Jury duty postponement backed in emergencies in Florida

File photo
File photo

Proposals are moving through the Legislature that would allow Floridians to postpone jury duty for a year during public-health emergencies and states of emergency.

The House Justice Appropriations Subcommittee on Tuesday unanimously approved a broader courts bill (HB 1197), sponsored by Rep. Vance Aloupis, R-Miami, that includes the jury-duty change.

A Senate version (SB 748), sponsored by Sen. Jeff Brandes, R-St. Petersburg, was approved last week by the Senate Criminal and Civil Justice Appropriations Subcommittee.

Under current law, jurors can request postponement of jury service for up to six months and can face fines up to $100 and be held in contempt of court if they do not show up for service without providing a sufficient excuse, according to a House staff analysis.

The proposal would allow postponement for up to a year if the state surgeon general declares a public health emergency or if the governor declares a state of emergency.

Jury trials have been postponed throughout the state during the past year because of efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19.

“Once jury service resumes, some people who are summoned may not be able to attend on a particular date due to complications created by the pandemic,” the House staff analysis said. “The examples are given that the person summoned might recently have returned to work after being unemployed during the pandemic or might be responsible for the care of someone who is at greater risk of health complications if he or she is exposed to COVID-19.”