How Do Authorities Determine Which Jurisdiction A Criminal Case Will Be Filed In Los Angeles County?
For those who do not know, Los Angeles County is divided up into thirty different courthouses. It’s a huge area going from Lancaster to Long Beach, you have Malibu and stretching all the way to Pomona. So, it’s a gigantic jurisdiction and really every single location has its borders and wherever the crime occurs, that’s where the case is going to be prosecuted. Now there are exceptions to this rule, but for the most part, if a case is committed in the Pomona jurisdiction for example, then the case is going to be prosecuted in the Pomona court.
Some of the exceptions that I see to this jurisdictional rule is in sex crime cases, for example. The main downtown sex crime prosecution is all done through Los Angeles County. Most of the time, if it’s a serious sex crime, it’s going to be prosecuted downtown. That being said, each jurisdiction has its own sex crime unit. It’s really interesting. I’ve talked to a lot of District Attorneys about when a sex crime case is going to be prosecuted downtown and when will it be prosecuted in another jurisdiction. It’s really not a clearly defined answer. Just pretty much where the law enforcements – the sheriffs or the Los Angeles Police Department take the case to and then they decide whether they want to deal with that particular matter in that jurisdiction.
Beyond that, other cases where I see the jurisdiction rules being broken is in a high-profile, celebrity or real serious case. Those cases will typically be prosecuted downtown. A perfect example is the OJ case. That case occurred in Santa Monica, but Santa Monica was criminal court was open at that time, yet they prosecuted it downtown, and of course lost. The civil case was prosecuted in Santa Monica and they got a judgment. The prosecutors, sometimes they make stupid moves because the downtown jury pool is probably the best jury pool for defendants in a criminal case. So, it if it’s a celebrity a lot of times they’ll prosecute that case downtown. If it’s a police officer, they have a whole unit in downtown Los Angeles.
So, there’s a bunch of exceptions to this jurisdictional rule. For the most part, it’s going to go to the court where the crime occurred.
What Is The Issue Of Venue Changing That Comes Up Sometimes In Los Angeles County?
A lot of times I’ll get clients where their family says, I don’t like this venue. This courthouse stinks. They’re mean. They’re out to get me and I don’t want the case prosecuted here. The defense really doesn’t have any control over the venue. The only time the defense has any arguments related to the venue is if a potential jury pool has been tainted by media coverage. In other words, a lot of people know about a particular case or they’ve seen the defendant or they’ve heard stories about it, so the person just simply cannot get a fair trial. For the defense to change a venue, they’re going to have to show some serious stuff is going on and that the defendant cannot get a fair trial. You can’t just say the defendant can’t get a fair trial. You actually have to be able to show some evidence and some indications that a jury pool would be tainted – in other words, a jury pool would be inflamed, angry, already thinking an individual is guilty and therefore he cannot get a fair trial in Los Angeles County, and then you’d have an argument to change the venue.
So, this whole jurisdictional thing is important because different courthouses handle different types of crime. Some harshly and some much more easy to get the best resolution in a case. That’s one of the things that I’m looking at. I know all the courthouses having practiced in them for twenty-five years, so when somebody comes in to my office and says, I’ve got a serious case – an embezzlement case in Van Nuys for example – I’m going to know exactly how that’s going to be handled, who the prosecutors are that we’re going to deal with. This is crucial. When you sit down with your defense attorney talk to him about that – who do you think is going to handle this case? Is just a regular prosecutor that’s assigned to that court going to deal with it or are they going to assign it to one of the special units that they have? Will the boss have to make the decision as to what my offer is to settle the case or will just a regular prosecutor do that? What types of issues jurisdictionally and venue-wise can play into how the prosecutors and judge deal with a criminal case.
These are all important questions that have to be answered by your criminal defense attorney. I have you come in. We sit down. We go over everything. We talk about it and we make a decision on exactly how we’re going to handle this venue or jurisdictional issue, what types of defense strategies we’re going to use and how we’re going to get you the best possible result in your criminal matter.
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