Charges Defended and Differences in CourtS
Here you will find information on various types of charges I represent clients on. This list is by no means exhaustive, so you should contact my office for information regarding any kind of charge you don't see listed here.
Also, I've laid out the differences in the various courts your case could be prosecuted in and a little about what goes on in each. Keep checking back, as I will continue to update this section with useful information!
District Courts of Arkansas
NW Arkansas has many district courts, including Fayetteville, Springdale, Rogers, Bentonville and many smaller communities, including Pea Ridge, Siloam Springs, West Fork, etc.
District Courts are courts of original jurisdiction in misdemeanor cases. That means a charge of any misdemeanor crime or traffic violation will usually be dealt with in district court. District courts are not courts of records. There are no court reporters, but records of the outcomes of cases are kept. A trial in district court consists of a prosecutor representing the state and a defense attorney representing the defendant.
The trial is a bench trial, meaning the judge hears all the evidence, renders a verdict, and determines the punishment. EVERYTHING has a right to a de novo appeal to circuit court. A de novo appeal means any conviction in district court stemming from either a conviction after trial or even a plea of guilty can be appealed to circuit court and tried all over again like it was the first time.
In circuit court you have a right to a bench trial or a jury trial.
Circuit Courts of Arkansas
NW Arkansas has far fewer circuit courts than district courts. Each county has its own circuit courts, though the number of them, called "divisions," vary based on county population.
Circuit Courts are courts of original jurisdiction in felony cases. That means any criminal case that carries with it the possibility of punishment by going to prison starts in circuit court. While defendants have the constitutional right to defend themselves (called "pro se") in any court, it is ill-advised, especially in circuit court.
Charges brought in circuit court can be reduced to misdemeanors and "remanded" to district court at the discretion of the prosecutor. If charges are kept in circuit court they may be plead with a negotiated sentence agreed to between the prosecutor and defense attorney, tried to the judge in a bench trial, or tried to a jury in a jury trial.
With a few limited exceptions a negotiated plea cannot be appealed like it could from district court. However, contested charges tried to the court or a jury can be appealed to the Arkansas Court of Appeals or Arkansas Supreme Court.
Felony cases - punishment
There are many different types of felonies in Arkansas, with many different types of punishment.
Felonies are classified with letters in Arkansas, with a Class D felony being the lowest, class Y being the highest, and Capital Murder carrying the possibility of the death penalty.This is the possible punishment range for each:
Class D: 0-6 years in prison and/or up to a $10,000 fine
Class C: 3-10 year in prison and/or up to a $10,000 fine
Class B: 5-20 years in prison and/or up to a $15,000 fine
Class A: 6-30 years in prison and/or up to a $15,000 fine
Class Y: 10-40 years or life in prison
Capital Murder: life in prison or death
Though the prison sentences are mandated by statute, time may be suspended due to probation or other programs defense counsel may be able to secure.
Felony cases - examples
This list is meant to give you an idea of certain charges that some people don't think of as potentially being charged as felonies.
Possession or Delivery of a Controlled Substance: drug cases are one of the most widely punished classifications of crimes. Drug charges can range from misdemeanors all the way to Class Y felonies, and just about everywhere between. If you care charged with a drug crime, contact an attorney immediately.
DWI 4th offense or higher: DWIs are misdemeanors with increasing levels of punishment until you get to the 4th offense within 5 years, at which point it becomes a felony. As the number gets higher and higher, the punishment is worse and worse.
Theft: there are both misdemeanor and felony levels of theft depending on the value of the stolen goods and/or the type of item stolen. Not every theft is as serious, but it can be.
Certain traffic violations: most people don't think a traffic violation can be a felony, but certain types of fleeing, leaving the scene of an injury accident, and injuring someone in a wreck caused by an intoxicated driver can all cause a case to be filed as a felony.
Misdemeanor cases - punishment
Like felonies, misdemeanors vary widely in levels of punishment, though certain types of charges tend to be punished similarly from court to court, with a few major exceptions. Talking to the right attorney about the nuances of the court you're charged in is an important conversation to have.
Misdemeanors are also classified with letters in Arkansas, with a "Violation" being the lowest and class A being the highest. This is the possible punishment range for each:
Violation: up to a $100 fine
Class C: up to 30 days in jail and/or up to a $500 fine
Class B: up to 90 days in jail and/or up to a $1000 fine
Class A: up to a year in jail and/or up to a $2500 fine
Misdemeanor cases - examples
These are common misdemeanor charges I have represented hundreds of clients on. See the section above for corresponding punishment ranges.
- Disorderly Conduct: Class C
- Public Intoxication: Class C
- Criminal Trespass: Class C, unless the location trespassed is an occupiable structure, such as a home or business, in which case the offense is a Class B
- Fleeing: Class C if on foot, Class B if on foot and the person has a prior conviction for fleeing, Class A if property damage results from fleeing on foot, Class A if fleeing in a vehicle (with a minimum of 2 days in jail required), Class D felony if serious injury results from fleeing on foot, Class C felony if serious injury results from fleeing in a vehicle, and suspension of your driver's license for 6 months to 1 year for any fleeing in a vehicle
- Theft of Property (including Shoplifting): Class A if property valued at $1000 or less. However, there are MANY different levels of theft that should be discussed with your attorney.
- Assault: Class B or A, depending on severity, or D felony if aggravated.
- Battery: Class A if 3rd degree, a felony if 2nd or 1st degree.
- Domestic Battery: Class A if 3rd degree, a felony if 2nd or 1st degree, or a felony for a second conviction of a 3rd degree.