MO Courts Improperly Seize Driver’s Licenses, Newspaper Finds


A suburban St. Louis woman could not get her driver’s license renewed after failing to deal with a charge of not displaying a city sticker on her car, in what the St. Louis Post-Dispatch calls “another case of overreach by a secretive, self-policing municipal court system designed to pump revenue into many cities.” In fact, municipal courts can take action against defendants' drivers licenses only when defendants skip out on moving violations such as speeding, not for violating municipal ordinances like failing to buy city stickers.

The Post-Dispatch found it has been common for municipalities to take action against drivers licenses in nontraffic cases. Anthony Gray, who works as prosecutor or city attorney in several municipalities, acknowledged that area municipal courts commonly believed they could hold licenses for failing to appear in court for any reason. Gray said he didn't know how many licenses were improperly held, but he acknowledged it could be thousands. The newspaper found that court officials in one municipality threatened nontraffic defendants with license suspensions even when they knew they had no such authority.

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