Senate Bill #5 goes into effect today. This bill legislated sweeping reforms to the county and municipal courts in the State of Missouri. Specifically targeted at traffic violations, this law regulates income the courts can receive and penalties they may order for traffic violators.
The law prohibits fines for traffic violations to exceed $300 when combined with court costs. This appears to be per violation and not a max fine from any one individual. Failure to pay the fines will not result in incarceration as previously allowed. Further failure to appear and/or pay will not allow the courts to issue new charges for failure to appear.
Judge Thornhill of the Springfield Municipal Court was quoted as stating, “So therefore, in that situation when people owe money but don’t come in and pay, or don’t come in and tell us why our hands are tied.”
Counties and municipalities are permitted to seize income tax refunds for amounts owed in excess of $25.00. There do not appear to be provisions to prevent courts from requesting the Department of Revenue to suspend a violators license for failure to pay. Driving While Suspended charges carry 12 points and can be filed as misdemeanors.
The amount of operating revenue that a municipality or court is permitted to receive from traffic violations has been lowered from 30% to 20% for all areas of the State except St. Louis County and its municipalities. In St. Louis County the percentage of operating revenue has been lowered to 12.5%. Each county, town, city or village will be required to file with the State Auditor a report showing amounts of fines, bond forfeitures, and courts costs and the percentage of those moneys in relation to the general operating budget of the county, town, city or village. Failure to comply could result in a loss of sales tax revenue, or in extreme cases disincorporation.