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O R D E R


By Order of this Court dated March 7, 1994, the use of videoconference and facsimile equipment was authorized on a pilot basis for use in magistrate and municipal court for specified criminal proceedings. The Order required each entity to make application to this Court for approval, which was granted on a yearly basis. Numerous counties and municipalities participated in the pilot project and reported that videoconferencing enhanced the efficiency and security of the courts, but continued to protect all constitutional and statutory rights of the accused. Due to the overwhelming success experienced by these entities, we find that statewide authorization for the use of videoconferencing and facsimile equipment in specified criminal court proceedings in magistrates and municipal court is appropriate. Now, therefore,

IT IS ORDERED that a magistrate or municipal judge, upon approval of the governing body of the county or municipality, may use videoconferencing equipment for the conduct of non-capital initial appearances; bond hearings; preliminary hearings; contested motions; and, acceptance of guilty pleas and sentencing (for offenses initially within jurisdiction of the magistrate or municipal court), upon the following conditions:

1. The magistrate or municipal judge must submit to the Office of Court Administration prior to their implementation written procedures for use of videoconferencing equipment, to include specifications for types of equipment and their placement.

2. Court Administration approval of local procedures for use of videoconferencing equipment shall be for an unlimited period, unless a material change of circumstances requires otherwise.

3. Use of videoconferencing equipment in magistrate and municipal courts shall be limited to non-capital initial appearances; bond hearings; preliminary hearings; contested motions; and acceptance of guilty pleas and sentencing (for offenses initially within jurisdiction of that magistrate or municipal court).

4. Written consent of the defendant, upon Form SCCA/650 (Consent to Videoconferencing), a copy of which is attached and made a part of this Order, shall be obtained for use of videoconference equipment at a hearing or first appearance.

5. The magistrate or municipal judge must verify written and oral waiver of defendant's right to personal appearance at the commencement of any hearing or first appearance.

6. A copy of the videotape of the hearing or first appearance shall be made upon written request of the defendant or prosecution, provided such request is received by the court within thirty (30) days of the date of the hearing or first appearance. The original videotape may be destroyed thirty (30) days after the date of hearing or appearance. However, the original videotape of a preliminary hearing may not be destroyed until three (3) years from the date of the hearing, and must be made accessible to the defendant during that period.

7. Facsimile equipment shall be available for transmission of documents between the judge and the defendant, and facsimile signatures shall be acceptable for purposes of releasing the defendant from custody; however, both actual, signed copies must be promptly filed with the court, and the defendant must promptly be provided with a copy of all documents he or she signs.

8. Equipment and facilities must include:

a. Locations provided for the defendants and for the judges which are properly situated and furnished to be suitable for and conducive to judicial hearings. The locations must be sufficiently quiet and lighted for use of the video equipment and must also be furnished so as to apprise the defendant of the seriousness of the proceedings.

b. At least two (2) video cameras, one to record the defendant, and one to record the judge. The cameras must also be capable of filming the defense counsel and witnesses as necessary.

c. i. At least two (2) television monitors so that the defendant and judge can observe the proceedings at the other's location simultaneously and converse with each other.

ii. The room in which the judge is presiding should be accessible to the public, and interested parties should have an opportunity to observe the proceedings. Therefore, a third monitor should be positioned in the courtroom or seating provided behind the judge for interested parties and counsel for the defense and prosecution.

d. A private telephone line so that defendant and defense counsel can communicate when in different locations.

e. Two (2) facsimile machines so that court documents, witness statements, and other papers can be sent back and forth between the two locations. The defendant must also be allowed to confidentially fax papers back and forth to defense counsel.

IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all Orders issued by this Court pursuant to the Order dated Match 7, 1994, authorizing videoconferencing in magistrates and municipal courts on a yearly basis, remain in effect indefinitely, but are supplemented by this Order. Those entities are not required to reapply for approval, but may continue to utilize videoconferencing and facsimile equipment pursuant to this Order and within the confines of their existing Order.

This Order shall become effective immediately and remain in effect unless further amended or revoked by subsequent Order of this Court. Upon signature below, this Order revokes our previous Order dated March 7, 1994, authorizing videoconferencing in magistrate and municipal court.

S/ Jean H. Toal                          C.J.
S/ James E. Moore                       J.
S/ John H. Waller, Jr.                    J.
S/ E. C. Burnett, III                         J.
S/ Costa Pleicones                      J.

August 6, 2003
Columbia, South Carolina