Having done this for twenty-five years in criminal defense, a lot of times jurisdictional issues will come up where the client or their family is complaining about the prosecutors, the judge, the courthouse, the jury pool. There’s a whole host of things that people feel are not fair when it comes to criminal defense cases, and a lot of times they want to change the venue or the jurisdiction in a case.
Unfortunately, there are very few reasons that would give rise to a jurisdictional change. As far as Los Angeles County goes, the county is carved up into various jurisdictions, and as you might guess, the jurisdictions are centered around the various courthouses in Los Angeles County. There was forty courts in Los Angeles county until fairly recently. The powers that be have closed many of the courts and now there’s only about twenty-five left. Seeing that they’re thinking as far as these court closures and change of jurisdictions is, the courts do make a lot of money for the state of California. In fact, I think they are the biggest money-maker in the budget in Sacramento because of all of the fines and fees that people have to pay, etc. So, what they did was, they gave some bigger courthouses multiple jurisdictions. I think they figured if they close the courthouses, then they don’t have to pay all the staff and pay all the money that is necessary to be able to actually keeps these courthouses going, but will still pull in the same amount of money as they were before, because there will be the same amount of people, but there will just be more work. I’m sure they did the calculations on that and that’s how they decided to expand the jurisdiction of a lot of these courthouses and close a lot of the courthouses, as well.
So, now if you’re thinking about where your case is going to be – if you don’t know already and most people do because if they get cited in, they’re given a ticket with the courthouse on it and if they get bailed out, the jurisdiction is given to them by the bail bond company letting them know where they have to appear, what the date is and then they show up in court and deal with.
So, jurisdictional issues don’t come up a lot. As far reasons to be able to change the jurisdiction of the court and change the jurisdiction of a particular case, there’s going to have to be some serious bias shown in the jurisdiction where the case is pending. For example, if it’s a big news media case and everybody in that location knows about the case that could be justification for changing the jurisdiction in a case. A motion could be filed with the judge explaining why the defendant cannot get a fair trial or a fair shake and then that could cause a jurisdictional change. But to be able to mount that type of an argument, you’re going to have to have some serious facts of people being extremely biased against a defendant – or even the prosecution depending on what type of a case it is in order to be able to mount a jurisdictional attack.
Now, the prosecutors and the court can change the jurisdiction much easier than the defense can. Prosecutors who prosecute a case that occurs in Los Angeles depending where in Los Angeles County. The OJ case for example, occurred in Brentwood which normally would have been controlled by Santa Monica. They brought the case downtown to try to show that they were fair, maybe it was easier to deal with things downtown because that’s the main hub, but I see all the time in sex crime cases, a lot of times they’re being brought downtown instead of what jurisdiction they would normally go to. Anything involving the police being prosecuted is normally brought to downtown Los Angeles versus the court that might have jurisdiction on the case.
So, if you have a jurisdictional issue, I invite you to come in and sit down. We can talk about it and see if it makes sense or any type of a motion can be filed, or whether you’re going to have to deal with the case in the jurisdiction where it’s filed.
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