Ferguson Judge Withdraws Arrest Warrants

     FERGUSON, Mo. (CN) – Ferguson’s Municipal Court judge on Monday ordered all arrest warrants issued before Dec. 31, 2014, to be withdrawn — nearly 10,000 of them — as part of sweeping reforms intended to restore public confidence in the system.
     Nearly 10,000 warrants could be affected, city prosecutor Stephanie Karr said.
     Judge Donald McCullin also announced other changes, include alternative penalties such as payment plans or community service, and that all active warrants more than 5 years old will be withdrawn.
     Also, in cases in which driver’s licenses were suspended solely for the driver’s failure to appear, the license will be reinstated.
     Ferguson’s Municipal Court was bashed by a Justice Department report in March for acting more as a revenue generator for the city than as a branch of the judicial system.
     Ferguson Municipal Judge Ronald J. Brockmeyer resigned after the report was released and the Missouri Supreme Court appointed Missouri Appeals Judge Roy L. Richter to oversee the court. McCullin was appointed to run the court on a permanent basis in June.
     The Justice Department investigation was prompted by the protests after the death of Michael Brown.
     “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.
     “Many individuals whose license has been suspended will be able to obtain them and take advantage of the benefits of being able to drive. Moreover, defendants will not be disadvantaged in being afforded pretrial release because of the inability to make bond.”
     Arrest warrants may be issued or a request may be made through the Director of Revenue to seek an offset on the defendant’s tax return if the defendant continuously fails to appear in court.
     If an arrest warrant is issued for a minor traffic violation, the defendant will not be incarcerated, but released on his or her own recognizance and given another court date.
     Mayor James Knowles III said McCullin’s changes have the support of the Ferguson City Council.
     “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,” Knowles said in a statement.

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