How Does the Arkansas District Court Work?
Arkansas District Courts are trial courts with limited jurisdiction to hear certain types of civil and criminal cases. The courts may be Local District Courts or State District Courts. Both types of the Arkansas District Court have jurisdiction over preliminary hearings and most types of misdemeanors. The court can also hear local ordinance violations and traffic cases.
The Arkansas District Court has exclusive jurisdiction to hear and determine civil claims of $100 and below. It also shares jurisdiction with the Arkansas Circuit Court over civil cases where the claim is between $100 and $25,000. The Local District Court can handle civil claims that are $5,000 or less.
The Circuit Court may refer to certain types of civil and criminal cases to the State District Court. However, referrals of most civil, probate, and domestic relations cases require all parties’ consent. Note, each District Court in the State of Arkansas has a Small Claims division that handles most general civil claims for less than $5000.
District Courts also have jurisdiction over juvenile defendants for traffic offenses, violation of local codes or ordinances, and game and fish violations. The juveniles charged with such offenses face the same penalties as adult offenders. However, the juvenile can not be incarcerated unless the juvenile:
- Deliberately violates probation;
- Intentionally fails to pay a fine or carry out community service work or other sanction ordered by the court; or
- Commits within one year of the first offense, a second offense over which the District Court has jurisdiction
Rather than sentencing the juvenile offender to prison on the first offense, the Arkansas District Court may place the juvenile on residential detention. If a juvenile is incarcerated, the juvenile must be kept separate from persons 18 years and older. Alternatively, the court may place the juvenile in a juvenile detention facility rather than a county jail.
The Arkansas District Court also has the power to order the juvenile offender, the juvenile’s parents, or guardian to be liable for the electronic monitoring or incarceration cost. Before making such order, the court must take the following into account:
- The financial capacity of the parent or guardian paying for electronic monitoring or incarceration
- The previous efforts of the parent or guardian to prevent or correct the juvenile’s misconduct
- The opportunity the parent had to correct the juvenile’s misconduct if the parent is noncustodial
The Arkansas District Court does not conduct jury trials. If a party wishes to enforce the right to a jury trial, the case is transferred to the Circuit Court. The party may enforce that right by requesting in writing. Before a District Court can hold a juvenile in contempt of court for violating a court order, the court must have made the order in writing and served it on the juvenile and the juvenile’s parent or guardian. For juveniles found in contempt of court, the Arkansas District Court has the power to:
- Order the juvenile to be committed for a period not exceeding ten days
- Put the juvenile on residential detention for up to thirty days
An Arkansas District Court judge has the same power as circuit judges to suspend or postpone sentences in misdemeanor cases. The district judge may also preside over the following criminal matters if empowered by the administrative plan for the judicial circuit:
- Drug court programs
- Probation supervision programs
- Parole supervision programs
Note, district judges serve for a term of four years. To be eligible for the position of Arkansas District Court judge, a person must:
- Be a United States citizen
- Be a qualified elector within the applicable geographical area
- Have been a licensed attorney for no less than four years
The Arkansas District Court sits in each District Court department at least once every month unless waived by both the District Court judge and the governing body of the town or city where the department is located. However, if the court does not have a case when the court is scheduled to hold in the month, the court does not hold court until the next scheduled time.
The judge of any Arkansas District Court may appoint a clerk for the court. The District Court Clerk keeps a record of all court proceedings and all the acts done in the court. The Clerk also enters all judgments of the District Court, under the direction of the judge. The duties of the Arkansas District Court Clerk include:
- Administering oaths
- Taking affidavits permitted or required in the process of a case
- Keeping a complete docket of all proceedings in the manner and to the extent directed by the district judge
- Issuing and attesting all processes
- Recording the judgments, orders, rules, and other criminal or civil proceedings of the court and keeping an alphabetical index of it
- Keeping all other dockets, books, and indices as is required by law or by the district judge
The Arkansas District Court judge may also appoint one or more deputy District Court Clerks to serve under the supervision of the judge. This may only be done with the approval of the city’s governing body. The employing District Court judge must ensure that the deputy clerk complies with the relevant employee handbook, procedures, policies, resolutions, and ordinances of the county or city.
Note, a district judge who directly or indirectly uses the court process, either as a party litigant or as attorney or agent for any of the parties, commits an offense. The same applies to any judge who offers or grants by way of remission of fees or any other pecuniary inducements to the maintenance or institution of court cases. Any judge convicted of any of these forfeits the judicial office and is punished by a minimum of $50 and a maximum of $500.
Interested persons may find Arkansas District Court case records on the Administrative Office of the Courts CourtConnect website. Users can:
- Search for case records by the name of a party, business, or by case type.
- Search for judgments against a business or person.
- View case information and activities.
- Find cases filed by date search.
- Carry out docket filings by date search.
To find Arkansas District Court case records, select the option to search by person name, business name, or case type. Provide the last name of one of the parties, or the company name. To narrow down the search results, submit the first and middle name, the date of birth, the case and party type, beginning and ending case filing date, the county, and the location code.
The results page provides necessary information on the cases that match the entered parameters. This includes the ID number, case description, party type, filing date, and the judge that oversaw the case. For more details on the Arkansas District Court case record, click on the highlighted case number. The additional information provided includes:
- Case ID
- Citation Number
- Docket Start and Ending Date
- Filing date
- The court and its location
- The type and status of the case
- Parties to the case, including the judge presiding over it and the attorneys
- The motions filed in the course of proceedings
- The violations, if applicable
- The sentence information, if applicable
- The judgment given
Alternatively, visit the office of the Clerk of the relevant District Court during business hours for Arkansas District Court records. For contact information on any of the District Court Clerks, go to the Arkansas judiciary website. Select the applicable District Court or congressional district. Click on “apply,” and the site provides the name, address, phone number, and fax number of the Clerk of the District Court.