Meadville Tribune

Breaking News

Local News

June 20, 2011

Headed to court without heading to courtroom

MEADVILLE — Having to go to court doesn’t necessarily mean a trip to a courtroom for some persons charged with a crime these days.

Video conference technology is used for preliminary arraignments and some other court proceedings, allowing defendants often to remain at a correctional facility or booking center and appear before the judge via a TV screen rather than physically in a courtroom.

The use of video conference technology is saving Pennsylvania taxpayers an estimated $21 million a year, according to a new survey by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts’ Office of Judicial Security.

In 2003, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court amended rules of criminal procedure to allow video conferences in court procedures not involving a defendant’s constitutional rights to confront witnesses.

Crawford County courts first began using it a number of years ago, according to President Judge Anthony Vardaro.

“It’s been a good system for us,” said Vardaro. “We began with the new jail (in Saegertown) to save on transportation costs to the courthouse (in Meadville).”

It’s about an 18-mile round trip between the courthouse in Meadville and the county jail in Saegertown.

“It saves money not only on the cost transportation and mileage on vehicles, but it’s better for security for the courts and inmates,” said Vardaro.

The survey by the Administrative Office of Pennsylvania Courts’ Office of Judicial Security found that on average it cost a Pennsylvania county $73 to transport a defendant to and from a local facility and $588 to transport a defendant to and from a state correctional institution.

For Crawford County, the cost is $45.88 to transport a defendant to and from a local facility and $544.04 to transport a defendant to and from a state correctional institution, according to the survey.

Crawford County uses the system about 50 times a month, with about six  video conferences from a local facility for every one where a defendant is in a state facility. According to the survey, Crawford County is saving $5,689.36 a month in defendant transportation costs.

Courts can’t use a video conference for some matters like an evidence hearing or a parole violation hearing, Vardaro said. But a video conference may be used for initial arraignment on a criminal charge or parole violation, Vardaro said.

It also may be used for warrant proceedings, bail and sentencing hearings, he said.

The court proceedings are conducted with defendants located in state correctional institutions, county and local prisons, booking centers, state police barracks and other facilities like juvenile detention centers, shelters and state hospitals.

It saves the county money as Pennsylvania will transport prisoners with adequate notice to a state correctional institution like Albion or Cambridge Springs, said John Shuttleworth, county court administrator.

“It’s cheaper than having our deputies going down to Philadelphia or Rockview to get a (state) prisoner for a (Crawford County court hearing),” Shuttleworth. “We give the state notice, they bring the prisoner back to a state facility and we set up a video conference hearing.”

Magisterial District Judge Rita Marwood said the county’s five minor court judges also like to make use of it when they can — especially for offices like hers in Linesville and that of Magisterial District Judge Amy Nicols in Titusville.

“It makes sense when we’re on call (for criminal arraignments after normal office hours),” said Marwood.

As an example, Marwood said if officers in Titusville made an arrest and she was the on-call magistrate, police had to make a more than 60-mile, one-way trip to Linesville to have the prisoner arraigned.

With the use of a video conference system, authorities only have to go to the county jail in Saegertown and the on-call magistrate can go to the respective office.

Sheriff Nick Hoke also is a fan of video conference use.

“It means we don’t have to send two deputies out (to pick up prisoners),” he said. “They’re not out on the road transporting inmates or having to be out in bad weather with them.”

A video conference also saves the sheriff manpower since one or two deputies then aren’t needed in the courtroom for a proceeding, said Hoke. The sheriff’s department is in charge of courtroom security.

“They can be out doing other duties such as serving court papers,” Hoke said.

The video conference system isn’t just used for criminal procedures, though.

It may be used for family law cases or support cases where one of the parties involved is out of state, Vardaro said.

Keith Gushard can be reached at 724-6370 or by e-mail at kgushard@meadvilletribune.com.

1
Text Only
Local News
  • Well inspectors trying to keep up during boom time

    The state’s 83 well inspectors face a daunting enough challenge keeping tabs on 120,000 active oil and gas wells that have been drilled over the last century.

    July 27, 2014

  • cycle Young stunt cyclist to bring show to 'Thunder'

    V-v-v-v-eroom! is the high-pitched whine from the Honda CBR 600 sport motorcycle as Steven Pilic rolls back the throttle and speeds down the asphalt. In one quick, smooth motion — just like you put one foot in front of the other — he shifts his weight forward on the handlebars, jumps from the bike’s foot pegs, lands his feet on the seat and pulls the 400-plus pounds of metal up onto its back wheel, using a combination of balance, brakes, clutch and speed to circle slowly at first and then faster and faster, tighter and tighter while doing a wheelie.

    July 27, 2014 1 Photo

  • Tornado watch issued for Crawford County

    The National Weather Service in Cleveland has issued a tornado watch for Crawford County.

     

    July 27, 2014

  • SUNDAY ISSUE: 'Free-range' parenting

    The case of a woman arrested after leaving her daughter at a park while she went to work is sparking discussion across South Carolina — and even the rest of the country.

    July 26, 2014

  • pymatuning History majors rule at Pioneer & Art Festival

    Those looking for living history exhibits at the 21st annual Pymatuning Pioneer & Art Festival weren’t disappointed Saturday.

    July 26, 2014 1 Photo

  • Organizers ready to stimulate Meadville with next weekend's Thunder in the City

    Started six years ago by Dave Stone, owner of Mickey’s Central Station, as an event to “increase commerce and stimulate the economy,” the annual Thunder in the City Classic Car and Motorcycle Show in Meadville has done that — and lots more.

    July 25, 2014

  • Conneautville celebrating 200 years

    Thursday was a relaxed opening day at the Conneautville Bicentennial Celebration, but things will get hopping today — literally. A frog jumping contest is scheduled for 6 p.m.

    July 25, 2014

  • PennDOT seeking outside help to make bridge repairs

    State officials are poised to sign a massive deal that will enlist outside help to rebuild and maintain up to 600 bridges, marking the Corbett administration’s latest foray into privatizing key government functions.

    July 24, 2014

  • Stabbing charges dismissed against Bloomfield woman

    A Bloomfield Township woman accused of stabbing her live-in companion last month is a free woman after the alleged victim in the case didn’t appear in court Wednesday.

    July 24, 2014

  • Guys Mills boy wins national PBS Kids Writers Contest

    July 24, 2014

Business Marquee
AP Video
Kerry: Humanitarian Cease-fire Efforts Continue Raw: Corruption Trial Begins for Former Va Gov. The Carbon Trap: US Exports Global Warming UN Security Council Calls for Gaza Cease-fire Traditional African Dishes Teach Healthy Eating 13 Struck by Lightning on Calif. Beach Baseball Hall of Famers Inducted Israel, Hamas Trade Fire Despite Truce in Gaza Italy's Nibali Set to Win First Tour De France Raw: Shipwrecked Concordia Completes Last Voyage Raw: Sea Turtle Hatchlings Emerge From Nest Raw: Massive Dust Storm Covers Phoenix 12-hour Cease-fire in Gaza Fighting Begins Raw: Bolivian Dancers Attempt to Break Record Raw: Israel, Palestine Supporters Rally in US Raw: Air Algerie Flight 5017 Wreckage Virginia Governor Tours Tornado Aftermath Judge Faces Heat Over Offer to Help Migrant Kids Kangaroo Goes Missing in Oklahoma More M17 Bodies Return, Sanctions on Russia Grow
Hyperlocal Search
Premier Guide
Find a business

Walking Fingers
Maps, Menus, Store hours, Coupons, and more...
Premier Guide
Stocks