More Criminal Courts Turning to Videoconferencing

As everything gets more technologically advanced, it also seems to get less and less personal. Take for instance videoconferencing in the courtrooms. Sure they save money and time and correctional departments don’t have to worry about the cumbersome and sometimes seen as dangerous work of transporting inmates–but, at what cost?

More and more jurisdictions are turning to technology to save long term costs and trouble when it comes to court proceedings. And although the American Bar Association has come out officially discouraging the use of video conferencing technology at trial, they haven’t taken a position on using the technology at less formal proceedings like arraignments and evidentiary hearings.

Both state and local courts are turning to this hands-off approach to hearings and the feds have been using it for quite some time as well. While this report highlights a case where videconferencing was appropriate as the defendant had a communicable disease—that isn’t always the reason it’s used.

Instead, courts, corrections, and law enforcement all save money using such technology. They don’t have to transport the inmate, wait on them to get there or staff for extra security in the courtroom. The initial cost of the equipment likely pays for itself quite quickly when balanced with the savings.

There’s something very Big Brother about court videoconferencing though and it’s completely understandable why the ABA cautions against it in trials. Being physically cut off from the defendant in a case no doubt leads to some emotional and intellectual disconnect as well. Courts should be cautious about disregarding the power of physical presence in proceedings.

It seems a lot is done in the name of budgetary interests, cutting programming and trimming costs wherever necessary. But all these cuts must be balanced with their non-financial costs as well. When saving a few bucks in anyway hinders someone’s access to justice, the money is best spent and justice upheld.

Sure I supposed there’s some value in using video conferencing when there is a communicable disease in the mix. But not when it would impede justice. Period. There are precautions that can be taken to prevent the spread of disease. And these types of actions should always be taken to protect the integrity of the criminal courts.

When you are facing criminal charges and called on to use video conferencing for any of your court proceedings, it can feel like you aren’t afforded the same access to justice as you would with your physical presence in the courtroom.

While cases of this kind of technology are still relatively rare, they are growing in number. Regardless of where your hearings are held, everyone accused of a criminal charge needs a criminal defense attorney present looking out to ensure justice is upheld in every single court hearing.

About David Matson