Avoid going to jail with Little Rock amnesty program

LITTLE ROCK (KATV) - It could be get out of jail, almost for free, for nearly 2,000 Little Rock misdemeanor offenders. An amnesty program aimed at recouping hundreds of thousands of dollars owed in overdue court fees would recall arrest warrants for offenders if they finally just pay up.

The program through the Little Rock Criminal District Court is only for people with misdemeanors, things like small theft of property, disorderly conduct, even small-time possession of drugs.

"Most of the people that we're trying to do the program with are people who have already come to court, who have already been sentenced to a fine or court costs of both and have failed to either pay it in full or pay at all," said Judge Alice Lightle, Little Rock Criminal District Court judge.

Lightle said many of the failure to pays and failure to appears are the result of being incarcerated.

"A lot of people that have gotten behind are just afraid to come back because they think they're going to be arrested," said Lightle. "So our goal is to try to get the money flowing again from the folks that can pay."

The offer is only good on the five Fridays throughout January 2014. Offenders must be at the Little Rock District Court clerk's office between 8:00-8:45 AM.

"We look you up in the computer, we say, 'Yes you owe $500,' or however much it is, you are put on the docket and then we will have you come into the courtroom," said Lightle regarding the procedure of the amnesty program.

Arkansas law allows courts to seize income tax returns if offenders don't pay up. The amnesty program would eliminate the seizure threat and the threat of any additional fines or penalties.

"People want to be responsible and people want to take responsibility for their actions," said Lightle. "That's what we're hoping people are going to do."

If you aren't sure that you have a warrant out for your arrest or would like more information on the amnesty program you can call Natalie Short, Little Rock senior probation officer, at (501) 371-4573.

Little Rock District Court is located at 600 West Markham Street.