The Constitution of Arkansas, Article 2, Section 7, provides: "The right of trial by jury shall remain inviolate, and shall extend to all cases at law, without regard to the amount in controversy...", however, the "Authorities" of Arkansas, have contrived fee legislation and a Supreme Court ruling, which effectively denies this purportedly Constitutionally guaranteed "inviolate" right.
Here below is a possible "work around" (it worked for me) for those who desire a trial by jury in "minor" traffic citations, such as a seat belt ticket. The key issue here is uderstanding how the State authorities have contrived to effectively deny this right.
Routine traffic tickets are automatically assigned to District Court which does not provide or allow trials by jury; trials by jury are only available in Circuit Court, so, in order to get a trial by jury a defendant must get the State to move his case to Circuit Court.
When defendants first appear in District Court for arraignment, the judge will explain all of the defendant rights, including their right to appeal for a new trial called a "trial de novo", in the event they do not like the decision or penalty imposed by the District Court.
In this "trial de novo" the defendant will have a totally new trial as though there had not been any trial in the District Court, with a jury if the defendant wants one, even if the defendant had been found guilty or even plead guilty or nolo
contendere, however "trial de novo" in the Circuit Court is an appeal and such "appeals" are considered to be an entirely new action, filed by the defendant rather than by the State. The District Court Judge will not tell anyone that there is a filing fee for all new actions filed in the Circuit Court, including appeals from traffic court, of $165.00 smackeroos (unless you can qualify for forma pauperis).
The Arkansas Supreme Court ruled in 1986 in a case known as Neeley vs. Barber, 288 Ark. 284, 706 S.W.2d 358 (1986), that a filing fee was appropriate when a case was appealed from a District Court to a Circuit Court after a conviction of guilty or entry of a guilty or nolo contendere plea. However there is no fee charged when the case is filed by the State, so, in order to avoid that $165.00 filing fee the "defendant" must exercise his right to demand a trial by jury at the initial appearance at the arraignment where the case was filed by the state, before a plea is entered and before the matter has been adjudicated by the District Court and a sentence imposed.
I am not an attorney and I am not advising anyone to follow this procedure, but it sure seems like a way to throw a little sand in the lubrication extracted from us in traffic court where our right to a trial by jury has been effectively denied
through devious contrivance of the officials who purportedly work for us.As stated above, it worked for me in Yellville!
Eric Williams, Yellville
How To Get A Trial By Jury In Traffic Court in Arkansas