Collect Municipal Court Debts Like Civil Debts
Municipal courts shall collect debts in a manner consistent with other civil debts.
Appoint Special Prosecutor in Use of Force Cases Short-Term
In the interim, until this call is adopted, Missouri courts having criminal jurisdiction over prosecutions shall interpret the Missouri statute that governs the appointment of special prosecutors as requiring the appointment of a special prosecutor where the court believes that there is even an appearance that the prosecuting attorney is “interested.”1 1 Missouri Revised Statute…
Create Community Justice Centers
We strongly recommend that municipalities institute some form of community justice center that operates in conjunction with the municipal court for individuals charged with traffic violations and other types of violations who are unable to pay or otherwise in need. This community-based, municipal justice approach could include case management and social work services, providing judges…
Provide Municipal Court Support Services
Municipal courts shall retain the services of dedicated personnel (e.g., social workers, community service coordinators, through a community justice center or otherwise) for the provision of social services, diversion options, and other alternatives to traditional sentencing to all municipal defendants who choose or are determined to require such services.
Establish Alternative Sentences Options
Municipal courts shall establish effective alternatives to jail time, fines, and fees for violations of municipal ordinances, including payment plans and community service.
Close Records of Non-Violent Offenses by Minors
All non-violent offenses by minors shall be treated as closed juvenile records.
Treat Nonviolent Offenses as Civil Violations
Municipalities shall treat minor nonviolent offenses as civil violations rather than criminal cases.
Schedule Regular Warrant Reviews
Municipalities should schedule regular reviews of outstanding arrest warrants, to effectively address cases where such warrants have become especially numerous.
Develop New Process to Review and Cancel Outstanding Warrants
The current outstanding arrest warrant review and cancellation process is inefficient and should be replaced with a more effective and possibly electronic system for identifying those warrants and right-sizing debts based on a defendant’s ability to pay
Cancel “Failure to Appear” Warrants
All “failure to appear” warrants shall be withdrawn and cancelled.
Expunge Old Convictions of Non-Repeat Offenders
All municipal convictions of non-repeat offenders shall be expunged after a defined period of time, predetermined by the Missouri Supreme Court.
Eliminate Incarceration for Minor Offenses
Municipal courts shall not incarcerate individuals for minor, nonviolent offenses. They should also not issue “failure to appear” warrants on such charges, as these often lead to incarceration.
Prevent Targeting and Collusion in the Municipal Governance System
The Legislature and the Supreme Court shall create rules to require the principal actors in the entire system of municipal governance (municipal officials, police officers, prosecutors, municipal court judges) to sign an annual code of ethics that prohibits targeting or collusion.
Apply Conflict-of-Interest Rules Universally
The Missouri Supreme Court shall not exempt municipal court personnel from its conflict-of-interest rules.
Prevent Conflicts of Interest Among Prosecutors
Municipal prosecutors shall be prohibited from representing criminal defendants in municipal courts within the county in which they serve as a prosecutor.
Prevent Conflicts of Interest Among Judges
Municipal judges shall be prohibited from engaging in municipal court practice in the county in which they serve as a municipal judge.
Fund Existing and New Laws
The State Legislature and/or Supreme Court shall provide adequate funding for enforcement of existing and new laws relating to municipal courts and governance.
Assign Public Defenders for Criminally-Charged Minors
Minors charged with a criminal offense with jail as a potential sentence shall be assigned a public defender
Inform Defendants of Right to Counsel
Municipal courts shall inform all defendants of their right to counsel and must obtain an informed waiver if defendants choose to proceed pro se. If a defendant requests counsel but cannot afford representation, the court shall appoint an attorney when constitutionally or statutorily required. Municipal courts shall provide attorneys for all minors and in additional…
Open Municipal Court Sessions
Municipal court sessions shall be open and accessible to the public, including children.
Provide Defendants with Clear Written Notice of Court Hearing Details
Municipal courts shall provide all defendants with written notice of the time, date, and location of any court hearing they must attend. If a municipal court must change the time, date, or location of any court session, notice must be provided in writing at least 14 days prior to the original court date.
Communicate Rights to Defendants in Person
Municipal judges, clerks, and attorneys shall inform residents of municipal court procedures and their constitutional or other procedural rights as defendants at all court appearances and prior to adjudication of their cases.
Create a Municipal Courts “Bill of Rights”
Residents shall be informed of their rights and of municipal court procedures via a written “bill of rights” that is drafted, established, and approved by the applicable Missouri circuit court and delivered with every ticket and via signage posted at each location where municipal court meetings are held.
Consolidate Municipal Courts
The Missouri Supreme Court shall take direct jurisdiction of municipal court functions through the associate circuit court and consolidate into an appropriate number the municipal courts for the purpose of the efficient administration of justice.
Consider Payment Plans and Fine Revocation
The Supreme Court shall provide policies to interpret Missouri rules and statutes that require courts to consider payment plans or fine revocation where defendants’ nonpayment of fines was not the result of intentional refusal to obey the court’s orders or a failure to make a good faith effort towards payment broadly, especially when administering warrant…
Assess Ability to Pay at Nonpayment Hearings
Municipal courts shall inquire about defendants’ ability to pay in any subsequent hearing regarding nonpayment.
Determine Defendants’ Ability to Pay
To keep from assessing a fine or fee that a defendant simply cannot afford, municipal courts shall determine a defendant’s ability to pay at the defendant’s first court hearing
Ensure Staffing of Annual Court Audits
The Supreme Court shall consider temporarily assigning additional judges or administrative personnel to assist with the annual audit of municipal courts.
Conduct Annual Municipal Court Audits
Annual audits of municipal courts shall be implemented, and municipal courts shall be required to deliver copies of case records and documents to the Office of State Courts Administrator in compliance with audit requests.
Eliminate Sharing of Municipal Files
To limit inappropriate sharing of information, all municipal courts and municipal prosecutors shall maintain separate files.
Clearly Define Municipal Court Procedures
All operating procedures of municipal courts shall be clearly defined and followed, and all staff shall be trained in those procedures.
Formalize and Standardize Court Documenting Procedures
All municipal courts shall explicitly establish formal and uniform systems of documentation and record keeping at every stage of defendants’ court involvement. Whenever possible and appropriate, such documents and records shall be available to defendants.
Eliminate Punitive Impounding of Vehicles
In the event of arrest, municipal courts shall allow owners of legally-compliant vehicles a reasonable number of hours to have their vehicle moved by a licensed and capable driver in lieu of impounding the vehicle as a punitive measure. Penalties associated with immediate impoundment are disproportionately burdensome on poor and impoverished residents and are not…
Train Municipal Court, Jail, and City Government Employees in Constitutional Rights
All municipal court, jail, and city government employees shall receive annual cultural bias training and training on how to protect the constitutional rights of residents and defendants, and how to effectively administer courts. Each employee must sign a written acknowledgement upon completion of training. This training shall ensure that personnel adequately understand that the following…
Provide Medical Services for People in Custody
All municipalities shall develop and implement an operating plan to provide necessary medical services, including mental health services, for all persons in custody.
Change Rules for Municipalities Holding Defendants for Other Municipalities
A municipality shall not hold a defendant for another municipality for longer than 4 hours for a non-violent offense.
Notify Parents of Detained Minors
A parent, guardian, or caretaker of a minor placed in detention must be notified within 4 hours of their child being placed in detention.