Traffic Violations in Arkansas
Drivers and other road users in Arkansas must abide by state and local traffic laws to maintain order on public and private highways in the state, and to ensure the safety of life and property. Violating traffic laws could result in accidents, injury, or other fatalities to other persons or their property. Failing or refusing to obey traffic laws is a violation or offense in Arkansas, and records of these offenses are typically included in the offenders Arkansas traffic records.
Traffic violations can be civil or criminal offenses. Civil traffic offenses are the least serious types of traffic violations. They are not typically penalized with imprisonment or hefty fines, and this is because civil traffic violations do not involve accidents, injury, death, or the threat of any of the aforementioned. Other typical penalties for civil traffic violations include community service and defensive driving courses.
Criminal traffic violations, on the other hand, are serious offenses. Depending on the nature or severity of the offense, criminal traffic violations can be classified as misdemeanors or felonies. In addition to fines, community service, driver’s license suspensions, and other penalties applicable to civil traffic violations, criminal traffic violations are also penalized by imprisonment. The length of the prison or jail term depends on the nature of the offense. Fines for criminal traffic violations are also much more than those that apply to civil traffic violations. Criminal traffic offenses may also result in the loss of certain rights.
Arkansas law enforcement officers issue tickets to road traffic offenders. A ticket informs the offender of the nature of the offense with which they are charged, the applicable fine and/or penalty, and the resolution methods that state laws allow. These include payment options and available means to contest the ticket. Recipients of traffic tickets must resolve the tickets by either paying or contesting them within a specified number of days. The ticket typically contains information about when a recipient must respond to the ticket.
Traffic offenders may receive traffic tickets in person or by mail. Regardless of when or how a party receives a traffic ticket, the person must promptly respond to the ticket. In Arkansas, criminal or traffic courts handle cases of traffic violations.
Types of Traffic Violations in Arkansas
There are different ways to classify traffic violations. Apart from the criminal and civil classifications, there are other classifications for traffic violations. Another common classification is moving and non-moving violations. An offense can have both criminal and moving classifications. That means that a traffic violation can be a criminal offense and a moving violation. Moving violations occur when a vehicle is in motion or when the perpetrator is in a moving vehicle. Examples of moving traffic violations in Arkansas include:
- Driving with a revoked, suspended, or expired license
- Impeding traffic flow
- Following too closely
- Leaving the scene of an accident
- Refusal to submit
- Racing on the highway
- Passing a stopped school bus
- Reckless driving
- Failure to obey traffic control devices
- Improper turning
Some non-moving violations occur when a vehicle is at rest or when the offender is in a stationary vehicle. However, some offenses occur in a moving vehicle but are classified as non-moving violations. In Arkansas, non-moving violations do not result in any demerit points on the offender’s driver’s license. Examples of non-moving violations in Arkansas include:
- Improper parking
- Parking on the highway
- Leaving a running vehicle unattended without setting the brakes
- Double parking
- Loading or unloading for an unreasonable period
- Failure to have inspections
- Failure to display approval certificate
- Failure to remove snow from handicapped parking space
- Improper parking on a crosswalk
- Improper parking on a sidewalk
Moving traffic violations are more likely to involve injury, harm, or the risk of injury and harm to another party. Therefore, moving violations are often considered more serious than non-moving traffic violations. In Arkansas, moving traffic violations lead to points on an offender’s driver’s license while non-moving violations do not. Consequently, moving traffic violations often have stiffer penalties than non-moving violations. Additionally, points on an offender’s record may mean an increase in auto insurance rates.
Arkansas Traffic Violation Code
Arkansas’ Transportation Code governs road usage, vehicle licensing and registration, vehicular traffic, motor vehicle equipment, bridges and ferries, watercourses and water navigation, and aeronautics in the state. The code outlines road users’ rights, responsibilities, and applicable penalties for violating traffic laws in the state. Arkansas’ transportation code also offers guidelines on the operation and regulation of aircraft, watercraft, and toll highways. Other transportation rules govern constructing and operating ferries, bridges, and interstate compacts.
