Can I Bring My Phone to Court?
If you are old enough, you remember when cell phones weren’t a thing people had. Then, you remember when you started hearing people before meetings or other public gatherings ask you to silence them. Now, you are so connected that some of you cannot imagine ever parting with it.
If you are not old enough to remember all of that, then it has just always been a part of you.
Famous Frustrations in Courtroom Cell Phone Usage:
As cell phone etiquette began to be required for various social settings, it also became a hot topic in courtrooms. There was the “inexplicable madness” from a Niagara Falls judge who lashed out one day in 2005 when someone’s cell phone rang in his courtroom. When the guilty party refused to confess to having a phone in front of the entire room, the judge just started sentencing every defendant to jail time. The Commission on Judicial Conduct recommended he be removed from his position.
A decade later, ironically during a trial in 2014 between Apple and Samsung, the U.S. District judge was openly frustrated at the number of devices in use and ringing out in her courtroom. Her frustration seemed to be partially justified by the fact that the real-time transcripts were not working with so many devices using up the Wi-Fi signal.
Cell Phone Usage Policies in Local Courtrooms:
Lynchburg Circuit Court has banned cell phones since 2009. Those who plan to enter the courthouse must leave it at home or in their vehicles. The reasons given were “security concerns and abuse of the previous policy that permitted phones to be carried as long as they were off.” According to the newspaper article, Appomattox County Circuit Court also bans them.
The Campbell General District Court has a stated policy that only a select group of people – such as counsel, probation officers, and law enforcement, among others – can bring their phones into our courthouse, as long as they are turned off. The same applies to higher courts as well. The Supreme Court of Virginia bans cell phones during “court sessions and writ panel arguments.”
Recent Challenge to Cell Phone Bans in Courtrooms:
In early 2017, Robert McKay petitioned the Supreme Court to take away courts’ abilities to ban electronic devices, such as cell phones. The case was called McKay v. Federspiel, and it did not go very far. By March of 2017, the petition was denied, and the Supreme Court never heard the case.
This means that, for now, each court can determine its own policies for cell phones and other electronic devices. If you have to visit a courthouse, you need to be prepared to follow the policy for that court, whatever it may be.
Additionally, if you are visiting a local courthouse and you require an attorney to defend you, call or e-mail today for a free consultation!
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