When is a Change of Venue Necessary in a Criminal Case?

Everyone has the right to a fair trial.  There are some circumstances in which a change of venue is necessary in order to preserve this right.  Sometimes, media coverage has been so extensive in a particular case that it makes getting a fair trial impossible unless the case is moved out of the immediate jurisdiction.  To address this very real concern, Indiana law makes it possible to change venue in a criminal case.

Indiana Change of Venue Law

IC 35-36-6-1(a) states that:

“In any criminal action, the defendant may request a change of venue from the county by filing a verified motion for change of venue alleging that bias or prejudice against the defendant exists in that county.”

Many times, a local community can be influenced by the media’s coverage of a crime.  News stories and editorials are often written about high profile cases.  In the context of a change of venue hearing, it is important to understand that the amount of news coverage is only one factor for the judge to consider. The far more important question facing the judge is whether the pretrial publicity has influenced the jury pool to the extent that the defendant cannot get a fair trial.

The news media has evolved significantly in recent years.  No longer are newspapers, radio stations, and local television stations the only available news outlets.  The internet has drastically expanded media coverage on criminal cases.

Facebook, blogs, and news websites have opened additional paths for individuals to consume and process information.  Often, these websites contain comment sections in which anyone is welcome to discuss their personal view on a story.  When the news article is pertaining to a criminal case, people are likely to have a wide range of perspectives and emotions.  These open discussions can influence opinions on a criminal case, regardless of whether the comments or discussions are rooted in facts.  These forums, then, will sometimes illuminate the need for a change of venue.  It is imperative to have an attorney that knows how to navigate the change of venue process.

When Must a Venue Motion be Filed?

A change of venue motion MUST be filed within 30 days of the initial hearing.  Once filed, the judge has the option of ruling on the motion at a pre-trial hearing.  It is much more likely, however, that the judge will withhold ruling on the motion until after jury selection begins.  If, after an extensive jury selection process, the judge determines that a fair trial cannot be had, the change of venue motion must be granted and the trial must be moved to a different county.

A change of venue can be critically important in a criminal case.  Moving the case from a jurisdiction where potential jurors are biased can literally be the difference between winning and losing.   If you have a case where you think a change of venue is necessary, contact the experienced criminal defense attorneys at Banks & Brower, LLC.  We are available at all times by calling us at (317) 870-0019, or by emailing info@banksbrower.com.