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Name: People v. Posey
Case #: S100360
Court: CA Supreme Court
District CalSup
Opinion Date: 01/22/2004
Subsequent History: None

Venue is a question of law for the court to decide prior to trial. In People v. Simon, the California Supreme Court held that a defendant forfeits a claim of improper venue when he fails to raise it prior to the start of trial, applying the rule prospectively only because it announced a new rule. The Court noted, but did not resolve, the issue of the continuing vitality of the rule that venue presents a question of fact to be decided by the jury. In this case, the Court granted review to resolve that issue. It concluded that the rule that venue is a question of fact for the jury is unsound for a number of reasons: First, it impedes the purposes of underlying venue provisions (i.e., it puts off the venue finding until after a defendant has been required to undergo a hardship and the state has incurred the time and expense of conducting the trial). Second, it is inconsistent with other analogous issues because it is a procedural question involving appropriateness of a place for the trial, not a substantive question relating to guilt or innocence. Third, it could result in an “unwarranted acquittal” solely on the basis of a lack of proper venue. Venue is a question of law for the court, to be decided prior to trial. Since the Court held again that this is a new rule, it applies prospectively only, and not to this case or any other case not yet final on appeal. (It affirmed the Court of Appeal’s judgment in this case because Marin County was the appropriate venue for the crimes charged.)