Changes in early-disposition court aimed at diverting 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 court's purpose 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 in which they would immediately complete five hours' community service in exchange for prosecutors dropping the case. Police officers would not have to show up for those cases. 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.

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.

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