Skip to main content
CNN Europe CNN Asia
On CNN TV Transcripts Headline News CNN International About Preferences
powered by Yahoo!

Lady Justice goes digital

Yakima traffic offenders get their day in court via the Web

By Jeordan Legon (CNN)

Yakima traffic offenders get their day in court via the Web

   Story Tools


(CNN) -- Unhappy with that speeding ticket? E-mail it to the judge.

A court in Yakima, Washington is taking Lady Justice digital by allowing drivers to e-mail their excuses or explanations instead of appearing in court.

Other courts allow attorneys to file briefs online. And many counties let offenders pay traffic fines on the Web. But Yakima County is believed to be the first court in the country to let defendants plead their cases via e-mail.

The county is doing it to ease court overcrowding. In addition, defendants don't have to miss a day of work to appear before the judge.

"This allows someone to sit in the convenience of their home, organize their thoughts and send it in," said Gloria Hintze, a court administrator.

Limited availability

The program is only available for minor infractions such as speeding, running a stop sign or missing a tail light. And only those who plead guilty and ask for a mitigation hearing are allowed to participate. But it's ideal for those who want their traffic fine lowered or thrown out, Hintze said.

The court also allows people to appear before the judge -- the old-fashioned way -- and accepts written responses by regular mail . So far, about half of the 2,500 mitigation hearings the court handles each year are handled via mail, which inspired the more convenient e-mail program, Hintze said.

Yakima is testing the digital waters. But across the country, many judges are wary of launching such programs, said Lin Walker, who researches technology for the National Center for State Courts.

Tough questions

She said judges struggle with the impact of allowing attorneys to use computers to present evidence in court.

"Does the proficiency of operating that equipment take away from the integrity of the proceedings?" Walker asked.

In Yakima, all e-mails from litigants are handled on secure servers. A judge still opens a hearing in the courtroom, reads the e-mail and issues a verdict. The court clerk later mails the verdict.

Walker, who monitors tech advances at state courts nationwide, said she expects more judges to at least consider launching such programs.

"The Internet opens up a whole new ball of wax" for the courts, she said.

Story Tools

Top Stories
Burgers, lattes and CD burners
Top Stories
CNN/Money: Security alert issued for 40 million credit cards
© 2004 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.