Technology enters the courtroom; Texting now, electronic files later

  Whether he needs an extra file or a quick question answered, District Attorney David Hollister can quickly make his request.

  Instead of waiting for a break in the court schedule, he and the assistant district attorney can simply send a text.

  “We can communicate without disrupting the court,” Hollister said during an interview in his office last week. “We are able to communicate with our support staff and deputies.”

  Hollister said this will not only be more efficient, but it will be more cost-effective as well. He explained that defendants often make a plea during a preliminary hearing, rendering it unnecessary for witnesses to appear.

  He can send a message and save that individual from making a trip into court.

  Hollister keeps his messages short and will simply text “Call this witness off” or “I need this file now.”

  When asked if he has ever sent a text to the wrong recipient, Hollister shakes his head no, but admits that it’s something that concerns him. “I’ve very careful,” he said.

With the right application, a smartphone gives District Attorney David Hollister access to all of the information contained in the thick law books that he takes to court. His phone provides quicker access to the most up-to-date penal code information at a fraction of the cost. Photo by Debra Moore

  Hollister’s smartphone is convenient for more than just texting. He also uses it to access the state penal code.

  He points to a stack of thick law books on his desk, which contain the information that he often needs to access during court.

  Not only are the books cumbersome, they are expensive to replace with updated editions.

  A $20 application called Crime Finder allows him to access crimes and quickly find details regarding sentencing parameters and more.

  In addition to smartphones replacing bulky law books, Hollister wants a laptop to replace the buckets of files that he carries to court every day. Sometimes that requires using a metal pushcart to carry them all to the courtroom.

  “I’m trying to become paperless,” Hollister said. Ideally that policy would soon include other departments, such as probation, the sheriff’s office, the California Highway Patrol and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

  For example, instead of the sheriff sending or hand-delivering a paper report, it would simply be emailed.

  “It’s more efficient,” Hollister said.

  His department already has an Internet-based case management system that Hollister described as “wonderful for tracking cases” as well as “creating accurate documents.”

  “We’re making progress,” Hollister said. “We’re taking baby steps, but it’s coming.”

  Eventually, a tablet will replace the need to carry a phone and a laptop.

       While it’s just being implemented in this county, Hollister said other jurisdictions have been using this technology for years.


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