Audio-Video Appearances in Juvenile Court

April 14, 2015

Following the introduction of legislation to permit audio-visual conferencing in juvenile court hearings when youth are detained, the Illinois Juvenile Justice Commission (the Commission) has dedicated time and resources to research and analysis of the issue. This possible strategy to reduce the cost of transporting youth back and forth to court, sometimes at great distance or in inclement weather, presents some possible benefits to local court and law enforcement agencies. However, after reviewing the legal protections extended to juveniles in the court process and the obstacles created for effective legal representation, impartiality, and meaningful engagement in the court process, the Commission unanimously passed a motion opposing this practice at its March 18, 2015 meeting: “The use of video conference technology is inappropriate in juvenile court hearings.”

This report is divided into three substantive sections: Section 1 summarizes the legal issues posed by audio-video conferencing, with the conclusion that the practice is only legally permissible in very limited circumstances; Section 2 highlights some of the adverse impacts on court proceedings of appearance by video we can anticipate; and Section 3 provides an analysis of detention admissions to two juvenile detention centers with recommendations for reducing unnecessary detention admissions.

It is the Commission’s recommendation that local systems address the concerns related to transportation cost and safety by reducing detention admissions, particularly admissions with a short length of stay and those initiated by a warrant for failure to appear. The Commission is willing and able to assist local practitioners in further exploration of these recommendations.