All of the time people come to me and say, I don't like the courthouse where my case is. The people aren't fair there. The judge isn't fair there. The prosecutor is not fair, and the first thing they want to do is change the venue of their case.
Limited Circumstances to Change Venue
What you have to realize though, is there are only limited circumstances where you can change the venue, and they really center around you being able to mount an argument or prove that the jurisdiction or location where your case is pending may have some sort of bias towards you – maybe the media covered your case and everybody knows about it – and that may somehow negatively impact your case.
Beyond that, they're not going to change the venue or the location. All of the cases are prosecuted – at least for the most part – in the jurisdiction where they occurred.
There are exceptions in Los Angeles County. If it's a big publicity case or a sex crime case or a case that involves a law enforcement officer and a number of other exceptions – they'll probably try the case downtown because that's where the main prosecutor's office is and a lot of times they like to do it that way.
Real Case Example of Changing Venue
Examples of cases where the jurisdiction had to be changed, for example – there was a case years ago where an attorney's dog had attacked and killed somebody in San Francisco.
There were all kinds of publicity about it. Everybody knew about it. There was activism; there were protests. At that point, you can't really get a fair trial because everybody in San Francisco knows about the case and they have an opinion about it one way or another.
So, they moved the case to Los Angeles and tried it there. That made sense and that's why they changed the venue or the jurisdiction of the case because of some sort of a bias.
So, unless you can mount an argument like that — I mean, there are cases where publicity is garnered, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the case gets to change venues.
You really have to get something that makes sense. I saw another case where a big Superior Court judge who was the main judge – the presiding judge downtown Los Angeles for many years – was arrest for some serious charges.
Because everybody knew him in Los Angeles – the judges, the prosecutors, the public defenders, everybody – they moved the case to Orange County and the case was prosecuted and dealt with there.
Peremptory Challenges to a Judge in California
So, it really just depends on what's going on with the case what the circumstances are. Just because you don't like a judge is not a reason to change the courthouse or location. If your attorney feels that a judge is prejudiced against you after you discuss it with him or her, they can file a 170.6 Motion which is a motion to recuse that particular judge.
You can do that one time in a criminal case. Each side has the ability to do that, but that has nothing to do with a venue change. If you don't like the prosecutor's office, your attorney can file a motion if you can mount an argument.
It can't be that you just don't like them. You actually have to have facts that they've done something wrong, or they're biased or prejudiced against you for some reason and then your attorney can file a motion to have them recused and they'll probably appoint a Deputy Attorney General from the Attorney General's Office.
Again, if you have an issue where you think venue is a problem, consider some of the things that I'm saying and if you still think venue is a problem, then you sit down with a seasoned criminal defense attorney.
You give them the facts of your case. If they're local to the courthouse, they'll know the court and have a feel for what it's going to take to change the venue if that's something that you want to do. I have you come in and we go everything.
Filing Motion to Recuse Judge or Prosecutor
Obviously, I listen to you and if you have a good venue argument then we can try to file a motion or we can do a motion to recuse the judge or the prosecutor, or some other vehicle that makes sense having to do with the facts and circumstances surrounding your case.
But, a lot of times when we talk about the whole issue, we realize this whole venue issue is really a non-issue and you have more issues in your case that are more pressing. Like defending the case or negotiating a plea bargain if that's what applicable.
So, I think it's a matter of getting a defense attorney who knows what they're doing and who can help you resolve your criminal case and get you out of the criminal justice system as fast as possible.
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