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2008-08-29-01

The Supreme Court of South Carolina

RE: Videoconferencing from Magistrate and Municipal Courts to Detention Facilities Statewide


ORDER


I find that the statewide use of videoconferencing in the magistrate and municipal courts has enhanced the efficiency and security in courtroom proceedings while maintaining the constitutional rights of the defendants. I further find that due to the successful progression and development of these videoconferencing operations, the sharp increase in fuel costs, and the limited financial resources in counties throughout the state, the use of videoconferencing from magistrate and municipal courts to detention facilities throughout the state will greatly reduce time and financial burdens imposed upon counties in managing the disposition of certain criminal proceedings. Therefore, pursuant to the provisions of Section 4, Article V, South Carolina Constitution,

IT IS ORDERED that a magistrate or municipal judge, upon approval of the governing body of the county, may use videoconferencing equipment in conducting preliminary hearings, bond hearings, and plea hearings for those offenses committed within the jurisdiction of the magistrate or municipal court where a defendant is located in any detention facility within the state:

1. The magistrate or municipal judge and the detention facility 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. The use of videoconferencing equipment in magistrate and municipal courts in criminal proceedings in which the defendant is located in a detention facility within the state shall be limited to bond hearings, guilty pleas, and preliminary hearings.
 
4. At the commencement of the hearing, the defendant shall receive and sign all required forms and documents relevant to the proceeding.
 
5. At the commencement of the hearing, written consent of the defendant upon Form 651 (Consent to Videoconferencing from Magistrate and Municipal Courts to Detention Facilities), a copy of which is attached and made a part of this Order, shall be obtained at a hearing or first appearance.
 
6. At the commencement of the hearing, the magistrate or municipal judge must verify written and oral waiver of the defendant’s right to personal appearance at the commencement of any hearing or first appearance.
 
7. At the commencement of the hearing, the magistrate or municipal judge must verify written and oral waiver of territorial jurisdiction at the commencement of any hearing or first appearance.
 
8. At the commencement of the hearing, the magistrate or municipal judge must verify the defendant’s oral and written agreement that the defendant understands and acknowledges that by appearing before the magistrate or municipal judge by means of videoconferencing, he is voluntarily appearing before that magistrate or municipal court and submitting himself to the court’s jurisdiction.
 
9. At the commencement of the hearing, where the defendant chooses to waive his right to counsel, the magistrate must verify written and oral waiver of the right to counsel at the commencement of any hearing or first appearance.
 
10. At the commencement of the hearing, and upon verifying the defendant’s above mentioned written and oral waivers, the magistrate shall transmit the warrant using facsimile equipment to the detention center, whereupon the warrant shall then be served upon the defendant. Service upon the defendant in this manner shall constitute proper service.
 
11. All forms and documents containing original signatures shall be returned to the issuing magistrate or municipal judge as soon as practicable.
 
12. All criminal proceedings authorized to be conducted by videoconference pursuant to this Order must be audio recorded. The original audio recording may not be destroyed until sixty (60) days after the date of such hearing. 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.
 
13. 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.
 
14. 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 or a picture in picture monitor so that the defendant and judge can observe the proceedings at the other’s location simultaneously and converse with each other.
 
ii. The magistrate court must comply with all relevant victim notification and victim rights statutes. Additionally, 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, facsimile equipment capable of being used as a printer, 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, if 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 magistrate court remain in effect indefinitely, and are supplemented by this Order.

This Order shall become effective immediately and remain in effect unless further amended or revoked by subsequent Order of this Court.

  s/Jean H. Toal
Jean H. Toal
Chief Justice

Columbia, South Carolina
August 29, 2008