How AV Technology is Changing the Legal SystemYou may be surprised to find out how much today’s courtrooms have changed thanks to technology. And we’re not talking about the type of technology favored on CSI. We’re talking now about something simpler, yet with a more fundamental impact on proceedings: AV technology.

One of the reasons for the increased popularity of using AV technology is cost savings; in particular, the costs for videoconferencing have come down so much that an increasing number of courtrooms now integrate videoconferencing with AV tech for maximum efficiency.

AV Tech Improvements Usher in High Tech Arraignments

One incredibly popular application of AV technology in the courtroom is the use of remote arraignment via video. The Walker County Courthouse in Texas recently underwent renovations that included the ability to conduct video arraignments, and the economic savings from avoiding having to transport county jail inmates to court was cited as one reason for the change. However, even more important to local officials were the elimination of security issues inherent in inmate arraignment.

As Walker County Judge Danny Pierce told The Houstonian, “Security, I think, is the primary reason for this. Economic is number two. It should be better all around.” The reality is that courtrooms increasingly view this AV technology and ability to conduct remote arraignments as necessities, not indulgences.

Another increasingly popular use for AV technology in courtrooms involves live, in-courtroom presentations of remote witness testimony. Often, the witnesses who appear in court via a live video broadcast are expert witnesses. Because they can now appear in courtrooms live, with the help of AV technology, the public sector saves considerable money otherwise spent on transportation.

An Array of Applications

In some jurisdictions, including the state of California, witnesses are able to appear remotely for both arraignment and evidentiary hearings in traffic cases, probate proceedings, motion hearings, and can even provide witness testimony in bench and jury trials. The applications for family law are growing, as well, as they ease the burden on those participating in guardianship, mental health, and even delinquency and dependency proceedings. When you consider the workloads of individuals such as social workers, who have close working relationships with legal appointees and courts, the ability to appear remotely could have a huge impact on their ability to be more effective with their time. And, as we all know, time equals money.

Of course, these instances of video technology use are growing largely because those involved in legal proceedings—and their attorneys—are also pushing for adoption of up-to-date technology. However, there’s great support at the government level, too, as many courtrooms have specific policies and programs that encourage the use of AV technology generally, and the video applications of such technology specifically. Further, these programs often have corresponding budget allocations attached, making the necessary courtroom updates possible.

Challenges and Opportunities

That said, these are still relatively early days when it comes to remote video technology in the legal system. The growth is bringing with it a set of questions and challenges that must be explored, including challenges with creating appropriate video capture environments within detention facilities. Where will inmates appear before a video camera? Not all facilities are equipped with appropriate locations. Further, when the quality of video isn’t addressed, judges can have a hard time getting a read on defendants and inmates, and early studies suggest that this may actually have an impact on how much bail is set.

The clear answer to these challenges is a focus on creating the most effective AV systems for the legal system to use. Clear audio, crisp video with clean connections, and high quality in-court displays will all help pave a clear path to effective and fair integration of technology and the legal system. Because the growth is the use of this technology has charged forward in recent years, and isn’t showing any sign of abating.

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