A Florida man was sentenced to 10 days in jail after he failed to show up for jury duty. The man claimed that he simply overslept, but the court was unsympathetic. The man overslept by at least two hours and failed to notify the court. The judge found him in criminal contempt, imposed a $223 fine on him, ordered 150 hours of community service, and sentenced him to ten days in jail. Twenty-one-year-old Deandre Somerville is appealing the sentence calling it excessive. He has already served his ten days, but now has a criminal record, something he will have to explain in future job interviews.
While the court is unsympathetic to oversleeping as an excuse, most employers are as well. When asked why he didn’t inform the court that he had overslept, Somerville explained that he was nervous. He then went about his day, heading toward his afternoon shift at work. The worst, he expected, was a hefty fine. But when police showed up at his door, he knew the problem was bigger than he expected.
Contempt of Court in Florida
Florida defines contempt of court as any act that is calculated to embarrass, hinder, or obstruct the court in the administration of justice. One key term here is “calculated”. The act should be calculated or premeditated and serve the unlawful intent of embarrassing, hindering, or obstructing the administration of justice. It is not clear that oversleeping is a calculated act.
However, there are two distinct kinds of contempt of court: Direct and indirect. Direct contempt occurs in the presence of the judge or within the courtroom. Indirect contempt need not occur within the court. Still, indirect contempt tends to require a specific intent to hinder court procedures.
However, a person can be held in criminal contempt if they violate a direct court order. This court order could include a notice to appear for jury duty. In that case, proving malicious intent would not be required for the court.
Additionally, there is civil and criminal contempt. This particular juror was charged with criminal contempt, which is literally a crime. Criminal contempt is most often charged as a misdemeanor although there will be situations in which it is charged as a felony. If it’s charged as a misdemeanor, the court can issue a fine of no more than $500 and a jail sentence of no more than one year.
Somerville is right to worry about how the misdemeanor may look to potential employers and landlords. The conviction will stay on his record in perpetuity and he has no other convictions on his record. He will end up having to explain to future employers that he slept through jury duty which will likely be awkward in and of itself. Hopefully, he can appeal the decision and get the charges against him reduced.
Talk to a West Palm Beach Criminal Defense Attorney
If you slept through jury duty, you might need an attorney to defend you from an overzealous prosecution of the charge of criminal contempt. Talk to the West Palm Beach criminal attorneys at The Skier Law Firm, P.A. today for more information.