Change of Venue
If you pay attention to the news or have done any kind of reading on legal matters, you may have heard of the phrase “change of venue.” Change of venue essentially means to move a trial to a new jurisdiction. If you have heard the phrase, then you may have two impressions of its use in the criminal justice system – first, that it only seems to come up in big trials and second, that it seems to be declined more frequently than it is approved.
Change of Venue in the News:
The phrase has risen to the surface of the news cycle again in the past week as the James Fields trial proceedings continue. James Fields, as you may recall from following the news (and maybe even reading this blog), is the man who is standing trial for first-degree murder and other charges after the death of Heather Heyer during the Charlottesville protests last year.
His attorney asked for a change of venue. She argued that James Fields cannot get a fair trial in Charlottesville. “Community prejudice against Fields in the City of Charlottesville, the impact of the events on the Charlottesville residents and the widespread publicity this case has received are reasonably certain to prevent a fair and reasonable trial.” The judge, however, disagreed and denied the motion.
Should it have been? What does the law say about when a change of venue is necessary? Why is it that not even James Fields can get one?
Laws Regarding Change of Venue:
The Code of Virginia addresses change of venue, requiring “good cause” for it to be granted. The court determines whether or not good cause exists. One example cited as to why it might be granted is the defendant’s “substantial business activity” in the area.
One key reason why change of venue may not be granted is the expense required. The entire operation of the court has to be relocated – each day for multi-day trials – in order to conduct its activity. The logistics of finding an available location and being able to afford and then make such a move is an inconvenience most of the time.
However, that should never be the primary factor when this decision needs to be made. Fairness in finding an impartial jury of the defendant’s peers should be the primary factor. This is paramount to the success of a jury trial.
Defense attorneys have to do what is best for their clients. If a motion to request a change of venue is a necessary request, it needs to be made. You need to choose the kind of defense attorney who will seek every legal avenue for your success. If you have this need right now, call or e-mail for a free consultation!
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