Criminal / Traffic

IT IS THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE PERSONS WITH BUSINESS BEFORE THE COURT TO DETERMINE THE CORRECT DATE AND TIME THEY ARE REQUIRED TO APPEAR IN COURT AND TO UPDATE OR NOTIFY THE COURT WITH ANY CHANGES OF ADDRESS.

The following contains some pertinent information that may be of help to you as you become involved in the criminal justice system as a defendant, victim or witness. Please click on one of the subjects below for futher information.

>> Forms

Below is a list of forms that may be printed, completed and submitted to the District Court Business Office for filing. The content of these forms will be reviewed by the District Court Business Office for content and approval.

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Attorney Entry of Appearance Form
Request for the Issuance of a Subpoena
Waiver of Appearance and Plea of Guilty form
Change of Plea form - Non-Mandatory Charges only

>> Mandatory Court Appearances

Mandatory Court Appearances

Most criminal charges carry a mandatory court appearance. Some traffic violations also carry mandatory court appearances. Failure to appear in court on your scheduled court date will result in the issuance of a bench warrant for your arrest.

If your scheduled court date falls on Monday, Tuesday or Thursday, you have been charged with one or more violations that carry a mandatory court appearance. Therefore, you are required to appear in court for arraignment. The only way that you will be excused from the appearance is if you hire an attorney and the attorney submits an entry of appearance and waives formal arraignment.

At the arraignment, you will be asked to enter a plea of guilty, no contest or not guilty. If you enter a not guilty plea, the matter will be set for trial on a future court date. The judge will not allow any testimony or statements regarding the facts of the case at this time. Once a plea of guilty or no contest has been accepted by the judge, you may offer an explanation to the judge before sentencing. The judge will then render a decision about your case.

Arraignment and plea dates can be found on your booking paperwork or on the top portion of your citation, right above your signature. YOU MUST APPEAR AT THE TIME SPECIFIED.

Anyone under the age of eighteen (18) must be accompanied by a parent or guardian when appearing in court.

 
>> Non-Mandatory Traffic Citations

Non-Mandatory Traffic Citations

Only certain traffic violations are payable without an appearance in court. If the date on your citation falls on a Friday, you may be allowed to enter a plea in writing without an appearance in court. The plea of guilty or no contest can be submitted to the court in person, by fax, or by mail. Click Here to download a copy of the plea form. It is your responsibility to resolve the citation before the specified court date on the citation. This means that your plea must be received by the court prior to the plea/court date on the citation. Failure to submit a plea prior to the specified date on the citation will result in the issuance of a warrant for your arrest. Upon acceptace of the guilty or no contest plea, the court will find you guilty and a fine and court cost will be assessed. Please contact the District Court Business Office to see if your appearance is necessary.

Click Here to download a copy of the plea form.

When you enter a guilty or no contest plea, you will be giving up the following rights:

  • To hire a lawyer to represent you;
  • to have a trial before a court;
  • to call witnesses to testify for you; to testify yourself;
  • and to cross-examine any witnesses that the prosecutor may call.
>> No Liability Insurance Citations

No Liability Insurance Citations

Pursuant to Arkansas Code Annotated §27-22-103, any person operating a vehicle must be able to provide proof of a valid insurance policy while operating the vehicle. The vehicle and the person driving the vehicle must have valid coverage at the time of the stop. All insurance policies must be verified by Court staff prior to your appearance in Court. To do this, you will need to report to the District Court Business Office before your scheduled court appearance date and time. Failure to appear in court on your scheduled court date will result in the issuance of a bench warrant for your arrest.

If you are unable to provide proof of valid insurance coverage to the District Court Business Office or your policy is no longer valid, you will be required to appear in court to be sentenced by a judge. A finding of guilty to the charge of No Liability Insurance will result in a mandatory fine and court costs as well as a suspension of the vehicle’s registration. The only way to avoid a suspension on the vehicle registration is to provide proof of a new or renewed insurance policy to the judge when you appear in court. Failure to appear in court on your scheduled court date will result in the issuance of a bench warrant for your arrest.\

If you did not have valid insurance coverage at the time of the stop, but you have renewed your policy or purchased a new policy, you will still be required to appear in court. However, the judge may reduce or suspend a portion of your fine. Failure to appear in court on your scheduled court date will result in the issuance of a bench warrant for your arrest.

If you are able to provide proof that the vehicle and the operator of the vehicle were covered by a valid insurance policy at the time of the stop, the charge of No Liability Insurance must be amended to the charge of Failure to Carry Proof of Insurance, pursuant to §27-22-111. If your charge is amended to Failure to Carry Proof of Insurance, you may possible be excused from your court appearance, however, a fine and cost will be imposed.

