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  • Writer's pictureKarlie Valdez, JD

What to know about Zoom Court in Washington

Did you know that if you have a court date for a criminal charge in many of Washington's Courts (or any district court in King County) you will most likely only have to be physically present for the Arraignment (the very first court hearing) and the Sentencing (the last hearing)? Thanks to the pandemic, most Washington courts allow attendance by Zoom or Webex for all hearings except the Arraignment and the Sentencing hearing. Each court has slightly different attendance policies, so it is wise to hire an experienced Washington lawyer promptly so that you will know what exactly is required and what to expect at each hearing. Once you hire a lawyer they can even waive your presence at many of the virtual pre trial hearings so that you do not need to take time off from work.

Rules and Policies CrRLJ 3.4 (c) outlines when Physical Appearance Is Required. The defendant’s physical appearance (or remote appearance in the court’s discretion) is required at the arraignment (if one is held), at every stage of the trial including empaneling the jury, returning the verdict, imposing the sentence, and at hearings set by the court upon a finding of good cause, except as otherwise provided by these rules, or as excused or excluded by the court for good cause shown.


The changes to Washington Courts attendance policies have allowed the court system to function more efficiently and minimize some of the disruptive impacts participating in the court process has on many defendants. Fewer required physical appearances for defendants lead to fewer missed court dates that require costly bench warrants and delay resolution of cases. For many low and moderate income defendants, attending multiple court hearings may cause them to miss work or school or to struggle to provide care for children or elderly family members. Travel and transportation to some courts may also be difficult or impossible for defendants without drivers licenses, cars or financial resources. Individuals who miss court dates are at risk for new criminal charges arising from missed court appearances.


The Do's and Dont's of Zoom Court

Make sure you have the link to appear for a virtual court hearing. In Washington, usually this will be a Zoom link or a Webex link. If you don't have the link, look on the court website, or on the notice sent from the court, or call the court if you're still unsure. If you have never done a virtual hearing before it's wise to practice with a friend, in advance of the hearing, using a different link. Practice turning your camera on and off, changing your screen name so that the device name does not appear for attendance purposes and try adjusting the audio and sound. Make sure your device is fully charged and you have any necessary apps installed on your phone or device. Each court handles virtual court hearing a little differently. Sometimes the host (or the clerk) will let everyone in all at once and other times you will be in a waiting room until the host allows you to join. It is wise to reach out to your attorney if you are unable to get in after 5 minutes.


Most courts prefer that you keep your camera turned off and your audio muted until your case is called. If your attorney is present they will answer for you during roll call. If you don't yet have an attorney you should unmute yourself temporarily to respond during roll call. When you turn your camera on be mindful of the fact that you are now officially in court. You should not be wearing a hat, drinking, eating, smoking, chewing gum, etc. Dress respectably as if you are in an actual court hearing. Make sure you are in a quiet location and listen carefully to the proceedings. It is okay to be sitting in your vehicle during Zoom, court but never attend a virtual court hearing while you are driving. Turn up your sound so you can hear what's happening and text message your lawyer if you are having any problems with the platform.


When your matter is called, you should unmute yourself and turn your camera on. If a question is asked that you do not know how to answer or if you need to speak to your attorney privately just say so. The judge will ask the clerk to assign you to a private breakout room where only you and your attorney can have a confidential conversation. Your attorney will know how to end this breakout room session when you are ready to rejoin the virtual courtroom.


Contact an Experienced Criminal Defense Lawyer

If you have been charged of a crime and need advise on whether you need to attend court in person or by Zoom call experienced criminal defense lawyer, Karlie Valdez. Karlie has been defending individuals charged of crimes like assault, domestic violence, DUI and theft for over 20 years. Reach out to Karlie Valdez for a free consultation by calling or texting (206) 718-4498 or emailing karlie@vdzlaw.com

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