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The Coronavirus crisis has made Courts around the Globe to revert to technology in order to perform hearings and discussions among the members of the Court.
In Spain, several Courts have used applications such as Zoom or Meet, without a true legal umbrella.
Now, the Act of Parliament 3/2020 has confirmed those telematic hearings. Section 14th sets forth the following rules:
1. Until June 20, 2021 inclusive, provided the Court is constituted at the courthouse, any acts of trial, appearances, statements, hearings and, in general, all acts to be performed in court proceedings will be carried out preferably by telematic presence, should the Courts and prosecutors have at their disposal the necessary technical means for it.
2. Notwithstanding the foregoing, in the criminal jurisdiction the physical presence of the defendant will be required at felony trials.
The physical presence of the investigated or accused person shall also be required, at their own request or of his/her attorney, at the hearing set forth in article 505 of the Criminal Prosecution Act when any of the prosecutors pleads his/her provisional imprisonment or in the trials when any of the prosecutors request a prison judgment for more than two years, unless there are justified causes or force majeure that prevent it.
When the physical presence of the accused or the investigated person is ordered, it will also be necessary the physical presence of his/her attorney, at the request of the same of the accused or investigated person.
3. Court deliberations will take place online when the necessary technical means are available.
4. The provisions of the first paragraph will also be applicable to acts carried out in the prosecutor's offices.
5. Necessary measures shall be adopted to ensure that the use of online methods guarantees the rights of all parties in the procedings. In any case, the right of defense of the accused and investigated person must be guaranteed in criminal proceedings, in particular, the right to effective legal assistance, to interpretation and translation and information and access to court files.
6. In the acts that are celebrated by telematic presence, the Judge or Court Clerk before whom they are held may request any party to appear physically should that presence be deemed necessary.
In addition, the same Law instructs the Council of Ministers to present a bill regarding online hearings in collaboration with the relevant regional authorities, the General Judicial Council and the General Public Prosecutor.
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