Citizens who paid warrant fees in St. Louis will get refunds, la - KMOV.com

Citizens who paid warrant fees in St. Louis will get refunds, lawsuits continue in other munis

Posted: Updated:
St. Louis City will soon issue refunds to people who paid warrant cancellation fees. Credit: KMOV St. Louis City will soon issue refunds to people who paid warrant cancellation fees. Credit: KMOV
ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOV.com) -

A mind-blowing way of squeezing money from its citizens, that's how some have described a fee charged in towns around St Louis. 

But now that's all changed in a wave of municipal court reform. If you paid a warrant cancellation fee in the City of St. Louis, you could be getting a refund.

“To add on this extra fee for nonsense for literally clicking a mouse, its mind blowing,” said Brandon Wann who received a speeding ticket.

Wann got pulled over for speeding in St. Louis in 2013.

But when he accidentally showed up just half an hour late for his court date, he was shocked to find he already had a warrant for his arrest.

“That was the first time I ever had a warrant and it was like, wow, a warrant over a half an hour?” said Wann.

To cancel the warrant and reschedule his date, Brandon had to pay up. His total: $55. Otherwise he could go to jail.

“If I do something wrong, I have no problem owning up to it and paying for it, but in this case, I didn't think that little extra was fair,” said Wann.

Those fees, called warrant cancellation fees, are at the center of lawsuits all over St. Louis County and other parts of the Missouri.

Attorney John Campbell, along with SLU and Arch City Defenders, took up the cause in the wake of Ferguson, claiming the fees are illegal and dangerous for citizens.

The worst case, and it happened in some municipalities, is that you could go to jail, you could lose your job.

Campbell says they're suing Ferguson, Florissant, Jennings and others cities who collected millions in these fees.

Since the suits started, Campbell says all the cities they are aware of have stopped the practice.

But Campbell isn't stopping there.

“It's not enough to say you did something wrong, you should make it right,” said Campbell.

St. Louis is the first city to agree to pay most of the money back.

“We thought the city had some liability for this particular fee,” said Michael Garvin, Interim City Counselor.

Garvin says no one exactly remembers when they first started collecting the fee, but it was likely to recoup the expense of clerks filling out paperwork.

Cancelling a warrant is as easy as clicking a button on a computer, Garvin says, it made sense to end the practice and give people a refund.

“Is this something you think should have been caught sooner?” asked Lauren Trager, News 4 Investigates Reporter. “Probably. My guess is that the fee was so low that no one paid attention to it,” said Garvin.

St. Louis' fees were lower than what other cities charged.

The total cost of the refund isn't known but could be close to $500,000, money they have in reserve for lawsuits like this. After attorney's fees, people like Wann will get a refund of about 50-60 percent of what they paid.

Although it will not be much, Wann says on principal alone, he'll take it.

“Hopefully the little lawsuits like this will add up and hit their pocket book enough that they will have to stop what they are doing and fix it,” said Wann.

If you paid one of these fees, watch your mailbox. A check will come to you automatically if you qualify. We've got more information for you here.

Copyright 2016 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved.

Watch News 4 Now

Mouse over player for controls · LAUNCH FULL PLAYER

Powered by Frankly