The St. Louis Circuit Attorney’s Office announced Tuesday it will now seek summonses instead of arrest warrants for lower-level felonies in order to reduce the amount of defendants in custody.

Chief Trial Assistant Robert H. Dierker, a former circuit judge, made the announcement during the regular en banc meeting of the 22nd Circuit at the Civil Courts Building downtown.

Dierker said the change in policy would predominantly affect cases in which the probable disposition is diversion or probation – such as drug-offense cases – and in which the defendant would be released on his or her own recognizance.

After the meeting, Mary Fox, the St. Louis district public defender, called the move a “positive step.”

“Way too many people in the city of St. Louis are confined in cases when they’re not a danger to the community,” Fox said.

According to an online search of cases filed by city prosecutors from May 22 through May 28, there has not yet been a dramatic shift in practice. In that time-frame, multiple individuals were charged with low-level felonies, but only one such defendant was issued a criminal summons on May 25. That charge was marijuana possession, a class D felony.

By Nicholas Phillips | Missouri Lawyers Weekly