Ferguson Prompts St. Louis To Drop Fees In 220,000 Pending Warrant Cases


Offenders of St. Louis' municipal laws with outstanding warrants soon will get a free pass. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch says officials plan to announce that the city's municipal court will automatically clear outstanding warrants for nonviolent ordinance violations and allow offenders to reset the court dates without a fee so long as they act by year's end, making it the most progressive warrant forgiveness program in the region. About 220,000 outstanding warrants issued before Oct. 1 in the city will automatically be forgiven, says Jeff Rainford, the chief of staff to Mayor Francis Slay.

Rainford said the novel approach comes from conversations after the unrest in suburban Ferguson, where many advocates of the poor complain that some residents are burdened by steep court fines and saddled with warrants for minor offenses. “In light of Ferguson, we were thinking of how we can be more fair,” Rainford said. Bench warrants are typically issued when someone misses a court appearance, meaning the offender can be arrested and forced to pay several hundred dollars for bail in addition to their underlying ticket. Now, those with an outstanding warrant stemming from nonviolent municipal offenses, usually for failure to appear in court, will get a postcard informing them that the warrant will be cleared until Dec. 31. If offenders don't come to the municipal court by the end of the year and schedule a new court date, then the warrant will be put back into place.

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