Early-Stage Criminal Procedure

The earliest stages of the criminal process may be the most important determinants of case outcomes. From a defendant’s first post-arrest court appearance through the prosecutorial decisions associated with screening and charging, the Center studies early-stage criminal process and advocates for practical and legal reform.




Initial Appearance Campaign

Most Americans expect that, if they are arrested, they will quickly appear before a judge, learn about the charges, and have an attorney assigned to defend them. The reality is vastly different. After arrest, a person can wait in jail for days, weeks, or even months before seeing a judge or meeting an attorney. Read our report and recommendations.

Prosecutorial Charging Practices Project

The Prosecutorial Charging Practices Project takes a deep dive into the work of three mid-sized prosecutor’s offices in discrete geographic locations. The study offers a holistic account of prosecutors’ screening and charging practices, exploring how prosecutors engage with police, evaluate evidence, and assess the public interest in prosecution.

Scraping for Time

Using advanced HTML scraping techniques, Deason Center researchers successfully gathered and merged county-level jail and court data from three Iowa counties. This novel proof-of-concept project illustrates the potential of online public records to provide researchers with valuable information, such as how long defendants waited in jail before their first court appearance.

Policing Racial Disparities

This 2019 Deason Center study investigated racial disparities in how police in four Dallas municipalities handled low-level drug arrests.  The results appear in the Center’s 2021 report, A Preliminary Look at Disparities in Police Enforcement of Low-Level Drug Laws. The Center’s Dallas Partnership Project builds on this important work to advance Texas reform.



Our Publications & Resources

Webinar: Innovations in Rural Prosecution

Across the country, in all types of jurisdictions, prosecutors are adding their voices to the call for criminal justice reform. Offered as part of the STAR Justice series, this panel features prosecutors from STAR areas discussing their problem-solving initiatives and procedural justice innovations.

Article: Criminal (Dis)Appearance

Amid the national conversation about criminal legal reform, this article is the first scholarly work to address the initial appearance crisis. Criminal (Dis)Appearance describes an epidemic of detention-without-process and explores the legal landscape that produced it. The article describes the Supreme Court's commitment to a narrow Fourth Amendment jurisprudence and critiques the Court's rejection of early-stage criminal due process rights. The authors explain how substantive and procedural due process establish the right to a prompt and thorough initial appearance. 

Pamela R. Metzger and Janet C. Hoeffel, Criminal (Dis)Appearance, 88 Geo. Wash. L. Rev. 392 (2020).

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