>> Fail to Register - Expired State Tags Citations

Failure to Register / Expired Tags Citations

If you were charged with a violation regarding registration or expired tags, please renew the registration or tag before your court appearance. Be sure to pay the penalty for late registration or renewal to the Department of Finance and Administration. Bring your proof of registration, with penalty paid, to the District Court Business Office prior to your court appearance and a deputy clerk may be able to suspend a portion of your fine and/or excuse you from the court appearance.

If you have not renewed the tag or registration, you will be required to appear in court on the court date specified on your citation.

Failure to appear in court on your scheduled court date will result in the issuance of a bench warrant for your arrest.

>> No Drivers License / Expired Drivers License Citations

No Drivers License / Expired Drivers License Citations

If you have been cited for failing to have a driver’s license, you may handle the matter in the following manner:

If your driver’s license was valid at the time of the citation, you just did not have your valid license with you; you may bring your valid driver’s license to the District Court Business Office and a deputy clerk may be able to dismiss the charge for you.

If your license was expired and you have renewed your license with the Department of Finance and Administration; you may bring your new license to the District Court Business Office and a deputy clerk may be able to suspend a portion of your fine.

Failure to appear in court on your scheduled court date will result in the issuance of a bench warrant for your arrest.

>> Parking Citations

Parking Citations

If the parking violation has been cited on a citation to appear (a uniform traffic citation) you will need to submit a plea in writing prior to the plea/appearance date specified on the citation. Click here to download the plea form.

If you have been issued a parking meter citation (issued in a yellow envelope), you must contact the Fort Smith Police Department to handle the matter. The Police Department has placed yellow boxes on meter poles in certain locations for your convenience. The District Court Business Office will not give out any information regarding parking meter citations.

>> Traffic School - First Offender Program

Traffic School - First Offender Program

ON-LINE DRIVING COURSES ARE NOT AUTHORIZED BY THIS COURT

The District Court of Sebastian County, Arkansas, Fort Smith Division, offers a First Offender Program to assist individuals in maintaining a clean driving record. In order to qualify for participation in this program, the following criteria must be met:

First time traffic offense:
Persons who have received a traffic citation within the past three (3) years, in any jurisdiction, will not qualify. Persons who have participated in the First Offender Program in the past three (3) years will not qualify.

Authorization by the Court:
Participation in the First Offender Program must be requested by the defendant at the time a plea is entered. Your participation in the program must be authorized by the Court and set up on the program through the court system.

Valid Driver’s License:
You must have a valid driver’s license in effect at the time the citation was issued in order to qualify for participation in the program.

Moving Traffic Offenses Only:
Only those moving traffic offenses which result in the assessment of points against your driving privileges qualify for the program. DWI offenses and offenses which occur in conjunction with a DWI do not qualify.

Once you have been authorized by the Court to participate in the program, the following conditions must be met:

Fines and Costs must be paid in full by due date set.
No extensions will be granted. The participant is usually given thirty (30) days to pay in full.

Completion of a Defensive Driving Course by date set.
The participant is only given thirty (30) days to complete this condition. Refer to Court Related Agencies for vendors who offer the Defensive Driving Course. If you live somewhere other than Fort Smith, you may contact the district court in your area for more information on the where you can take a local defensive driving course.

Participant will be placed on probation for a specified period.
The participant may not receive any traffic violations, in any jurisdiction, during the probationary period.

Upon successful completion of these conditions, the traffic citation will be dismissed and the charge will not appear on your driving record. Failure to complete any one of the conditions by the required date will result in the citation appearing on your driving record as a conviction.

THIS PROGRAM DOES NOT REMOVE “ POINTS ” FROM YOUR DRIVING RECORD. IF YOUR CITATION WAS ISSUED AS THE RESULT OF A TRAFFIC ACCIDENT, YOUR PARTICIPATION IN THIS PROGRAM WILL NOT PREVENT THE ACCIDENT FROM APPEARING ON YOUR DRIVING RECORD. THIS PROGRAM SIMPLY PREVENTS THE MOVING VIOLATION FROM APPEARING ON YOUR DRIVING RECORD.

>> Requesting a Trial and the Trial Process

Requesting a Trial and the Trial Process

If you have been charged with a violation through this court, you have the right to have a trial before the court if you so request. At the time trial, you have the right to hear witnesses and present evidence in your own behalf. The city or state has the burden of proving you guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

Entering a plea of not guilty means that you are informing the court that you are not guilty of the offense in which you were accused. Upon acceptance of the plea, your case will be scheduled for hearing or trail at a later time. The trial will not be held on your initial arraignment as all necessary witnesses are not present. Your plea on mandatory charges must be entered in court at the time of the arraignment. A not guilty plea on the non-mandatory charges can be accepted by a deputy clerk.

