St. Louis Circuit Court Amnesty Program Clears Bench Warrants For 44 Percent of Those Who Failed to Appear During Pandemic

Of the 144 persons who had bench warrants for failure to appear at court during the COVID-19 pandemic, 52 appeared in the St. Louis Circuit Court for an amnesty program announced last month, wiping the warrant away and getting new court date.

Because 26 people with bench warrants were unreachable or incapacitated, the result represents 44 percent of the population able to take advantage of the program.

Sarah Phillips, Pre-Trial Services Coordinator for the Court, said, “These 52 people were able to get signed up for court reminders, update their addresses, and apply for diversion programs through the Circuit Attorney’s Office, which set up a table in the courtrooms.”

Phillips noted that outdated addresses pose a significant problem for a population that has become largely transient during the pandemic. She said the majority of people who miss court appearances aren’t fleeing prosecution but simply are out of contact.

The amnesty program applied to persons with bench warrants issued since Jan. 1 after failing to appear.

Court staff initiated contact with eligible defendants and defense attorneys — or in some cases, family members and involved community organizations — to provide information about the new court date and elicit updated contact information. Additionally, the Court established a bench warrant hotline.

The amnesty hearings took place on Sept. 25 and Oct. 2.