What really happens if you miss jury duty?

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carscreenshotAs word of a scam targeting city residents surfaced again Monday, a court official shed light on what would happen if someone failed to show up for jury duty.

And it wouldn’t involve paying money over the phone.

“No court’s gonna direct that you make a payment amount in advance to avoid an arrest warrant,” said Michael Davey, court administrator in the Virginia Beach Circuit Court.

Yet that’s what scammers have done, pretending to be deputies from the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s Office and claiming people have missed jury duty. In the most recent iteration of the ploy, summarized in a release from the the circuit court clerk’s office Monday, scammers claim to represent the Virginia Beach Sheriff’s office or the clerk’s office; they say that a person has missed jury duty or grand jury service and must make a payment to avoid being arrested for contempt. Sometimes they also request personal information, the release said.

The alert from the clerk’s office came on the heels of a similar notice last week, issued in a tweet from the sheriff’s office.

If a resident actually missed jury duty in Virginia Beach, though, here’s what would likely happen, according to Davy.

Someone from the court clerk’s office would call and ask about the failure to appear for jury duty. If the no-show prospective juror offered a satisfactory explanation, he or she would be scheduled to show up for service on a future date, according to Davy.

A no-show juror who does not have a good explanation for being absent, though, would receive a notice from the court, directing them appear in front of a judge.

Only then would a fine be a possibility – and it would range from $50 to $200.

“They’re not just going to do that in your absence,” Davy said.

Anyone who receives a call from a jury-duty scammer should contact the court clerk’s office at 757-385-4589, or the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Norfolk office, at 757-455-0100, according to the release.

“This is not unique to this area,” Davy said. “This is across the United States.”

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Joan Quigley is a former Miami Herald business reporter, a graduate of Columbia Journalism School and an attorney. Her writing has appeared in the Washington Post, TIME.com, nationalgeographic.com and Talking Points Memo. Her recent book, Just Another Southern Town: Mary Church Terrell and the Struggle for Racial Justice in the Nation’s Capital, was shortlisted for the 2017 Mark Lynton History Prize. Her first book, The Day the Earth Caved In: An American Mining Tragedy, won the 2005 J. Anthony Lukas Work-in-Progress Award.