Advances in audiovisual technologies have made remote communications much more efficient and cost effective. During the COVID-19 pandemic, courts took advantage of this technology and began holding hearings via telephone and the internet in order to keep cases moving during lockdowns.

A new law that took effect July 1, 2022 has extended and modified the requirements for remote criminal proceedings. The law gives a defendant the option of waiving the constitutional right to appear personally in court for most matters affecting his or her case. The defendant must sign a written waiver that is approved by defense counsel and filed with the court. The attorneys in the case may also appear remotely in the applicable proceedings with the consent of the court.

In misdemeanor cases (crimes carrying a jail/prison sentence of up to one year), many of the court hearings may be completed remotely. The accused may appear via remote technology for all proceedings except trial. Remote proceedings can include plea hearings, motions on evidentiary matters, hearings on procedural matters and sentencing if the defendant is found guilty or enters a guilty plea. Witnesses can testify remotely in misdemeanor cases if all parties consent.

Felony cases (crimes carrying a sentence of more than one year) are subject to stricter requirements. The defendant must appear in person at the arraignment, at the time of plea, during the preliminary hearing, during portions of the trial when evidence is presented and at the time of imposition of sentence. The defendant can agree to appear remotely in most other matters, such as motions and nonevidentiary hearings. In felony cases, the witnesses may testify in all preliminary matters remotely with the consent of all parties, but must physically appear for the trial.

While the courts may defer to the defendant’s choice to appear in the case remotely, criminal court judges have the authority to mandate the defendant’s physical appearance in any and all proceedings. Attorneys may appear remotely with permission of the court.

There may be advantages and disadvantages to a defendant appearing remotely. Anyone charged with a crime should consult an experienced criminal defense attorney for further information regarding what is best for their case.

Strategic Law Command is a criminal defense firm based in Roseville. We handle a wide variety of misdemeanor and felony cases in the greater Sacramento region. Our highly experienced attorneys and support staff defend each client rigorously and work to secure the best outcome possible under the circumstances. If you or a family member has been charged with any type of misdemeanor or felony, feel free to contact us or call 916-787-1234 for an initial consultation.