Arkansas law prohibits burglary (entering a residence or commercial building with the intent to commit a crime inside), breaking and entering (breaking into vehicles or other structures to commit a crime), and trespass (going onto someone else’s property without permission). In Arkansas, home invasion burglary carries very stiff penalties, and armed or violent home invasions can be punished by up to life in prison. For general information on these crimes, see Home Invasions, Burglary: Penalties and Sentencing, and Trespassing Penalties.
Residential and Commercial Burglary
A person in Arkansas commits the crime of burglary by entering or remaining in a residence or commercial building that belongs to another person without permission, intending to commit a crime punishable by time in prison, such as theft or assault, while inside. A person commits the crime of burglary as soon as he or she enters (or remains in) a building with the prohibited intent; there is no need for the person to actually commit the intended crime. So a person who breaks into a store in order to steal the money out of the cash register, but runs away before taking anything, has still committed burglary. If the person does commit theft or some other crime inside the building, additional charges can be filed. (Ark. Code §§ 5-39-101, 5-39-201, 5-39-204.)
Intent to commit a crime
How do you determine if a defendant is intending to commit a crime? Most of the time, the defendant’s intent can be determined from the circumstances, and prosecutors are not required to prove exactly what the defendant is thinking. For example, if a woman awakes in the middle of the night to find that a man has broken into her house and is holding a knife at her throat, a jury would probably have little trouble finding beyond a reasonable doubt that the man was there to commit assault or some other crime.
Residential burglary, or "home invasion"
Residential burglary, sometimes called home invasion burglary, is punished more severely than commercial burglary. A residence, called a “residential occupiable structure” under Arkansas law, is any building, vehicle or boat, or other structure in which a person lives or that is usually used for sleeping. No one need be home at the time. For example, an apartment or dorm is a residential occupiable structure, as is a camper or houseboat. Residential burglary is punished more severely if the defendant is armed, represents that he or she is armed, or causes or attempts to cause serious injury or death.
Commercial buildings, called "commercial occupiable structures," include not only offices and stores and anyplace where people engage in business, but also schools, government buildings, places of worship, and public transit facilities.
Breaking or Entering
Arkansas also prohibits breaking or entering into any building or container that normally contains items of value. In Arkansas, a person commits the crime of breaking or entering by breaking or entering, with the intent to commit a felony (a crime punishable by time in prison) or theft, into a:
- building, structure, or vehicle, or
- vault, safe, cash register, safety deposit box, vending machine, bus fare box, or any similar equipment.
(Ark. Code § 5-39-202.) For example, breaking and entering charges could be filed against a person who breaks into cars to steal electronics, breaks into a parking meter in an attempt to steal change, or breaks into an abandoned building to steal copper pipes.
Under Arkansas law, a person commits trespass by entering or remaining on property (or a vehicle) without permission from the owner. Trespass is a less serious crime than burglary or breaking or entering. Trespass is punished more severely if the property is an occupiable structure (a residence or business). (Ark. Code § 5-39-203.)
Aggravated residential burglary is a Class Y felony, which can result in a prison term of 10 to 40 years or life. Residential burglary is a Class B felony, punishable by five to 20 years in prison and a fine of up to $15,000. Commercial burglary is a Class C felony, punishable by three to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
Breaking or entering is a Class D felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. Residential trespass is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail and a fine of up to $1,000. Otherwise, trespass is a Class C misdemeanor, punishable by up to 30 days in jail and a fine of up to $500. A victim of trespassing can also sue in civil court for damages (money). For more information on sentencing, see Arkansas Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences and Arkansas Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences.
Obtaining Legal Assistance
If you are charged with burglary, trespass, or breaking and entering under Arkansas law, you should talk to an experienced local criminal defense attorney. An attorney can explain how your case is likely to fare in court, depending on the law, the facts, and the assigned judge and prosecutor. An attorney can help you protect your rights and obtain the best possible outcome in your case.