On November 14, 2017 the American Civil Liberties Union, the ACLU of Arkansas, the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and the law firm of Morrison & Foerster announced a settlement under which Sherwood’s “hot check” court will no longer jail people who can’t afford to pay court fines and fees imposed for bouncing a check.
Sherwood District Court agreed to:
- Halt the jailing of people who cannot pay court debts.
- Halt the revocation of drivers’ licenses for failure to pay court debts.
- Conduct an individualized evaluation at sentencing of your ability to pay.
- Provide clear notice of your right to counsel before the entry of any plea & your rights if you are unable to pay your court debt.
- Provide an option of receiving a sentence of community service when you cannot pay.
- Provide you an opportunity to adjust your payment schedule or waive remaining payments and an opportunity to be resentenced to community service if you fall behind on payments.
A PDF version of this Know Your Rights guide is available for download at the bottom of the page.
- Prior to any plea, in any criminal or hot check case, the Judge should tell you the possible jail time and the court costs you are potentially facing.
- You have a right to an attorney or a public defender to be appointed at no cost if you cannot afford counsel. If you are indigent and choose the assistance of a public defender, one will be appointed to represent you before a plea or sentence on the charges.
- You cannot be forced to waive your right to counsel at the hearing.
Evaluation of Ability to Pay Legal Financial Obligations During Initial Appearance
- Whenever the Judge seeks to impose a sentence that includes court fines or fees, the Judge or an employee of the Court will provide you with a copy of the “Sherwood District Court Unable to Pay Your Ticket or Fine” document and the “Affidavit of Ability to Pay."
- At sentencing, the Judge will conduct an individualized evaluation of your ability to pay. In conducting this evaluation, the Judge will consider the information provided by you on the Affidavit of Ability to Pay.
- If you cannot pay the court costs assessed, you have a right to ask the court to waive or reduce your fines, resentence you to community service, or impose other alternatives.
- You should discuss with your lawyer whether you can pay in full and whether you can pay a lower amount through a monthly payment plan.
- If you state that you are able to pay, but not pay in full, on sentencing day, you should not be jailed. You should be given the option of paying through a monthly payment plan administered by the Court.
- If you state you are unable to pay your legal financial obligations, you should be given the option of community service instead of a fine.
- If you receive community service, you should be given options as to where you can perform the service and an explanation as to what you must do. Community service hours ordered are to be proportionate to the violation and reasonable for you.
- An employee of the Sherwood District Court will call to ask whether you need to see the Judge to provide updated information on your ability to pay your Legal Financial Obligation (LFO) or your ability to perform required community service.
- If you do not have a current contact number on file, notice will be mailed to the last address you provided to the court.
- If you are on a payment plan and fail to make two consecutive monthly payments, or you are on a community service plan and fail to perform the required hours during two consecutive months, and you fail to respond to attempted contact from employees of the Court regarding noncompliance, the Court may cause to be served a written notice, with an Order to Show Cause, directing you to appear at the Court for a hearing to explain your failure to comply.
- Note: An Order to Show Cause is NOT an arrest warrant, and no person will be subject to arrest or detention at the time an Order to Show Cause is served.
- Members of the public are permitted to attend court with you and enter to observe the court proceedings.