Fresno court to test videoconferencing

Traffic offenders in Fresno County may now find their faces on screen following a decision by the Judicial Council of California to allow videoconferencing in the court room.

With the approval, the court will move forward with a pilot project testing Remote Video Proceedings (RVP) on small traffic cases originating out of Coalinga and Mendota where it's harder for many to reach one of the county's only remaining courthouse in downtown Fresno.

For now, the cities will provide the space to host court proceedings once a week. Additional court days may be added later if needed.

Under the partnership, the cities of Coalinga and Mendota are also covering the costs of cameras, television monitors, computers and other videoconferencing equipment, as well as technical support.

On its end, the court will pay the monthly fee of $125 per site for the videoconferencing service and is purchasing the RVP equipment for one courtroom in Fresno.

The court will also provide interpreters at the RVP sites and technical assistance to implement the project.

Court Call, based in Los Angeles, is providing the technology for the videoconferencing. The company also pioneered a system that enables court proceedings by phone.

Once the project is operational this spring, the Fresno County Superior Court will be the first in the state to hold videoconferencing for traffic cases following an amendment to the California Rule of Court in early February allowing the service.

Such cases are in high demand considering 125 traffic trials were held weekly in six courthouses outside the Fresno area before they were closed last summer in the wake of state budget cuts.

The RVP project, which is available to motorists cited at least 15 miles outside the Fresno-Clovis area, aims to reduce travel time and staff costs for law enforcement agencies that are currently obliged to send citing officers to Fresno for court proceedings.