Pope County Detention Center Criminal Court Process

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Criminal Court Process for Pope County Arkansas

Information on the criminal court process for offenders arrested in Pope County Arkansas and booked into the Pope County Detention Center. From the arrest to the sentencing and everything in between.

Pope County Detention Center Criminal Court Process

Criminal Court Process for Pope County Arkansas

Pope County Arkansas Criminal Court System - Definitions

It might be helpful to define some words that will be used on this site, when explaining the Arkansas Court System and how it works. The definitions on this site are for general information and not legal advice. It is always preferred to follow information given by your attorney or local authorities.

If you scroll down below this content, and the listing of the courts in Pope County, you will find a simple flowchart diagram and a video that will help you visualize the stages of the Criminal Court Process.

Arrest is when the police take a person into custody and start the legal process. The arrested person may or may not be immediately jailed. 

In less serious crimes, the person may only be given a citation ordering that they appear in municipal or Pope County court on a certain date. In cases involving more serious crimes, the person is usually placed in the Pope County jail until an arraignment, or a judge decides the next step.

Booking is when the sheriff or local police gather information such as the detainee’s name, address and why the person is being arrested. Booking also includes fingerprinting, criminal history, investigation and verification of identity and usually setting of bond occurs right after booking.

The prosecution, sometimes called “the government” or “the people” or “the state” is the side that press the charges and seeks punishment for the offense. These are attorneys that work for the state of Arkansas, Pope County or a city or town. The prosecuting attorney for the county or the district is called the Prosecuting Attorney. A U.S. Attorney or Assistant U.S. Attorney prosecutes federal cases.

Jurisdiction is an important term in the court system that means whether a court has the obligation or duty or right to handle a case.  For example, if you run a red light in your town or city, a municipal court would likely have jurisdiction over your case, but the next town or city over would not have jurisdiction over your case.  If you attempted to flee from police when they attempted to stop you after you ran the red light, it becomes a more serious crime, and the municipal court might not have jurisdiction so you might be assigned to a higher-level court that has jurisdiction over the more serious crime.  Jurisdiction varies from state to state and sometimes county to county.

Arraignment is when a judge determines whether or not the charges are supported by the prosecution’s initial evidence and tells the arrested what they are charged with, and the person says whether they are guilty or not guilty. At this time, the person is called the defendant, and the opposing side is called the prosecution. If there is reason to believe that the arrested is guilty, the judge will set bail conditions or send the defendant to jail or release them ROR (release on recognizances). An arraignment is not a trial, and the defendant is entitled to a trial within a reasonable amount of time after the arraignment.

Bail is money paid that is held by Pope County or municipal court to make sure that the arrested does not flee the area before their trial. Bail amounts and other conditions are determined at the arraignment. Once the case is over, the bail money is returned to the defendant. If a person does not pay bail, they remain in the jail until their trial.  Bail can be denied if the court feels that the arrested would be a danger to others if released. Sometimes the court decides that there is a good chance that the arrested will show up for trial and not flee so they are released on their own promise, or recognizance without having to pay bail.

A bond proceeding is the determination of how much bail is to be paid and usually happens at the same time as an arraignment. During bond proceedings, the defendant can have an attorney present but does not have the right to an attorney. Judges in Arkansas rely on a statewide bail schedule, which sets out a recommended range of bail amounts for different offenses. Judges can still exercise discretion in setting bail above or below the recommended range. The following in Arkansas may take bail: a judge, magistrate, clerk of the court.  If the arrested was placed in a county jail, the sheriff or deputy sheriff may take bail.  If the arrested was placed in a municipal jail, any law enforcement officer can take bail. A constable cannot take bail. 

It is always important to have family involvement after being arrested.  Not only can they make calls and communicate on your behalf (not all bond companies will accept collect calls), but family support will show the court that there are people who will make sure that the defendant makes it to court, not only for the defendant’s own good, but because they may have signed bond paperwork and responsible to pay if the defendant does not show in court. Chances of obtaining a bond from a bond company or clerk of court are better if family is involved.  

(There have been phone scams to where a bond company calls and informs a person that their family member has been arrested and they ask for financial information.  A bondsman will not call asking for money without involvement of the arrested.)

A judicial public bond or personal recognizance bond is a bond where someone representing the defendant signs paperwork promising to pay the money if the defendant does not show up to court. If the defendant does not show, the full amount will be due and the people who signed the paperwork will be responsible to pay the court.  Sometimes the court decides that there is a good chance that the arrested will show up for trial and not flee so they are released on their own promise, or recognizance. 

In Arkansas, the clerk of court and sheriff can hold bonds.  If the defendant does not show to court, the sheriff’s office will be provided a warrant for arrest. Arkansas allows a sheriff to accept collateral for a bond in lieu of using a bail bonds agency. Cash bond requires a payment of a 10% fee to the clerk of court even if a bond agency is not used. Any amount under $500 requires $50 minimum.

