San Antonio uses squad car video conferencing to put violators in front of a judge

Wed, 2013-12-04 06:00 -- Liz Enbysk

Justice can be swift in San Antonio, Texas, where some squad cars are equipped with video conferencing equipment, license plate readers and laptops. Put all those high-tech tools together and it means when marshals stop someone with an arrest warrant stemming from overdue parking tickets, the offender can sit in the squad car and negotiate his fate face-to-face with a judge via video, then pay up on the spot using the marshal's laptop and an online payment portal.

According to a report on the Government Technology website, the video conferencing software syncs with the license plate readers which have information on outstanding warrants uploaded to them. The system is intended to help people who simply forgot to pay a ticket – not more serious violators who knowingly and/or repeatedly skirt the law.

Not only does the system save time for citizens who avoid taking time off work to make a court appearance, but it also gets the marshals back on the road faster, according to the city's chief marshal. A typical traffic stop and booking can take up to two hours; choosing the video conferencing route can take 10 minutes.

The system doesn't work for every situation and sometimes a judge isn't available to video conference when a marshal makes a stop. But Chief City Marshal Rumaldo Abonce told that for the most part, "this thing has been a really tremendous benefit to the normal San Antonio citizen.”

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