The Missouri Supreme Court capped the amount of money cities can take in from traffic fines and fees at 20 percent statewide in a ruling issued Tuesday. The decision also throws out parts of a law that was the Missouri Legislature’s main attempt to deal with the aftermath of Michael Brown’s 2014 death in Ferguson.
Investigations following Brown’s shooting by a police officer revealed the extent to which small cities in St. Louis County relied on their municipal courts to fund city services, with the burden falling heavily on poor defendants of color.
Former Gov. Jay Nixon signed a bill in 2015 that reduced the amount of money cities could take in from traffic fines and fees from 30 percent to 20 percent. It went even further in St. Louis County, setting the cap there at 12.5 percent.
The Supreme Court ruling calls that a violation of the Missouri Constitution because the lower limit applies only to St. Louis County.
State Treasurer Eric Schmitt, who sponsored the bill when he was a Republican senator from St. Louis County, said in a written statement that while he was disappointed the court struck down the lower limit for St. Louis County, the “court’s upholding of the majority of the law marks a significant victory for efforts to eliminate these abusive taxation by citation schemes that hit the poor especially hard.”