Arkansas Court Records Search
Subject to Arkansas Court Rules, a court record is a public record created by the courts. Local, county, state, and federal judicial bodies in the Arkansas justice system generate these records in the course of legal proceedings.
While court records are available to the public they can be sealed, expunged, or made inaccessible through legal methods like classification. This is usually done when details of the case can be a continuing threat or liability to government agencies, companies, or persons who were victims of a crime.
The Arkansas court records are available online and may require interested persons to visit the courthouse custodian or the municipal clerk to obtain or study the records. Information in a court record varies proportionally on the bases of the municipality, with some providing relevant details of cases, while others provide case names, case numbers, and the type of court where dispute, criminal trial, or sentencing occurred. While some records are free for observation, others require money for reproduction.
Are Arkansas Court Records Public?
Yes, according to the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), court records are public records in Arkansas. Section 25-19-103 of the Arkansas FOIA, enacted on February 14, 1967, stipulated that every documented record from the discharge of official duties supported by public funds are public records. Members of the public have the right to inspect and make copies of public records at a cost. The FOIA was passed to deepen the confidence of Arkansans in public officials.
Government agencies in possession of public records are mandated to make the records available when requested per FOIA. The Act, however, restricts the public from accessing some records. State tax records, medical and adoption records, grand jury minutes, identities of undercover law enforcement agents, and unpublished drafts of judicial opinions are some of the documents exempted by the Arkansas FOIA. Public records custodians reserve the right to deny requests regarding exempted records. They can also rebuff a public record request if the requestor has pleaded guilty to or convicted for a felony and is serving time at a correctional facility. A representative of a convicted felon who is not an attorney will also be denied a public record request. Public records requests may be submitted in person, by telephone, via mail, or other allowed electronic means. Note that the custodians may also decline unclear public record requests.
How Do I Find Court Records in Arkansas?
The first step to take when trying to obtain court records in Arkansas is to determine the court that tried the particular case requested and then approach the clerk of that court. Clerks of courthouses are the custodian of court records, and they can make requested records available to interested persons in both paper and electronic forms.
The classes of courts in Arkansas and the types of cases they have jurisdiction over are:
- District Courts: Arkansas District Courts are courts of limited jurisdictions with two operating levels. The State District Courts have jurisdiction over traffic violations, misdemeanors, preliminary felony hearings, and recovery of personal properties with values of $25,000 or less. The Local District Courts' jurisdiction is territorially limited. Cases tried at Local District Courts are traffic violations, preliminary felony hearings, misdemeanors, and recovery of personal properties whose values are not more than $5,000. To find records of cases tried at Arkansas District Court, contact the clerks of the courthouses keeping such documents, and submit written requests or apply orally.
- Circuit Courts: The elimination of the distinction between courts of law and equity courts in Arkansas gave Arkansas Circuit Courts general jurisdiction trial court status. Records of cases tried at Circuit Courts can be retrieved from the clerks at the courthouses.
- Court of Appeals: The Arkansas Court of Appeals hears appeals of decisions made by the lower trial courts.
- Supreme Court: The Supreme Court in Arkansas has the highest authority in the state. It reviews opinions made by the Court of Appeals. Appeals of cases earlier tried by the lower trial courts that ended in capital punishment are also heard by the Arkansas Supreme Court.
The Arkansas Court of Appeals and the Supreme Court share the same clerk. The clerk of the courts provides payroll services for both courts and acts as the custodian of their records. To obtain copies of the Appellate Court records, requestors should submit requests orally or in writing to the following:
625 Marshall Street
Suite 130, Justice Building
Little Rock, AR 72201
Copying and inspection fees of public records vary and depend on the number of pages in the document. However, Arkansas laws demand that the total fee be paid upfront if it exceeds $25. Custodians of public records may waive fees for requested records if the purpose of the request is non-commercial or in the public interest.
Arkansas Court Records Public Access
The record of cases heard at the Arkansas Supreme Court and the Court of Appeals from May 20, 2013, is available online to members of the public. Requestors can search records of most cases online using a modern case management system called CourtConnect. Records of some District and Circuit Courts are also fully accessible on the CourtConnect platform, while others only have partial records maintained.
- Search by Name: Requesters can use all or part of the names of persons or businesses who are parties to any case to find court records.
- Search by Judgment: Interested persons can use the completion status of judgments to search for cases on the CourtConnect platform. The options of judgments given, set aside, or vacated can be used to find court cases.
- Search by Date: Requestors can use both the beginning and end dates of proceedings heard in court to find their cases of interest.
