Late last month, the Missouri Supreme Court issued an order that said that when a defendant in a municipal court does not have the money to pay his/her fines, the court must either a.) give the person more time to pay; or, b.) allow the person to set up a payment plan that works with the person’s financial situation.

This long-overdue policy change is a direct result of local advocacy groups who demanded changes to municipal court policies in the wake of the Ferguson unrest. Most courts have had payment plan options in place long before the Ferguson unrest, but these payment plans were of a set monthly amount dictated by the court, and were not dependent on each individual defendant’s own income situation. And this new rule goes on to say that when a defendant misses an installment payment, he will be ordered to appear in court to explain his/her missed payment, unlike the old method in which a missed installment payment resulted in an immediate warrant.

This change in the way courts in our city operate has been needed for some time, and these changes will go into effect on July 1 of this year. While most courts will likely start implementing these changes in advance of July 1, it would be wise to contact us to determine if the court in which you are facing charges has already began these more flexible policies.