Getting a ticket dismissed because the police officer didn’t show up just got a lot harder in Pima County, Ariz.
With the help of OoVoo, an Internet-based videoconferencing and chat application, Pima County Judge Jose Luis Castillo Jr. has begun allowing witnesses to testify remotely via the Web instead of coming into court.
While Arizona’s criminal procedure rules prohibit remote appearances by witnesses and defendants for trials and evidentiary hearings, Castillo says there’s no similar bar for civil hearings. “I found a provision that states a hearing officer can do whatever you need to do to be able to process these cases,” he explains.
If the court continues to allow the online testimony, Castillo believes that traffic court defendants soon will be permitted to appear remotely as well.
Castillo recently presided over his first OoVoo-enabled traffic court matter. The driver was cited for driving on a highway median. The ticketing police officer testified from inside his car by an Interstate off-ramp.
Even though the hearing proceeded with the help of some newfangled technology, the police could not outwit some good, old-fashioned smart lawyering. The driver’s attorney successfully argued that there are some circumstances under Arizona law where such driving is perfectly legal.
It is this kind of cutting edge technology and computerization that has brought some Western courts into the 21st century much quicker than the East Coast establishments. Here in Broward our courthouses are flooded, our clerks are backed up, and hundreds if not thousands of tickets get dismissed on speedy trial rule violations. Not that the public or traffic ticket lawyers cares too much about that. They are thrilled.
But as I think again about the task force looking just at the courthouse, I realize what we really need are global solutions to a day when the court is electronic and paperless; jail processing is swift; fingerprinting is done with lasers not cards which get lost, and video tele-testifying and conferencing is routine instead of earth shaking. Not to mention that it would be nice if jurors and litigants did not have to wait on one hour lines to get into the courthouse. Yes, I know, we are looking into a scanning system to process people more quickly. And I suppose in the interim we will just keep the EMT’s by the front waiting for someone to collapse on line.
We can do all this. It is not beyond us. We just have to avoid answers that are patches instead of solutions. We have to marshal our resources and budgets more creatively. We have to act with the urgency of now, remembering it is our lives and our professions that are wounded by our transparent weaknesses.