- Associated Press - Sunday, August 16, 2015

ST. JOSEPH, Mo. (AP) - The St. Joseph City Council is considering an ordinance to end some court fees because of concerns that they’re no longer allowed under legislation passed in response to last year’s police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson.

The newly signed law limits cities’ ability to profit from traffic tickets and court fines. Supporters have said it will address the predatory revenue-generating practices of Ferguson’s police and court system that were detailed in a Justice Department report.

But city leaders say one other effect has been that the new law no longer authorizes cities to collect certain fees, the St. Joseph News-Press (https://bit.ly/1EuzNeZ) reports. The issue is currently being debated and may prompt an opinion from the attorney general.

On Monday night, the council will consider ending a $25 failure to appear fee and a $50 warrant processing fee. Combined the two fees were expected to generate about $159,000 in revenue for the city for the current year.

In an email sent last month to the council and city leaders, City Manager Bruce Woody was critical of the law.

“If all you have to do to avoid paying a ticket is just not show up at court, with no worries about a failure to appear warrant being issued, then only those who respect the rule of law will comply,” he wrote.

Municipal Judge John Boeh said he believes it is fair for cities to collect the fees from defendants who have not made an effort to show up for court. He said he often waives the costs for those who do have valid excuses.

“When they don’t bother to show, then it costs the city extra money,” he said, from clerks needing to do more paperwork to police also doing more paperwork and the work to serve warrants. Boeh said the law should be reviewed.


Information from: St. Joseph News-Press/St. Joe, Missouri, https://www.newspressnow.com

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