Swift Justice: Collin County Courtrooms Go Digital

Judge uses video conferencing technology to hold arraignments

The morning commute for a round of arraignments in court has gotten dramatically shorter for a Collin County judge.

Judge Paul Raleeh used to a 15-mile drive from his home to the courthouse. But now, in a pinch, he just has to walk into his home office.

Raleeh uses video magistration, or video conferencing, technology that allows him to see and arraign inmates with the help of an online camera system.

It's just a matter of making a phone call to the judge and putting the inmate before a camera, Raleeh said.

"I can be online in 30 seconds and get the matter taken care of," he said.

"It's the technology boom," he said. "It's out there, and if you're not going to jump on the technology wagon, you're missing the boat."

Collin County has been using the system for a year, saving thousands of dollars in the housing, transportation and security of inmates while eliminating the risk of escape going back and forth from cities and jails all over the county.

Assessments from fines pays for the technology.

Raleeh said the technology may ultimately allow officers to testify online from their police departments during hearings and examinations, allowing patrolmen and detectives to get back on the streets faster.

He said he also envisions a day when kiosks resembling ATMs can be set up to allow citizens to log on to settle a citation, plead, swipe a credit card and go -- without ever having to spend a day waiting in a courthouse.

The only thing sacrificed in the virtual process is courtroom tradition, Raleeh said.

"The only thing missing on this system is for the baliff to yell, 'All rise,' when we get online," he said.

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