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What Audio Visual Technologies Should A Courtroom Have?

A/V technologies and solutions for the courtroom

The courtroom has changed very little over time, and many still operate with technology designed decades ago. These courtrooms are compromising cost and security by relying on this obsolete technology, and some aren’t even ADA compliant. This is changing quickly, though, and courtrooms are modernizing at rapid rates. There are several reasons for this shift, but cost is likely the greatest reason. However, modern A/V systems can also expedite court proceedings and make them more secure, which further drives the cost-effectiveness of the technology. A/V technology in the courtroom generally serves one extremely important purpose. It enhances communication. Communication, after all, is the foundation of law, and when it is prioritized in a courtroom setting, everything runs more smoothly and more efficiently.

No more disorder in the court

If a courtroom is behind the curve, it is likely operating with a few microphones tied to an amplifier and speakers installed throughout the room. This technology may be decades old, and it may malfunction intermittently or be difficult to control. The judge, prosecution, defense and witnesses may be forced to speak louder so the microphones pick them up. Alternatively, speakers may be forced to whisper, as the system’s volume may have to be cranked up so that people in the back can hear. Clearly, this is not ideal in a courtroom setting. Modern A/V solutions provide a reliable, more comfortable way of managing audio, but this is only the beginning. A/V technology can do some impressive things in a courtroom setting, and some of the most popular solutions include:

1. Video conferencing solutions – More than anything else, video conferencing technology will greatly enhance a courtroom’s efficiency, and save the public a great deal of money as a result. Consider the arraignment process, which can be repeated over and over during a single day. Traditionally, the defendant is brought before the judge, but with video conferencing, this can be handled remotely, and without the defendant requiring transport. By cutting out transport, courts save on travel costs and eliminate the possibility of the defendant getting aggressive or attempting escape.

Remote video conferencing can solve a lot of problems for a court. In addition to remote arraignment, it can be used to gather witness testimony or allow witnesses to sit in on evidentiary hearings. This approach is particularly useful when an expert witness is required to give testimony, as most are busy individuals who may have to travel a great distance to attend court. Family law is another area where video conferencing makes sense. Given the sensitive nature of family law, remote video conferencing can keep younger witnesses in a lower pressure environment, and allow social workers, who are extremely busy people, to offer testimony without being there in person.

2. Improved audio systems – As already mentioned, audio quality is often sacrificed in outdated courtrooms, but an A/V solution can fix that. With smarter audio processors and more precise microphones, audio output can be finely controlled throughout the entire courtroom. Zoned audio can work with a public address system to ensure all spoken communication is clearly heard. This can help a courtroom attain ADA compliance in helping people suffering from hearing loss.

Improved audio is essential if video conferencing solutions are also put in place. The audio output from the remote witness or defendant will be difficult to pick up if it isn’t sent through a modern audio processor.

A challenging audio-based aspect of the courtrooms is figuring out how to keep bench counseling private. Bench counsel is a critical part of communication between judge, prosecutor and defense, but it should be kept private. A/V integrators can assist with this, installing a white noise or pink noise system to provide a sound barrier between the bench and everyone else.

3. Evidence presentation technology – Evidence presentation is a central part of the legal process, and every piece of evidence has to be presented clearly so that jury members can properly interpret it. In the past, attorneys have had to make a show of it, carrying the evidence around the room and keeping the judge or jury’s attention while pointing out fine details present in an exhibit.

A/V solutions for the courtroom include evidence presentation systems. A popular option for better evidence presentation is with a document camera. A document camera provides a top-down view of anything placed under it, and offers a close up view of the evidence. From here, the attorney can easily point out items of interest without moving from the camera, and without the need for an extra set of hands. The camera is usually connected to a crisp, high resolution digital display, so everyone can see what is in front of the camera from a distance. The camera can even be installed in the ceiling so it doesn’t take up room on a table.

4. Large displays or projectors – In addition to evidence presentation, a set of large displays can communicate court proceedings to everyone present. This will ensure everyone follows the rules and knows what to expect, time-wise. Digital displays are also useful for traffic courts, where people are waiting their turn to speak to the judge. In this instance, the displays can be used to call people up to the front, without the judge having to shout a name out.

Smaller displays can also be used for control purposes, installed at the judge’s desk or in another room. These controls can be used to change audio volume or engage a white noise machine during bench counsel.

Common law, and the courts that deliver it, are a keystone in modern civilization. As such, courtrooms should be operating with the best communication and information delivery methods available. Doing so will save the court (and the public) money, speed everything up and ensure the judge or jury doesn’t miss any important details.