Monroe and Ontario counties want to be the first in the state to give judges the final say when it comes to electronic court appearances.
Sheriff’s offices in Ontario and Monroe counties are seeking approval from the state Legislature to change the rules when it comes to electronic court appearances.
Ontario County Sheriff Phil Povero told the county’s Public Safety Committee Monday that a joint lobbying effort under way involves the two sheriff’s departments and New York State Sheriffs’ Association.
The three groups are compiling data and preparing a presentation for state Sen. Michael Nozzolio, R-Fayette, Povero said. Nozzolio is chairman of the Senate Crime Victims, Crime and Corrections Committee.
“We are asking for an amendment to the law,” said Povero, noting the law allows certain routine court appearances to take place using video-conferencing equipment. “Let these two counties try it and see how it works.”
The goal is to cut down on transportation costs of moving inmates to and from the jail for routine court matters. In Ontario County, calculations show that of the 1,471 officer hours spent on court appearances in 2007, 86 could have been held electronically under the proposal.
Under the plan, the two counties would give judges the final say about whether to hold certain court appearances electronically instead of leaving the decision to defendants and their attorneys, as is the case now.
Povero said Ontario County has had the equipment to do virtual court appearances since the new jail opened four years ago, but it’s never been used. The equipment includes screens so the parties can see each other as well as talk.
Routine appearances include setting bail, hearing a judge’s decisions and setting dates for other appearances.
Electronic appearances would not apply to trials and instances in which statements, physical evidence or identification of a defendant is involved.
“A defendant will always have the right to confront (his or her) accusers in a court of law,” Povero said.
Supervisor Skip Buck, D-city of Canandaigua, a member of the Public Safety Committee, said he thinks the idea makes sense.
“Transports to and from the jail, that translates to money,” he said.
Contact Julie Sherwood at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 263, or email@example.com.