Local Courts

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Missouri's counties and the city of St. Louis are organized into 46 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 may be in additional locations in the county.

Missouri circuit courts are courts of original civil and criminal jurisdiction. That is, cases usually begin in the circuit court, which is where trials may occur. Within the circuit court, there are various divisions, such as associate circuit, small claims, municipal, family, probate, criminal and juvenile.

The last decade has seen the development of a growing number of court-based, "problem-solving" initiatives that seek to address the problems ("root causes") that contribute to criminal involvement of persons in the criminal justice population.

Juvenile and family courts are divisions of the circuit court that hear a variety of matters specific to the family, including juvenile matters related to delinquency, status, child abuse and neglect and termination of parental rights. Family courts also hear domestic relations matters, including dissolutions, child custody, visitation, child support and adoptions. Many also handle domestic violence cases, including child and adult protection orders. A wide variety of services, including counseling, mediation, parenting classes, and social services are provided to juveniles and adults through the juvenile and family courts, either through in-house programs or through referrals to other agencies. Additional information and reports relating to juvenile and family court divisions are available here.

House bill 471, passed by the general assembly in 2001, established a “Drug Courts Coordinating Commission” and the Drug Court Resources Fund. The commission is responsible for the evaluation of resources available for assessment and treatment of persons assigned to treatment courts. The commission oversees the operation of treatment courts, secures grant funds, and other property and services necessary or desirable to facilitate treatment court operations and allocates such resources among the various treatment courts operating within the state. The office of state courts administrator staffs the commission.

Treatment courts are judicially-supervised court dockets that reduce correctional costs, protect community safety and improve public welfare. In treatment courts, individuals with a substance use disorder remain in treatment for long periods of time while under close supervision. Treatment court participants must meet their obligations to themselves, their families and society. To ensure accountability, they are regularly and randomly tested for substance use, required to appear frequently in court for the judge to review their progress, rewarded for doing well and sanctioned for not living up to their obligations. A treatment court team is responsible for implementing daily operations of a specialized docket. The treatment court team may include, but is not limited to, the following members: a judge, prosecuting attorney, defense attorney, coordinator, probation officer, licensed treatment provider and law enforcement. Additional information and reports relating to treatment courts are available here.

An adult drug court is a specially designed court calendar – or docket – with a goal to achieve a reduction in recidivism and substance use among drug-involved offenders in the community. An adult drug court seeks to increase the offender’s likelihood of successful recovery through continuous, intense judicially-supervised treatment, mandatory periodic drug testing, community supervision and use of appropriate sanctions and other rehabilitation services.

A juvenile treatment court is a docket within a juvenile court, to which selected delinquency cases and in some instances status offenders, are referred for handling by a designated judge. The youth referred to this docket are identified as having problems with alcohol and/or other drugs. During the program, the juvenile treatment court team meets frequently (often weekly), determining how best to address the substance use and related problems of the youth and his or her family that have brought the youth into contact with the justice system.

Family treatment court is a juvenile or family court docket, for which selected child abuse, neglect and dependency cases are identified, when parental substance use is a primary factor. Judges, attorneys, child protection services and treatment personnel unite with the goal of providing safe, nurturing and permanent homes for children while simultaneously providing parents the necessary support and services to become drug and alcohol abstinent. Family treatment courts aid parents in regaining control of their lives and promote long-term stabilized recovery to enhance the possibility of family reunification within mandatory legal timeframes.

Modeled after drug courts and developed in response to the over-representation of people with mental illnesses in the criminal justice system, mental health courts divert select defendants with mental illnesses into judicially-supervised, community-based treatment. Defendants are invited to participate in the mental health court following a specialized screening and assessment. For those who agree to the terms and conditions of community-based supervision, a team of court staff and mental health professionals works together to develop treatment plans and supervise participants in the community.

A DWI court is a distinct post-conviction court system dedicated to changing the behavior of the alcohol-dependent repeat offender arrested for driving while impaired (DWI). The goal of the DWI court is to protect public safety by using the drug court model to address the root cause of impaired driving – alcohol and other substance use. Variants of DWI courts include drug courts that also take DWI offenders, which are commonly referred to as “hybrid” DWI courts or DWI/drug courts. DWI courts often enhance their close monitoring of offenders using home and field visits, as well as technological innovations such as Ignition Interlock devices and transdermal alcohol detection devices.

Veterans treatment courts are hybrid drug and mental health courts that use the drug court model to serve veterans struggling with substance use disorder, serious mental illness and/or co-occurring disorders. They promote sobriety, recovery and stability through a coordinated response that involves cooperation and collaboration with the traditional partners found in drug and mental health courts, with the addition of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs health care networks, the Veterans' Benefits Administration, volunteer veteran mentors and veterans and veterans' family support organizations. The veterans treatment court model uses volunteer veteran mentors and veterans’ family support organizations to help defendants engage in treatment and counseling, as well as partners with local Veterans Affairs offices to ensure that participants receive proper benefits.