlrieser said there were 23 county residents who failed to appear for jury duty on Monday this week. Each will soon be receiving court orders requiring them to come before the judge to explain their absences.

“We’ve seen an increase in the number of people who are disobeying summonses and it’s gotten to the point that is prohibiting us from carrying out jury trials. I understand people forget things, and we (judges) try to take that into account. But this is a serious matter that can result in fines, jail or both,” Kohlrieser said.

“As of now, people are on notice that I’ll be leaning toward jail time” for individuals who ignore summonses to appear for jury service, she added.