Battery Laws in Arkansas

The basics on criminal charges for battery in Arkansas.

By , Attorney · University of Houston Law Center
Updated May 02, 2024

In Arkansas, a battery occurs when a person intentionally makes offensive contact with or harmfully touches another person, resulting in physical injury. If a person places another in fear or at risk of harm, Arkansas treats the offense as an assault. Because battery includes the physical harm element, it's punished more harshly than assault.

This article will review the various definitions, offense levels, and penalties for battery crimes in Arkansas. To learn more about assault crimes in Arkansas, check out Assault Laws in Arkansas.

What Constitutes Battery in Arkansas?

Arkansas defines battery as unlawful physical contact with another person that results in a physical injury. The more serious the harm is, the more serious the penalties will be. Whether a battery can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor depends largely on the facts of the case. Below are some key definitions that are helpful in understanding the various degrees of battery.

Mental State: Defendant's Level of Culpability

Generally, the law imposes harsher penalties when a defendant acts with intent or purpose to cause harm rather than out of recklessness or negligence. When deciding a defendant's mental state, a jury can look at the facts and circumstances of the crime and use common sense based on their life experiences.

Purposely. A person acts purposely when they consciously intend to engage in the conduct they are doing or cause a certain result. For example, if a defendant intentionally chokes another person, they have purposefully impeded the victim's respiration.

Knowingly. People act knowingly when they're aware their conduct will almost certainly cause a particular result. A jury found that a parent acted knowingly when he shook his two-month-old baby, causing permanent brain damage.

Recklessly. A person acts recklessly when they consciously disregard a substantial and unjustifiable risk. For example, a pet owner acted recklessly in allowing his dogs to run loose and seriously injure a passerby when the owner knew the dogs had previously attacked without provocation.

Negligently. A person acts negligently when they should be aware of a substantial and unjustifiable risk that their conduct will cause a particular result. A jury could find negligence when an individual drives having not slept for 48 hours, crashes into a tree, and severely injures a passenger.

Injuries: Level of Harm Inflicted

Penalties for battery crimes often hinge on the level of harm the offender inflicts on the victim. Arkansas law punishes unlawful conduct that results in serious physical injuries more severely than conduct that results in physical injuries.

Serious physical injury. The law defines serious physical injury as one that creates a substantial risk of death or causes prolonged disfigurement, impairment of health, or impairment or loss of the function of any body part or organ. Examples of serious physical injuries include a gunshot wound and a cut requiring 47 stitches.

Physical injury. Physical injury refers to impairment of a physical condition or infliction of substantial pain, bruising, swelling, or a visible mark associated with physical trauma.

Risk Involved: Use of Deadly Weapon or Firearm

Battery using a deadly weapon or firearm creates an increased risk of harm, which can also bump up the penalties.

Deadly weapon means a firearm or anything made or used to inflict death or serious physical injury. Examples include handguns, brass knuckles, knives, sawed-off shotguns, and explosive devices.

Firearms include any device designed, made, or adapted to shoot an object by the action of an explosive, or any item readily convertible to that use. The definition includes these devices even if they are unloaded or missing a necessary component, such as an ammunition clip.

What Are the Penalties for Battery Crimes in Arkansas?

Arkansas divides battery offenses into different categories depending on the accused's intent, whether the accused used a weapon, and the seriousness of the injuries or risks involved. A person convicted of battery faces anywhere from a short jail stint to a lengthy prison sentence.

Penalties for Battery in the Third Degree

A person commits misdemeanor battery by purposely or recklessly causing physical injury to another. It's also a misdemeanor to act with criminal negligence in causing another physical harm by using a deadly weapon. Finally, a person can commit misdemeanor battery by purposely drugging someone without their consent.

Arkansas classifies third-degree battery as a Class A misdemeanor, which carries up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Penalties for Battery in the Second Degree

A misdemeanor battery bumps up to a felony battery in the second degree when the act involves an increased level or risk of harm or the defendant targets a vulnerable victim. For instance:

  • An offender who purposely causes serious physical injury (as opposed to physical injury) commits second-degree battery.
  • The same increased penalty applies when serious physical injuries result due to an offender's recklessness in harming a child younger than five or by using a deadly weapon or driving intoxicated.
  • A defendant can also face second-degree battery charges when causing physical injuries and acting purposely with a deadly weapon (other than a firearm) or knowingly targeting a vulnerable victim, such as a law enforcement officer, firefighter, teacher, elderly adult (60+), child (12 and younger), state employee, health care professional, or incompetent individual.

Prosecutors can charge second-degree battery as a Class C or D felony, depending on the circumstances of the offense. An offender guilty of this crime faces up to 10 years in prison for a Class C felony and 6 years in prison for a Class D felony, as well as a $10,000 fine.

Penalties for Battery in the First Degree

First-degree battery constitutes Arkansas' most serious battery charge. Generally, these penalties apply when both the harm and the risk of harm increase.

The following actions that result in serious physical injury to another are considered first-degree batteries:

  • purposely harming another by using a deadly weapon
  • engaging in conduct with extreme indifference to human life
  • knowingly harming a victim who is 12 or younger or 60 or older, or
  • committing a felony.

First-degree battery also occurs when:

  • the defendant purposely engaged in harmful conduct while using a firearm resulting in physical injuries to the victim
  • the defendant knowingly targeted a pregnant woman and caused serious harm to the unborn child, or
  • the victim suffers serious and permanent disfigurement or disability, such as permanently losing their sight or a limb.

Arkansas classifies first-degree battery as either a Class B or Class Y felony. Penalties for battery in the first degree can include a fine of up to $15,000 and 5 to 20 years in prison (Class B) or 10 to 40 years in prison (Class Y).

Enhanced Penalties for Battery

Arkansas imposes enhanced penalties that either tack on additional incarceration time or impose mandatory penalties under the following circumstances.

Law enforcement. Offenders who purposely commit battery against an individual because they are a law enforcement officer face an additional six months to two years of incarceration.

First responder. A person commits third-degree battery by knowingly causing physical contact with a first responder by spitting, throwing, or transferring bodily substances on the first responder. No injury is required. This Class A misdemeanor has a mandatory fine of $2,500 and requires a minimum of 30 days and up to a year in jail.

Child present. A person who commits battery in the presence of a child may be subject to an additional term of imprisonment of one to 10 years.

Domestic battering. Committing a battery crime against a family or household member can result in enhanced penalties for repeat offenses.

Talk to an Attorney

Battery convictions can involve significant consequences, such as substantial fines and incarceration time. Having a violent crime on your criminal record can make it difficult to get a job or housing. It can also be used in future sentencing decisions. If you've been charged with battery, contact a local criminal defense attorney. A qualified lawyer can explain the relevant law and discuss possible defenses unique to your situation.

(Ark. Code §§ 5-1-102, 5-2-202, 5-4-201, 5-4-401, 5-4-702, 5-4-704, 5-13-201 to 5-13-203 (2024).)

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