Nearly all of the 82 municipal courts in St. Louis County have agreed to a uniform standard for fines and court costs, part of an effort to address concerns that some courts prey on the poor and minorities, the Associated Press reports. The agreement was announced by Frank Vatterott, chairman of the St. Louis County Municipal Courts Improvement Committee. The panel formed last year amid unrest in Ferguson after white police officer Darren Wilson killed unarmed African-American teen Michael Brown.
Vatterott, a municipal judge in Overland, said 80 of the 82 municipal courts in St. Louis County have adopted the uniform standard, meaning that traffic fines will be the same for routine offenses throughout the county. Most of the courts reduced fines to meet the new standard. Those already assessing lower fines will continue to charge the lower amount. The two courts that haven’t signed on — Brentwood and Wellston — are going through changes in judges and will likely agree once their transitions are complete, he said. “It’s only one item out of many that has to be changed, so it’s not a panacea,” Vatterott said, referring to the courts’ decision to adopt the standard. “But it’s a start.” St. Louis County communities previously set their own fines, and they varied widely. The fine for speeding 10 mph over the limit was $44.50 in Pasadena Park. The same offense in nearby Breckenridge Hills brought a fine of $150. Under the uniform standard, fines are $70.50 plus court costs for most routine moving violations, and $50.50 for non-moving violations.