Motion for Change of Venue in a Criminal Trial

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What is Venue?

“Venue” is to the proper location where a case may be heard in a court of law. In criminal cases, venue is the location where the particular crime was committed. 

If the crime was initiated in one area but completed in another, then the trial may be held at any of those locations. This is also true if multiple crimes were committed in various jurisdictions.   

Venue is term that is often confused with “jurisdiction”. Jurisdiction refers the court’s authority to rule on a particular matter. Before it can render a decision, a court must verify that it has jurisdiction. On the other hand, venue simply refers to the geographic location of the court. Rules governing venue selection vary from area to area and will depend on the type of crime that was committed.  

Can the Venue for a Criminal Trial be Challenged?

Yes, this can be done by filing a motion for a change of venue. This must be done in a timely manner and in accordance with procedural rules. A motion for change of venue is usually done before the trial begins, in which case it is called a pretrial motion.   

If the party remains silent regarding venue, they are deemed to have waived their right to challenge venue. Entering in a guilty plea also disqualifies the defendant from requesting a motion to change venue. 

Purposefully choosing a venue in order to benefit one’s case is known as “forum shopping”. It is somewhat rare in criminal cases, though it may be necessary under some circumstances.  

For What Reasons Can the Venue of a Criminal Trial be Changed? 

A defendant in a criminal case is not guaranteed the right to any particular venue. The venue may be changed and the case relocated for many reasons such as:

  • Pretrial publicity: The jury may become impartial due to press leaks surrounding the case. As a result, the case may be moved to a different jurisdiction or state in order to prevent juror hostility or prejudice. 
  • Improper venue: The defendant argues that the current venue is not proper according to rules of procedure
  • Interests of Justice: This is a catch-all doctrine that allows a trial to be relocated due to a variety of factors, such as: travel costs, judicial expenditures, location of witnesses or evidence, and choice of applicable law

A judge has the discretion to determine whether a change of venue is appropriate. Procedural requirements may also force the trial to change locations, such as when a trial is transferred from a state to federal court. 

Do I Need a Criminal Lawyer for a Change of Venue Issue?

A change of venue is a serious decision that will have major effects on the outcome of the trial. An experienced trial attorney can help you decide whether a motion for change of venue is desirable. Criminal lawyers are often familiarized with the rules and procedures in other jurisdictions, and they can draw upon their experience in selecting a venue that is most advantageous for your case.

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Last Modified: 06-18-2012 02:01 PM PDT

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