The Office of the North Little Rock City Attorney represents and advises the Mayor, City Council, the City's Boards and Commissions, City Officials and Department Heads in legal matters pertaining to each respective office and department operation.
The City Attorney's Office prepares ordinances and resolutions coming before the City Council for consideration. It also drafts, reviews and finalizes contracts, agreements, leases, and other documents pertaining to city matters and represents the City before various administrative agencies and courts. The office also handles litigation as part of its code enforcement responsibilities.
There is a frequent misunderstanding concerning the duties of the City Attorney's Office and the citizens of North Little Rock. The City Attorney's Office cannot represent individuals in any legal matters (including giving legal advice to citizens). However, our office is always available to assist North Little Rock residents in contacting the proper department or agency regarding issues they may have.
The City Attorney's Office provides legal services to the Mayor, City Council, commissions and staff.
As chief legal officer of the City, the City Attorney:
- Furnishes legal advice and opinions.
- Drafts and reviews contracts and other legal documents.
- Prepares ordinances, resolutions, orders, and other council documents.
- Represents and defends the City before courts and agencies.
- Initiates legal actions for the City.
- Interprets law and documents.
- Reviews, analyzes and minimizes the City's exposure to loss.
- Attends meetings of the City Council, Planning Commission, Civil Service Commission, Board of Adjustments, and other Commission or Board meetings as requested.
- Performs legal research and prepares opinions as required.
The North Little Rock City Attorney's Office handles approximately 4300 truancy and traffic cases per year. Animal and environmental court cases add another 1800 cases to the case load.
Juvenile Truancy - State law (Ark. Code Ann. § 6-18-201) mandates that all juveniles, ages 5 through 17, have compulsory school attendance (exceptions include home schooling, GED/Adult Education Programs, military, medical problems, etc.) Boards adopt an attendance policy that may include excessive unexcused absences per semester. The number of unexcused absences allowed in North Little Rock Schools is 6 for elementary and middle schools and 4 for high school.
A violation occurs when a student has accumulated half of the allowed number of excessive unexcused absences under the district policy for the semester. The individual school notifies the parent and will attempt to correct the problem. (See Ark. Code Ann. § 6-18-222). When the student exceeds the total number of unexcused absences per semester, the individual school will notify the Director of Student Affairs for the District who then forwards the referral to the City Attorney's Office.
Referral processing begins after receiving the referral and checking the student through the Juvenile Court Computer System to determine if the student has an active case. If a juvenile is on probation, the probation officer will be notified; or if a juvenile has an adjudication pending, the City Attorney's Office will wait until the determination of delinquency before taking any action against the juvenile.
A pre-court process begins with a meeting at juvenile court with the parent(s) and student allowing them the opportunity to explain the reason for the truancy. Depending on circumstances, the matter may be resolved through a diversion agreement which is assigned to case management services. This process can last up to nine months. If the diversion agreement is completed, no court action will be taken for the violation that the diversion covers.
The court process begins with a petition being filed against the juvenile and his/her parents or guardians. At court, attendance records are presented as well as the juvenile's academic performance, etc. If the court finds a truancy violation, it can order any of the following: $500.00 fine, $35.00 court costs, $20.00 per month probation fee, 160 hours community service against all defendants, electronic monitoring for the juvenile, random drug screen, alcohol and drug assessments, psychosocial or psychological testing, social assessments, individual or family counseling, inpatient or outpatient treatment, notification to the Department of Human Services and other powers of the Court.
Traffic Court - North Little Rock Traffic Court handles the prosecution for motor vehicle violations of local ordinances and state laws within the City of North Little Rock Violations can be punishable by fines, court costs, driving school, probation, license suspensions, community service work or possible imprisonment up to one year. The Court cannot find a citizen guilty of a felony offense - "imprisonment of more than one year". However, the Court has jurisdiction to set these offenses for bond and probable cause hearings.
Traffic Court is usually held three times a week - Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday - and on the fourth Thursday of the month. On Mondays, plea and arraignments (or first appearance) for traffic violations are held. For those who plead "guilty" to the violation, the court will usually sentence on that day, and the individual can be subject to any of the aforementioned punishments. For those who plead "not guilty", a trial date is set for either Tuesday or Wednesday. On the fourth Thursday of the month, violators who have pled guilty or have been found guilty of DWI offenses are sentenced by the Court.
North Little Rock Traffic Court has a probation program for students and first offenders. If a driver completes the program successfully, the Arkansas Department of Drivers Control will not be notified of the offense. Basically, this means that drivers can avoid having points placed on their driving records. To qualify for student probation, a driver must be a full time student in high school or college with no prior offenses on their record from North Little Rock Traffic Court. Student drivers are ordered to attend driving school and forward to the Probation Office a certification of completion of the course. The student driver has to pay for the cost of the course. The first offender is assessed a fine and court costs which must be paid during the time of probation and he/she must not receive any more violations of traffic offenses for a six-month period. DWI charges do not qualify for probation.
The S.A.F.E. Team
SUPPORT * ABATEMENT * FINES * ENFORCEMENT
The problem of crime in our residential neighborhoods has impacted the quality of life in our City. The resolution of the problem - with a focus on reviving and reshaping our neighborhoods to become safer, cleaner places for all persons - remains a significant concern for our citizens and the City's agencies charged with maintaining the public's health, safety, and welfare.
Today's police departments must seek out new and innovative ways to deal with locations in our neighborhoods that feature narcotic, gang, and vice related problems. Historically, law enforcement has dealt with problem locations by simply arresting the violators, ignoring the underlying socioeconomic and quality of life factors that act as a breeding ground for crime. In September of 1999, the City of North Little Rock formed within the North Little Rock Police Department the Nuisance Abatement Unit, commonly referred to as the S.A.F.E. Team. S.A.F.E. is an acronym standing for support, abatement, fines and enforcement. The S.A.F.E. Team's primary directive is to identify and investigate statutorily defined criminal nuisance sites and to abate the criminal activity. Traditional law enforcement strategies target criminal actors. The S.A.F.E. Team targets properties - not individuals.
The S.A.F.E. Team is the result of an aggressive joint effort between the City Attorney's Office and the North Little Rock Police, Fire and Code Enforcement Departments. Working together, permanent changes can be accomplished that will benefit the entire community.
- By working with Area and Division commanders, the S.A.F.E. Team can expand the department's responses to crimes and quality of life offenses.
- By litigating civil actions such as nuisance abatement, the S.A.F.E. Team can deny criminals the economic incentives of their illegal activities.