Arkansas Felony Traffic Violations
Felony traffic violations are criminal offenses and the most serious category of traffic violations. These offenses typically involve injury, bodily harm, death, or the risk of any of these to another party. Considering how serious felony traffic violations are, one can expect that the applicable penalties carry serious weight. Felony traffic violations are penalized by hefty fines and imprisonment for up to 40 years, depending on the severity of the offense. Examples of felony traffic violations in Arkansas include:
- Negligent homicide
- Fourth and subsequent DWI offenses
- Fleeing a police officer by a vehicle resulting in an injury
- Vehicular assault
- Leaving the scene of an accident involving bodily injury
- Leaving the scene of an accident resulting in up to $10,000 of property damage
Arkansas Traffic Misdemeanors
Next to felony traffic violations, misdemeanor traffic violations are the most serious criminal offenses. Although misdemeanor traffic violations do not bear heavy penalties as felonies, these offenses still carry steep fines and imprisonment for up to one (1) year. Here are some examples of traffic misdemeanors in Arkansas:
- Racing on a public highway
- Watching a drag race on a public highway
- Reckless driving
- Hazardous driving
- Driving with lights off to avoid apprehension or detection
- Driving the wrong way on a one-way street
- Leaving the scene of an accident involving less than $10,000 of property damage
- Going more than 15mph over the speed limit
- Obstructing a highway
- Accumulating more than three (3) traffic violations within 12 months
Arkansas Traffic Infractions
Traffic infractions are the least serious traffic violations in Arkansas. They are not criminal and are typically never penalized with imprisonment. Traffic infractions are penalized with fines, community service, license suspension, and other non-criminal penalties. It is important to note, however, that if there are aggravating factors, a traffic infraction could result in criminal penalties. Below are some examples of Arkansas traffic infractions:
- Texting while driving
- Driving too close to stationary vehicles
- Improper lane change
- Impeding traffic flow
- Failure to obey traffic control devices
- Improper turning
- Parking violations such as:
- Parking on a sidewalk
- Parking within an intersection
- Parking on a crosswalk
- Parking within 20 feet of a crosswalk at an intersection
- Parking on a bridge or in a tunnel
Arkansas Traffic Violation Codes and Fines
As previously stated, traffic violations in Arkansas can be criminal or civil. While civil traffic violations are otherwise known as infractions, criminal traffic violations can be a felony or misdemeanor offenses. According to state laws, traffic infractions are penalized with fines of between $25 to $500, depending on the severity of the offense.
Different grades or classes of misdemeanor traffic violations exist in Arkansas, and as can be expected, the penalties assessed depend on the grade of the offense, which is often an indicator of the severity and the number of prior convictions the offender has. As provided by AR Code § 5-4-201, a Class A misdemeanor is penalized by fines of no more than $2,500, Class B misdemeanors by fines of up to $1,000, and Class C misdemeanor by up to $500.
However, according to AR Code § 27-50-304, first traffic violation misdemeanors are penalized with fines of up to $100. A second conviction within one (1) year of the first is penalized by fines of up to $200, and a third conviction within one (1) year results in fines of up to $500.
Fines may vary where there are aggravating factors or where state laws specify. For example, as provided by AR Code § 27-50-308, a first offense of reckless driving is penalized by fines of $100 to $1,000 if injuries occur as a result of the offense. Otherwise, the minimum fine is $25, and the maximum is $500. A second or subsequent reckless driving conviction within three (3) years is penalized by fines of at least $500 to $1,000.
There are different classes of felonies in Arkansas, and the applicable fine depends on the category of the offense. Felony offenses are grouped in order of severity as Unclassified, Class Y, Class A, Class B, Class C, and Class D, with unclassified felonies being the most serious and Class D felonies being the least. Class A and B felonies are punishable by fines of up to $15,000, while Class C and D felonies are punishable by fines of up to $10,000 (AR Code § 5-4-201).
How to Pay a Traffic Violation Ticket in Arkansas
The requirements and processes for paying traffic violation tickets vary from one county or municipality to another. Traffic tickets contain information about the traffic violation the recipient is charged with, including the applicable fine and available payment methods. Generally, persons interested in paying traffic violation tickets may visit the traffic, municipal or criminal court specified on the ticket before or by the specified date. Where applicable, ticket recipients may also pay at the appropriate traffic management agency such as Fayette’s Parking Management, where residents may pay for parking meter tickets. Most courts accept payments through checks, money orders, cashier’s checks, debit, and credit cards.
Some traffic violation tickets can only be paid in court; if the traffic violation ticket indicates a bond hearing, trial, teen court, or mandatory court appearance, the recipient must appear in court in-person to pay or resolve the ticket. However, state laws allow ticket recipients to pay for certain tickets online. For these tickets, recipients may simply make payment through the Arkansas Online Court Payment website. The payment portal allows ticket recipients to pay eligible violation tickets by submitting their first and last names and the ticket or citation number. Recipients may also pay using their driver’s license/state ID number and birth date. The online court payment website accepts Mastercard, Visa, or Discover cards. Some courts allow ticket recipients who cannot make full payments to pay in installments.
