In the state of Missouri, you can request performing community service hours in lieu of a large fine. You might try requesting that. Good luck.
A seatbelt ticket is a petty misdemeanor. A petty misdemeanor is any offense that has a maximum fine of $300 and carries no potential jail time. (i.e. Speeding Ticket, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, etc.) These offenses are not crimes. There is no right to an attorney in these cases and you cannot be appointed a Public Defender. However, having one of these offenses on your record may be harmful.
Because it is not a crime, there is no possibility of jail time. The courts are not allowed to impose jail time for petty misdemeanors.
Given your financial situation, you could discuss your situation with a hearing officer or the prosecutor. They may be lenient and reduce the fine if you can show your situation is that dire. However, I wouldn't count on it.
I would suggest you also start wearing your seatbelt. Although I disagree with the law myself, if the fine is likely to put that much strain on your financial situation, you may have to concede to the wishes of the State and wear your seatbelt.
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