Arkansas law prohibits burglary (entering a residence or commercial building with the intent to commit a crime inside), breaking or entering (breaking into vehicles or other structures to commit a crime), and trespass (going onto someone else’s property without permission).
Home invasion burglary, in particular, carries very stiff penalties. 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.
A person in Arkansas commits the crime of burglary by unlawfully entering or remaining in a residence or commercial building with the intent to commit a crime 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—the person need not actually commit the crime to be guilty of burglary. 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.
Proving intent. How do you prove the defendant intended 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 an assault or some other crime.
Residential burglary, sometimes called home invasion, is punished more severely than commercial burglary. A residence (called a “residential occupiable structure” under Arkansas law) includes any building, vehicle, boat, or other structure in which a person lives or that is usually used for sleeping. For example, an apartment or dorm is a residence, as is a camper or houseboat. The crime is committed whether or not a person is home at the time of the offense.
Penalties. Residential burglary is a class B felony. A Class B felony carries a sentence of five to 20 years' incarceration, as well as a fine of no more than $15,000.
Enhanced penalties. If the person is armed with a deadly weapon or inflicts (or attempts to inflict) death or serious physical injury, the crime increases to aggravated residential burglary—a class Y felony. Class Y felonies are the most serious crimes in Arkansas not punishable by death. A conviction for a Class Y felony can result in a prison term of ten to 40 years or life.
Commercial buildings (called "commercial occupiable structures" in the law) include not only offices, stores, and anyplace where people engage in business but also schools, government buildings, places of worship, and public transit facilities.
Penalty. Commercial burglary is a class C felony punishable by three to ten years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000.
(Ark. Code §§ 5-4-201, -401; 5-39-101, -201, -204 (2020).)
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 theft or a felony, into a:
For example, breaking and entering charges could be filed against a person who breaks into cars to steal electronics or breaks into a parking meter in an attempt to steal change.
The crime of breaking or entering involves entering a building where people are not likely to be. And for this reason, it is punished less severely than burglary. Breaking and entering constitutes a class D felony and has a maximum sentence of six years in prison and a fine of $10,000.
(Ark. Code §§ 5-4-201, -401; 5-39-202 (2020).)
Under Arkansas law, a person commits criminal trespass by entering or remaining on a property (or a vehicle) without permission from the owner. Trespass does not require intent to commit a crime, making it a less serious offense than burglary or breaking or entering.
If no aggravating circumstances are involved, the crime is a class C misdemeanor. A person convicted of a class C misdemeanor faces up to 30 days in jail and a fine up to $500. When the property is a residence or commercial building that may be occupied, the crime increases to a class B misdemeanor. Class B misdemeanors can be punished by up to 90 days in jail and a fine up to $1,000.
(Ark. Code §§ 5-4-201, -401; 5-39-203 (2020).)
If you are charged with burglary, breaking or entering, or criminal trespass 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.