Ferguson, MO – December 15, 2014 – It has been nearly a year, since the City of Ferguson began offering alternatives to the payment of fines in the Municipal Court. The City in partnership with the Ferguson Youth Initiative launched a Community Service Program in February 2014 to assist teenagers and certain other defendants in the Ferguson Municipal Court. The Program provides free counseling and other services to teenagers who are assigned to participate in the program.
The City of Ferguson acted in August and September of 2014 to implement several additional reforms and programs. The City of Ferguson was the first community in the entire region to take such steps such as:
• In September, 2014, the Ferguson City Council repealed several provisions in the Municipal Code relating to certain fees such as an administrative fee imposed by the police department when overseeing the towing of a vehicle and an administrative fee imposed by the City for employees to recall a warrant upon a specific request.
• In addition, there is no longer a separate offense of “Failure to Appear” which would have resulted in a fine and costs upon a plea or finding of guilt for failing to appear. Pending charges of failing to appear which were issued prior to the reforms are being dismissed as they come before the Municipal Court.
• The Municipal Court Judge has also implemented new procedures and programs. A new docket was established specially for those who have had trouble paying fines; a defendant may appear and speak to the judge and/or prosecutor about different payment plans or alternative sentencing.
• Lastly, beginning in September, the Municipal Court began a warrant recall program which has been continued indefinitely. As of this week, 576 defendants in the Municipal Court have taken advantage of the warrant recall program.
The City also passed an Ordinance in September of this year to cap municipal court revenues at 15% of the City’s overall budget. The Ordinance also specified certain revenue from municipal court will be appropriated for projects that will benefit the community.