Back in 2010, the city of San Antonio announced a pilot program designed to allow San Antonio residents to resolve parking and traffic tickets without making a courtroom appearance. Using videoconferencing technology, people can communicate with a municipal court judge at a kiosk at the Oak Ridge Community Link Center in Northeast San Antonio. Residents who are not represented by an attorney and are pleading guilty or no-contest to the charges on the parking or traffic ticket in question may be seen by a judge without leaving their neighborhoods. The system combines a live video feed for arraignment with a pay system, so that the ticket in question can be a resolved quickly and easily. Recently, the city announced that three more kiosks were due to be rolled out soon. Clearly, the city of San Antonio is invested in efficient, low-cost means of resolving traffic and parking tickets. What does this have to do court reporting?
In an online article for Video Court Recording, author Kurt Maddox describes the San Antonio Video Court system as an example of why video in the courtroom is the wave of the future. He argues that the Video Court program illustrates the prevalence of video technology in the court system in order to show that digital video recording systems in the courtroom have reached a “point of no return” where the technology has clearly been shown to be the ideal method of record-keeping in the court, as opposed to traditional (human) court reporting.
However, the videoconferencing technology which San Antonio’s Video Court utilizes is very different from the digital audio and video technology which many court are using for record-keeping. Both of these systems are also being used for entirely different purposes. States which have examined the idea of replacing court reporting with digital recording systems are generally trying to cut costs by using the least expensive means of keeping a courtroom record. The fact that San Antonio is utilizing the Video Court system shows that the city recognizes the efficient and cost-effective nature of resolving traffic and parking tickets over videoconferencing, but certainly no more than that.
Back in 2001, the state of Texas made the decision to switch back to human court reporting after trying to implement audio and video recording systems in the courtroom. San Antonio courts, among others, had noticed a number of difficulties with attempting to replace human court reporting with digital recording systems. While digital video technology offers a number of exciting new opportunities, the state decided that it was clearly no replacement for the skill of trained court reporters.
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