Arrested persons will no longer be required to wait for hours to make a formal appearance in the District's arraignment court if city prosecutors have decided to drop the charges D.C. Superior Court officials said yesterday.

Judge Tim Murphy, head of the court's criminal division, said the new procedure will allow hundreds of people to be released from custody rather than have to appear in court only to hear that the charges against them have been "no papered."

In arraignment court, a person who has been arrested is brought before a judge to answer the charges and to have a bond set. Under the old system, all arrested persons - even those whose cases had been dropped - were required to remain in a cellblock until they were brought into the courtroom.

Now, Murphy said, as soon as the U.S. Marshal's office is notified that charges have been dropped those persons will be released. The result, Murphy said is "nobody is kept in that cellblock a minute longer than they have to be."

In addition, Murphy said, persons who successfully complete any of the court's first offender treatment program no longer will be required to appear in court, other for arraignment. The programs apply to persons charged with misdemeanors.

In the first offender program, defendants plead innocent to the charges against them. Then, if they successfully complete a treatment program designated by the court, the charge eventually is dismissed by the prosecutor. Previously, a formal court appearance was required for dismissal. Under the new procedures, expected to go into effect this week, that requirement will be eliminated provided there is a written agreement among the prosecutor, the defendant and his attorney, Murphy said.