A most common question asked of me in my capacity as a dui lawyer is whether a drunk driving case can be moved to another county. This concept is called a “change of venue,” and is reserved for a limited amount of criminal cases that qualify. A change of venue within the Indiana criminal statutes is contemplated for cases where a fair administration of justice cannot be had in one area due primarily to media exposure potentially prejudicial to a defendant on trial.
Many clients of mine have heard that a neighboring county or differing location may prove to be more lenient toward their potential dui punishment. This is in many instances quite true, and can have an important an differing outcome depending upon the location of where one’s dui case may be heard. Some counties (although limited) offer deferral options to the resolution of dui cases where a first offense drunk driving case can be dismissed without trial dependent upon completion of certain agreed upon conditions. Where some counties are more inclined to file “habitual substance offender” charges against a dui defendant with a multitude of dui convictions, other county prosecutors have never filed such an enhancement.
As a result, from a tactical standpoint, it would be a major advantage for me to be in position to take advantage of a specific prosecutorial policy in a different county from the one my client has been charged. Unfortunately, the ability to move a case out of one county to another is reserved not for pre trial negotiation but for a potential unprejudiced jury pool empaneled to hear a case where one seeks trial by jury.
The most common dui prosecutions do not rise to the level of significant media scrutiny allowing for a change of venue motion to succeed. Unless the dui arrest is against one who is a public official or other individual of public note or renown, change of venue requests will often fall on deaf ears before the judge empowered to rule upon such a motion. However, for the dui prosecution against one who for example may have caused the death of other(s) in a manner that has garnered the attention of television, radio and/or internet, a change of venue may be an appropriate motion for a defense attorney and client to consider. Once again, this motion is not contemplated as a means by which to change the location of a case in order to take advantage of pre trial negotiation, but simply to empanel potential jurors who may have been unexposed to media exposure about the case they must decide.
In instances within a county where a judge may have an inherent bias against a client, a motion to remove the judge within the county may be considered. However, for the dui client who has been arrested, the location of the arrest will ultimately dictate the communal standard of potential punishment should a case not be in position to be dismissed.