Calling It In
Posted Jan 1, 2009 2:00 AM CDT
By Stephanie Francis Ward
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. “I thought that ‘whatever I have to do’ means clear it with the presiding judge.”
Castillo got the idea after chatting with his sister via Skype, an Internet-based telephone and videoconferencing program. If the court continues to allow the online testimony, Castillo believes that traffic court defendants soon will be permitted to appear remotely as well. The option is only available to non-Arizona residents.
Castillo recently presided over his first OoVoo-enabled traffic court matter. The driver, a Mexican national, was cited for driving on a highway median. The ticketing police officer testified from somewhere near an Interstate 10 off-ramp.
And 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, who is also his son, successfully argued that there are some circumstances under Arizona law where such driving is perfectly legal.