Surety Bond is when defendant pays a percentage of the bond amount (usually 10–15%) to a professional bondsman or bail bond company licensed to do business in Arkansas. The bondsman then signs the bond on behalf of the defendant. The defendant does not receive any of the money back. If the bondsman feels the defendant is a flight risk, they can refuse to give a bond or charge a higher fee. For example, a bondsman may determine a defendant is a flight risk if they are from a state other than Arkansas.

A Property Bond is a bond in which the bond is pledged in land or home real estate (mobile homes are not accepted).  Usually, the property must be in Pope County and it must be worth at least the amount of the bond.

An Unsecured Bond is when the defendant is released without paying bail upfront, but they must pay the full amount if they do not appear in court.

A Secured Bond is when the defendant pays a portion of the bail up front. If they show to court,
They would get the money back and if they don’t show up to court, would have to pay the entire bail amount.

A criminal defense attorney (also called lawyer or counsel) is hired or retained to represent the arrested as early as possible after the arrest. If there is a chance that the case might go to trial and the defendant cannot afford an attorney, the 6th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution requires that the court provide an attorney. This is called indigent representation and a public defender or assigned attorney would represent the defendant in all proceedings. Indigent representation is only available misdemeanor and felony cases that could result in jail time, juvenile cases and certain appeal cases. In Arkansas, the Public Defender Commission oversees indigent defense as a whole and contributes almost 100% of the costs and directly handles appeal and post-conviction cases. The Court can assess a cost of up to $250 as a Public Defender Fee. The time to ask for indigent representation is as soon as possible to avoid errors while not represented.

This webpage provides contact numbers for public defense in your area.

For less serious cases or civil cases, there are pro bono volunteers who volunteer legal services for free or for a small fee. They often will hold clinics to teach people how to represent themselves in court or expunge their record which means to legally erase or eliminate a criminal or arrest record from public view.

This link will help you get started in searching for Arkansas legal aid help.

Many courts will provide forms and help for people who want to represent themselves, called pro se.  Here is a link for court self-help in Arkansas.

A district court can refer to the first level of the legal system, or a minor court. District courts are located in the community.  A district court can also refer to a U.S. Federal District Court that hears federal cases. There are two U.S. federal district courts in Arkansas, with offices throughout the state. It is important that you check the address of the court you are to appear in rather than to ask someone because that person might give you directions to the wrong “district” court. Being late to court can land you in custody as well.

Pretrial proceeding is the process where both sides (prosecution and defense) gather information, interview witnesses, request records, videos etc. Pretrial proceedings also include communications with the judge assigned to the case and these appearances are either in person or by on-line conferencing. Some pretrial proceedings may not require a defendant’s appearance, allowing an attorney to appear in their place. The information that is gathered is called discovery and both sides must share the information that they have gathered.  This information does not include conversations between the arrested and their attorney.

Most cases do not go to trial because both sides reach a plea deal, where both sides try to reach a reasonable punishment based on what was learned in the pretrial proceedings.  A plea deal can only happen if the accused person admits they are guilty in exchange for a lighter punishment.  The reason they must admit guilt is because it would not be fair to punish someone who claims they are not guilty.  There are times in plea bargaining when the prosecution agrees to give a lighter sentence in exchange for information leading to the arrest of more serious criminal related to the crime.  

Trial is where both sides share their information in front of a judge or a judge and jury. After listening to all the evidence, the judge or jury decides the verdict which is whether if the person is guilty or not guilty. If a court has only a judge hearing both sides, it is called a bench trial.  If a jury is selected, it is called a jury trial.  If the defendant is found non-guilty, they are released.  If they are found to be guilty, the next step is sentencing.

Sentencing is the punishment that the judge decides the person should get. This could be jail or prison time, fines, community service, probation, or a combination.

Appeal is asking for a higher court to hear the case again at an appellate court.  If the accused person thinks something went wrong at trial or has new information that was not available during the trial or that the sentence is too harsh, the defense attorney can ask for an appeal. It is not unusual for an appeal when there is a long jail sentence, but an appeal can be denied if the appellate court feels that the original trial or sentencing was fair.

Arkansas Felony vs Misdemeanor

In Arkansas, a misdemeanor is divided into Class A or B or C. There are also unclassified misdemeanors which are treated like Class C misdemeanors.  

  • Class A misdemeanors have punishments of jail for up to 1 year and/or pay a fine up to $2,500.  
  • Class B misdemeanors have punishments of jail for up to 90 days and/or pay a fine up to $1000.
  • Class C misdemeanors have punishments up to 30 days and fines up to $500.
  • Some traffic offenses in Arkansas are misdemeanors, like DWI and speeding over 15 miles per hour. 

A felony crime is a more serious crime than a misdemeanor and are divided into different classes which are general guidelines and are based on the crime, prior criminal history and other factors.  Examples of felony crimes are murder, rape, theft, aggravated assault, drug trafficking, kidnapping and identity theft.  

In Arkansas, a Class Y felony is the most serious and has punishments of 10 to 40 years, life in prison. Capital murder is punishable by life in prison without parole or death by lethal injection.  

