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Video Court Hearings Save Pa. County, Attorneys Time and Money

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on July 19, 2011 6:46 AM

Though many judges are still squeamish about televising court proceedings, it appears as though they're less likely to balk at the concept of video hearings.

Local courts (and even some federal agencies) nationwide have embraced video conferencing as a means to expedite proceedings, improve inmate security, and overcome witness limitations.

And in Pennsylvania? It's saving the state an estimated $21 million a year.

In 2003, the Meadville Tribune reports that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court amended its rules of criminal procedure to permit judges to conduct hearings by video as long as it does not implicate a defendant's rights under the Confrontation Clause.

Judges statewide have been holding warrant proceedings, bail and sentencing hearings, and arraignments using video conferencing technology, according to the paper.

Evidence and probation violation hearings, however, must be conducted in-person.

Virtually connecting with inmates in jails, juvenile detention centers, and state hospitals allows the state to save transportation costs, as well as the costs associated with securing an inmate while in court.

It costs on average $73 to transport a defendant to and from a local facility, whereas the Tribune reports that it costs $588 to transport a defendant from a state facility to court.

In addition to their use in criminal proceedings, video hearings also allow juries in civil cases to hear from distant witnesses, and family court judges to discuss issues with parents who live in a different state.

With such widespread implications and uses, it's no wonder that video hearings are being adopted nationwide. And given the financial savings, perhaps courts ought to do so faster.

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