The COVID-19 pandemic has thrust legal practice into the future in many ways. Courts have advanced decades in the span of about a year in the implementation and use of technology to operate courts and continue to dispense justice. One major change that many have witnessed is the increased use of webcam conferencing for court hearings, often on Zoom. Zoom hearings have brought on a host of new challenges for everyone involved in a case and have led to calls of unconstitutionality and misconduct.
Original Case Details
In a recent New Jersey Restraining Order (RO) case, a man sought an RO against a woman after they broke up from dating. It was alleged that the woman went to the man's house after midnight along with four other men demanding the return of a dog that was currently the subject of an ownership dispute. Here, the judge conducted a final restraining order hearing on Zoom, and neither party was represented by an attorney and ultimately granted a final RO against the woman. On appeal, the woman claimed her due process rights were violated when the man had his mother in the room with him during his testimony and was coaching him off-camera. The RO was eventually reversed on appeal due to the violations.
Due Process Rights a Defendant Has at an RO Hearing
A defendant has all of the same rights at a live RO hearing as he or she does at a Zoom RO hearing. It is important to have an attorney representing you as you may not even realize what rights are being violated until it is too late, as it was with the case described above. A defendant at an RO hearing has the right to be represented by an attorney and also has rights under court procedure and the rules of evidence. The main rule violated by the case above was the judge's failure to sequester witnesses, a practice that aims to prevent coaching or witnesses tailoring their testimony to fit the testimony of the witness that they just observed testifying. In a Zoom trial, the judge has less ability to control the environment where a witness testifies, and in turn, opens the potential for legal violations. In a regular court, a judge will simply have any witnesses that need to be sequestered removed from the courtroom during testimony. Zoom court requires judges to take extra measures to ensure due process is followed.
Why Hiring the Lento Law Firm is the Right Choice
If you are facing a restraining order or criminal hearing over Zoom, then it is important to speak to an experienced attorney. Attorney Joseph D. Lento has helped ensure due process for countless clients across New Jersey. Attorney Lento and his team at the Lento Law Firm will fight for your rights and for the best possible outcome. Call the Lento Law Firm today at 888-535-3686 to learn why hiring Attorney Lento and his team are the right choice to defend you.