Proposed Missouri bill would lessen chances of jail time for traffic tickets, failure to appear

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A former southwest Missouri police chief wants to cut the chances of getting arrested and going to jail over failure to appear for a traffic ticket.

It’s something that prompted State Representative Lane Roberts to start writing a bill. “It actually grows out of some conduct that dates back to the ’30s where pressure was being put on police officers not to serve warrants on particular people. And the legislature stepped in and said well if you don’t, we’ll hold you accountable.”

Roberts wants to give officers the option that – in certain circumstances – they don’t to make an arrest for failure to appear for a traffic violation. Right now, the former Joplin police chief says state law requires them to act. “When a bench warrant is issued for a traffic offense, the officer has no choice but to serve it.”

The bill has been approved in committee. And Roberts adds he is still tweaking the wording – but thinks the bill has a good chance of passing.  MO State Rep. Lane Roberts, R: “Often the public can get really angry  at an officer for making an arrest that doesn’t seem reasonable. But in this case they’re compelled to make the arrest, and if they don’t, they violate the law they’ve taken an oath to support. And it’s just a catch 22 they can’t get out of.” 

Roberts says as police chief, he saw instances where drivers were arrested over failure to appear for minor violations – something he’d like to change.

House bill 900 is now awaiting further action in the state house.
Time could be running short – there are just four weeks left in the 2019 session.

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