OKLAHOMA CITY – Rep. Nicole Miller, R-Edmond, was joined by representatives from the Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections and the Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office as Gov. Kevin Stitt signed House Bill 3756 in a ceremony last week.
House Bill 3756, authored by Miller, authorizes the use of videoconferencing technology in all stages of civil or criminal proceedings except in jury trials or trials before judges.
“We started working on this legislation in September 2019 because videoconferencing seemed like a simple solution to help save our criminal justice system both time and money, as well as maintaining public safety,” Miller said. “Of course, we never could have predicted how much more valuable and useful the bill would become. There couldn’t be a better time to offer videoconferencing to Oklahoma’s district court system, which in turn impacts county jails and the Department of Corrections, and I appreciate the work done by its supporters to pass the legislation.”
Miller said the idea was proposed to her by Frank Urbanic, a criminal defense attorney and constituent of House District 82.
“What initially started as a way to allow an attorney to plead for his or her client without that client being physically present turned into a bill that brings our courts into the 21st century,” Urbanic said. “We’re only scratching the surface right now on the efficiencies produced by this legislation. Something we didn’t envision when we stared working on this legislation was the impact a pandemic would have on our court system. This legislation assures every court in the future that video teleconferencing is authorized when there are public health concerns.”
The Oklahoma Dept. of Corrections (DOC) and the Oklahoma Sheriffs’ Association (OSA) were among the groups supporting HB3756.
This bill helps propel the idea of expanding current technology to protect the public. The pandemic forces us to open our minds to alternative methods to accomplish the task,” said DOC spokeswoman Jessica Brown. “Virtual hearings are one such alternative. ODOC greatly appreciates Rep. Miller’s partnering with public safety to achieve passage of this bill.”
“Rep. Miller’s House Bill 3756 has advanced the use of virtual hearings for sheriffs across the state. This will provide an immeasurable cost savings for the citizens in Oklahoma,” said Ray McNair, who serves as executive director of OSA.
The bill was formally signed into law in May and will go into effect Nov. 1.