If you’re facing serious criminal charges, your defense may include a lot of legal wrangling over issues that don’t sound familiar.
Learning as much as you can about how the criminal justice system works can help you be more proactive in your own defense. A good place to start is by understanding the importance of jurisdiction and venue to your case.
Jurisdiction refers to the authority of a specific court to hear a case and issue a binding ruling. In criminal matters, your criminal case will either be heard in a state court or a federal court. Generally speaking, most criminal cases will be heard in state court — unless you’re accused of violating federal law.
While the judicial process in each court is similar, defense attorneys usually aim to keep cases out of federal courts because the penalties for a conviction are often more severe than that imposed by the state.
Venue is the actual physical courtroom where your trial is held. Venue can be a fiercely contested issue in high-profile cases because the publicity surrounding the trial can taint a jury pool against you.
However, venue can also come up simply because of the circumstances of a case and the people involved. For example, your defense attorney may question whether you can really get a fair trial by a jury of your peers if you’re Black and the trial is being held in a county that is largely white — particularly if your alleged victim is also white.
There’s a lot more to an effective defense than what you see on CourtTV or at trial. When your liberty is at stake, make sure you have the most effective representation you can find.