Can I Change the Judge in My Criminal Case?
The judge presiding over your case holds a lot of power. Their determination dictates whether you win or lose your case and, many times, will influence the next couple of years of your life. Even if it’s a trial by jury, the judge has the authority to grant or deny what evidence is permissible when the jury makes the verdict. When you disagree with the way a judge is handling your case, you might wonder if there’s anything you can do about it. Is it possible to change judges in a criminal case? The short answer is yes, sometimes you can. But it’s not so simple.
What Responsibilities Do Judges Have?
The primary responsibility that judges have is to settle legal differences that are brought to the court. Judges often start their careers as lawyers, and after years of case law and gaining legal experience, they’re appointed or elected into the judge’s role. However, there are many different types and levels of judges. One size doesn’t fit all, and many judges specialize in specific fields. In criminal court, there are four key categories, each requiring a judge with particular knowledge in that field. Those categories include:
- Personal Crime – When one individual harms another. Examples of charges include assault and battery, domestic abuse, and arson.
- Statutory Crime – When someone breaks laws put in place to uphold a peaceful and orderly society. Examples of these charges include ones related to alcohol, drugs, traffic, and financial offenses.
- Property Crime – When someone meddles with the property that’s not their own. Examples include theft, burglary, and shoplifting.
- Inchoate Crime – When someone either starts a criminal act that they didn’t finish or assists someone else in a criminal act. Examples of charges include conspiracy and attempting to commit a crime.
Judges will make crucial decisions from the time an individual is arrested until the time that they’re sentenced. A judge’s duties include:
- Deciding whether there’s enough probable cause to issue an arrest or search warrant
- Setting bail amounts
- Presiding over pretrial rulings
- Accepting guilty pleas
- Mediating trials
- and giving out sentences.
What to Do When You Want to Change Judges
If you’ve done your research on the judge presiding over your case and you’ve decided you want to switch judges, you need to submit your request early on. Every jurisdiction has different rules on this process, but it’s not an unusual request. Once the trial has started and proceeding are underway, changing the judge who has already become familiar with your case becomes much more difficult.
Common reasons for a party to request that they want a different judge include:
- The judge is related to someone involved in your case
- The judge once represented someone involved in your case as a lawyer
- The judge has a financial interest in the outcome of the trial
When any of these situations apply, often the judge will remove himself from the case, which is called a recusal. In any case, the primary thing to remember is that these requests must be placed early in the legal proceedings.
Situations When You Cannot Change Judges
Once the legal proceedings have started, it’s increasingly difficult to change judges. Unless one of the three previously mentioned examples come up, it’s almost impossible. If you simply don’t care for the way the judge is handling your case – maybe because you feel that you’re being mistreated – that’s not enough of a reason for a new judge to be appointed to your case.
Someone on either party will always be unhappy with the ruling when it’s not in their favor. The judge uses their best judgment based on their experience, knowledge, and ability to make the final decision. It’s always best to spend time researching judges in your jurisdiction that could be assigned to you early on. That way, you can discover any conflicts early on to request a change.
Experienced Criminal Lawyers in Central Florida
Before going to court, you want a lawyer on your side with experience and knowledge about the court system, the judges ruling in those courts, and the location where your case will be handled. At The Umansky Law Firm, our criminal defense attorneys have more than 100 years of combined experience in criminal law. As former prosecutors at both the state and local level, we have inside knowledge on the tactics used to prosecute alleged criminals to get a conviction. We use this expertise to help our clients in every way possible to get the best results.
If you’re going to criminal court in the Central Florida area, call on the attorneys at The Umansky Law Firm. With a reputation as aggressive Orlando lawyers, we’ll do everything in our power to negotiate the best possible outcome for you. Schedule an appointment with us online for a free case evaluation or call our office.