The legal system in the United States gives those accused of a crime the right to a fair trial. But sometimes, a fair trial cannot be found simply by choosing a dozen strangers from the local area to sit on a jury. You may, in fact, need to request a change in venue. Why might a defendant ask to change their venue? And how is this done? Here's what you need to know.
Why Should You Change the Venue?
Changing the venue of your trial means moving it to a different local court or moving it to be tried in a different county or federal court entirely. The most common reason for such a request is when pre-trial publicity has made it very unlikely that potential jurors have not heard of the case and formed an opinion already.
While this often means high-profile cases like celebrities or politicians, it can also involve a locally famous case, such as an incident that resulted in the death of a child and was covered extensively on local news and radio. The publicity must also be demonstrably slanted against one party. The death of a child could easily sway people's emotions in the community and make it hard to get an impartial pool.
Less commonly, it may be the judge that isn't impartial. If a person well-known to the local court system is charged with a crime, for example, finding an impartial judge may call for a move to a new location. And, finally, the prevailing attitudes regarding things like the death penalty could be so skewed as to put fairness in question.
How Can You Change the Venue?
A change in venue is usually initiated by one of two parties. The judge presiding over the case may deem the move necessary based on their experience with the legal system and the community. Some courts do not allow the prosecution to request a change in venue.
Most often, the party to request a change in venue is the defense. They must convince the judge, who has authority over the change. This is often done after voir dire and the attempt to seat a jury, and it involves affidavits explaining why the current venue is detrimental to the right to a fair trial.
Where Should You Start?
If you worry that you won't be able to get a fair and impartial jury or trial, changing the physical location could be an important move. Start by learning how and when this can be done in your jurisdiction.
Contact a criminal defense attorney for more information.