Adjustments to be made to court to divert minor cases

March 14, 2002|BY A SUN STAFF WRITER

Changes to Baltimore's early disposition court in the Eastside District were announced yesterday at a meeting of the Criminal Justice Coordinating Council, aiming to divert minor nuisance cases and allow more time to try serious cases in District Court.

The purpose of early disposition court is to resolve small cases quickly to unclog the crowded system.

Changes include moving all citation cases - including trespassing, consuming alcohol in public and minor shoplifting - to an early-morning docket.

There, defendants would be offered a deal where they would immediately complete five hours' community service in the area they were cited, in exchange for prosecutors dropping the case.

Police officers would not have to show up for those cases, reducing the number of cases thrown out when police officers fail to show up in court.

Defendants could opt for a trial.

Additionally, proposed changes to the city's early disposition court were announced yesterday in a report funded by the Abell Foundation, titled Making the "System" Work in the Baltimore Criminal Justice System: An Evaluation of Early Disposition Court.

It was commissioned because early disposition court became a hot political issue in Baltimore and leaders in the criminal justice community wanted an outside examination.

The report suggests, among other things: strict policies against postponing cases, reducing the times police officers fail to appear in court and arraigning all defendants before a judge.

Court officials said yesterday that they could not comment on the study because they had not had a chance to review it.

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