Domestic violence laws in Arkansas prohibit people from physically injuring family members and household members. Arkansas also makes it illegal to engage in conduct that creates a substantial danger of death or serious injury to a family or household member. Punishment for domestic violence crimes range from misdemeanor penalties to lengthy felony prison sentences.
Arkansas domestic violence laws apply to aggressors and victims who are family or household members.
Arkansas defines “family or household members” as:
- current or former spouses
- parents and children
- persons related by blood
- a child living in the household
- persons who currently or previously lived together
- people who have a child together, and
- persons who currently or formerly were in a dating relationship
In determining whether the defendant and victim are or were in a dating relationship, a court considers the length of the relationship, the type of the relationship, and the frequency of the interactions between those involved. People in casual relationships or who fraternize in a business or social context are not considered to be in a dating relationship.
Domestic Battering: Differing Degrees & Penalties
Arkansas categorizes domestic violence crimes according to the level of injury suffered by the victim. First-degree battering is the most serious and carries the stiffest penalties; second-degree and third-degree battering are less serious offenses.
First-degree domestic battering
A person commits domestic battering in the first degree against a household or family member if the person causes:
- serious physical injury by use of a deadly weapon while intending to cause such an injury
- serious permanent disability or disfigurement with the intent to cause such an injury
- serious physical injury under circumstances that demonstrate an extreme indifference to the value of human life, or
- serious physical injury to a household or family member who the person knows is either under the age of thirteen or over the age of sixty.
Domestic battering in the first degree is a Class B felony, which carries up to 20 years in prison. Domestic battering in the first degree is a Class A felony if the defendant either knew or should have known that the victim was pregnant, or if the defendant has a prior domestic battering conviction within the previous five years. Class A felonies can be punished by up to 30 years in prison.
Second-degree domestic battering
Someone commits domestic battering in the second degree against a family or household member if the person:
- causes serious physical injury while intending to cause physical injury
- inflicts physical injury by use of a deadly weapon while intending to cause such injury
- recklessly causes serious physical injury by use of a deadly weapon, or
- knowingly causes physical injury to a household or family member that the person knows to be sixty years of age or older or twelve years of age or younger.
Domestic battering in the second degree is a Class C felony, carrying a maximum prison sentence of ten years. If the defendant knew or should have known that the victim was pregnant, or if the defendant has a prior domestic battering conviction within the previous five years, the new conviction for domestic battering in the second degree is a Class B felony.
Third-degree domestic battering
A person commits domestic battering in the third degree against a family or household member if the person:
- causes physical injury while intending to cause such injury
- recklessly causes physical
- negligently causes physical injury by use of a deadly weapon, or
- intentionally causes physical or mental impairment by administering to the family or household member (without that person’s consent) a drug or any other substance.
Domestic battering in the third degree is a Class A misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in jail. If the defendant knew or should have known that the victim was pregnant, or if the defendant has a previous domestic battering or aggravated assault conviction within the previous five years, the new offense is a Class D felony, punishable by up to six years in prison. If the defendant is convicted of third-degree domestic battering and has two previous convictions within the previous ten years for acts of battery against a family or household member, the new conviction is a Class D felony.
Aggravated assault on a family or household member
A person commits aggravated assault on a family member or household member by engaging in conduct that creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to a family or household member. Ark. Code § 5-26-306 requires that the conduct demonstrate the defendant’s extreme indifference to the value of human life in order for the defendant to be convicted of the offense.
Someone claiming to be the victim of domestic violence may petition a court for a protective order. If the court finds that domestic violence was committed, it may order any relief deemed necessary to protect the victim. The relief can include restraining the abuser from injuring, harassing, or having any type of contact with the victim. The relief may also include requiring the abuser to move out of the home and provide temporary financial support for any minor children or a spouse.
Courts can issue protective orders for periods as short as 90 days and a maximum duration of ten years. A person who is charged with violating a protective order may be placed under electronic surveillance as a condition of release from jail.
Those who violate a protective order are guilty of a Class A misdemeanor, which carries a maximum of one year in jail. If the violation of a protective order occurs within five years of a previous conviction for violating a protective order, the new violation is a Class D felony.
Defenses to a Charges of Violating a Protective Order
Arkansas law provides several defenses to charges of violating a protective order. These defenses include showing that the defendant and victim have reconciled, or proving that the victim invited the defendant to the victim’s residence or place of employment, knowing that the protective order prohibited the defendant from being present at these locations.
Contact A Lawyer
A conviction for a domestic violence offense in Arkansas carries the possibility of incarceration, including the possibility of a lengthy prison sentence if the offense is a felony. If you are charged with a domestic violence crime in Arkansas, you should consult with a lawyer experienced in handling domestic violence cases. A lawyer may seek to have damaging evidence excluded from trial or may ask the court to dismiss the charge. A skillful lawyer will protect your rights and provide guidance to you throughout the process, including representing you in front of a judge or jury if your case goes to trial.