To determine whether a ticket has a mandatory appearance, interested parties may visit the Arkansas CourtConnect website and search for the ticket using their names, birth date, and case type. It is important to note that the court in Arkansas accepts paying a traffic violation ticket as a guilty or no-contest plea and a trial and appearance waiver.
Traffic Violation Lookup in Arkansas
Parties interested in looking up traffic violations in Arkansas may visit the Arkansas Public CourtConnect website. This service provided by the Arkansas Judiciary allows users to search by the offender’s name, case type, ticket number, or filing date. The CourtConnect website provides public information about court cases and all activities that pertain to the case.
Another way to look up traffic violations in Arkansas is to contact the local traffic court or traffic management agency listed on the ticket. Court clerks maintain court case records and provide information about traffic violation cases. Some courts, such as the one in Little Rock, offer email and phone contact. For other courts, requesting parties may need to make requests in person.
Individual courts or counties may also offer online access to traffic violation or traffic case records. Interested parties must contact specific courts or county clerks for information on available access options. Parties who choose to look up traffic violation records or cases in court or county clerk offices must remember that while access to public records is free, state laws permit record custodians to charge fees for copy production.
How to Plead not Guilty to a Traffic Violation in Arkansas
Traffic ticket recipients must respond to the tickets by the date stated on the ticket. Failure to respond may result in additional consequences, such as higher fines and, in some cases, a bench warrant. Recipients may respond to traffic tickets by paying or contesting the ticket. One of the ways to contest a traffic violation is to plead ‘not guilty’.
To enter a not guilty plea, ticket recipients must select the appropriate option on the back of the ticket and mail it to the appropriate court within five (5) working days. The court then sets a hearing date. The defendant may choose to represent themselves or hire an attorney. Defendants must note that failure to appear on the scheduled date may result in a default judgment.
What Happens if You Plead No Contest to a Traffic Violation in Arkansas
Pleading no contest to a traffic violation in Arkansas means that the offender chooses to accept the charges brought against them without admitting guilt; essentially, the offender chooses not to contest the charges or offer any defense against them.
Choosing not to contest a traffic violation results in the same penalties as if the defendant entered a guilty plea. The offense could also result in points added to the offender’s driving records, leading in turn to increased insurance premiums or license suspension. A no-contest plea can also result in imprisonment.
However, a no-contest plea allows the defendant to enter plea negotiations with the court and appeal any unfavorable ruling. This is unlike a guilty plea which waives the defendant’s right to appeal. Additionally, a no-contest plea cannot be used against the defendant in any future court cases, whether civil or criminal.
How Long Do Traffic Violations Stay on Your Record?
Traffic violations stay on an Arkansas record for at least three (3) years. Most points drop off or become inactive after a year; however, if an offender accumulates up to 14 points within one (1) year, the Officer of Driver Services sends a notice to the offender informing them of the consequences of accumulating additional points. Also, accumulating 14 to 18 points within one (1) year could result in a suspension of the offender’s license. Residents may get point reductions by participating in or attending traffic school programs.
Can Traffic Violations Be Expunged/Sealed in Arkansas?
Yes, traffic violations can be expunged or sealed in Arkansas. The expungement process in Arkansas does not destroy traffic violation records but makes them confidential. Therefore, expungement has the same effect as sealing in Arkansas. Most traffic violations can be expunged in Arkansas, even DWIs. To be eligible for expungement, five (5) years must have passed since the sentence for the offense has been completed.
However, persons convicted of non-violent Class C or D felony offenses may apply for expungement immediately after their sentence is complete. Completion means that all sentences of imprisonment have been served, fines and fees paid, probation completed, and any other sentence requirements fulfilled.
A petition to expunge a misdemeanor can be filed in Arkansas as soon as sentence requirements are completed. However, certain misdemeanors, such as negligent homicide, public sexual indecency, third-degree battery, and DWIs, have a five-year wait period.
Misdemeanors and non-violent felonies are eligible for expungement in Arkansas. Class Y, Class A, and Class B felonies are not eligible for expungement. Additionally, sex offenses are not eligible for expungement. Persons who choose to petition the court for expungement in Arkansas must not have any outstanding or pending charges.
What Happens if You Miss a Court Date for a Traffic Violation in Arkansas?
Missing a court date for a traffic violation in Arkansas is referred to as ‘Failure to Appear.’ This could result in the court issuing a Failure to Appear (FTA) warrant, costing the defendant up to $330 in cash bonds. If the defendant cannot pay the bond, warrant officers may take the defendant into custody. Additionally, the defendant’s driver’s license may be suspended until the defendant pays the warrant.