Learn the law, rules, and your rights!
This site provides free self-help legal information to St. Louis and other Missouri residents and began primarily as a resource for municipal court, but has expanded its purpose. Don't confuse free legal information with free legal advice; the difference is explained below, in the legal profession section.
St. Louis Ordinances | St. Louis County Wide Ordinances |
Other Missouri Municipal Ordinances |
Missouri State Law | Understanding Missouri Courts |
Federal Law | Legal Research for Non-Lawyers | History |
Library of Legal Articles | Why This Site Was Created |
Rules of the Game | Featured Video
Municipal court is where most people get introduced to the court system. The primary purpose of this site is to provide free legal resources and free legal information so people can help themselves and have practical solutions when they appear without a lawyer before a Municipal or State Circuit Court. The secondary purpose of Court.rchp is to provide historical insight that explains current inequity and biases in the justice system and society.
If you are involved in a civil case that involves major risks or a criminal case that involves the possibility of jail time, you need to consult with an attorney. This site is useful whether your legal issue concerns civil law or criminal law, bankruptcy, divorce, harassment, traffic violations, parking tickets and a variety of other legal matters. But this is the show me state, so browse around for yourself. Need to find free legal aid, statutory law, your court date, legal forms, perform a case search or pay traffic fines? You'll find links to resources that can help on this site.
When you can't rely on others – help yourself!
Most people who represent themselves in court can't afford an attorney and lose because they don't understand the court process. Understanding is the first step to winning and this site will show you where you can get the information you need. Winning doesn't necessarily mean a court decision is decided in your name. Winning could be gaining more time, negotiating a lower payment or better terms or some other compromise the other side might not have considered unless you challenge their allegations.
The law is the set of rules established by an authority, custom or agreement. Law and history are closely tied together. In order to fully understand the law, it's important to know how it has been influenced by history. Propaganda is often disguised as history. "The truth can sometimes taste bitter, yet it is better to live with reality than to stumble through a world of illusions".
Democracy is not freedom. "Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote". Freedom comes from the recognition of certain rights which may not be taken, not even by a 99% vote.
This site approaches the law from the point of view of Black people needing to become well-armed lambs because history and the law have not been kind to us. However, everyone is welcome and can benefit from the information and resources provided.
"African American males play a major role in our American legal system not as lawyers, judges, or prosecutors, but as defendants in criminal proceedings. Indeed, on any given day and almost in any criminal court or juvenile justice system, African American males will be defendants, represented by a white court-appointed attorney, prosecuted by a white prosecutor, sentenced by a white judge, and ultimately incarcerated and guarded by white prison guards." – Floyd Weatherspoon (The Status of African American Males in the Legal Profession)
You have been lied to about how intelligent you are. Don't be intimidated by thinking you're not smart enough to learn legal concepts, rules, and procedure. There's a genius inside of you!
The video above is a small segment of a 2 hour and 21-minute lecture by Dr. Umar Johnson. To watch the full video go to the "Educational Oppression" page.
Further Proof of Your Genius Potential
There was a concerted effort to prevent black people from becoming lawyers. The more black lawyers, the greater chance "they" will exercise their rights. Less than 5% of the 1.2 million lawyers in this country are black. However, 60% of prisoners in the U.S. are people of color.
The U.S. Congress passed the Third Force Act of 1871, popularly known as the Ku Klux Klan Act, which declared the group a terrorist organization. Later that same year, William Church and George Wingate, a lawyer, co-founded the National Rifle Association. Reconstruction in the South ended with the Compromise of 1877.
The year after the Compromise, the American Bar Association was created. The timing of those dates has always seemed suspect. An organized association of White lawyers could effectively prevent blacks from becoming lawyers. Use this site to learn as much about the law as you can!
The legal profession has historically restricted access to legal information and it can be a daunting task to find useful information to represent yourself in court. Many so-called self-help articles published by lawyers and professional legal industry groups often provide just enough information to confirm you need to contact an attorney. However, for those unable to afford legal representation or where the cost is more than the penalty or potential liability, many people have no viable option. This is especially true for African American and other minority groups where history provides a record of bias and unfair treatment.
An informed citizenry requires the freedom to read and write the law. When the issue came before the U.S. Supreme Court, it ruled unanimously in Wheaton v. Peters (1834) that the law belonged to the people, not to the government and certainly not to private citizens, stating “no reporter has or can have any copyright in the written opinions delivered by this Court.”
