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St. Louis muni court cancels 56,000 warrants issued for failure to pay

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Defendants in St. Louis municipal court who face the risk of being arrested because they didn’t pay a fine or fee are getting a second chance.

The city announced Wednesday it is cancelling a total of 56,000 warrants that had been issued to individuals who failed to pay. Those 29,000 people will get a letter offering them a new court date and a chance to explain why they did not pay the initial fines and court costs.

"This is the most ethical and fair thing to do," said Mayor Francis Slay in a statement. "We want people to fulfill their obligations to the law, but when a person's only remaining commitment is to make a payment on their case, doing so shouldn't create an undue stress or burden."

Also starting Wednesday, defendants who fail to pay in future cases will also get the warning letter asking them to come to court. Warrants could be issued if people skip their new court date or ignore the letter.

The change is part of a rule issued by the Missouri Supreme Court in December that also requires municipal courts to allow individuals to set up payment plans or do community service to settle their fines and fees.

Follow Rachel Lippmann on Twitter: @rlippmann

Rachel is the justice correspondent at St. Louis Public Radio.

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