Can I Get a Change of Venue in My Federal Criminal Case?
If you are from out of state and given a federal criminal drug charge in Nebraska, numerous questions will immediately arise such as: How am I going to find a lawyer, transportation, lodging, and take time off of work to make it to court?
This is a problem many Americans have faced and are currently facing with new and varying marijuana policies being implemented around the country. Additionally, many may feel it’s impossible to get a fair trial in their home state or simply can’t afford to travel outside of their home state to fight their already expensive battle. In this blog we’ll discuss the option of requesting a “change in venue” for federal criminal cases and what goes into the decision behind approving or denying such request.
The factors a judge will consider when a change in venue is requested are referred to as the Platt factors.
These factors are:
- the location of the defendant
- the location of possible witnesses
- the location of events likely to be in issue
- location of documents and records likely to be involved
- disruption of defendant’s business unless the case is transferred
- expense of the parties
- location of counsel
- relative accessibility of place of trial
- docket condition of each district or division involved; and
- any other special elements which might affect transfer.
When evaluating these factors, a judge will look in-depth at the implications of holding the trial in the county where the offense was recorded/charged as opposed to the home state of the defendant. The most common factors that influence this decision are the difficulty and financial hardship that will be incurred to bring the defendant, witnesses applicable to the case, and additional defendants (if it’s a conspiracy case). For example, a drug conspiracy case with a defendant and co-defendants based out of Oregon, where most of the criminal acts were committed, would be able to argue that holding the case in Nebraska would cause significant coststo not only the defendants for travel but would also cause the government to incur costs exponentially higher than what they would be if held in Oregon (due to flying out key witnesses, experts, and personnel close to the issue). This would be an applicable reason to file for a request to change the venue.
The Importance of an Impartial Jury
If the judge reasonably foresees a prejudice being inflicted upon the defendant(s), they normally will accept the request for a change in venue. Going back to the Oregon example; defendants caught with marijuana and tried in Nebraska could be subject to an impartial jury due to the difference in cultural values surrounding marijuana in Nebraska as compared to Oregon. Furthermore, some may feel as though a fair trial in their home state is also impossible due to little anonymity available. Screening of jurors doesn’t always take care of this issue either. A change in venue is often a good solution to this problem.
Lastly, another considered factor is that of disrupting the business of a defendant. If the defendant engages in business that requires them to be in office or another specific location for strictly business purposes, one could argue that the loss in wages in time away from work is significant and an additional and unnecessary weight bared by the defendant(s).
In conclusion, changes in venue can be tricky but crucial to the outcome of many cases.
If you or a loved one has been charged with a federal criminal offense, contact one of the many experienced attorneys at Berry Law.