The principle that the law belongs to the people was repeatedly affirmed. In Banks v. Manchester (1888), the Supreme Court rejected copyright claims over state court opinions. In Veeck v. Southern Bldg. Code Congress (2002), the 5th Circuit of the Court of Appeals rejected copyright claims over model building codes that were incorporated into law in Texas, stating “[P]ublic ownership of the law means precisely that ‘the law’ is in the ‘public domain’ for whatever use the citizens choose to make of it.”
For many people, municipal court is the first and often only court experience they'll have. Unfortunately, municipalities often abuse rights and violate the constitution. These violations may seem minor, but it's much better to check these abuses in relatively minor matters before they metastasize into more important cases where they can have a major effect on civil liberties. Once minor level constitutional violations become commonplace more intrusive violations can easily be tolerated and justified.
I am not attempting to provide legal advice or participate in the unauthorized practice of law. This site does contain some free legal information; however legal information is not the same as legal advice which is the application of law to an individual's specific circumstances. If you are in need of legal advice, you should consult a competent licensed attorney. Free legal assistance may be available to you.
We, the people, should control and benefit from our government; rather than the government controlling and benefiting from us.
"When the people fear their government, there is tyranny; when the government fears the people, there is liberty." – "When injustice becomes law, resistance becomes duty." -Thomas Jefferson
Bookmark this site and share it with your friends, family, church members and coworkers because a corrupt system can't exist when people know how to fight against it. Scheduled to appear in court? Print out a flyer and share it with four others.
Rules of the game
What’s your favorite game or sport? Whatever it is, it has rules and different strategies to win right? For example, a person watching a football game for the first time does not know what’s going on. Once they learn the rules, the game becomes clearer and more interesting. That person begins to anticipate what strategy might be needed; for example, on fourth down, the team with the ball will probably kick rather than risk good field position for the other team. Once you learn and understand more about the law, you’ll have a similar experience. Attorneys often bluff, but once you understand the game better, you’ll be able to read their poker faces more easily. I’m not saying it’s an easy game to learn, but you can learn to play. “Knowledge itself is power” – Francis Bacon.
There are many different sports and they all have rules, strategies, and penalties. You concentrate only on the rules and strategy of the sport you’re watching or playing; the rules of other sports make no difference. The law is similar; you don’t need to know everything a lawyer knows to win. You only need to learn the laws that apply to you and your issue; you don’t need to worry about every other law.
You need to know the text of the actual law which will be for the most part your local ordinance or state statutes. The notice of violation should include the ordinance or statute the defendant is accused of violating. The first thing to do is read the ordinance or statute. Additionally, you need to know the rules of court which determine when and how something must be done in court. Not knowing or understanding the rules is often why people who should win, lose in court.
Most states including Missouri have statewide rules of court. The rules encompass the time allowed to file papers, the format of documents (including the paper colors of appeal court briefs), the number of copies to be filed, the procedure to file motions, the basis for calculating alimony and child support, fees for filing various documents, and numerous other mundane but vital matters.
Missouri has 114 counties and one independent city (St. Louis) that functions as both a city and a county. Missouri's counties and the city of St. Louis are organized into 45 judicial circuits. There is a court in every county. The circuit court is typically in the county seat (or the city of St. Louis) and maybe in additional locations in the county. Many municipalities operate their own municipal courts. Municipal judges are often appointed by the mayor and their salary paid by the municipality. See: Understanding Missouri Courts.
Each circuit court and many municipal courts adopt what is called "local rules" of court. Local rules are in addition to the circuit and state rules. Important rights and entire cases are lost by not following the rules. People are often asked to waive or discouraged from exercising their rights in court. It's not in the best interest of the municipality because there are often hundreds of cases and when people are exercising their rights this forces the court system to spend more time and resources which cost more money. If you waive a right or fail to exercise it in time, it may be gone forever.
Never waive a right or plead guilty unless you fully understand the consequences. You can always change a not guilty plea to guilty or waive a right at a later time when you are better informed. A plea is a person’s formal response to a criminal or traffic charge. A person charged with a criminal or traffic offense is called the defendant. A defendant is typically called upon to enter a plea at arraignment, which is the person’s first appearance in court.
