Assemblywoman Galef’s Legislation Permitting Electronic Court Appearances in Putnam County Passes State Assembly

Putnam County officials praise its passage
June 25, 2009

Assemblywoman Sandy Galef announced passage of her Assembly bill A.8096/S.5084, which would allow defendants to appear electronically at court proceedings in Putnam County. The Putnam County Executive, Board of Legislators and the County Sheriff requested the legislation to save taxpayer money and increase government efficiency by allowing defendants to appear electronically in connection with a criminal action, except for hearings and trials.

“With the passage of this bill Putnam County will join twenty-six other counties, including Westchester, in New York State that have the authority to conduct electronic court appearances,” said Galef. “Giving the courts in Putnam County the authority to decide whether or not it is necessary to see a defendant in connection with criminal actions will not only cut costs for taxpayers it will also enhance public safety. It also preserves the rights for those accused of a crime since they will still appear in person at critical junctures of the proceedings such as a hearing or trial.”

The legislation takes advantage of new technology that has proven effective in other parts of the state and country. By setting up a closed-circuit, audio-visual system inside a designated space in the Putnam County Correctional Facility, defendants can be present for many parts of the judicial process without being physically transported to the County Courthouse. Currently, Putnam County Correction Officers transport about two hundred detainees and prisoners to different courts across the county every year. The use of electronic court appearances would reduce the number of these transports, thereby reducing labor costs, transportation-related expenses, and has the additional advantage of protecting the environment through reduced vehicular emissions.

"This is a good example of how government at all levels can work together to accomplish the goal of making government more economic and efficient. We appreciate the hard work of everyone involved and are hopeful that all approvals will occur in time to realize savings during our next fiscal year," said Putnam County Executive Robert Bondi.

Mary Ellen Odell, Putnam County Legislator and Co-Chair of the Commission on Fiscal Vision and Accountability (Commission) said: “On behalf of my co-chair, Neil Sullivan and Commission members, I want to thank Assemblywoman Galef for this legislation that would allow defendants to appear before a judge electronically instead of in-person. It is gratifying when a state legislator takes our recommendation to streamline Putnam County government and transforms it into reality. It is also a testament to our Commission members who come from all walks of life, political parties, public, and private sectors to work together and find ways to make government more efficient and save Putnam County residents’ money. This bill is a grand slam; it reduces our payroll significantly, decreases field transportation costs, and enhances public safety. It is a significant achievement, reducing costs while still carrying out mandatory governmental functions.”

“There are so many new forms of technology available to us, and as a result it is no longer necessary to transport defendants to and from local courts for every appearance,” said Galef. “I know this legislation is going to relieve some of the economic burden placed on my constituents in Putnam. The measures provided in this legislation will go a long way to furthering my commitment to limiting waste in New York State, both economically and environmentally,” Galef concluded.