A California Grand Jury Has Three Basic Functions

  • Weighing criminal charges and determining whether indictments should be returned.
  • Weighing citizens’ complaints of misconduct against public officials to determine whether to present formal accusations requesting their removal from office.
  • Acting as the public’s “watchdog” by investigating and reporting upon the affairs of local government.

Watchdog Responsibilities

The major function of the Lake County Grand Jury is to examine county and city government and special districts to ensure that their duties are being lawfully carried out. The Grand Jury reviews and evaluates procedures, methods, and systems utilized by these entities to determine whether more efficient and economical programs may be employed. The Grand Jury also is authorized to:

  1. Inspect and audit books, records, and financial expenditures to ensure that public funds are properly accounted for and legally spent.
  2. Inspect books and records of special districts in Lake County.
  3. Examine the books and records of any nonprofit organization receiving county or city funds.
  4. Inquire into the conditions of jails and detention facilities.
  5. Inquire into any charges of willful misconduct in an office by public officials or employees.

Response to Citizens' Complaints

The Grand Jury receives letters from citizens alleging mistreatment by officials, suspicions of misconduct, or governmental inefficiencies. Anyone may ask the Grand Jury to conduct an investigation. All complaints are confidential. The jury generally limits investigations to the operations of governmental agencies, charges of wrongdoing within public agencies, or the performance of unlawful acts by public officials. The Grand Jury cannot investigate disputes between private parties.

Criminal Investigation

The Grand Jury, in cooperation with the District Attorney, may investigate allegations of criminal activity. Criminal cases commonly presented to the Grand Jury by the District Attorney include, but are not limited to:

  • Cases involving multiple defendants;
  • Cases with special witnesses, such as children, informants, or undercover agents;
  • Cases involving public officials;
  • Cases in which adverse publicity could hurt the accused, and
  • Cases in which the statute of limitations is about to expire.

If it is determined that there is probable cause that the accused has committed a crime and to hold the accused for trial, the Grand Jury issues an indictment. An indictment is only an accusation, not a finding of guilt. A minimum of 12 jurors must vote for an indictment in any criminal proceeding.

In Lake County, the Grand Jury generally performs only civil functions.