In the context of our legal system, it is not “dishonest” to enter a not guilty plea even when you know you committed an offense. By pleading not guilty, you are formally denying that you are guilty of each and every element of the offense charged against you. If you are charged with a criminal offense and you are innocent, this is the plea you would enter. But you must also see your denial of the charge through a not guilty plea in the broader context of the procedure in criminal cases. By pleading not guilty, you are asking the prosecutor to present evidence that establishes all the elements of the charge against you beyond a reasonable doubt. If you are charged with a crime, you have the right to hold the government to its obligation of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you committed a crime. In other words, you can honestly plead not guilty because, in the eyes of the law, you are considered to be innocent until the government proves you guilty.
The laws of the City of St. Louis can be found below. The laws for St. Louis City were also available on the St. Louis Public Library website, however, they were lost during a hack of the library's computer system.
- City of St. Louis – Charter
- City of St. Louis – City Ordinances
- City of St. Louis – Revised Codes
- City of St. Louis – Board Bills (Legislation introduced by Aldermen in the form of bills.)
2009 International Property Maintenance Code (pdf), adopted with changes, as the Property Maintenance Code of the City of St. Louis along; which in combination with ordinance 68791 is the basis of housing code violations.
St. Louis City Circuit Court Local Rules
St. Louis Municipal Court and fine payment center.
St. Louis Civilian Oversight Board: How To File a Complaint Against a St Louis Metropolitan Police Officer
St. Louis City Circuit Court 2017 Telephone Directory (PDF)
St. Louis City 2016 Municipal Telephone Directory (PDF)
City of St. Louis Website Pay
St. Louis COUNTY Ordinances & Resources
St. Louis County contains 91 municipalities and several unincorporated areas. There are county-wide ordinances and separate municipal ordinances. The individual St. Louis County municipal websites may contain links to local ordinances. You can look below under the Missouri Municipal Ordinances heading.
St. Louis County Circuit Court Local Rules.
St. Louis County Circuit Court Forms in PDF format.
St. Louis County Circuit Court Division Directory.
Government salaries in the St. Louis region
St. Louis County Municipal Court Records: At the time this link was added, only 30 area municipal courts are participating — a number that is expected to double as the website, municourt.net, becomes more established. The site will showcase information, including upcoming hearing dates, money owed and any warrants on tickets.
UNIFORM FINES, COSTS • Fines are $70.50 plus court costs for most routine moving violations • Fines are $50.50 for non-moving violations. • Speeding fines range from $6 to $8 per mph over the limit. • Court costs are standardized at $24.50.
Fighting back begins with a not guilty plea and requesting a trial. The court will then set a trial date and a prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you're guilty. It's been my experience that the municipal court is often not fair and renders a guilty verdict. However, Missouri Statute 479.200 allows you to request a trial de novo (a new trial) in circuit court.
Municipal violations being heard in municipal court are governed by Missouri Supreme Court Rule 37. The Missouri Supreme Court ruled that there is no right to a trial by jury during a Municipal proceeding where the maximum period of imprisonment does not exceed six months. State ex rel. Cole v. Nigro (Mo.), 471 S.W.2d 933. However, a trial de novo is heard in Circuit Court and is not a municipal proceeding. Rule 37.74 states; "All trials de novo shall proceed in the manner provided for the trial of a misdemeanor by the rules of criminal procedure." The rules of criminal procedure are rules 19 thru 36. Rule 27.01 provides the right to trial by jury; however, often neither the prosecutor nor the judge wants you to exercise that right because it takes more time and complicates the case. According to the Missouri Supreme Court, it is error to deny a jury request in a trial de novo on appeal from a municipal court conviction, State Ex Rel. Estill v. Iannone, 687 S.W.2d 172 (Mo. 1985).
Filing trial de novo stays the judgment (puts it on hold) until decided in circuit court. Trial de novo is not an appeal, but a whole new trial; it's as if the first trial never took place. During trial de novo, many defendants will have the right to request a jury trial.
Discover why I always request a jury when that option is available.
If you lose at trial de novo, the earlier penalty will be reinstated. However, you can appeal the circuit court trial de novo decision with one of the three Missouri Court of Appeals; which each has its own rules.
To demonstrate how the process works, I'll use my case as an example.
During a St. Louis city ordinance case in St. Louis City Municipal Court, I requested a trial by jury, but was denied and my case was heard by the municipal judge who clearly seemed biased. I always ask for a trial by jury in municipal court, even though I expect that request to be denied because I'm not sure if failure to request a trial by jury during the municipal court proceeding may prevent you from requesting trial by jury during the trial de novo.
