What should you do if you receive instructions to attend a virtual court appearance? You may already be familiar with remote bail bond hearings. Since criminals do not respect working business hours, 24 hour bail bondsman services and judges appreciate the convenience of remote bail hearings. In order to respect social distancing rules, remote court and bail hearings are becoming commonplace.
Preparing for a Virtual Court or Bail Hearing
In bail bond hearings, only the judge appears remotely to the accused in the courts. In remote court hearings, the defendant is offsite. You could be at home, or the offices of your lawyer or bail bondsman. Either way, your advisors will be close by to provide you with instruction and moral support. The conference call convener will provide instructions on how to enter the virtual court space and interact throughout the hearing. Familiarize yourself with the virtual interface the day before the hearing. This way, you have plenty of time to troubleshoot if any problems arise. Your spot check should include: adequate internet connection, working microphone and video, live links, and virtual meeting app or software installed and account set up, if required.
Remote Court Appearance Protocol
Participants in virtual court proceedings are expected to follow the same rules, protocols, and etiquette of the court room.
- Wear proper dress attire. A dress shirt, at the very minimum, and tie and suit jacket. Do not wear your boxer briefs. You may be asked to arise, as normal, for the judge, or demonstrate or act out events related to your case.
- Do not speak out of line. Only speak when you are asked to by the judge, your lawyer, or court clerks.
- As always, address the judge as "Your Honor" and lawyers as Mr.___ and Mrs.___.
- Turn off mobile phones, computer alerts, and any other potential electronic interferences.
Types of Remote Court Sessions
VideoLink or telephone
Most hearings will be held by video link. Keep in mind that latency may cause slower response times. Your lawyer may choose to communicate with you throughout the hearing via an alternative means such as instant messaging. Less commonly, a telephone hearing may be held, especially if the hearing is procedural, such as for bail bonds.
Hallway conferences "rocket dockets"
Hallway conferences are essentially mediation sessions. Courts use them to try and avoid costly court trials. In a debt collection case, for example, the judge will not be present. Instead, a court clerk or bailiff will oversee the session.
By preparing in advance, you can enter your virtual court hearing with the confidence to professionally present yourself and your case.