Faulkner County and the respective police departments within it has a long list of outstanding warrants, several of those being failure-to-appear warrants. Officials offered amnesty to those with FTAs who appeared in court on Valentine's Day and cleared a large portion of Conway and county warrants.
District judges David L. Reynolds and Chris R. Carnahan announced last week they would offer amnesty to those with outstanding failure-to-appear warrants issued by the Conway Police Department and Faulkner County Sheriff's Office in an attempt to combat the ever-growing list of outstanding warrants. The forgiveness opportunity allowed those with active FTA warrants to have the warrant fee waived and avoid getting picked up and going to jail over the charge.
It was a long, busy day in court Thursday. One hundred and seventy four individuals with Conway and county FTA warrants took advantage of the grace offered by district judges Reynolds and Carnahan.
Each individual in the crowd waited patiently for their turn before a judge, and each showcased a positive attitude, Carnahan said.
At first, court staff was tasked with maneuvering through a few technical difficulties. However, once all systems were up-and-running properly, the process to begin clearing out and tackling the outstanding warrants database began running quickly and smoothly.
"I don't believe I've ever even had a jury trial where something [technical] didn't go wrong. We got things fixed rather quickly and let me just tell you, our clerks, the bailiffs, the Conway Police Department and Faulkner County Sheriff's Office as well as the city attorneys office all worked diligently. It's the busiest court day we've ever had," Carnahan told the Log Cabin on Friday. "People were very understanding, and they were happy to be there ... I really can't say enough praises for my staff, CPD, the sheriff's office and the attorneys."
Failure-to-appear warrants are easily avoidable, Carnahan said.
If a resident is issued a traffic ticket or other citation in the Ninth Judicial District and knows they will be unable to attend their scheduled court date, they can call in and file a motion asking for a continuance ahead of time. Failure-to-appear warrants usually are accompanied with a five-day grace period once one fails to appear. After missing a mandatory hearing, one should immediately contact their attorney or court officials before an FTA warrant is issued against them.
Many cases, specifically minor traffic offenses that do not involve an injury accident, can be adjudicated through the online Matterhorn court system. The online court system allows those within the Ninth Judicial District — Faulkner and Van Buren counties — to search if they have an outstanding warrant and also to have their case reviewed online.
This process alone can help free up court dockets and help prevent many from getting FTA warrants on simple seat belt and no insurance tickets, Carnahan said.
One man who took advantage of the amnesty day offered Thursday had been avoiding police for more than 15 years because he had an FTA on a minor traffic ticket, Carnahan said.
"One guy had been avoiding getting pulled over since 2003 because he had an FTA," Carnahan said. "I would hate to drive around that long always wondering if I was going to go to jail."
While the fines associated with FTAs are typically $250 to $350, giving grace increases fine collection rates. By getting warrants removed from the warrants database and getting individuals on pay plans they can afford, Carnahan said the entire process begins running smoothly and correctly."
Offering amnesty proved to be a benefit to all sides — court officials, law enforcement and the public. Following the amnesty day's success, Carnahan said he wanted to thank Conway officer Brittani Little for getting the ball rolling and pushing to tackle the warrants issue.
"Officer Little gets a lot of the credit for asking around and seeing if we could do this," he said. "She did a great public service."
CPD spokesman LaTresha Woodruff said authorities try to be understanding when others make mistakes and extended this FTA grace to help clear the books and get others off the hook without having to serve jail time. Officer Little took a unique approach to clearing out outstanding warrants lists.
"In her short time in the warrants division, officer Little has come up with some creative ways to tackle serving outstanding warrants, from humorous Facebook posts to the amnesty day. And, her efforts are proving worthwhile," Woodruff told the Log Cabin on Saturday. "Officer Little along with officer [Jimmy] McJunkins and Lt. [Matthew] Edgmon, served 134 warrants in one day — that's gotta be a record! Yes, they had hoped more people would take advantage of the amnesty day, but are happy there are 134 people they won't have to track down. We call that a success!"
Carnahan said he plans soon to offer an amnesty day in other courts he serves. Next on the list are district courts in Greenbrier and Clinton. Carnahan is also working with the Vilonia Police Department to work out an amnesty day to continue clearing the warrants database across the county.
To determine if you have a warrant issued against you in the Ninth Judicial District or to learn if your case can be adjudicated online, visit https://www.courtinnovations.com/ARFVB.