To understand changing venue in a criminal case, you must first understand what a venue actually is. “Venue” is the term that refers to a proper location where a case may be heard in a court of law. It is typically the location where the particular crime took place. If the crime was initiated in one area but completed in another, then the trial may be held at any of the locations involved. Most people confuse “Venue” and “Jurisdiction.” However, jurisdiction is simply the court’s authority to rule on a particular matter. Before a decision can be made about a criminal case, a court must find out if it has jurisdiction or not.
Venue for criminal trials is something that is often challenged for many reasons. First, the step that should be taken is filing a motion for a change of venue. This step needs to be taken in a timely manner and must be completed before the trial begins. It is usually referred to as a pretrial motion. If the party doesn’t have any concerns about the venue, they can choose to remain silent on the manner and nothing will happen. Entering a guilty plea also disqualifies a defendant from requesting a motion to change venue. Here are some reasons why the venue may be changed:
- Pretrial Publicity: Sometimes, there are significant press leaks surrounding the case. When this happens, the case may be moved to a different jurisdiction or state in order to prevent overall hostility or prejudice.
- Improper Venue: This is when the defendant argues that the current venue isn’t proper. This is typically because of the rules of procedure.
- Interests of Justice: This is when a trial is set to be relocated due to a variety of factors. These factors include travel costs, judicial expenditures, location of witnesses or evidence, and choice of applicable law.
Take, for instance, the Dzhokhar Tsarnaev case surrounding the Boston Marathon. Tsarnaev was accused of planting bombs at the finish line of the Boston Marathon in 2013 and injuring 260 people, unfortunately also killing three. Defendants like Tsarnaev are involved in high-profile criminal cases and are looking to move their trials to another county or state for the sole matter of improving the odds of juror selection. They believe that, by changing venue, the jurors in the new location will not already be inclined to believe that they are guilty of the crime. There are usually successful changes of venue, but they mostly involve state charges and not federal.
There are two general ideas that make change of venue so difficult in modern times. The first idea is that a defendant should be tried by a jury of his or her peers, and the second idea is that the community that has been harmed deserves to be the place where justice is decided. The fact that a defendant has a right to fair trial really complicates matters. There have been successful changes of venue, such as with the 1992 state trial of four Los Angeles police officers charged in the 1991 beating of Rodney King. This attack was caught on tape for the world to see. When the trial was ordered to move from Los Angeles to Simi Valley, three officers ended up being acquitted for their actions.
Changing venue is a very serious decision to be made by those involved in a criminal trial. It will have major effects on the outcome of a trial. Because of this, you should always have an experienced attorney on your side that understands the laws regarding a change of venue and whether or not it is the best option for you. Call The Blair Law Firm to speak to somebody about your case.