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Kansas City Council Approves A New Court So A Parking Ticket Won’t Land You In Jail

Failure to pay fines or appear in court for parking violations can result in an arrest warrant.
Carlos Moreno
KCUR 89.3
Failure to pay fines or appear in court for parking violations will no longer result in an arrest warrant.

Mayor Quinton Lucas says the consequences of failing to pay parking tickets has “criminalized entire communities.”

Come October, parking tickets in Kansas City won’t land residents in municipal court.

The Kansas City Council voted 10 to 2 to create an administrative court to handle parking tickets and non-moving violations instead of criminal court.

Mayor Quinton Lucas, who introduced the ordinance along with Councilwoman Andrea Bough, said people who can’t afford to pay the fines and fail to appear in court also tend to receive arrest warrants for the violations.

“If you have failed to pay a parking ticket or non-moving violation, it's those very simple things that have criminalized entire communities,” Lucas told KCUR when he introduced the measure earlier this month.

In a statement following Thursday’s vote, Lucas said removing jail time from the new court’s process means there is one less burden weighing on the economically disadvantaged.

“Real reform means creating an alternative means of accountability for violations that previously resulted in incarceration—and rejecting overly punitive measures that disproportionately harm poor Kansas Citians,” Lucas said.

Councilwoman Andrea Bough said the new system is designed to ensure that people who commit minor violations aren’t facing criminal consequences.

“As a lawyer, I am fully aware of inequities in the judicial process for those not able to have legal representation to avoid incarceration and a criminal record for minor offenses and violations,” Bough said.

Councilwoman Melissa Robinson thanked her colleagues for introducing the idea to the council.

“There are certain things that people should never be caged for — parking tickets is one,” Robinson said.

This move follows last month’s City Council decision to decriminalize marijuana and is part of the Mayor’s effort to remove or change laws that disproportionately impact residents of color.

Under the measure, a hearing officer selected by the city’s Parking and Transportation commission would hear testimony, review evidence, and determine fines which would be collected through legal means by the city.

The final rules and regulations will need approval from the city’s Special Committee for Legal review.

Critics say the measure would not prevent collection agencies from targeting residents who have not paid fines.

Council members Heather Hall and Dan Fowler voted against the measure. Councilwoman Teresa Loar was absent.

The ordinance will take effect October 15.

The city council also voted to establish a committee to study ways to implement pre-trial diversions for defendants experiencing mental and substance abuse disorders, similar to Missouri’s specialty drug court.

Slow news days are a thing of the past. As KCUR’s news director, I want to cut through the noise, provide context to the headlines, and give you news you can use in your daily life – information that will empower you to make informed decisions about your neighborhood, your city and the region. Email me at lisa@kcur.org or follow me on Twitter @larodrig.
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