I was found guilty and fined $2,000. A defendant has ten days per RSMO 512.190 to file trial de novo which provides a brand new trial in Circuit Court. You can not legally be forced to pay any fine until your ten-day trial de novo period has ended. If you pay any portion of the fine or court cost, you permanently lose your right to file trial de novo, which is why many courts want you to pay the fine or some portion of the fine during court. Filing trial de novo stays (puts on hold) any penalty assessed until the case is heard in Circuit Court.
I announced that I planned to file trial de novo to have the case heard in St. Louis Circuit Court to prevent the judge from trying to enforce the payment of the penalty. About a week later I filed trial de novo which required paying a $70 fee. If you can not afford the $70 fee, there are forms you can complete requesting to file in forma pauperis (poor person). Section 514.040, RSMo sets forth the in forma pauperis procedure. Also, see Civil Rule 77.03. The OSCA (Office of State Courts Administration) approved Motion and Affidavit in Support of Request to Proceed as a Poor Person form. The OSCA form does not include sheriff’s service costs or publication costs. These costs should be specifically mentioned in the application, if appropriate to your case.
In St. Louis Circuit Court, Division 24, I filed a motion to certify for jury trial, however that motion was denied. I was also told that I could not mention certain facts during trial which would help prove my case. I lost my trial de novo and was again fined $2,000. I announced that I planned to file an appeal. The City of St. Louis nolled (file nolle prosequi) on one of the four counts against me. Nolle prosequi means that a decision has been made not to prosecute. I was never informed that one of the counts (charges) was dropped.
Prior to filing an appeal, I filed a motion for a new trial, explaining that I was denied my right to trial by jury, my motion was denied. As a result of my motion, the City requested my penalty be reduced by $500. I then filed my notice of appeal with the Missouri Court of Appeals, which also required a $70 fee, pursuant to section RSMo 483.500. The court ruled that St. Louis Circuit Court sentenced me improperly based on Missouri Supreme Court rule 29.11 and ordered the case sent back to the lower court. This case is my ninth legal battle since 2012; I've already won the other eight.
Just because a battle is lost doesn't mean you'll lose the war.
The video below is a New Jersey municipal court and DOES NOT apply to Missouri Courts. However, the video does a great job explaining why attorneys are heard first, defendant rights and the consequences of pleading guilty or waiving certain rights. Hopefully, St. Louis and other Missouri municipalities will take a cue from this video and create similar videos to help educate people and explain the process.
NOTE: Missouri only has a 10 day period to request a trial de novo from municipal court to circuit court or file a notice of appeal from circuit court to the Missouri Court of Appeals versus the 20 day appeal period in New Jersey. (See Missouri Revised Statutes chapter 512 and Missouri Supreme Court Rule 37 (37.71 thru 37.74) and rules 30A and 30B. Most Missouri Municipal Court proceedings are not recorded. There is no court reporter and no transcript will be available. During one red light camera trial de novo, the City of St. Louis claimed I pled guilty, when I had, in fact, pled not guilty, the city did not win that case.
There are two companies, Sullivan Publications, and Municode, which list municipal codes and ordinances online for many Missouri towns and cities. (If the ordinances for the Missouri city or town you’re seeking is not included and you cannot find them by searching online, contact that city's police department or city hall)
Missouri State Constitution (The supreme law of the state). The Missouri Constitution consists of 13 Articles (or parts) and each article contains sections (or sub-parts).
Missouri Revised Statutes (The law as enacted by the State Legislature) You will often see Missouri Revised Statutes referred to in abbreviated form as RSMO. For example, RSMO 512.180.2 refers to Missouri Revised Statutes Chapter 512, section 180, subsection (part or paragraph) 2.
Missouri Code of Regulations (Rules and regulations of state agencies). For example:
- Missouri Department of Transportation
- Missouri Labor and Unemployment
- Missouri Department of Social Services (Includes Divisions of Aging, Corrections, Child Support Enforcement, Childrens, Family Support, Legal Services, Health, Healthnet, and Youth Services)
- Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE)
Missouri Supreme Court Rules (The rules, procedures and timelines that must be followed during cases). Rule 37 governs procedures for ordinance violations which are normally heard in municipal courts.
Missouri Supreme Court Operating Rules (the administrative rules courts and court staff must follow)
Missouri Appellate Opinions (Decisions from the three appellate courts and the Missouri Supreme Court)
Missouri Small Claims Court Handbook (PDF, 12 pages) Explains the small claims process, claims cannot exceed $5,000.
Missouri 2010 Bench Book (PDF, 339 pages), is the training guide and manual used by municipal judges to administer court. There is a lot of useful information. Can also be read online at the Missouri Courts Website.
