D.C. Superior Court Chief Judge H. Carl Moultrie I yesterday imposed new court procedures designed to speed up decisions on whether persons who are free on probation from earlier convictions and are then arrested for a new offense should remain free pending their new trials.
Moultrie said that under the revised guidelines, a person on probation facing a new charge will most likely have a preliminary hearing and a release hearing on the new charge, as well as an initial probation-revocation hearing, all at the same time.
In the past, such joint hearings were held only when persons on probation were rearrested and charged with a more serious offense, such as murder, rape or kidnaping.
In numerous other cases, the initial probation-revocation hearing was held separately from the release hearing on the new charge.
The new procedure is, in part, a response to frequent criticism that the D.C. court system does not adequately consider the past offenses of defendants when decisions are being made whether to free suspects pending trial on new charges.
Sen. Arlen Specter (R-Pa.), chairman of the Senate D.C. appropriations subcommittee, has been particularly vocal in his complaints about the District's lax parole standards and the time it takes for cases to come to trial.
"The new procedures will further protect the safety of District citizens and the community while being consistent with legal and constitutional standards," Moultrie said.
Superior Court Judge Fred B. Ugast, the presiding judge of the criminal division, said the new requirement likely will affect six to 10 defendants daily.
"It's important for the community to know that these cases are being looked at at the earliest possible date," Ugast said.