- Search by Case Number: Using the number assigned to a case, anyone can retrieve information on a court record from the CourtConnect platform.
Counties also have records of court cases available online. Washington County in Arkansas, for instance, maintains court records online for access by Washington County residents and the general public. The county charges $5 for certified copies of an entire court file.
Considered open to citizens of the United States, public records are available through both traditional, government sources and third-party websites and organizations. In many cases, third-party websites make the search easier as they are not limited geographically or by technological limitations. They are considered a good place to start when looking for a specific record or multiple records. In order to gain access to these records, interested parties must typically provide:
- The name of the person listed in the record. Juveniles are typically exempt from this search method.
- The last known or assumed location of the person listed in the record. This includes cities, counties, and states.
While third-party sites offer such services, they are not government sponsored entities, and record availability may vary on these sites when compared to government sources.
How to Conduct an Arkansas Court Record Search by Name
Arkansas court records can be conducted by name via the Administrative Office of the Courts Public Court Connect Website. Requesters should proceed to the "Search by person name, business name or case type". The requester may enter the search criteria into the provided fields on the Search Page. This may be the party's Last Name or Company Name, Case Number, Date Filed, etc. After submitting the query, results related to the criteria provided will be generated. For each search result, users will be provided the case number, party name, filing date, time, and important details of the hearing. For instance, in cases heard in the Arkansas Judicial Branch, the requester may visit the Arkansas Judicial Branch website, sign in to the case management system as a guest, or returning user, or create a new account.
How to Get Court Records Online for Free
Obtaining court records online in Arkansas is easy. The AOC Public Court Connect enables online access to court records via the Contexte Case Management System. Search conducted through these mediums is totally free. For public court records search, enter a person or business name or case ID. While a search only needs a person's last name or the company's name, it also require the:
- First name
- Middle name
- Driver's license number
- Date of birth
- Case filing date (beginning and end)
- Case type
- Party type
- Location code
Individuals can also choose the "Display case information and activities" option if the Case ID or Docket number (summary of case proceedings) is already known. If they are not sure, they can search for all the cases or dockets filed on a specific date by providing:
- Beginning and end dates
- Case type
- Court code and location code (optional)
Types of Courts in Arkansas
The Arkansas court system has four levels of courts, which are: The Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, Circuit Court and The District Court. The type of dispute at hand and the magnitude of the offense committed is proportional to the court that will try a case.
Arkansas District Courts are limited jurisdiction courts with two operating levels. The State District Courts have jurisdiction over traffic violations, misdemeanors, preliminary felony hearings, and the recovery of personal property valued at $25,000 or less. The jurisdiction of the Local District Courts is limited to its territory. Traffic violations, preliminary felony hearings, misdemeanors, and recovery of personal property valued at less than $5,000 are all tried in Local District Courts. To obtain records of District Court cases, contact the clerks of the courthouses that keep such documents and submit written requests or apply orally. Arkansas Circuit Courts gained general jurisdiction trial court status after the distinction between courts of law and equity courts was abolished. The clerks at the courthouses can provide you with records on cases tried at Circuit Courts. The Arkansas Court of Appeals hears appeals of judgments rendered by lower trial courts. Last but not least, the highest court in Arkansas is the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court in Arkansas examines the opinions delivered by the Court of Appeals. The Supreme Court also hears appeals of cases that were previously tried by lower trial courts and resulted in the death penalty.
What are Arkansas Judgment Records?
Arkansas judgment records describe a court's decision on the facts of a criminal or civil case filed in its jurisdiction. Generally, judgments specify an individual's legal rights, compels a party to fulfill certain obligations, or bear the penalties for a crime, depending on the case type. This order becomes binding when the clerk of court creates the judgment record. This record is available for public perusal per the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). Thus, any resident of Arkansas, and even out-of-state residents, can obtain the judgment record provided the individual can identify the case and pay the associated costs.
To obtain Arkansas judgment records, visit the clerk's office in the court that issued the judgment. Generally, this court is located in the county where the defendant lives or where the crime happened. Pay a visit to the courthouse during regular business hours and submit a request at the clerk's office. The court staff will require details to search and retrieve the case record, such as the case number and litigants' names.
Upon getting the record sought, the court staff shall make regular copies of the judgment record unless the requester specifically requested a certified copy. Meanwhile, Arkansas judgment records are also available on Arkansas CourtConnect. However, access to digital copies of judgment records is limited to participating courts. Regardless of how parties obtained it, a typical judgment record contains:
- The names of the litigants'.
- A description of the case background.
- The issued judgment.
What are Arkansas Bankruptcy Records?