Missouri 2017 Traffic Bench Guide (PDF, 151 pages), a quick reference manual designed for judges, prosecutors, and lawyers.
Missouri Courts "Make a Payment" system can be used to pay your traffic ticket online.
Municipal Judge Benchbook (online), designed for municipal judges in the post "Ferguson Era".
Missouri 2007 Trial Judges Criminal Benchbook, is a resource guide or manual for criminal trial judges. Provides a great deal of helpful information concerning how the trial will be conducted and reveals helpful and relevant case law.
2017 Significant Missouri Law Distinctions (PDF, 69 pages), provides brief summary and clarification of significant parts of Missouri Law including Administrative Law, Business Associations, Civil Procedure, Courts, Estates, Evidence, Family Law, Real Property, Torts, and Trust Law.
2019 Significant Missouri Law Distinctions (PDF, 75 pages).
Missouri Attorney General Opinions are issued upon request by Missouri State Officials and although the opinions are not binding upon the court, they can be great sources if your issue has been researched and an opinion issued. The opinions can be searched by keyword or year.
2018 Missouri Charge Code Manual – A Handbook for Law Enforcement Officers.
Missouri Case Net – Case.net provides access to the Missouri State Courts Automated Case Management System. Case records including docket entries, parties, judgments, and charges in public court.
Missouri Arrest Warrants – St. Louis City Police 314-231-1212 / 314-621-5848 and St. Louis County Police 314-615-8899 will not provide warrant information over the phone. Warrants issued by a municipal court can be found at (www.municourt.net).
You can also check for arrest warrants in Missouri on Missouri Case Net, the state court system (www.courts.mo.gov/casenet).
- Enter your last name in the last name field
- Enter your first name in the name field
- Search first with your middle initial in the middle name field and then without your middle initial. Results might include people with a similar name, check the
- I recommend not changing anything else in the search fields such as Search for Cases in: All Participating Courts and the Case Type: All and then click the Find button below. However, you can limit your search to a particular court.
- It will show your name search By Case number
- Click on your case number and it will open to the Case Header tab.
- Click on the Service Information tab to check for issuances (issued warrants)
- Always read your Docket Entries because the docket consists of actions taken and documents filed.
The Missouri Directory of Lawyers – Lists every lawyer in Missouri who is in good standing with the Supreme Court of Missouri is included in the Official Missouri Directory of Lawyers.
Petition for Expungement of Arrest Records – Missouri Revised Statutes RSMO 610.140 allows people convicted of certain crimes to have their records expunged resulting in the records being sealed and unavailable through record checks.
US Constitution – The supreme law of the United States.
US Constitution Annotated – contains legal analysis and interpretation of the United States Constitution, based primarily on Supreme Court case law.
(Understanding Federal Courts – PDF publication explaining the Federal Courts.
Civil Pro Se Forms – Fillable forms in PDF or Word format from the United States Courts.
United States District Court – The Eastern District of Missouri: Legal Advice Clinic – a free clinic designed to help inviduals without an attorney get answers to legal questions about filing a civil case in federal court and assistance with completing the filing forms.
United States Code – the official compilation and codification of the general and permanent federal statutes of the United States.
Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) – the codification of the general and permanent rules and regulations (sometimes called administrative law) published in the Federal Register by the executive departments and agencies of the federal government of the United States.
Federal Rules of Civil Procedure – govern civil procedure for civil lawsuits in United States district courts.
Federal Rules of Evidence – a code of evidence law governing the admission of facts by which parties in the United States federal court system may prove their cases, both civil and criminal.
United States Supreme Court opinions – present and historic – provided by Cornell Law School
Regulations.gov – a U.S. Federal government portal and document repository" that allows members of the public to participate in the rulemaking processes of some Federal government agencies. Allows users to make public comments in response to notices of proposed rulemaking issued by participating agencies; such comments become part of the public record and may be displayed on the site.
Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) – is a document issued by the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) of the United States Department of Transportation (USDOT) to specify the standards by which traffic signs, road surface markings, and signals are designed, installed, and used. These specifications include the shapes, colors, and fonts used in road markings and signs. In the United States, all traffic control devices must legally conform to these standards. The manual is used by state and local agencies as well as private construction firms to ensure that the traffic control devices they use conform to the national standard. While some state agencies have developed their own sets of standards, including their own MUTCDs, these must substantially conform to the federal MUTCD.
"None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free" – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe