Common law grand juries, such as the grand juries that
existed before the American Revolution, were in session only as long as the court that
impaneled them was in session; when the court's term ended, so did the existence of the
grand jury it had impaneled.
Federal grand juries do not depend for their existence upon a court's term.
Federal statutes set the terms of regular and special grand juries. Regular grand juries
sit for between 18 and 24 months, while special grand juries sit for between 18 and 36
Thirty-eight states ( Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Connecticut, Florida, Hawaii,
Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Michigan,
Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, North
Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Tennessee,
Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia and Wyoming) and the District of
Columbia follow current federal practice by specifying the terms of their grand juries.
But there is no consistency in the length of these terms; they vary widely. The shortest
is North Dakota's 10 day term, and the next shortest is Kentucky's 20 day term. The
longest terms are 2 years, which are used in Oklahoma, Nevada, Utah and the District of
Columbia. Grand juries in Hawaii, Michigan, Nevada and Wisconsin sit for a one year term,
while Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Virginia and West
Virginia convene 18 month grand juries. Alabama, Maine, Maryland, Nebraska, New York,
Rhode Island, Tennessee and Texas still use the common law rule, and impanel grand juries
which serve during the term of the court that impaneled them. Alaska, Arkansas,
Mississippi, Montana, Nevada, New Jersey, Ohio and Oklahoma all employ a variable term for
their grand juries; in these states, a grand jury sits for a specified range of months or
"until discharged." Some of the states that convene their grand juries for a
term of a specified length also allow them to be discharged prior to that time, presumably
if they have completed their work.
Some states take a different approach, specifying the length of time a grand
juror must serve instead of defining the length of a grand jury's term. Ten
states--Arkansas, California, Colorado, Delaware, Iowa, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North
Carolina, South Carolina and Wisconsin--use this method of limiting grand jury service.
The periods they specify for grand jurors vary widely, with Massachusetts requiring only
4-6 months of service and South Carolina requiring 2 years of service as a grand juror.
California, Colorado, Iowa and Wisconsin all require that jurors serve one year. North
Carolina uses a sliding scale, requiring jurors to serve from 2-15 months.
Georgia and New Hampshire use both the grand jury term and grand juror service
approaches. These states apply one approach to their regular grand juries and the other to
their special grand juries.