Under Arkansas law, theft occurs when a person knowingly:
Arkansas laws also identify a number of very specific types of theft offenses, including:
Arkansas' theft laws are very detailed. This article discusses the classifications that apply to theft of property and services. Be sure to check the state code for information on other theft categories. (Ark. Code Ann. §§ 5-36-101 to -124 (2020).)
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 type of property stolen, or both. Penalties range from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class B felony.
Arkansas classifies a theft offense as a Class A misdemeanor (the lowest-level theft offense, sometimes called petty theft) if:
Punishment for a Class A misdemeanor includes a sentence of imprisonment of no more than one year and payment of a fine of not more than $2,500.
A theft also constitutes a Class D felony in Arkansas when:
Punishment for a Class D felony can result in a sentence of imprisonment of no more than six years and a fine no greater than $10,000.
Theft of property or services valued between $5,000 and $25,000 constitutes a Class C felony.
Additionally, theft rises to the level of a Class C felony in Arkansas when:
A Class C felony theft conviction carries a sentence of three to 10 years in prison and a fine up to $10,000.
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 when the offense involves:
A Class B felony theft offense under Arkansas law carries a sentence of five to 20 years' incarceration, as well as a fine of no more than $15,000.
(Ark. Code Ann. §§ 5-4-201, -401 (2020).)
In general, the Arkansas theft law provides for sentencing increases based on the circumstances of the crime, such as threats of harm or property stolen from utilities (as noted above). Additionally, the law contains the following enhancements.
Arkansas’s habitual offender laws don’t apply to repeat theft offenses. However, a judge does take into consideration a defendant’s record at the time of sentencing. Under the state Sentencing Grid, the presumptive (typical) sentence for a crime increases along with the offender's criminal history.
For 30 days after a state of emergency is declared, enhanced and mandatory penalties apply for theft of:
The law increases class A misdemeanors to class D felonies and requires a defendant to pay a fine of at least $5,000 and up to $50,000.
A person who steals merchandise from a store or business establishments faces both criminal and civil penalties. Civil penalties are meant to deter shoplifters and compensate store owners for the costs incurred to prevent and "prosecute" (sue) shoplifters.
Arkansas law does not have separate shoplifting penalties. The penalty classifications described above for theft of property apply to shoplifting.
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. The store owner must first send a written demand (letter) to the accused shoplifter requesting return of the property or its cash equivalent and a $200 penalty.
If the accused shoplifter does not answer the demand in 30 days, the store owner can bring a civil action against the accused shoplifter or, if the shoplifter is a minor, the parents, for:
(Ark. Code Ann. § 16-122-102 (2020).)
If you face theft charges, speak to a criminal defense lawyer. An attorney can protect your rights, help you navigate the criminal justice system, and explain any consequences of a plea deal or criminal record. Even if the charges are for petty or misdemeanor theft, the consequences of a criminal record can impact your ability to get employment, housing, or loans. It's best to consult an attorney before accepting any type of deal or civil settlement (in the case of shoplifting).