CONWAY — On Valentine’s Day, the Faulkner County and Conway district courts will show a little love of others — in the form of amnesty for outstanding warrants.
“If someone has a failure-to-appear warrant, we will waive jail time and any warrant fee on Valentine’s Day,” said Chris Carnahan, district judge for Faulkner and Van Buren counties. “Especially if the warrants are for traffic offenses, we just want the person to come in and address the issue.”
This is the second year that what has come to be called the “Love Court” will be in session. Those with outstanding warrants for failure to appear in either Carnahan’s or District Judge David Reynolds’ courts from the Faulkner County sheriff’s office or the city of Conway can show up at Faulkner County District Court — at 810 Parkway St. in downtown Conway — between 8:30 a.m. and 3:30 p.m. Friday to clear up the citation.
“Love for Helen of Troy may have launched the Trojan War, but don’t let a minor court issue be a cause for strife in your home,” Carnahan said. “There is peace of mind in not worrying about being picked up and going to jail for a minor traffic offense that allegedly happened two, three or four years ago.”
Failing to appear in court for a traffic citation results in immediate suspension of a driver’s license, possible jail time or probation and financial penalties that range from $270 to $345, depending on the class of violation or crime that was pending.
“It might not buy a diamond necklace, but I guarantee you will save enough money to take your loved one to dinner and buy them roses,” Carnahan said. “Also, this will allow for reinstatement of suspended driver’s licenses caused by not showing up.”
Last year’s Love Court cleared 174 failure-to-appear warrants. Conway has about 2,000 outstanding misdemeanor warrants, while the Faulkner County sheriff’s office has about 1,200, Carnahan said.
“Amnesty Day is obviously a good thing for the defendants, but it also is good for our police departments by lowering roadside confrontations and getting any public safety issues addressed if defendants choose to dispose of the underlying case that day,” Carnahan said. “It’s good for the courts for the same reasons and we obviously don’t like older cases hanging out there. Trying cases that are old can be difficult for both sides of a court case as far as obtaining witnesses or keeping memories fresh.”
Conway Police Chief Jody Spradlin said the Love Court is a great opportunity for those with misdemeanor warrants to address an issue from their past, with no fear of going to jail.
“This is also a great outreach that shows the public that our local law enforcement agencies and district court judges are willing to work with anyone that is willing to voluntarily come forward and start the process to adjudicate their warrant,” Spradlin said.
“This also allows us to clean up our warrant files and reduce the number of offenders we actively seek. We would much rather a warrant be cleared up in this manner as opposed to filling up our jail or making someone post bond. I hope anyone with a misdemeanor warrant will take this opportunity to make the process easier on themselves,” he said.
The Faulkner County sheriff’s office posted a list of those with outstanding warrants on its webpage at www.fcso.ar.gov/press_view.php?id=411
Messages left for Sheriff Tim Ryals were not returned.
The Love Court was kicked off last year after Conway police officer Brittany Little joined the department’s warrant division and discovered there were about 3,000 unresolved misdemeanor warrants.
Little began thinking of ways to reduce the numbers and soon came up with the holiday clearing idea.
“When we post an amnesty day we get hundreds of phone calls — and it’s a lot of work for us — but it’s worth it to clear sometimes over 100 warrants in just one day,” Little said. “Clearing the warrants not only helps the court with open cases but also the jail that does not have to book and house these individuals. After the success with the first one, we had one on April Fool’s Day then again on Halloween when we asked for canned-food goods for the homeless.”
When people take advantage of the amnesty offer, it not only helps the Police Department, but also cuts down on transport charges when a person with a local warrant is picked up by other departments around the state.
Little said law enforcement agencies and courts in other jurisdictions have called her to ask for information to set up their own amnesty days.
“The transport from multiple hours away and time to book the person into jail saves the department a lot of time and money,” Little said. “In turn, if someone with a warrant decides to turn themselves in on amnesty day, they do not have to worry about paying money to a bondsman and can take care of their case the same day if they choose, saving them time and money as well.”