Grand Jury

A PETIT jury, or trial jury, hears and decides a case and renders a verdict. A GRAND jury, on the other hand has a different function. A grand jury is asked to decide only whether there is enough evidence to cause a person to be brought to trial for a crime. The grand jury hears only one side of the case—the government's—and it does not render a verdict. Its decision is an “indictment,” which is merely an accusation, or a decision that the person in question should stand trial to determine his/her innocence or guilt.

Grand jurors are usually empanelled for a six-month term of service; occasionally, a special grand jury may be empanelled for eighteen months. If selected, you will not be required to attend court every day during that six or eighteen month period. Keep in mind, though, that at this point you have not yet been selected to be a part of the grand jury.

The grand jury selection process, known as “empanelment,” takes place on the first day of the term. As a courtesy, we will send you a separate reminder when the selection day approaches, but even if you don’t receive it, your service is expected on that day unless you have been excused by the court. If you know you will be unable to attend on the date specified, it is your responsibility to contact the court as soon as possible for further instructions. By no means should you fail to report for the grand jury selection unless you have been previously excused by the court.

[+] Requesting to be excused[–] Requesting to be excused

As a potential grand juror, you are a part of a very small pool of persons from whom the grand jury will be picked. Therefore, if you have valid reasons you feel would prevent you from serving, we ask that you contact the jury section as soon as possible for further instructions.

If your excuse request is denied, you will have an opportunity to appeal to the presiding judge in person during the grand jury selection process.

[+] If you have travel plans or other commitments during your term of service[–] If you have travel plans or other commitments during your term of service

At this time, we are only concerned about your ability to appear on the selection date. Since you have not yet been selected as a grand jury panel member, your service during the grand jury term may not be required at all. Even if you are selected, you will be able to arrange time off from your grand jury duties.

[+] If you are selected[–] If you are selected

Once empanelled, grand jurors appear at the direction of the U.S. Attorney, usually on a Thursday or Friday, once they have been empanelled. They may meet as often as every week, or less often, as necessary. They call an automated voice mail system after 9 a.m. each Wednesday to determine whether their attendance is required that week.

Grand jury members may be temporarily excused by their grand jury foreperson for travel, illness or other situations which arise during their term.

If your employer requires you to submit proof of your attendance, you may request a certificate of attendance from your grand jury foreperson at the end of each session.

[+] If you are not selected[–] If you are not selected

Your name may be returned to the pool of potential jurors for possible future service as a petit juror. You will not be expected to call or report again unless you receive another summons in the mail.

[+] What about my job?[–] What about my job?

See Protection of Jurors’ Employment and Message to Employers.

If you would like to request an excuse from appearing for the grand jury selection because of work-related issues, please contact the jury section for further instructions.

If your excuse request is denied, you will have an opportunity to appeal to the presiding judge in person during the grand jury selection process.