Ahead of a major new Missouri reform law taking effect this week, the municipal court in Ferguson has announced sweeping changes, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Among the most significant was the court’s decision to withdraw all warrants issued before last Dec. 31, 2014. Stephanie Karr, municipal prosecutor for Ferguson, said close to 10,000 warrants would be affected. The Missouri Department of Revenue will reinstate suspended licenses that resulted solely from a failure to appear in court or a failure to pay a fine.
The changes are among reforms in several St. Louis County courts as a result of new state legislation. The “changes should continue the process of restoring confidence in the court, alleviating fears of the consequences of appearing in court, and giving many residents a fresh start,” said Ferguson Municipal Court Judge Donald McCullin, who was appointed in June. In the future, if an arrest warrant is issued for a minor traffic or housing code violation, a defendant will be given another court date, rather than face jail time or be forced to post a money bond of what was previously typically about $200. Those arrested on a subsequent warrant will be released from custody after agreeing to an unsecured bond, or a promise to pay $200 if they fail to appear in court again.