The potential of the technology behind the Internet has attracted the attention of some of the best criminal lawyers, who are actively seeking to define the future of legal practice. Considering all the factors that are contributing to an increase in crime, it is becoming more evident that the status quo for the justice system is changing and criminal attorneys are in the forefront of the issues that impact the cases they represent and society as a whole.
Law enforcement authorities are finding their personnel strained under increasing case files and decreasing funds to compensate them for their labor. In addition, marketing efforts are not producing the desired recruits, the result of a severely damaged public image from reports of corruption and criminal activity within their ranks. For many people, there seems to be less difference between the criminals and law enforcement officers than ever before.
Behind the scenes, legislature faces more challenges from the citizens they represent, regarding their rights and how criminal activity and law enforcement are affecting them. The nuts and bolts of making the type of society that people are demanding, takes a lot more coordination between all the organizations involved than is currently in place.
But, as some of the best criminal attorneys know, a very large part of the problem is the overall reform of our concept of implementing criminal justice today, in addition to outdated statutes and the issue of how to fund the manpower and technology tools needed to accomplish the reforms in law enforcement, the prison system and all of their supporting agencies. All of these factors has led to the start of a serious debate that raises the question: Could the idea of conducting a criminal trial online become a reality?
From a production standpoint, it certainly is possible. Streaming media technology has advanced to the point where we now turn on our computers to view a film, where just a couple of years ago, you would have turned on your television set. From large corporations to individual entrepreneurs, the advancement of streaming media has expanded the audience potential of information programming tremendously. Criminal trial proceedings has a powerful impact on how we respond to the rules of our society. The exposure of millions to these events has both positive and negative implications.
There are many legal minds that forecast a time when conducting a criminal trial online will be a much different reality than what Court TV.com presents now.
How would the structure change in order for a criminal trial be conducted in “virtual reality?” As with everything else, the transformation is taking place now, gradually, you can see the progress clearly if you watch and compare a video transcript from Court TV News 2001 to one made in 2006.
The fascination that many of us have with the motivations of the criminal mind feeds the growth of online legal information on past and present cases. There are many people who view these cases to better understand the direction of society and others who simply want to satisfy their own curiosity. Whatever the reasons for the upsurge in popularity of online criminal trial coverage, the fact is that it is a trend that must be addressed.
Many of the traditional print media organizations are recognizing the limitations of reporting on events after the fact. Our society now wants information in real time and in detail. The rise of criminal cases that have far reaching effects on our lives, such as acts of terrorism, has also sparked the discussion on whether or not there is a need for a new definition of the type of punishment that befits these types of crimes. Watching the differences in the way criminal trials of individuals accused of crimes against humanity or a crime against an individual are handled brings this issue front and center for the best criminal attorneys who are retained to represent the defendants.
Trial coverage, the cornerstone of Court TV’s daytime programming, focuses on newsworthy and controversial legal proceedings, delivering powerful, real-life drama that provides an insider’s look at the justice system and its high-profile players-Michael Jackson, Scott Peterson, Martha Stewart, Robert Blake, Saddam Hussein and many more. Court TV.com now has a paid subscription service so you can choose which trial you want to observe. The best criminal lawyers who participate in these televised trials have brought a new perspective to the criminal justice system by the individuals viewing the trials.
Where the discussion stalls, is when the vulnerabilities of Internet technology come into play. Currently, live web casts are being used to expand the audience for thousands of meetings. These meetings are also made available in archives for the future, and the same is true of the current organizations that part of the legal community represented on the Internet.
There are many Texas criminal lawyers who are pressing of reform in their state, which currently holds the record for the number of executions in the United States. No matter which side of the heated discussion about the death penalty a Houston criminal lawyer or Austin criminal lawyer find themselves, both sides agree that the prison system is in serious need of transformation.
The right of a state to determine its form of punishment in relationship to the statutes and corresponding federal dictates has been called under review by many organizations who work to protect the citizens right to due process. The increased use of DNA testing and evidence is deciding current cases, as well as its success in resolving cases from the past, has given new strength to the argument against capital punishment.
In the past, when controversial cases have been brought to trial in the traditional manner, there has often been the fear that media reports would bias a potential jury, sometimes leading the criminal lawyer to seek a change of venue for the trial. In the case of conducting a criminal trial online, a change of venue would no longer be relevant, for the venue could potentially be worldwide.
The Courts themselves stand to benefit from the increased use of streaming media in criminal trial proceedings. If the proposed changes are made to categorizing how certain offenses are handled, the actual cases that require an intensive amount of time would be dramatically reduced. Several Houston criminal lawyers are looking at the cases where the convicted person was given the option of traditional imprisonment or house arrest wearing an electronic tracking device for the period of their sentences.
In almost every case reviewed, the option of house arrest was chosen. This electronic tracking device is linked to a Global Positioning System (GPS), just like the navigational systems that are used in many vehicles now. The difference is that the system being used to enforce house arrest is two-fold; the personal security unit and the electronic bracelet/anklet, which must be kept within a certain proximity to each other for the person to be within their bounds.
When the boundaries are violated, the GPS linkup alerts the authorities, who proceed to investigate and if necessary apprehend the person. Many of the Houston criminal lawyers are in favor of this program for non violent offenders only. On the other hand, some Austin criminal lawyers, wonder if this program is sending the right message to the public. Is house arrest with a electronic device a strong enough deterrent to prevent future criminal acts by the individual?
For criminal lawyers, one of the most frustrating scenarios deals with handling repeat offenders and sex offenders who represent an existing danger to their communities. The troubling question of where do we draw the line, has both community leaders and residents struggling with the idea of having participants of this program in their midst. Particularly in the case of sex offenders who attack children, the common fear is that the authorities response to a violation may come too late for a victim.
