Ferguson, Missouri’s newly appointed municipal judge announced sweeping changes to the city’s court system on Monday, including the withdrawal of every arrest warrant issued in Ferguson prior to December 31, 2014, Reuters reports.
“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,” said Judge Donald McCullin, who was appointed in June.
In March, McCullin’s predecessor resigned after the release of a damning Justice Department report that found the court engaged in “unlawful bias” against African Americans and used arrest warrants “almost exclusively” as a threat to compel payment of fines.
If a defendant continually fails to appear on their scheduled court date, an arrest warrant may be issued and/or a request made to the Director of Revenue to seek a setoff of the defendant’s tax return. If an arrest warrant is issued for a minor traffic violation, the defendant will not be incarcerated, but instead released on their own recognizance and given another court date.
All active warrants more than five years old will be withdrawn. In addition, for cases in which the Director of Revenue has suspended a defendant’s driver’s license solely for failure to appear in court or failure to pay a fine, the license will be reinstated pending final disposition.
“At some point, we need an olive branch to move forward, and what I see is a good olive branch,” Patricia Bynes, the city’s Democratic committeewoman, told the L.A. Times. “This is a good segue into having a good conversation about moving forward and what’s reasonable to expect from the court.”
[Image via AP Images]