RE: Videoconferencing in Magistrate and Municipal Court
By Order of this Court dated August 6, 2003, videoconferencing was authorized statewide for use in magistrate and municipal court for specified criminal proceedings. We have received input from the counties and municipalities that have utilized videoconferencing and find that this input should be incorporated into the procedure required by this Court for the use of videoconferencing in specified criminal court proceedings in magistrates and municipal court. 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; hearings related to bench warrants; 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; hearings related to bench warrants; 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 SCCAJ6S0 (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. All criminal proceedings authorized to be conducted by videoconference pursuant to this Order must be audio recorded. In the case of a bond hearing, first appearance, contested motion, acceptance of guilty plea, or hearing related to a bench warrant, the original audio recording may not be destroyed until sixty (60) days after the date of bond hearing, first appearance, contested motion, acceptance of guilty plea, or hearing related to a bench warrant. In the case of a preliminary hearing, the original audio recording may not be destroyed until three (3) years after the date of the preliminary hearing. A copy of the audio recording of a proceeding held pursuant to this Order shall be made available upon written request of the defendant or prosecution, provided such request is received by the court within sixty (60) days of the date of the bond hearing, first appearance, contested motion, acceptance of guilty plea, or hearing related to a bench warrant, or within three (3) years of the date of the preliminary hearing.
7. Equipment used to generate electronic transmission of signatures or other comparable equipment shall be available for transmission of documents between the judge and the defendant, and signatures generated and transmitted pursuant to such equipment shall have the full force and effect of an actual signature, be acceptable for purposes of binding all parties to the contents of the documents, and releasing the defendant from custody; however, all copies bearing an actual or electronic signature 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 videoconference the defendant, and one to videoconference the judge. The cameras must also be capable of videoconferencing the defense counsel and witnesses as necessary.
i. At least two (2) display 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, the monitor should be positioned in the courtroom so that interested parties and counsel for the defense and prosecution can view the defendant. If necessary, additional monitors may be placed in the courtroom so that all present may view the proceedings.
c. A telephone line, cellular telephone, or video terminal, so that defendant and defense counsel can communicate in private when in different locations.
d. Two (2) printers, equipment used to generate the electronic transmission of signatures, or other comparable equipment, so that court documents, witness statements, and other papers can be sent back and forth between the two locations and printed at both locations, as necessary. The defendant must also be allowed to confidentially exchange papers back and forth to defense counsel.
IT IS FURTHER ORDERED that all Orders issued by this Court prior to the issuance of this Order authorizing videoconferencing in individual magistrates and municipal courts, remain in effect indefinitely, and are supplemented by this Order. Those entities are not required to reapply for approval, but may continue to utilize videoconferencing consistent with the provisions of this 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 and replaces our previous Order dated August 6, 2003, authorizing videoconferencing statewide in magistrate and municipal court.
s/Jean H. Toal C.J.
s/E.C. Burnett, III J.
s/Costa M. Pleicones J.
May 2, 2006
Columbia, South Carolina