A Ferguson judge announced Monday that the city was withdrawing all arrest warrants issued before 2015 and giving defendants new court dates with additional options to settle their cases.
The move by Municipal Court Judge Donald McCullin is meant to restore confidence in the court after a federal investigation conducted in the wake of Michael Brown’s death found that Ferguson’s police department and courts unconstitutionally targeted black people.
"These 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,” McCullin said in a statement.
After being given a new court date, defendants will be given alternative options to resolve their cases – such as payment plans, community service and commuting fines for indigent people.
All active warrants that are more than five years old will also be withdrawn. Driver’s licenses that were suspended by the Director of Revenue for failure to appear in court or pay a fine will be reinstated pending a final disposition.
"Many individuals whose license has been suspended will be able to obtain them and take advantage of the benefits of being able to drive,” McCullin said. “Moreover, defendants will not be disadvantaged in being afforded pre-trial release because of the inability to make bond."
McCullin said his orders meet and exceed Senate Bill 5, or the Ferguson Law, which in part allows only up to a $300 fine on minor traffic offenses along with the new Supreme Court Rule 37.65, which grants indigent defendants time to pay any fines.
However, if a defendant continually fails to appear on their new court dates an arrest warrant may be issued or a request can be made to the Director of Revenue to take money from a person’s tax returns. If an arrest warrant is issued for a minor traffic violation a defendant will not be incarcerated – instead they’ll be released on their own recognizance and given another court date.
“The Ferguson City Council was informed of the proposed actions by Judge McCullin and applauds the recall of the arrest warrants and the rescission of the driver’s license suspensions in compliance with Senate Bill 5 and as a way to restore confidence in the Municipal Court,” Ferguson Mayor James Knowles said in a statement.