Unconstitutional Arrest Settlement Results in Surprisingly Low Number of Claimants

Class Actions
Civil Rights

By Zac Pingle, Staff Writer

In July, the city of St. Louis, Missouri, settled a case regarding the unconstitutional arrests of over 1,000 residents of Missouri between February 8, 2010, and September 16, 2015. The settlement amounted to $4.7 million in damages, $3.5 million of which is allocated to compensating eligible claimants. However, of the 2,000 people who may be entitled to receive compensation in the settlement, only about 400 have claimed damages so far.

Arrests involved in the case included minor offenses such as driving with an expired license, expired registration, or with no proof of registration. Many residents of the St. Louis area were unable to pay fines or bail for their release, thus forcing people into incarceration for up to 67 days in some cases. The situation, now being referred to as a “debtors prison,” is a concern for for many areas around the nation, according to attorney Blake Strode of ArchCity Defenders.

“No amount of money could ever compensate the people who spent time in jail in Jennings because they were too poor to pay cash bail or to pay fees and fines that were assessed by the court.” stated Strode at a press conference.

Despite attempts by mail and door-to-door notifications, potential claimants are still sparse despite the approaching November 24 deadline. Strode notes that many people may not realize how much they be awarded, as compensation could amount to hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Compensation for claimants will be based on number of days spent in jail and the total number of claimants who come forward.

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