  • Class A felonies have punishments of fines and/or jail time of between 6 and 30 years.
  • Class B felonies have punishments of fines and/or jail time of five to twenty years in prison.  
  • Class C felonies have punishments of fines and/or jail time of three to ten years.  
  • Class D felonies have punishments of fines and/or jail times of up to six years in prison.  
  • Unclassified felonies are felonies that do not fit the guidelines of the other classes of felonies.

The Pope County Clerk of Court is an elected official whose responsibilities for Criminal Court’s administrative issues include receiving criminal warrants, receiving bail, creating the trial schedule, receiving fees, fines and maintaining court records.

A warrant is used to get someone to appear in court or to law enforcement.  There must be good reason to believe that the person is involved in a crime. The warrant gives authority to arrest the person and search for evidence for the investigation of the crime. 

A criminal summons is issued to request that a person appear in court at a particular time and date.  It does not involve an arrest.  A traffic ticket, summary citation or lesser misdemeanor could be considered a summons if you are given a court date.

A summary citation, commonly referred to as a ticket, is a criminal summons by a law enforcement officer either in person or via mail accusing the defendant of a minor offense, stating potential fine, listing the court having jurisdiction and instructions for addressing the issue. Defendants may or may not be required to appear in court or handle the matter by entering a plea via mail.

Fines are usually paid to the District Court or clerk of court and payment methods can be found on the District Court or Pope County Clerk of Court website. If you do not pay your fine on time, you can lose your driver’s license, have to pay additional fees or even have a warrant for your arrest.  It is important to read the instructions on the ticket issued by the police officer or court at the time of your arrest. For a parking ticket or summary citation, the fine amount and how to send payment should be on the ticket. 

Arkansas Criminal Court System - How it Works

Local District Courts in Arkansas can be city-wide or county-wide and handle traffic violations, violations of local ordinances and misdemeanor criminal cases, including trials. Preliminary, or the start of felony cases can be heard in the local district courts, but the felony case will then be dismissed or moved to the circuit court.  

State District Courts in Arkansas are similar to local district courts with a few exceptions including the ability to accept cases from the higher circuit court regarding protective orders, forcible entry or matters of emergency.  Civil matter jurisdiction is different from the local district courts.

Arkansas State Circuit Courts are divided into five types of courts: 

•    Criminal, 
•    Domestic Relations, 
•    Civil, 
•    Probate, and 
•    Juvenile courts.  

Circuit courts are general jurisdiction trial courts where felony matters, and any misdemeanors charged in the same offense, are processed. Circuit courts also hear appeals from the local and state district courts. Arkansas uses a bifurcated trial system which means that if a defendant is found guilty in the first phase of the trial, there is a second phase where evidence and information regarding aggravating and mitigating circumstances can be introduced in order to decide on the sentence. Arkansas has jury sentencing where sentences in some felony cases are decided by a jury. 

In Arkansas, juvenile courts are separate courts that deal with crimes committed by juveniles, up to age 18. Jurisdiction of the juvenile court can extend to a person’s 21st birthday. Juvenile courts may sentence to a juvenile to a term of incarceration in the Arkansas Division of Youth Services, which runs the states juvenile prisons. Juvenile detention centers house juveniles awaiting a hearing or transfer to circuit court and are ran by the county.  Depending on the crime, some juveniles aged 14 to 18 can be tried as an adult in circuit court. 

Read more about juvenile justice in Arkansas.

Specialty Courts serve people who would benefit from alcohol, drug and other rehabilitative services.  Other Arkansas courts identify persons early who could be best served in the specialty courts. The attached link contains a video about Arkansas Drug Court.

The Arkansas Court of Appeals hears criminal appeals from the circuit courts as the court of direct appeal except in death penalty cases.   

The Arkansas Supreme Court is like our United States’ Supreme Court because it has a panel of judges that rule on matters that have to do with someone’s constitutional rights or policies and laws. The Arkansas State Supreme Court deals with the state constitution or laws or policies. Sometimes the Supreme Court will hear criminal cases on appeal when there is question on the state laws or procedures that lead to the appeal.  

The criminal cases are usually referred from the district courts of appeal.


FEDERAL COURT

Federal Court deals with crimes involving violations of United States laws.  Federal crimes include federal drug trafficking, federal tax evasion and fraud that crossed state lines and include crimes that occur on federal property as post offices or federal buildings.  

Cases involving crimes that involve the FBI or DEA or Immigration agencies are federal crimes. Terrorism is a federal crime. 

There are some differences in the Federal court system as compared to the Arkansas state court system. For example, the attorneys who work for the courts are called United States Attorneys and Federal judges are called District Court Judges (not to be confused by local state district courts).  

Federal Magistrate Judges hear the case early on, but they do not decide on the cases at a trial like the Federal District Court Judges. In a federal case, a grand jury is used for indictments.

There two federal district courts in Arkansas.

Courts

RUSSELLVILLE DISTRICT COURT
1506 E 2ND ST # 2
RUSSELLVILLE AR, 72801
479-968-1393
POPE COUNTY COURTHOUSE
100 W MAIN ST
RUSSELLVILLE AR, 72801
479-968-6064
RUSSELLVILLE DISTRICT JUDGE
210 N SHAMROCK BLVD
RUSSELLVILLE AR, 72802
479-968-1393

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