Seeking a change of venue

Facing criminal charges in any setting is never easy. However, there are certain cases where the unique nature of a supposed crime might make proceedings even more difficult. One of the basic tenets of the American criminal justice system is that every defendant is entitled to receive a fair trial in order to determine his or her guilt or innocence. The pursuit of that right can prompt changes to what sort of evidence is presented at trial, what exact charges one may face, or even where a trial is held. 

Per the West Virginia Judiciary, the state's Rules of Criminal Procedure state that cases are to be prosecuted in the county in which the alleged offenses were committed. Unique factors can, however, make the prospect of one receiving a fair trial in that area remote. Such factors may include: 

  • The extent of local media coverage
  • The notoriety of the victim and/or the defendant 
  • Certain attributes of a county's primary demographic

If the concern over receiving a fair trial is present, a defendant may (through his or her attorneys) petition for a change of venue. Rule 21 of West Virginia's Rules of Criminal Procedure state that such a request will only be granted if it is proven that so great a prejudice exists against a defendant that it would be highly unlikely for him or her to be judged fairly in that setting. 

In cases of federal offenses, defendants might also petition for a change of venue based on prejudice. The Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure also state that a venue change may be granted in the interest of convenience for all parties involved, which can include the defendant, the alleged victim or any witnesses that stand to be called to testify during proceedings. 

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