Change of Venue is an option available to a person who is accused of a crime. One of the basic tenets of our legal system is the right of the accused to a fair and speedy trial. For a trial to be fair, it must be held in strict accordance with trial standards. Foremost among these trial standards is fairness toward the accused. A trial cannot be fair if there is a preference for the person bringing the charge or bias against the person accused. The trial must take place in a neutral setting where neither side has an unfair advantage.
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Change of Venue Defined
Venue is a word that means a setting or location where any organized event happens. A change of venue in the legal sense is a change of location where a legal proceeding is scheduled to take place.
Different kinds of cases have different standards and procedures for how and if a case relocation is permissible. These standards also vary from state to state. Listed below are the general parameters for such a request to be granted.
Judge Grudge – If the sitting judge in the case has an unfavorable disposition toward the accused, the accused has the right to request a trial location change.
Jury Bias – As prospective jury members are impaneled, the defense attorney may discover that one or more of those interviewed have either already made their decisions about the guilt of the accused.
Jury prospects may inadvertently express a strong dislike for the type of crime involved. If for any reason the defense attorney or the prosecuting attorney discovers pre-trial bias for the accused or the accuser, this is a valid reason for requesting a location change.
Inappropriate Court— Courts have jurisdictions. Their judicial authority is limited to their respective jurisdictions. If the case for trial is outside the receiving court’s jurisdiction or authority, the case must be transferred to the appropriate jurisdiction possessing the legal authority to hear the case.
Adverse Publicity – Many trials, due to the nature of the crime or the parties involved, invite inordinate public interest. This publicity can taint the fairness of the trial for either the plaintiff or the defendant.
It can bias the potential jury pool either in favor of the accused or in favor of the accuser. In such instances, a change of location is necessary.
Preservation of Justice – This is a general, catch-all acceptable reason for relocating a trial. It encompasses practically any other contingent concern that might negatively affect the fairness of a case.
Different jurisdictions of different states vary as to what they accept as demonstrated, real concerns for a fair trial that could limit or bring into question the issue of fairness. The Federal Criminal Law Center discusses this factor in greater detail.
In many states, if the case is a criminal case, only the accused has the right to ask for a change of location. In other states and with different types of cases, either the attorney for plaintiff or defendant can appeal to the court for a change of location. It is dependent upon the nature of the discovered, potential unfairness of a case, the type of case and the state in which the trial takes place. If the accused discovers possible unfairness, the defendant attorney files. Conversely, if the plaintiff attorney learns of a threat to the fairness of the trial, the plaintiff attorney petitions the court.
Filing For Change of Venue
Most judges take petitions for a change of trial location very seriously. After all, such moves by counsel can be viewed as an affront to the very court charged with hearing the case. Some judges require such requests to be accompanied with sworn affidavits supporting such motions.
Trial fairness is intrinsic within our court system. Change of venue requests are the cornerstone for ensuring that highly valued standard for each case.