If you are a defendant in a criminal case, the law guarantees you the right to a fair trial. If the location where your trial is to be held could possibly jeopardize this right, your attorney may file a Motion for Change of Venue. If granted, the case will be tried in a different location where you are more likely to receive fair treatment.
Understanding the Motion for Change of Venue
When a Motion for Change of Venue is filed in a criminal case, it means either the prosecution or the defense is asking the judge to move the upcoming trial to a different place. This isn’t as simple a procedure as it seems. There is the question of jurisdiction, for example—a court can only hear for which it has the legal authority to render a decision—and the rules for changing venues are different from place to place.
Sometimes changing a venue presents no conflict with the court’s jurisdiction; for example, if a crime spans two jurisdictions, the trial could be held in either, and with state crimes, a trial might be moved from one county to another within the state without violating jurisdiction.
There are other times when the process is more complex, and the party requesting the change will have to demonstrate valid concerns about the fairness of the trial before the judge approves it. All of this is to say that it’s important to have an experienced defense attorney in your corner who understands the nuances of the law, and who can navigate these sometimes-tricky waters.
REASONS TO REQUEST A CHANGE OF VENUE
There are several possibly valid reasons why a judge might grant a Motion for Change of Venue. For example:
- Excessive pre-trial publicity. If details about your case have been widely publicized by the media, your attorney may effectively argue that it would be difficult to find unbiased jurors within your local area to afford you a fair trial.
- Pre-biased jury pool. Publicity notwithstanding, if the jury pool is likely to be biased against you in any way (for example, if your case is race-related in a racially charged community, or if it is a death penalty case in a community that favors the death penalty), your attorney may move to change the venue to improve the jury pool in your favor.
- Current venue violates procedure. If for any reason, clerical or otherwise, the case is being handled by the wrong court or a court with no jurisdiction, the venue may be changed to a more suitable court in a different locale.
- Other factors in the “interest of justice.” This encompasses a wide range of other possible reasons to move the trial, ranging from availability of witnesses to saving expenses, or even on the grounds that the presiding judge may harbor a prejudice against the defendant.
Our Experience with Motions for Change of Venue
While changing a venue can be a complicated matter, it is often necessary for the purpose of protecting the rights of the defendant in a criminal trial. The Federal Criminal Law Center has plenty of experience with filing effective Motions for Change of Venue, and our attorneys will work aggressively on your behalf to ensure that your trial is held in a location that affords you the least possible amount of bias.