Virtual Court Appearances in NJ Criminal Cases
NJ Attorneys Handling Video Conference Court for Criminal, Domestic Violence, and Child Abuse Allegations
In the wake of this unprecedented health crisis caused by Coronavirus, the world has essentially shut down. New Jersey, alongside many other states throughout the country, has closed all establishments and offices that are deemed non-essential. Both private and public companies and agencies that are not related to medical or food services are required to close down, or at the very least, reduce hours of operation, until further notice. Moreover, employees have been ordered to work from home during the pandemic to reduce the spread of this highly contagious virus.
The Judicial System is not immune to the spread of the COVID-19 disease and as a result, the Courts have principally been closed. The Municipal Courts throughout the State of New Jersey are closed for the month of April and it’s very likely they will continue to be closed into the month of May. The Federal Courts have postponed all criminal and civil trials but have been conducting hearings at the discretion of the judicial officers.
The Superior Courts are predominately not in use, however, certain cases that are considered emergent are still being addressed. Cases concerning protective orders for domestic violence or sexual assault survivors, illegal lockouts for tenants, the unlawful removal of a child from the State, Guardianship applications for incapacitated adults, or any other matters concerning an imminent risk to the health or welfare of an individual, are being heard. However, for those types of emergent proceedings, the courtrooms themselves are still closed to the public. To reduce the spread of COVID-19, all in person hearings have been suspended and in place of being physically present in front of a Judge, our Judicial System has been utilizing video conferencing software. Moreover, as the weeks have gone by and it appears that the public will be forced to social distance and quarantine themselves for an unforeseen period of time, our Courts are expanding the use of video conferences to pending cases to address other types of matters and proceedings.
Video Conference Court Appearances in New Jersey
Virtual Courtrooms are video proceedings where the litigants, attorneys, and the Judge all appear and communicate with one another by way of video. If you have ever face-timed or video chatted with another person or are familiar with how it works, virtual courtrooms are essentially identical. Since the implementation of the new rules, the New Jersey Superior Court has been utilizing the widely popular Zoom software to conduct video conferences. The company itself is not new and in fact, was founded in 2011. It has been widely used by numerous businesses and organizations to help foster communication when individuals cannot be in the same room.
The software is very simple to operate and can be used by either a desktop computer, laptop, or smartphone. The program uses the microphone and camera on a person’s device and similar to video chatting or facetime, allows each person involved to see and communicate with one another. However, what makes Zoom different is several different people can communicate at the same time and thus, closely emulates being in court. Its use so far seems to be effective.
How does Video Conferencing for Court Work in NJ?
If you are asked to partake in a video conference or if you need to file an emergent application, the video conference process works as follows. The clerk of the court will send the litigants and their attorneys an email on the day of the proceeding. The email contains a link that allows you to connect to the video conference. From the confines of their home, both the litigants and attorneys will open the email, click on the link, and from there, a window will appear indicating that the court will grant you access to the proceeding soon. Similar to court under normal circumstances, you have to wait your turn and sometimes, the wait can be quite long. Eventually, your case will be called and you will be granted access to the meeting. On your screen, you should be able to view the Judge, your attorney, and your adversary. At that point, your case will proceed.
Why are Virtual Courtrooms Beneficial?
Even though it may seem like nothing is occurring outside of our homes during isolation, the world continues to spin and as such, serious problems arise that must be addressed and eventually resolved. Crimes are still occurring, many separated families struggle with custody, parenting time, and support issues, housing dilemmas surface, and other critical problems take place that must be solved. Through the use of virtual courtrooms, these types of concerns and impasses can be addressed. Our Judicial System is a vital aspect of our community. Without it, problems cannot be solved.
In addition to new cases, our Courts are overflowing with pending cases that still need to be completed. Before the pandemic, there were criminal defendants waiting for trial to prove their innocence, victims who are awaiting justice against their perpetrators, civil litigants anticipating compensation to redress injuries, and spouses trying to resolve their marital quarrels. The type of matters still waiting to be heard are endless. Nevertheless, through the use of virtual courtrooms, many unresolved cases can be addressed and maybe even resolved.
Is There Anything Negative About Virtual Courtrooms?
Not everything can be solved through virtual software. This is because there is no substitute for in person interaction and consequently, cases that demand a hearing or trial cannot take place. It would be irrational to attempt to try a case where the fact-finder cannot actually observe a witness’s demeanor and body-language. Plus, how could a litigant or their attorney effectively confront a witness if he or she cannot scrutinize how they answer the questions? On top of that, how can a person oppose a witness with exhibits such as text messages, emails, or social media posts. Accordingly, one of the most important aspects of any trial is judging the credibility of a witness and without actually being in front of the person, it is nearly impossible to pass judgment.
Thus, video conferencing and the Zoom software is a great temporary solution to the distancing orders and court closures. However, it cannot serve as a permanent replacement for in-person proceedings. Unfortunately, if your case requires a trial, you may have to wait a little bit longer before your case can be heard. But this depends. If you have been charged with a criminal offense, have been issued a temporary restraining order, or have an upcoming court appearance for a criminal, domestic violence, or child abuse case, the best thing you can do now is enlist the legal counsel of a knowledgeable attorney. Whether your case can move forward immediately, or you have to wait a few weeks until you have your day in court, it is imperative to have your case thoroughly reviewed by a lawyer who can ascertain the facts, listen to your side of things, craft the best strategy to represent your interests, and zealously represent you when that day comes. If you have court virtually or otherwise, we can help.
Have an Upcoming Court Date in New Jersey? Get NJ Defense Lawyer Assistance
At The Tormey Law Firm, our lawyers continue to represent clients in virtual courtrooms and conduct video conferences for court cases in Bergen County, Morris County, Essex County, Passaic County, Union County, and throughout New Jersey. We are highly experienced when it comes to court procedure and defense and we are here to assist you anytime with your case. Simply contact us at (201)-556-1570 for a free virtual consultation over the phone and find out more about what you may be facing and what you can do to best move forward.