QUESTION: WHAT NOT TO DO WHEN APPEARING IN VIRTUAL COURT AS THE DEFENDANT?
ANSWER: DON’T MAKE YOUR TRAFFIC COURT APPEARANCE FOR A SUSPENDED LICENSE FROM THE DRIVER’S SEAT OF A CAR!
Watch that Zoom background!
By now we all have a list of stories of things that should have been done differently in virtual meetings. Simple things like closing the closet door or moving the hamper of dirty clothes before starting the Zoom meeting are overlooked repeatedly.
One party made a virtual appearance in federal court without his shirt! And by now everyone has seen the video of the lawyer appearing in court looking like a cat (“I’m here. . . I’m not a cat.”) Remember to check your Zoom filters as well as backgrounds!
While the only quiet place for your Zoom job interview may be the bedroom, you probably shouldn’t be sitting on the bed with the pillows as your background. (I have a few more spectacular faux paus that I could share if not for the requirement to protect client confidences!)
I understand that my background for my Zoom meetings with the microwave and kitchen cabinets leaves something to be desired, but I usually remember to move the bottles of Tabasco® sauce and Franks® RedHot® sauce from the background of the kitchen table.
Barking dogs, crying babies, and family members walking through the background have become commonplace and mostly accepted. But the plastic surgeon who decided to appear in traffic court from the operating room was risking a nip and tuck confrontation with the judge.
Appearing in traffic court for a suspended license from the driver’s seat of the car?
A Michigan man appeared in virtual traffic court on a hearing about his suspended license from the driver’s seat of a car! The video of the hearing is from the YouTube court stream from Michigan 3B District Court Judge Jeffrey Middelton’s court. The exchange starts with the judge telling the suspended driver to remove his hat. It went downhill from there.
The defendant had pleaded guilty to having no insurance and driving with a suspended license. He was appearing before Judge Middelton for sentencing. The judge noted the defendant’s long list of unpaid fines and driving infractions.
But as the judge stated:
The one I’m struggling with is the driving suspended. I believe you drove wherever you are in the vehicle you’re in and you’re dumb enough to go on video with you sitting in the driver’s seat of a vehicle. [. . . ] Makes me think you haven’t gotten the message.
The prosecuting attorney then added that in addition to driving with a suspended license, the defendant had been driving 75 miles per hour down a country road. She also said that while speeding and driving with a suspended license, the defendant was driving a 2000 Ford Taurus with four adults, three children and an infant in the car. And the infant was not secured in a car seat!
The defendant explained to the judge that he was sitting in his boss’s vehicle and that he didn’t drive the vehicle to the place where he was entering his court appearance. Somehow he thought it was better than appearing in court from someone’s house. According to the defendant his boss picks him up and takes him to work.
Don’t know what the defendant had to say about the overcrowded vehicle speeding down the country road with an infant not secured in a car seat while driving on a suspended license, however. In any event, he wound up being placed on a payment plan for the fines and was sentenced to a weekend in jail.
Watch those Zoom backgrounds!
Some days it is better to leave the video feature turned off! At a minimum, try not to be seen by the judge at the possible place of the crime. Forty years ago I would have never thought that preparing witnesses to testify would involve lessons in virtual conference etiquette! Nevertheless, if you need capable professional representation in court, whether live or virtual, please call me.
Michael King • Gammage & Burnham, Attorneys at Law • [email protected] • 602-256-4405
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