Jury Summons--How do they know that you received it?

I just got a jury summons in the mail today. It came regular mail, no service, and not certified. I could see how someone could very easily mistake it for solicitations and throw it away.

My question: IANAL, but I can’t see how this type of notification would meet any type of minimum standards for punishment if I didn’t show up (I will show up, just an exercise) What if my 5 year old daughter threw it away before I ever saw it? How could they fine me/jail me/hold me in contempt for skipping out on this as long as I simply said I never received it?

I am in Palm Beach County, Florida, but am just interested in how this is handled in other parts of the country.

Mine came regular mail the 2 or 3 times I got them here in NC. I doubt any places use certified mail. I think it is rare to get prosecuted for not showing up but it can happen so they probably have to prove you got it. Not sure how they can prove that.

They prove it by asserting they put it in the mail. Amazingly enough, you are often effectively considered to have the moral, if not the legal responsibility of reading your mail, even if you think it is “junk.”

“Proof of service” in most states simply requires an assertion that the item was inserted into the mail stream. The presumption is that you receive your mail. If you wish to assert you did not receive it, you have to establish that. Please note that, in the OP’s hypothetical about it being thrown away, you have received it, you just didn’t read it.

Now, as to whether or not, when you get dragged into court on a contempt charge for having failed a summons to jury duty, you can assert that you never read the summons, and it must therefore have been tossed out, that would be sufficient to prevent the heavy hand of the court from falling upon you, I can’t say. Perhaps someone with more experience would be able to offer you information. But as a rule, you should not toss out mail without at least inspecting it to be certain it is something you don’t want to read. :wink:

That’s very interesting. Say an unpopular type character regularly gets hate mail, including graphic images of goatse. Legally he has to submit himself to reading that?

Also the mailman around here occasionally puts mail in the wrong mailbox. If he did that with a jury summons would I still be on the hook even though I never got it at all? How would I prove I never got it?
What if I was out of town for a few months?

My Great Grandfather is a snowbird and as such maintains residence in two states. Could get they send him a letter in the winter and nail him for contempt of court?

How does one go about establishing they did not receive a piece of mail?

How do they know that you received it?

Wait a minute, and all talk about getting it and then not reading it aside. There’s a world of difference between an item being put in the mail and said item actually being delivered to, and received by, the addressee. There are many documented case of letters NOT being delivered in a timely manner (as in found in a corner of the post office years later), or delivered at all. And there are any number of situations where people are advised to use certified mail to prove that delivery occurred. I find it hard to believe that someone could suffer criminal penalties for not receiving mail that they very well may not have received, and that the legal burden of proof is to prove a negative. That doesn’t make sense.

I know a few people did not show up the last time I was called, I wondered what happened to them, I assume nothing.

As a practical matter, I highly doubt that there would be any serious consequences if you swore that you never received the (mailed) jury summons. If you don’t respond to a jury summons, I would guess that eventually they would either send a sheriff’s deputy out to either serve you personally or pick you up and bring you down to the courthouse to explain yourself to a judge and be assigned a fresh jury date in front of everyone. If you ignored that, then you could start getting into problems. Just my guess based on how the system seems to work.

“Establishing that you did not receive” a certain piece of (unregistered/uncertified) mail is as simple as saying, “I didn’t receive it”. As DSYE notes, the sender can establish that they did their duty by saying, “we mailed it,” but they can’t press for sanctions if you say “I didn’t get it”.

My guess is they were probably called again. I’m sure the court system has better things to do than arrest people ducking jury duty, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the notices just kept coming until they got a response. Maybe after a while something would happen.

Problem with that defense is, something like 98%+ of all mail is delivered in a reasonable time frame to its correct address. Courts can claim there is little doubt you did indeed recieve said notification, and disregarded or forgot about it.

Here if you don’t show up they send you another letter saying you have 21 days to appear and make it up. If you don’t show up I would imagine there are fines, etc.

Well that just means 1 out of 50 they summon don’t get their notice.

How many do they send out? More then 50?

But there is reasonable doubt, since statistically some people actually won’t get their notice.

So you could get a troublesome neighbor in trouble by selectively stealing their mail? Your room mate could get you fined by forgetting to tell you you got some mail?

Got it, forgot about it and didn’t go in. Nothing happened.

