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Zoom Court Appearance

Virtual U.S. Court Appearances Via Zoom

During the COVID-19 crisis, that started in March 2020, most courts developed a system for making court appearances by “Zoom” – a video conferencing and web conferencing application that allows one to see and speak with the court and the attorneys without actually going to the courthouse.

Will Zoom court appearances continue?

It is anticipated that many courts will continue to use this method of allowing court appearances even after the COVID-19 crisis has resolved because it is extremely convenient, saves court resources, and is popular with attorneys. HOWEVER, every county has different rules and procedures, and often individual judges will have separate protocols.

It is extremely important that you consult with your attorney regarding whether appearing by Zoom is permissible and appropriate for your day in court. Your attorney should be able to provide you with the links to the court website and give you guidance on when and if you can appear through this technology.

What are the different ways to appear in court?

Historically, there were two ways for a person accused of a crime to appear in court. But as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, the court developed a third way to make an appearance.

1. Personal Appearance

The individual will personally go to the courthouse and stand before the judge. A personal appearance has typically been required if you are charged with a felony or at a critical stage of the proceeds.

2. Legal Representation

In California, Penal Code section 977 allows a persons’ attorney to appear for their client, without their presence for most misdemeanors. An attorney may be allowed to appear “977” for a client in a felony matter with the permission of the court.

3. Virtual Appearance

The courts wanted to limit the number of people in the courthouse to avoid unnecessary exposure and maintain social distancing. However, it was also important to keep cases moving along to attempt to avoid too much of a backlog. As a result, the courts invested a significant amount of time and money into a system that allows court appearances through Zoom.

How are Zoom court appearances conducted?

Every county does it a little differently, but the idea is the same. For example, your Sacramento criminal defense attorney may have already informed you that in Sacramento County, the judge is in a different courtroom and appears on the screen. For the most part, the district attorney will log in from their office. The only people in the court for most pre-trial and settlement type appearance may be the Bailiff, the defense attorney and the defendant. While the defense counsel and client can appear via Zoom, it is not uncommon for the defense to be personally present in the court room – especially if the client is in custody or there is some critical stage – such as a plea or sentencing. As mentioned above, it is important that you discuss with your attorney whether you can appear via Zoom and whether or not it is a good idea for that particular appearance.

Tips For Those Appearing in Court Via Zoom

Install The Zoom Application

Make sure that you have the Zoom application on your computer or phone and that you know how to use it. It is not complicated but you need to try it out before you log on. If you don’t have it yet, click here to download Zoom.

Check Your Internet Access

Make sure that you are in a location and check your internet connection especially if you are using wifi. Nothing is more frustrating than having your session “dropped” or disconnected in the middle of the appearance.

Save Your Login Details

Be sure that you know your correct login details so that you can log into the correct courtroom. In Sacramento, each courtroom has its own log-in, so you want to make sure you are in the right Zoom session.

Dress Appropriately

Remember – this is a court appearance, even though you are not in the courthouse. Be sure you are dress in a way that shows the court you are taking this seriously.

Keep Your Attorney’s Contact Details Handy

You should make sure that you have a way to contact your attorney to keep him/her apprised of whether you are having trouble logging in so they can help you if necessary.

Check Your Video Background

Be aware of what is in the background. Look at your video and see if there is anything in your background that should not be there. Just be aware of your surroundings.

Log In Early

Log on a few minutes before the court appearance. In many courtrooms, the bailiff will take the role to see who is present. If you get in the queue early, you have a better chance of getting your case called early. However, it is a good idea to coordinate with your attorney and find out when they will be logging on. Sometimes, they will have to log on a little late because they have another appearance somewhere. In most circumstances, if your attorney knows that they will be late, they will let the district attorney and their client know so no one is waiting.

Be Patient

Occasionally, the wait for court can exceed an hour or more. Sometimes it is just unavoidable. Just like when one appears in court, sometimes there are other things going on and other cases that are getting called. Be patient. If this is the situation, mute yourself and turn off your video until the case is called. That way you are not distracting and don’t get caught doing something you would rather not have people see on camera.