Customarily, plaintiff gets to decide where the case is tried.  However, in certain circumstances, the defendant can move the venue of the case if defendant succeeds in persuading the court to grant its motion for change of venue.  The defendant can potentially move a pretrial motion in a timely manner, in accordance with procedure rules.  Reasons for changing venue vary, depending on whether the case is a criminal or civil case.

In Criminal Cases:

In criminal cases, venue is the location where the particular crime was committed. Fed.R.Civ.P. 31 deals with change of venue in criminal cases in federal courts.  When the crime was initiated in one area but completed in another, then the trial may be held at any of those locations.  The same applies if multiple crimes were committed in various jurisdictions by the same person.  A defendant in a criminal case is not guaranteed the right to any particular venue.  However, defendant can move for change of venue citing various reasons such as: pretrial publicity, improper venue and interests of justice.  Interestingly, “interests of justice” is a catch-all doctrine that allows a trial to be relocated due to a variety of factors, such as: travel costs, judicial expenditures, location of witnesses or evidence, choice of applicable law, racial and/or socioeconomic population breakdown of the area which proves unfavorable to the case, previous problems with the judge, authorities and other lawyers, or even the fact that the building is not handicap accessible.

Usually, in a motion to change venue in a criminal case is granted, the case will likely be moved to an adjacent county in which the action was originally initiated though it may be debatable whether such move will provide adequate protection for the defendant from the prejudice that caused the case to be moved in the first place.  In any event, courts favor holding a trial in the location where the defendant can be tried by a jury of his/her peers and where the witnesses and attorneys can participate in the trial without undue inconvenience caused by having to travel great distances just to get to court.

In Civil cases:

In civil cases 28 U.S.C. § 1391 governs the venue in federal courts. The law states that venue is proper in the district where the person resides or does business or where the events giving rise to the claim occurred.  However, if defendant has a valid reason for requesting a change of venue, the court may grant the defendant’s motion and move the case elsewhere.  Unlike criminal case, in civil cases, the venue may be moved to another state altogetheror within the stateif it is most convenient for all the litigants.

For example, a California resident may sue a New York LLC in federal court in California for breach of contract.  In support of its motion to change venue, the California resident would present evidence showing that all of the key witnesses in the case were located in New York, and that a serious business disruption would result from all the witnesses having to leave their business in New York and travel to California for a trial.  The court would also consider personal reasons for the change, such as a witnesses’ illness or inability to travel for other personal reasons.

It is to be kept in mind that change of venue is rarely granted by judges without a valid and compelling reason.

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