At the time of trial, the prosecutor will present evidence against you. The prosecutor may call witnesses to testify about the facts alleged in the charge. Then you or your attorney will have a chance to cross-examine the witness. Be certain that you bring any witnesses or evidence which you wish for the court to consider at the time of trial. If you have witnesses that will not appear voluntarily, please request the clerk of court to issue subpoenas for those witnesses.

You will also be given the opportunity to testify and to present your case. You are not required to testify as you have a constitutional right not to incriminate yourself. However, if you chose to testify, the prosecutor will have the right to question you.

After all witnesses have testified, each side may give a closing argument. The judge will then decide if you are guilty or not guilty based on the testimony that was presented during the trial. If the defendant is found guilty, the court will then render a judgment. If the defendant is found not guilty or the case is dismissed, he/she will be discharged without any further obligation to the court.

District Court does not conduct jury trials. All cases are heard by a judge elected to preside over District Court matters.


 
>> Court Appointed Counsel

Court Appointed Counsel

If you have been charged with a crime for which the penalty includes the possibility of a jail sentence, and you state that you cannot afford an attorney, the judge will examine your financial status. Based on the results of the examination, the public defender may be appointed to represent you at the discretion of the presiding judge. A fee may be assessed for the use of the public defender’s services, which must be paid prior to the public defender representing you.

You are not required to have legal representation unless you have been charged with a violation that carries jail time. You do not have the constitutional right to have an attorney if jail is not a possible punishment.

To obtain court appointed counsel (services of the public defender), you must make your request to the judge. You will be required to complete a financial indigency form to determine your eligibility. Appointments are soley at the discretion of the presiding judge. Do not contact the Office of the Public Defender unless you have been appointed their services by the judge.


>> How to Request a Continuance

How to Request a Continuance

Arraignment:

You need to make every effort to appear in court on your scheduled appearance date. Generally, you can not change your court date. Failure to appear on the specified date and time will result in the issuance of a bench warrant for your arrest. You may contact the District Court Business Office and speak to a deputy clerk regarding your circumstances. However, your request may not be granted.

Trial:

Once a case has been set for trial, you and/or your attorney need to make every effort to appear on the trial date. A motion to continue a trial must be made in writing and should be submitted to the court a minimum of five (5) business days prior to the trial date. Motions filed less than two (2) working days will be ruled on at the call of the docket. Meaning the motion has been temporarily denied until the matter appears on the docket, at which time the judge will make a determination. A continuance for trial must be approved by the judge.

>> Issuance of Subpoenas

Issuance of Subpoenas

If you need the testimony of a witness who will not attend trial voluntarily, you should ask the court, no later than ten (10) days before the trial date, to issue a subpoena requiring that person to attend. Subpoena requests must be submitted to the court in writing and must include sufficient information for the subpoena to be served.

Click here for a subpoena request form

>> What to Bring to Trial

 What to bring to trial

  • proper identification
  • copy of citation
  • bond receipts and booking papers
  • notice of hearing date
  • any witnesses that you may need
  • any documents that may support your case
  • money to pay for fines and fees

 

>> Appealing a Charge

Appealing a Charge

All appeals must be perfected within thirty (30) days from the date of judgment. It is your responsibility to file the appeal in a timely manner.

You have the right to appeal a District Court decision to a higher court. All District Court appeals are filed in the Sebastian County Circuit Court. Appealing a charge means that you wish to request a new trial. You must purchase a transcript of judgment for each charge that you wish to appeal from the District Court Business Office. You will also be required to post an appeal bond. The deputy clerk will fill out the appropriate paperwork for you to deliver to Circuit Court along with your appeal filing fee.

All appeals must be perfected within thirty (30) days from the date of judgment. Additional time to appeal will not be granted. It is your responsibility to file the appeal in a timely manner. The court clerk will not calculate the appeal time frame for you. An untimely appeal could result in the dismissal of the appeal, which means the case will be remanded back to District Court for enforcement of the original judgment.

 

>> Petition to Seal or Expungment

Petition to Seal or Expungement

If your conviction is eligible for sealing, you will need to complete a form called the “Uniform Petition and Order to Seal”. You can find this form on the Arkansas Crime Information Center website at acic.org under Forms. If you have questions regarding your eligibility or the appropriate forms to complete, you will need to refer to the Arkansas Comprehensive Criminal Record Sealing Act. (A.C.A 16-90-1401, et. seq.) or contact an attorney. The Court does not prepare the forms for you. It is also your responsibility to follow up with the Court regarding the status of your petition throughout the process.

