Not Your Mother’s Traffic Court

April 29, 2022 by Allison Catalani

Not Your Mother’s Traffic Court

If you asked your mother to recall how she resolved her very first speeding ticket or traffic violation, she would likely tell you a long-winded story with various steps — from check-in at the courthouse, standing in line, and sitting through the hearing itself, to paying fines and fees, and signing documents at the court administrator’s desk.

Today’s virtual court technology simplifies and nearly eliminates yesterday’s burdens of the in-person process. When cases of COVID-19 spiked, the interest for more robust virtual court solutions spiked across U.S. municipal courts, as well. For instance, courts in Texas increased remote proceedings in civil and criminal cases to 1.1 million between March 2020 and February 2021. While video conferencing has been available for many years, jurisdictions had to pivot to full-on virtual court proceedings out of necessity to keep defendants and staff safe. Traffic court emerged as an area of the court system in which advanced technology could provide better options that could outlast the pandemic. Mirroring the full in-person court experience in a virtual setting is now possible and here to stay, integrating court records and payment systems with enhanced videoconferencing features.

Read on to learn how the following four features are redefining the virtual court process:

Click to Check-In

Gone are your mother’s days of having to physically drive to the courthouse, dig for change in her purse to pay a parking meter, and stand in line to check-in for her hearing. The court can send an email invitation to defendants, and they can log in and check-in by clicking on a link. The website link is integrated with case management systems, and no additional software is required between check-in and the virtual hearing. These integrations also allow the defendant to receive automated reminders for court appearances via interactive voice response (IVR) systems, (email or text), which help to reduce failure to appear rates.

Functional Virtual Waiting Rooms

Virtual check-ins put defendants into an interactive waiting room where they can be productive while preparing for their hearing. They can upload and share documents or photos for the judge to review or watch prerecorded information about the court process. If the court allows, defendants can speak to prosecutors before the hearing and discuss options and determine if the formal court hearing is still necessary. Time is saved for the defendant and prosecutor while also reducing duplicate efforts.

Video Options Enhanced to Mirror In-Court Practice

The virtual courtroom can now reflect the full in-person court experience. Videoconferencing used to only include the defendant and the judge. New integrations in virtual court allow multiple participants — defendants, attorneys, parents and/or legal guardians of minor defendants, and witnesses (usually law enforcement officers). Separate virtual rooms allow defense attorneys to conduct sidebar conversations with prosecutors as needed. Bodycam footage can be reviewed during a session via screen sharing. Courts can also livestream virtual proceedings to comply with public access laws, which require traffic court hearings be made available to the public in some states.

More Efficient Online Payments

Prior to the pandemic, fines and payments required defendants to go out of their way to a separate website and log into a separate system. New capabilities for virtual proceedings eliminate the extra steps, as payment solutions are included in the resolution process, on safe and secure platforms. Enhancing the last step of payment helps prevent missed payments, which can lead to case backlog. The municipal court in Alvin, Texas, quickly eliminated their backlog of 800 cases immediately after using virtual court solutions.

Thanks to technology, a once long-winded story about paying a traffic ticket is condensed into a few short statements:

“I was pulled over for speeding, so I attended traffic court virtually and paid the ticket online.” With virtual court solutions becoming a more permanent part of the legal landscape, the means to accessing justice is expanding. The modern virtual court simplifies manual workloads for court staff and helps ensure more people can exercise their legal rights while removing the burden of in-person process. So if your mother happens to get another ticket, at least her story will now consist of a quick anecdote about resolving her traffic ticket.

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