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Riverhead Justice Court officials say building needs Wi-Fi to show evidence

Riverhead Town officials have allocated funding in the

Riverhead Town officials have allocated funding in the 2019 budget to upgrade wireless communication across town facilities. Credit: Erin Geismar

Riverhead Justice Court officials have asked the town to bring Wi-Fi service into the building, which they said is not equipped to help them comply with a state mandate for showing images, maps and other digital evidence in court.

Riverhead Court Justice Allen M. Smith said Thursday the court facility on Howell Avenue had no access to Wi-Fi internet. Smith said what prompted him to seek wireless internet for the court was a new law the New York State Legislature passed in December.

"The effect of this legislation will change how trials are conducted in the Riverhead Justice Court," Smith wrote in a letter he submitted to the Riverhead Town Board at the board’s April 16 meeting.

The new law, known as CPLR 4511, expands the admissibility of all digital evidence in courts such as images, maps, locations, distances, or other information taken via tools such as web mapping or global image services. Since attorneys tend to use tools such as Google Maps and web mapping services to find visual information for locations involved in legal cases, the law could allow for any objection to use such information to be overruled as long as the information "fairly and accurately depicts the evidence presented."

The law also requires parties intending to use such information or images at a trial or hearing to give at least 30 days notice before their court date of their intent.

While the court has hard-wired internet connections in parts of the building, Wi-Fi availability would facilitate the court’s ability to comply with the law, Smith said.

Riverhead Supervisor Laura Jens-Smith said Thursday the town had allocated funding in the 2019 budget as part of a plan to upgrade wireless communication across town facilities. The money allocated, Jens-Smith said, “would address the internet issues over there and townwide.”

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