Precious Jones, 34, received a speeding ticket in St. Louis during Mothers Day weekend 2017.
But, she missed her August court date. “It slipped my mind,” she told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Jones turned herself in to local police, paid the bond on her outstanding warrant, and called the court to set up a new court date. She took driver education classes, did community service and hired an attorney who told her that if she agreed to pay a higher fine, the points wouldn’t be held against her driver’s license.
At her court date this past May, Jones pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor of doing at least 26 miles over the speed limit. The judge handed down a sentence of six months in jail as well as two years of probation. Her jail sentence would be suspended if she agreed to do 20 days of “shock time” in jail, meaning she’d spend every weekend for ten consecutive weekends in jail.
In addition to the jail time, Jones’ license was suspended because of the conviction, and it would only be reinstated when she paid all of her jail fines and served her time. When Jones asked the judge if her time could be served in a St Louis jail that was more local and convenient to her, the judge told her no.
So for 10 weeks she begged for rides to get to the Lafayette County Jail. One day in May, she was an hour late getting to the jail to serve her time. Another time in June, her car broke down on a day when she was supposed to be at the jail.
Jones called the jail, which documented the call. The next day she made it to Lafayette County. The jail kept her for her full two days.
By July, Jones figured she had paid her debt. She did all of her time, and she paid all of her fines, including a bill for her jail time.
In September, she got a notice from Lafayette County in the mail. There was a $2,500 warrant out for her arrest.
Because she had been late to jail, even though she stayed and served all of her time, prosecutor Kristen Hilbrenner was seeking to revoke her probation.
The attorney she hired, James Worthington, withdrew from her case saying he was not retained to work on what was now a probation violation case.
Jones, who initially only had a speeding ticket, is now facing six months in jail and a $2,500 warrant for her arrest.
“I don’t know what I’m going to do,” Jones told the Post-Dispatch. “They are just not going to let me go.”
Although court records state that she was told the original speeding ticket would not result in points against her driver license, no one told that to the Department of Revenue, so her license is currently suspended.
She is now forced to take the bus or get rides everywhere she needs to go. She has reached out to the NAACP and the ACLU for help.
In the meantime, she remains stuck in a system that seems designed to trap people.
“I’m losing everything,” Jones told the Post-Dispatch. “They keep coming back for more. They’re trying to milk me for all I’ve got.”