Question: How does the IRS (I believe that is your tax office bureau?) mail its notices - with normal mail or specially? I assume normal mail, because special mail (delivery with signature) would be quite expensive.

In Germany we don’t have jury summons, but we have mail from the Tax office, and thus several cases were handled in court about important mail not reaching the sender because “the dog ate the letter the minute it fell through the door slot / my kid tore it up etc.” The courts ruled that as soon as the letter is dropped by the mail carrier through the door slot/ into the mail box, it is in the power of the receiver, and misbehaved kids/pets are his own problem.

Similar if you go on a three-week vacation or live in another town - it’s your duty to make sure your mail somehow reaches you (by re-routing, if necessary with the help of the post office), or if on vacation, by appointing somebody to empty the mailbox and e.g. call them by phone if there was an important letter.

I don’t think he has to open and read a letter that has no return adress, but a letter that’s adressed from the court house, town hall, tax office or similar he has to open and look at. (And if there’s goatsex in those envelopes, he should complain.)

Organize a neighbour to empty your mailbox and look at the envelopes, and send them after you if they are official. Or, if you don’t trust your neighbor, go to the post office and pay for them to forward your mail to your vacation place. Generally, it’s your pleasure to go on vacation, and your duty to make sure that official stuff can reach you still. If you aren’t organized, you have to bear the consequences, I’d say.

Your Grandpa is a bird? With wings and beak? Or what do you mean? If he lives in two places, same as above - either trust a neighbor, or tell the post office to forward from the seldom-used residence to the common-used one.

Snowbird is a person who heads to a southern place to live in the winter.

You’re assuming that the less than 2% of mail that is mis-delivered or lost is random – it isn’t. For example, handwritten addresses are much more likely to be hit, because of problems reading the handwriting. While junk mail is machine printed, often with the delivery barcode too, and the addresses are properly formatted according to PO standards, and verified as valid deliverable addresses before being mailed. So they are much more likely to be delivered correctly.

Presumably, the jury notices are not handwritten, but computer-printed letters. And the addresses, coming from voter registration rolls or motor vehicle lists, were known to be good addresses within a recent time frame. So the chance that this mail would not be delivered is much lower.

Jury notices around here are sent by regular U.S. mail. Enough people do respond that it’s never really an issue. If you haven’t responded to several jury summons over several years, though, and the jury commissioner is sure she has your current address (they’re taken from voter rolls, and there are periodic proposals in Ohio to use BMV registered-driver lists too), you might get a certified-mail letter warning you to show up or risk arrest, but that’s very rare. Even more rarely, deputy sheriffs or bailiffs go out to arrest smartasses who write “Nyah nyah I’m not comin’ in” letters to the court, or who absent themselves from court once they’re placed on a jury but before the trial is over.

Related to the issue Constanze brought up regarding the IRS, a few years ago, I had a 1099 not show up for one of my investments in preparation for my taxes, which indeed got lost in the mail. Unfortunately, they did send the other half of it to the IRS where it was received. So, I didn’t realize I was missing it, I go to a tax preparer, and he does my taxes not realizing it is missing either.

Meanwhile, a few years go by, the IRS catches the mistake, and then runs my ass through the ringer over the missing tax plus penalties based on the number of years that has passed between when the tax was owed and when they caught the mistake. It was a legitimate mistake on my part because I should have known the 1099 was coming, but this investment takes all dividends and reinvests them in the same fund, so I never actually ‘see’ any of the money per se. So, thanks to the lost envelope, I paid hundreds of dollars in penalties courtesy of the USPS. It hardly seems fair, but you can sure bet I have the tax guy triple check every year that all the 1099s that were on the taxes from the previous year are there this year too, otherwise I would call the brokerage/ money manager and get another copy. It’s never happened again, but it does seem lame that we have so many life altering pieces of mail that are never sent with any kind of delivery confirmation to ensure they got there, and with no follow up from the sender.

Granted, I’m in the Chicago mail system, which is not the greatest, but a minimum of once a month I get mail that’s clearly addressed (as in, typed or printed by computer) to either neighbors or people a street or two over. Sometimes, I get five or six letters at a time. Being a responsible adult (at least when it comes to mail), I hand deliver it to my neighbors (which has included checks, among other things). It’s not unreasonable to assume that a good chunk (1-2%) of jury summons get lost, in my opinion.