Tyler Technologies Helps City of Alvin Eliminate Case Backlog, Reduce Failure-to-Appear Rate, and Cut Costs

Tyler Technologies is an AWS Advanced Technology Partner

Executive Summary

After closing its doors in response to the Texas Supreme Court’s emergency order to postpone all in-person hearings, the Alvin Municipal Court worked with AWS Public Sector Partner Tyler Technologies to implement a new virtual court solution in under 24 hours. With this new platform, Alvin cleared its backlog of 800 court cases that had stacked up during the shutdown, reduced the failure-to-appear rate by 60 percent, and saved thousands of taxpayer dollars.

A Shutdown Becomes an Opportunity

Alvin is a growing Texas city of more than 26,000 people and is located in the greater Houston metropolitan area. The city’s government includes Alvin Municipal Court, which processes adult and juvenile cases ranging from traffic offenses to drug arrests to assault charges. When the city suspended in-person city services in response to the pandemic, the City of Alvin saw an opportunity. “Due to the shutdown, we had a backlog of more than 800 court cases,” says Sonya Cates, Court Administrator for the City of Alvin. “Here on the Gulf Coast, we are also prone to hurricanes, tropical storms, and frequent flooding.” The city wanted to find a technology solution that would help keep court services up and running during natural disasters, and it decided it would be the right time to consider offering virtual court hearings to solve the problem. “We realized virtual court technology would help us keep our services going during disasters, and we needed to find a technology partner to assist us,” Cates says.

Enabling Virtual Court Sessions on AWS

The City of Alvin chose Tyler Technologies, an AWS Advanced Technology Partner and an AWS Public Sector Partner. Tyler Technologies is also an AWS Government Competency Partner and an AWS Healthcare Competency Partner. “The City of Alvin has used our court case management system for many years. We were developing a new virtual court management solution we thought would be a great fit for what the city wanted to achieve,” says Jonathan Lang, Product Manager at Tyler Technologies.

Tyler Virtual Court is a platform for conducting face-to-face court sessions online. Instead of physically appearing at the Alvin courthouse, defendants can now attend a hearing from anywhere, using an internet-connected device with a camera to virtually interact with a judge via a highly secure video stream. “We chose AWS because of scalability and reliability,” says Lang.

The City of Alvin tested scalability by loading several thousand concurrent defendants, which proved it could easily support that spike in user traffic. Tyler Virtual Court uses Amazon Simple Storage Service (Amazon S3) to store court documents and Amazon DynamoDB to hold the status of a defendant. Additionally, the solution is based on clusters that run on Amazon Elastic Kubernetes Service (Amazon EKS).

Working closely with AWS, Tyler Technologies launched Tyler Virtual Court one month earlier than planned, implementing the platform at the Alvin Municipal Court and more than 100 other courts. “AWS brought expertise and best practices so we could roll out this product early,” Lang says. “By the time we launched, the architecture and operational readiness reviews that we completed better prepared us for the rollout.”

Shifting from In-Person to Virtual Court in under 24 Hours

Tyler Virtual Court is hosted on AWS and deployed in the cloud, which means there’s no need for onsite personnel. It also meant that Tyler Technologies could implement the solution in less than 24 hours. “Because of the fast deployment of Tyler Virtual Court on AWS, we were able to shift immediately from in-person hearings to online without any problems due to the incredible tech support we received from Tyler Technologies,” says Cates. “This application integrates with our existing Tyler court management system, which made things much easier.” The city broadcasts all virtual court dockets on its website to remain in compliance with state mandates for holding open court, and it is now in the process of completely converting to virtual court and stopping in-person hearings.

“Because of the fast deployment of Tyler Virtual Court on AWS, we were able to shift immediately from in-person hearings to online without any problems due to the incredible tech support we received from Tyler Technologies."

- Sonya Cates, Court Administrator, City of Alvin

Eliminating the Backlog of 800 Cases

Employees with the Alvin Municipal Court use Tyler Virtual Court to perform their tasks from home on laptops or other devices. As a result, the city quickly caught up with its workload during the shutdown. “We can do everything online, whether it’s a judge arraigning a case or administrators processing case information,” Cates says. “Once we started using Tyler Virtual Court, we quickly eliminated our backlog of 800 cases, and we kept new cases moving forward.”

Reducing the Failure-to-Appear Rate by 60%

Tyler Virtual Court also gives defendants a more convenient way to attend court hearings. For example, defendants in traffic violation cases can resolve them without having to physically enter the court. Defendants can even attend arraignment hearings from their cars, using their mobile devices to join online. “For defendants, we have seen a 60 percent decrease in the failure-to-appear rate because of the convenience of virtual court,” says Cates. The City of Alvin also experienced a decrease in case resets, which happen when defendants have conflicting appointments. “Resets are going down, and this solution also makes it easy for our staff to make changes to court dockets quickly when resets do occur.”

Saving Thousands of Dollars Annually

Using Tyler Virtual Court, the City of Alvin spends less money on paper-based manual processes, staff hours, and additional in-person security. “We saved $1,200 in the first few months of implementing Tyler Virtual Court, and we’re now seeing ongoing cost savings from reduced travel time and failure-to-appear charges,” says Cates.

Tyler Technologies plans to expand Tyler Virtual Court to make the court process easier for judges and prosecutors. The solution will also allow defendants to be routed to different tasks within the application during a single virtual court session. “AWS services are definitely a big part of the future of Tyler Virtual Court,” says Lang. “We continue to add more use cases, and doing that on AWS enables us to build our solution more rapidly, securely, and reliably.”

City of Alvin, Texas

About the City of Alvin

Alvin is a city of more than 26,000 people located in the greater Houston metropolitan area in Texas. The Alvin Municipal Court processes a range of cases for adults and juveniles, from traffic offenses to assault charges.

About Tyler Technologies

Tyler Technologies, based in Plano, Texas, offers public sector software solutions designed specifically for the unique needs of state and local government organizations and school districts. An AWS Public Sector Partner and AWS Advanced Technology Partner, the company offers Tyler Virtual Court, a cloud-based solution. Tyler Technologies holds AWS government and healthcare competencies, which demonstrate its AWS technical expertise and proven customer success.

Published December 2020