You may review your criminal history record by submitting a request to the Arkansas Crime Information Center or by obtaining a criminal background check through the Arkansas State Police. This may help you determine the charge(s) that you wish to have sealed. The Uniform Petition to Seal must have all blanks completely filled. Failure to properly complete the Petition and Order in its entirety, could result in your petition being denied.

Please file a separate petition for each arrest that you wish to have sealed. Your petition must be filed in the court in which the case was adjudicated or the court in which the case was filed if it did not result in a conviction. There is no fee for filing a petition to seal.

Proof of Reinstated Driving Privileges Required

If any conviction listed within your petition imposed a suspension of your driving privileges, you must provide the Court with a certified copy of your driving record indicating that your license is fully reinstated and that the required reinstatement fees have been paid in full. This includes a suspension that may have been imposed as a result of a warrant being issued for your arrest for failing to appear, failure to comply with a court order or failing to pay the fines and costs associated with any of the charges listed in your petition. If this information is unknown, please provide a statement from Driver Control proving that you have a valid license.

Proof of Service to the Prosecuting Attorney

You must serve a copy of your petition on the prosecuting attorney’s office that filed the charge against you. You can serve a copy of the petition through the mail or by hand delivering a copy to his/her office. Once the prosecuting attorney has been served with a copy, you will need to complete the Certificate of Service form.

Filing your Petition to Seal with the Court

To file your petition with the Court, you must submit the following forms: (All forms must be in the proper format and must be completely filled out or they will be refused.)

1) Petition to Seal

2) Certificate of Service

3) Proof of Reinstated Driving Privileges (if a supension was ordered)

4) Order of Seal

If you wish to obtain a file marked copy of the petition for your records, you will need to provide the additional copies to the Court, otherwise you will be charged a copy fee for each page.

Waiting period for Prosecutor to File an Objection

The prosecuting attorney has thirty (30) days to file an objection to your request. If an objection is filed, the matter will be set for hearing before a judge, at which time he/she will determine if your request should be granted or denied. If there is no objection filed, the petition will be forwarded to the judge for review.

Granting/Denial of Your Petition - Sealing of the Record

If at any time, the petition is denied, a letter will be sent to the address provided on the petition stating the reason for the denial. If your petition is granted, you can expect a copy of the signed Order to be mailed to you and the appropriate agencies within 5 to 10 business days after the Order is signed.

If you have not heard anything from the Court within 45 days of filing the certificate of service, please contact the Fort Smith District Court at 479-784-2420 to inquire about the status of your petition.

 

>> Payment Plans

Payment Plans

FINES AND COSTS ASSESSED BY THE DISTRICT COURT OF SEBASTIAN COUNTY ARE DUE AND PAYABLE IMMEDIATELY.
Arkansas Code Annotated §5-4-202.

If you are unable to pay your fines and costs in full, please advise the court that you will need a payment plan. The court may grant permission for the fines and costs to be paid in installments or in full within thirty (30) days of their assessment. Time payments will be set by the court. A ten ($10.00) dollar monthly assessment is required to be paid on all time payments. (Arkansas Code Annotated §16-13-704) and will continue to accrue until the balance is paid in full pursuant to HB2511 of 2005.

If you are approved for a time payment plan YOU MUST IMMEDIATELY NOTIFY THE COURT IN WRITING OF ANY CHANGE OF ADDRESS OR EMPLOYMENT. Failure to provide this information will result in the issuance of a warrant for your arrest. Your payment plan will be revoked and all fines and costs will be due immediately. The court may also collect past due fines and costs by garnishing your wages or other assets or through a collection agency.

Fines and costs may be paid in cash, by check, cashier’s check, money order or by credit card. The Court accepts the following credit cards: Visa, Discover and Mastercard. Credit card payments will only be accepted when used to pay the assessed fines and costs in full.

If you are unable to satisfy your account balance through a payment plan, you will be required to work through the alternative sentencing program until your balance has been satisfied.

 

 

>> Outstanding Warrants

Outstanding Warrants

Warrants for Failure to Pay Fines and Failure to Answer Summons can be paid in full in the District Court Business Office to prevent the arrest of the defendant.

Warrants for Failure to Comply with Court Order, Failure to Appear, and Affidavit Warrants cannot be paid. The defendant will need to surrender at the Fort Smith Police Department or the Sebastian County Detention Center.

If you believe there may be an outstanding warrant for your arrest, contact the District Court Business Office for additional information.

 

 

DISCLAIMER

This web site is purely a public resource of general information pertaining to the procedures of the District Court of Sebastian County, Arkansas, Fort Smith Division. The information provided is not intended to be a source of legal advice. This web site is not sponsored or associated with any other linked entity. The existence of any link is simply intended to make other resources available to the reader. This Court does not guarantee the accuracy or sources of any information found on any such web sites.