How to Handle a Bench Warrant or Failure to Appear in Arkansas

Learn what happens if you fail to show up in criminal court when ordered to do so.

By , Attorney · New Mexico School of Law
Updated by Rebecca Pirius, Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated March 15, 2024

Many people arrested or formally charged with a crime in Arkansas will be released on bail, bond, or personal recognizance. No matter what type of release a person gets, a condition of that release will be to appear for all court dates, such as arraignments, hearings, trials, and sentencing. Failure to appear can result in serious consequences.

What Is Failure to Appear in Arkansas?

Failure to appear means a person violated an order to appear in court or return to custody. This situation might occur when a person is released pending trial, with or without bail, and fails to show up at arraignment, trial, or sentencing. In other cases, a defendant might receive a citation or summons that requires them to pay a fine or appear in court, and they fail to do so.

Failure to appear (sometimes called "FTA" or "bail jumping") is a crime. On top of facing potential criminal charges, the judge can revoke the person's bail, increase the bail amount, impose bail (if released without bail), hold the person in contempt of court, order forfeiture of bail, or suspend their driver's license.

(Ark. Code §§ 5-54-120, 16-13-708, 16-17-131, 16-84-201, 16-84-207 (2024); Ark. R. Crim. P. 9.5 (2024).)

What Happens When a Person Fails to Appear in Arkansas?

Failure to appear in court will typically result in a bench warrant being issued for the person's arrest.

Bench Warrant in Arkansas

A bench warrant directs police to arrest and bring the person before the court. When police arrest a person for failure to appear, the person typically will be taken to jail and held there until the judge is available for a hearing. Police might show up at the person's home or place of employment or arrest them during a traffic stop.

How to Find Out If You Have an Arrest Warrant in Arkansas

Your lawyer likely showed up in court, even if you didn't. So a call to your lawyer (if you have one) is a good place to start.

You can also check with the law enforcement agency in the city or county where you were supposed to have appeared. Many county sheriff's offices (like Benton County) and city police departments (like Fayetteville) also have online warrant searches. The jail might also have an online search, a list of active warrants, or a phone number to call.

What Are the Consequences for Failing to Appear in Arkansas?

As mentioned above, failure to appear carries several potential consequences.

Modify or Revoke Bail or Pretrial Release

After issuing a bench warrant, the judge will likely modify or revoke any release conditions you have. The judge can take any number of steps, such as:

  • imposing bail or bond, if none was initially set
  • requiring a secured bond (some type of collateral)
  • increasing the bail or bond amount
  • imposing new and more restrictive release conditions, or
  • revoking release and ordering the defendant to be held in custody (jail).

Judges can also consider prior failures to appear in any future bail hearings.

(Ark. R. Crim. P. 8.5, 9.2, 9.5 (2024).)

Forfeit Bail or Bond

Another possible consequence of failing to appear is forfeiture of your bail or bond. You might stand to lose a lot of money or property, including whatever cash you or another person posted on your behalf, any collateral you or another person put up (such as a car, watch, or real property), and costs related to the forfeiture proceedings.

(Ark. Code §§ 16-84-201, 16-84-207 (2024).)

Driver's License Suspension

If you fail to appear, the court may suspend your driver's license. The suspension starts within 30 days of the order. You can avoid the suspension by making arrangements to appear in court within the 30-day period. If you don't, your license remains suspended until you appear and complete any sentence ordered by the court. Plus, you'll have to pay reinstatement fees.

(Ark. Code §§ 16-13-708, 16-17-131 (2024).)

Criminal Penalties for Failure to Appear

Failure to appear without reasonable excuse is a separate crime under the Arkansas Code (and in many other states).

A person convicted of failure to appear faces misdemeanor or felony penalties. The penalties depend (primarily) on the severity of the charges that required your appearance in the first place. (Failure to appear for a felony probation revocation hearing carries class D felony penalties.)

  • If the defendant is charged with failure to appear for court in a case involving a violation, failure to appear is a Class C misdemeanor.
  • If the underlying crime is an unclassified misdemeanor, failure to appear is an unclassified misdemeanor with the same penalty.
  • If the underlying crime is a class B or C misdemeanor, failure to appear is a class B misdemeanor.
  • If the underlying crime is a class A misdemeanor, failure to appear is a class A misdemeanor.
  • If the underlying crime is a felony, failure to appear is a class C felony.

Misdemeanors carry penalties of up to 30 days, 90 days, or one year of jail time, plus fines. A class C felony can mean 3 to 10 years of prison time and a $10,000 fine.

(Ark. Code §§ 5-4-401, 5-54-120 (2024).)

Defenses for Failure to Appear in Arkansas

Under Arkansas's failure-to-appear law, a person commits a crime only if they fail to appear "without reasonable excuse." Unfortunately, the law doesn't say what qualifies as a "reasonable excuse." But, typically, ignorance won't suffice. Neither will a mistake on your or your lawyer's part. Unavoidable circumstances—such as a car accident, hospitalization, illness, or death in the family—would likely count as reasonable excuses.

What to Do If You Fail to Appear or Learn of an Arrest Warrant in Arkansas?

If you haven't already, call your criminal defense attorney or find an attorney to represent you. An experienced criminal defense attorney can contact the court on your behalf, possibly arrange for you to appear in front of the judge rather than be taken into custody, and assist you in preparing a defense or addressing sentencing if you are formally charged with the offense of failure to appear.

Talk to a Defense attorney
We've helped 95 clients find attorneys today.
There was a problem with the submission. Please refresh the page and try again
Full Name is required
Email is required
Please enter a valid Email
Phone Number is required
Please enter a valid Phone Number
Zip Code is required
Please add a valid Zip Code
Please enter a valid Case Description
Description is required

How It Works

  1. Briefly tell us about your case
  2. Provide your contact information
  3. Choose attorneys to contact you