The Grand Jury is an investigatory body created for the protection of society and the enforcement of the law. Although the responsibilities of a juror are many and diverse, the three predominant functions include:
A. Civil Government Oversight. This is the major function of present day grand jurors, and considerable effort is devoted to these responsibilities. The Grand Jury may examine all aspects of county and city government and special districts to ensure that the best interests of Santa Barbara County citizens are being served. The Grand Jury reviews and evaluates procedures, methods and systems utilized by county government to determine whether more efficient and economical programs may be employed. The Grand Jury is also authorized to:
- Inspect and audit books, records and financial expenditures to ensure that public funds are properly accounted for and legally spent;
- Inspect financial records of districts in Santa Barbara County;
- Inquire into the conditions of jails and detention centers;
- Inquire into any charges of willful misconduct in office by public officials or employees.
Most Grand Jury oversight findings are contained in reports describing problems encountered and making recommendations for solutions. These are released upon completion.
At the end of its term, the Santa Barbara County Grand Jury issues a final report on the operations of Santa Barbara County government.
B. Citizen Complaints. As part of the civil function, the Grand Jury receives letters from citizens alleging mistreatment by officials, suspicions of misconduct or governmental inefficiencies. Complaints received from citizens are acknowledged and investigated for their validity. Such complaints are kept confidential. If the situation warrants, and corrective action is under the jurisdiction of the Grand Jury, appropriate action is taken.
C. Criminal Investigations. Occasionally and under certain circumstances, the Grand Jury may be requested by the Judge to serve as a Criminal Grand Jury. A special Criminal Grand Jury is selected to hold hearings to determine whether evidence presented by the district attorney is of sufficient nature to warrant a person to stand trial in court. A minimum of twelve jurors must vote for an indictment in any criminal proceedings. The types of cases presented to the Grand Jury by the district attorney usually include:
- Cases involving public officials or employees.
- Cases involving police officers.
- Cases in which the statute of limitations is about to expire.
- White collar crimes, and
- Other cases the district attorney deems appropriate.
The Grand Jury issues its final report each year in late June. The report is available to all county residents, and is delivered to the news media, libraries and to heads of affected government agencies. Affected agencies are required to respond to the report findings and recommendations within 60 to 90 days. Those responses are also available to the public. The Grand Jury releases individual reports as they are completed over the year.
Grand Jurors are a diverse volunteer group of citizens from the five supervisorial districts. The community is best served by a mix of ethnic, gender, age and economic differences. In order to accomplish the county oversight functions, committees are normally established to address:
- Audit County finance and Administration
- County Services and Special Districts
- Cities and Joint Power Agencies
- Health, Education and Welfare
- Law, Justice and Public Safety
The Grand Jury is responsive to the suggestions and complaints from citizens about issues the jury should investigate. Each suggestion is reviewed by the full Grand Jury, or assigned to one of the jury’s committees for consideration. You may contact the Grand Jury through mail, phone, fax and email. Though the jury cannot investigate every issue, every comment is duly considered. All complaints received by the Grand Jury are treated confidentially. The Grand Jury’s records may not be inspected nor subpoenaed. All Grand Jury investigations and interviews are kept confidential.