Assemblywoman Sandy Galef and Senator Vincent Leibell announced that Governor Paterson signed their Putnam County Electronic Court Appearance legislation (A8096/S5084) into law on Tuesday, August 11th (Chapter 332). This legislation allows defendants to appear electronically at court proceedings in Putnam County. The Putnam County Commission on Fiscal Vision and Accountability 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) instead of in-person.
“With the passage of this bill Putnam County will join twenty-six other counties in New York State, including Westchester, 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.”
Senator Vincent Leibell said: “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 certain criminal proceedings. 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.”
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.
Mary Ellen Odell, Putnam County Legislator and Co-Chair of the Commission on Fiscal Vision and Accountability (Commission) said: “I am thrilled that the Governor has signed this bill. It is rewarding to all of us on the Commission when one of our recommendations is taken up by our state legislators who guided it through the legislative process to the ultimate goal of becoming law. It demonstrates how citizens from all walks of life can help make government more efficient and save Putnam County residents’ money.”