Laws governing citizen grand juries in Oklahoma

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Oklahoma is one of six states that allow citizens to collect signatures on petitions in order to request a county grand jury to convene. Article 2, Sec. 18 of the Oklahoma Constitution and 38 O.S.1991 101 through 108 govern the process.

Article 2, Section 18

"A grand jury shall be composed of twelve (12) persons, any nine (9) of whom concurring may find an indictment or true bill. A grand jury shall be convened upon the order of a district judge upon his own motion; or such grand jury shall be ordered by a district judge upon the filing of a petition therefore signed by qualified electors of the county equal to the number of signatures required to propose legislation by a county by initiative petition as provided in Section 5 of Article V of the Oklahoma Constitution, with the minimum number of required signatures being five hundred (500) and the maximum being five thousand (5000); and further providing that in any calendar year in which a grand jury has been convened pursuant to a petition therefore, then any subsequent petition filed during the same calendar year shall require double the minimum number of signatures as were required hereunder for the first petition; or such grand jury shall be ordered convened upon the filing of a verified application by the Attorney General of the State of Oklahoma who shall have authority to conduct the grand jury in investigating crimes which are alleged to have been committed in said county or involving multicounty criminal activities; when so assembled such grand jury shall have power to inquire into and return indictments for all character and grades of crime. All other provisions of the Constitution or the laws of this state in conflict with the provisions of this constitutional amendment are hereby expressly repealed."

Article 2, Section 18 gives the state legislature authority to "enact laws to prevent corruption in making, filing, circulating, and submitting petitions calling for convening a grand jury." This laws are contained in Section 38 of Oklahoma's statutory codes.

Number of signatures required

To convene a grand jury in any county, the minimum number of signatures required in any of Oklahoma's 77 counties is 500 and the maximum is 5,000. Within those limits, the number of signatures required is equal to the number of signatures required to propose legislation by a county by initiative petition as provided in Section 5 of Article V of the Oklahoma Constitution.

Oklahoma Statute 38

Oklahoma Statute 38, Section 101

Beginning November 1, 1989, any person, group of persons or organization desiring to circulate a petition for the impaneling of a grand jury, pursuant to the provisions of Section 18 of Article II of the Oklahoma Constitution shall file a copy of said petition with the court clerk of the county prior to the obtaining of any signatures upon such petition. Any such petition, upon its face, shall state the subject matter or matters of the prospective grand jury and shall state a reasonably specific identification of areas to be inquired into and sufficient general allegations to warrant a finding that such inquiry may lead to information which, if true, would warrant a true bill of indictment or action for removal of a particular public official.

Oklahoma Statute 38, Section 102

Within four (4) days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, following the initial filing of any petition calling for the impaneling of a grand jury, the presiding district judge shall enter an order stating whether the face of the petition contains a reasonably specific identification of areas to be inquired into and sufficient general allegations to warrant a finding that such inquiry may lead to information which, if true, would warrant a true bill of indictment or action for removal. An order determining such petition to be deficient shall quash said petition, and shall set forth clearly in writing each and every deficiency found by said judge. Petitioners shall have two (2) days to amend the petition to conform to the district judge's order. Upon the filing of said amended petition, the district judge shall enter an order within two (2) days stating whether the face of the amended petition contains the requirements set forth in this section. Any such order quashing an amended petition shall be appealable when entered. An order determining such petition or amended petition to be sufficient shall not be appealable

Oklahoma Statute 38, Section 103

Upon the entering of an order determining the petition to be sufficient, or upon the successful appeal of an order determining the petition to be insufficient, the circulators of said petition shall have forty five (45) days to obtain a sufficient number of signatures to impanel a grand jury. Failure to obtain the requisite number of signatures within that time period shall render the petition null and void.

Oklahoma Statute 38, Section 104

Any person who offers any payment of money, any gratuity or prize, or any other thing of value, or makes any statement known by them to be false, and who makes such offer or statement to induce a person to sign or to have his name removed from a petition to impanel a grand jury, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Oklahoma Statute 38, Section 105

Any person who signs a grand jury petition and subsequently desires to have his or her name removed from such petition may, at any time prior to a determination by the election board of the number of signatures on the petitions, have his or her name removed from said petition by filing a request for removal with the court clerk of the county. If such request is filed with the court clerk prior to the filing of the signed petitions, the court clerk shall hold such notice and deliver it to the election board at such time as the petitions are delivered. If such request is filed after the filing of the signed petitions, the court clerk shall deliver it to the election board. If such request is filed after the election board has certified the number of signatures of said petition, such request shall be void. Such request shall clearly state the desire of the person to have his or her name removed from the grand jury petition currently in circulation and shall bear the signature and address of the person making the request.

Oklahoma Statute 38, Section 106

Upon the obtaining of the signatures, and within the forty five day time limitation provided in Section 3 of this act, the completed petitions shall be filed with the court clerk. The court clerk shall copy said petitions and deliver the originals on the next business day, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, to the election board. Upon the delivery of said petitions to the election board, the board shall have seven (7) business days, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, to determine how many of the signers of said petitions are qualified electors within the county and shall return, not later than the seventh business day, excluding Saturdays, Sundays and holidays, the original petitions to the court clerk together with a certification of the number of such signers who are qualified electors within the county.

Oklahoma Statute 38, Section 107

Upon receipt by the court clerk of a certification of the number of qualified electors who have signed a petition for grand jury, the presiding district judge shall determine whether or not that number meets the requirement of a grand jury petition pursuant to Section 18 of Article II of the Oklahoma Constitution. Should such number be sufficient, and should all other requirements stated above be met, the presiding district judge shall order the impaneling of a grand jury to convene within thirty (30) days of the date the certification was received by the court clerk from the election board.

Oklahoma Statute 38, Section 108

Any person responsible for the creation, drafting or circulating of a grand jury petition may be held liable for civil damages for libel or slander due to any false allegation made in the body of said petition, if such allegations are proven to be made with malice and with an ulterior or illicit purpose.

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