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Placer County Gets First-Of-Its-Kind 'Courtroom On Wheels'

AUBURN (CBS13) — In a first-of-its-kind approach, Placer County now has a courtroom on wheels. Supporters say it eliminates barriers in the community.

"The more people we can touch, the more barriers we can break, the more success we are going to have as a justice system," said Marshall Hopper, county chief probation officer.

Hopper and his team are taking an 8-by-30-foot-long truck on the road. Individuals are able to meet the truck in their own neighborhood and attend misdemeanor court hearings inside while communicating with a judge through video.

A probation officer and health and human services representatives are also there to help.

"We have someone that can help them with terms and conditions, and at the same time, a practitioner [is there] to do assessments for drug abuse and get them into programs and services," Hopper said.

The probation department also plans to use the mobile unit for training programs.

"With this video here, we can hold classes and link it to our reentry program," Hopper said. "So they can sit here and attend probation classes at the same time."

Jake Chatters, the court executive officer at Placer County Superior Court, hopes the system eliminates missed court appearances.

"Transportation can be a significant issue, and when that is an impediment to a court appearance, that results into a failure to appear that can have pretty severe consequences," he said.

Initially, the unit will be used to cater to homeless populations in Auburn and Roseville and later expand to help address those with outstanding warrants. It's an idea brought by virtual court hearings during the pandemic.

"We were doing it elsewhere for people who have the technology, but in this population that we are trying to serve with people experiencing homelessness, they might not," Chatters said. "So this was a great chance for us to take the technology to them."

It's a court on the move, and the department hopes to drive the county toward future success

"You are not only affecting their life, you are affecting their children's life, our community's life, our neighbor's life," Hopper said.

The mobile courtroom started last month and it's already made contact with 450 people. Future times and locations are still being worked out.

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