Defining Theft Under Arkansas Law
Under Arkansas law, theft occurs when a person knowingly:
- takes another person’s property with the intent of depriving the owner of the property
- exercises unauthorized control over another person’s property
- makes an unauthorized transfer of a property interest, or
- takes another person’s property by deception or threat.
(Ark. Code Ann. § 5-36-103.)
Arkansas laws also identify a number of very specific types of theft offenses, including:
- theft of services
- theft of lost or mislaid property
- theft by receiving
- theft of a trade secret
- unauthorized use of a vehicle
- theft of leased or rented property
- theft of motor fuel
- theft of recyclable materials, and
- theft of scrap materials.
Some of these theft offenses fall within the theft offense classification scheme, which is based on the dollar value of the property involved, and is discussed in the next section. If you need more details on a particular theft offense, you can research Arkansas theft statutes (Ark. Code Ann. § 5-36-104 through 5-36-124).
Classification of Theft Crimes in Arkansas
In the state of Arkansas, theft offenses generally follow a classification system that is based on the dollar value of the property or services taken. The value of the property or services is the reasonable fair market value at the time the theft occurred, or the reasonable replacement value of the property shortly after the theft occurred. (Ark. Code Ann. § 5-36-101.)
Class A Misdemeanor Theft
Arkansas classifies a theft offense as a Class A misdemeanor (the lowest-level theft offense under Arkansas law, commonly known as petty theft) if the value of the property or services stolen is $1,000 or less.
A theft will also be classified as a Class A misdemeanor if the stolen property is a trade secret, if the stolen property is motor vehicle fuel, or if the theft offense involves the unauthorized use of a vehicle. (Ark. Code Ann. 5-36-124.)
Punishment for a Class A misdemeanor theft conviction in Arkansas includes a sentence of imprisonment of no more than one year and payment of a fine of not more than $2,500. (Ark. Code Ann. 5-4-401.)
Class D Felony Theft
When the value of the stolen property or services ranges between $1,000 and $5,000, theft is classified as a Class D Felony in Arkansas.
Also, s theft that would ordinarily be classified as a Class A misdemeanor (involving property or services valued at less than $1,000) will be bumped up to a Class D Felony in Arkansas if the offender obtained the property during a series of thefts on three or more occasions within a three-day period.
Finally, a theft also constitutes a Class D felony in Arkansas when:
- the property is a firearm valued at less than $2,500
- the property value is between $100 and $500 and the theft occurred during a state of emergency
- the property is livestock worth more than $200, or
- the property is a utility line or farm-related utility system. (Ark. Code Ann. § 5-36-103.)
Punishment for a Class D felony under Arkansas law can result in a sentence of imprisonment of no more than six years and a fine no greater than $10,000.
Class C Felony Theft
If the value of the property or services involved in the theft offense is between $5,000 and $25,000, Arkansas law classifies the offense as a Class C felony.
Additionally, theft rises to the level of a Class C felony in Arkansas when:
- the stolen property is a firearm worth more than $2,500
- the stolen property is building material valued at more than $500
- property worth more than $500 is stolen during a state of emergency, or
- the offense involves the making of threats in order to obtain the property. (Ark. Code Ann. § 5-36-103.)
The punishment for a Class C felony theft conviction in Arkansas is a sentence of three to 10 years of imprisonment and a fine of no more than $10,000.
Class B Felony Theft
When theft involves property or services valued at $25,000 or more, the offense is a Class B felony in Arkansas.
Theft is also considered a Class B felony in Arkansas -- regardless of the dollar value of the property or services involved -- when the offense involves:
- threat of serious bodily injury or destruction of another’s home
- threat to a person with whom the offender has a fiduciary or confidential relationship
- property containing anhydrous ammonia in any form, or
- public utility property valued at $500 or more. (Ark. Code Ann. § 5-36-103.)
A Class B felony theft offense under Arkansas law carries a sentence of five to 20 years of imprisonment, as well as a fine of no more than $15,000. (Ark. Code Ann. 5-4-401.)
Civil Penalties for Theft
In addition to criminal penalties, a person who commits shoplifting (or the parent or legal guardian of a minor who commits shoplifting) can be held civilly liable to the store owner for:
- a dollar amount equal to the retail value of the stolen merchandise (if it isn't recovered in sellable condition), or the difference between the as-is value of the merchandise and its full retail value
- a civil penalty of up to $1,000, and
- reimbursement of the store owner's court costs and reasonable attorneys' fees in bringing the civil liability action against the shoplifter. (Ark. Code Ann. § 16-122-102.)
Effect of Prior Criminal Convictions
Arkansas theft laws do not specifically address the effect of any prior criminal conviction on an offender’s record, whether it is a theft-related offense or another misdemeanor or felony criminal conviction. In most cases, a prior criminal conviction of any kind will result in harsher punishments at sentencing time after a theft offense conviction. An Arkansas criminal law attorney can help explain how prior theft-related convictions (or any prior criminal convictions) may affect a subsequent theft charge in Arkansas.