On the other hand, the traditional concept was that once a person had been punished for their crime by society, they had the right to live their life peacefully. Unfortunately, the stigma of a criminal conviction has made many subject to constant suspicion, and in some cases a violation of their human rights. The general attitude of many today is to have a criminal justice system that acts quickly to separate the criminal element away from the law abiding population.
As urban centers have grown, so has the incidence of crime in these areas, creating the need for more detention facilities. Austin criminal lawyers realize that the sticking point is that while citizens want to safe from criminals, very few of them like the idea of paying for and living with these detention facilities in their neighborhoods. There is also an undercurrent of fear of escape and distrust in the process of rehabilitation that makes many people resistant to this idea. However, on the other side of the argument are those who think that detention facilities would be more effective if electronic monitoring was used in managing this violent offenders and would in turn limit the threat to the surrounding neighborhoods and the inmates themselves.
With the criminal population growing, prisons nationwide are overcrowded, the rationale for using a house arrest/electronic tracking device program for certain individuals is easy to understand; it creates more space for violent offenders to be detained. There are also some Austin criminal lawyers who are seeking reform in the management of the range of charges that is considered non-violent. Lawmakers are looking at the definitions of criminal activity and researching how to make them more relevant to the realities of our world today.
The criminal justice system using Internet technology to hear arguments for legal issues or to decide criminal cases is wrought with challenges that will ensure a equitable administration of the law. Starting with the Constitution and the Bill of Rights, neither of which was written with the application of Internet technology in mind, criminal lawyers in every state are finding more questions than answers.
The basic freedoms and privileges that these two documents confer has been held sacrosanct for hundreds of years, and many criminal attorneys hold the view that these two documents cannot be altered without sacrificing our ideal of the American lifestyle. There are other criminal lawyers who believe that there is a great amount of room for improvement in how these two documents are interpreted into the statutes that govern us and that the Internet technology could be the catalyst that brings the progress to the system that is sorely overdue.
When you look at all of the facets of a criminal trial, some individuals are wondering how an online trial would deal with matters like presenting evidence, are images alone sufficient to present the jury? In Texas criminal lawyer associations, the success of using the interment to track and apprehend both the non-violent and the violent offender, has given rise to different types of scenarios that could make use of the interactive technology in place now. Would attorneys be permitted to appear in court via webcast? Would attorneys counsel their clients via instant messenger? Or would judges preside over cases from a ‘virtual bench?
There has been the suggestion that it is the defendant in the criminal trial that gives the most incentive to use Webcasting. It is easy to see the logic here, especially with violent or notorious criminals, as in the recent case where an convicted felon, appearing for a hearing, managed to take an officers weapon and proceeded to kill several people and escape with a hostage. The cost in manpower and endangerment to life that accompanied this situation would have been completely eliminated if the proceeding had been done through streaming media. Testimony could have been given in real time, interacting with their own attorney in a private chat room and responding to questions from the prosecution.
But there are quite a few tech-savvy Houston criminal lawyers that are listening intently to what is being done to ensure the privacy and security of the verbal, written and imagery transmissions over the Internet. The media has become just as much of a target for criminals as the legal system, the production of the criminal trials that are currently being viewed by thousands of people every month, points to the inherent technical support structure that must be in place in order for integrity to be assured.
Criminal lawyers themselves are already tackling the legal issues that the use of the Internet produces. Texas criminal lawyers have seen a migration of many domestic violence offenders to cyber stalking – the act of sending harassing, malicious and threatening e-mail, messages and posts on the Internet against a certain individual. While cyber stalking in a felony in most states, these cases illustrate how criminals are using the strengths of Internet to their own advantage against the law, i.e., a man sends harassing em ails a person he had never met 15,000 miles away, he threatens their life, posts false information about the person and finally begins to call the person on the phone. What can be done legally in this case? The practice of “Internet Crime” is expanding as criminals find more ways to penetrate information systems. Looking at how this impacts conducting a criminal trial online, you can imagine what would happen if the ‘virtual’ evidence in a case is tampered with or stolen?
The best criminal attorneys are asking the question: How do we use technology in a way that protects the integrity of a criminal trial? The line between what is a serious matter and what is entertainment is becoming more difficult to decipher as 86 million viewers tune in to Court TV News for live trial coverage during the day and then watch programming such as Forensic Files, Psychic Detectives and MasterMinds after dinner. Movies such as “Total Recall” have already given a glimpse of what can happen when a society uses technology to become impersonal and apathetic. The best criminal lawyers are all looking to the Internet to manage certain aspects of the criminal justice system with a eye to long term impact as well as immediate resolution of a problem.
Viewing a webcast in real time is only one step away from being at the place of the event in person, bringing the power of an audience of thousands of people into an 50×50 foot room. Will this reality eventually cause the purpose and organization of a jury to be redefined? How will the criteria for a criminal trial jury change? Is it possible that everyone will given the opportunity to vote their opinion after the judge and jury? Looking at these scenarios has many Texas criminal lawyers busy working through the legal issues and statutes that apply to these situations.
Some of the best many criminal lawyers who believe that the emergence of the ‘reality’ show and their overwhelming success is the precursor for the shift of the criminal justice system to this format. While progress toward this goal may take another hundred years to fully reveal an equitable system of criminal justice using Internet technology, it is clear that the impetus for this eventual result is firmly in place. The adjustments that will be required of citizens and those who work within the criminal justice system, especially criminal lawyers will be shaped by how we decide to use the power of Internet technology in defining our society.