Arkansas Bankruptcy Records provide accounting information on individuals and businesses who have filed at bankruptcy court because they cannot meet their financial obligations to creditors. Anyone wishing to view documents on the Court's Electronic Case Filing (ECF) System must have an account on the PACER system. Attorneys practicing before the court are required to engage in the electronic filing of pleadings and other filings under Local Rule 5005-4. The court also allows limited filers to file electronically. The PACER account is the starting point for document filing.
In Arkansas, bankruptcy records and similar recordings such as Arkansas Liens, writs, contracts, and foreclosures can be made available to interested and eligible members of the public on request. However, requestors may be required to provide information to facilitate the search as well as a nominal fee to cover the cost of copying.
How to Find Bankruptcy Records in Arkansas
Arkansas bankruptcy records are public records under 11 U.S.C. § 107. They contain data such as the debtor's gross income, debtor's expenses, assets, and liabilities. Bankruptcy records can be obtained online, through mail, or by visiting the courthouse. Persons can access these records online through the Public Access to Court Electronic Records (PACER). Interested persons intending to use this service must first register an account. After registration, users can view, download and print the requested case and docket information. Nationwide search can also be conducted using the PACER case locator and pay 10 cents per page. Alternatively, requesters can send a request form to the PACER service center to assist search for relevant records. Records delivered by mail costs 50 cents per page. Also, parties can send an email. Bankruptcy records are managed and maintained by the court's administrative head, which is the clerk of the court. Requesters can contact the office of Clerk of Bankruptcy Court at the Western or Eastern District of Arkansas. Requests can also be made via phone by calling (866) 222-8029. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) Online Bankruptcy Record Retrieval also enables requesters to retrieve bankruptcy records. Requesters must register to submit a reference request or order reproductions online. Files on this platform are usually available for 30 days from the date of upload. Retrieval of an archived case at NARA usually takes 7 to 10 days. The cost for this service is $64 for the first box and $39 for each additional box.
Arkansas Court Case Lookup Exemptions
Court records per the Arkansas Freedom of Information Act are public records. Therefore, individuals have the right to inspect and reproduce copies of public records at a fee. However, the right to lookup Arkansas court cases are not absolute. The Act limits access to some public records like state tax records, medical and adoption records, grand jury minutes, identities of undercover law enforcement agents, and drafts that have not been published of judicial opinions are documents exempted by the Arkansas FOIA. Also, court case records like juvenile's cases records usually remain inaccessible until the offender becomes an adult. This is done to protect the person who committed the crime as they were legally a child during their trial period. Other common cases are sexual assault, or company secrets contained in court records, divorce records, child custody records, civil harassment records, and criminal records. In such instances, the judge may permit remote access to the criminal electronic record. Usually, persons requesting such records would need to visit the courthouses where the case was filed.
What is a Court Docket in Arkansas?
An Arkansas court docket contains an ordered list of upcoming court proceedings and filings that enables the court to keep track of multiple cases. Items filed with the court are recorded and numbered on a docket sheet. It is managed by the clerk of court offices. They are used to record case proceedings to enable easy access by record seekers. Generally, court dockets are public records that enable easy location of a list of entries of court proceedings filed with a court. With a court docket: case party can know the status and hearing dates of their case, members of the public can inspect or obtain copies of court records, an attorney can track their cases to know court dates, judges can view the list of cases scheduled for hearings and an employer can run quick background checks on intending employees. Most court dockets contains: a docket number, case history, decision date, current name of court, questions asked in the case, and parties name.
What are Civil Court and Small Claims in Arkansas?
Small claims are petty cases tried at the Arkansas Small Claims Courts, which are subdivisions of District Courts. Disputes over properties with value not exceeding $5,000 are tried as small claims. Small claims courts are open to persons over the age of 18. Parents, relatives, or older friends may assist minors in filing small claims and attend hearings on their behalf in the court. Disputes that can be tried in a small claims court include recovery of damages to personal property, loan repayment, security deposits, and suits involving contracts. The filing fee for a small claims case varies between $30 and $65. Attorneys don't need to be present at small claims hearings. The plaintiff and the defendant present before a judge who gives a ruling at the end. Small claims cases in Arkansas that must involve the presence of attorneys are tried at the civil division of the District Court.
In civil suits, plaintiffs claim money for damages and recovery of personal properties with values that do not exceed $25,000. They must, however, file cases within a stipulated time. Lawsuits of broken written contracts must be filed within five years after the offense, while slander expires after one year. Oral agreements have a limit of three years, and cases involving damages to personal properties must be filed within three years. Only 9 out of 12 jurors must agree to decide on a small claims case.