Arkansas Laws on Misdemeanor and Felony Theft

Learn how quickly a theft adds up to a felony in Arkansas.

By , Attorney · University of Houston Law Center
Updated December 11, 2023

Theft of property or services can result in criminal penalties, including incarceration and steep fines. In Arkansas, theft penalties range from a class A misdemeanor to a class B felony.

Theft Crimes in Arkansas

There are several ways to commit a theft crime in Arkansas. The law states that a 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
  • obtains or diverts another's services without authorization or payment
  • makes an unauthorized transfer of a property interest, or
  • takes another person's property or services by deception or threat.

Arkansas laws also identify a number of very specific types of theft offenses, including:

  • theft of lost or mislaid property
  • theft of a trade secret
  • theft of a catalytic converter
  • theft of motor fuel, and
  • theft of recyclable materials and scrap materials.

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 §§ 5-36-101 to -126 (2023).)

Classification and Penalties for 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 type of property stolen, or both. Penalties range from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class B felony.

Class A Misdemeanor Theft

Arkansas classifies a theft offense as a Class A misdemeanor (the lowest-level theft offense, sometimes called petty theft) if:

  • the value of the property or services stolen is $1,000 or less
  • the property has no market or replacement value but has value to the owner, or
  • the property is a decorative or memorial item from a cemetery.

Punishment for a Class A misdemeanor includes up to a year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Class D Felony Theft

Stolen property or services valued between $1,000 and $5,000 is classified as a Class D felony in Arkansas.

A theft also constitutes a Class D felony in Arkansas when:

  • the property is a credit or debit card or number
  • the property is a firearm valued at less than $2,500
  • the property value is between $100 and $500 and stolen during a state of emergency
  • the property is a decorative or memorial item from a cemetery and a repeat offense
  • the property is livestock worth more than $200
  • the property is a utility line or farm-related utility system, or
  • the property is oil or gas equipment valued at less than $1,000 and involved incidental damages or was taken across state lines.

Punishment for a Class D felony can result in a sentence of up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Class C Felony Theft

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:

  • the stolen property is a catalytic converter
  • the stolen property is a firearm valued at $2,500 or more
  • the stolen property is building material valued at $500 or more
  • property worth more than $500 is stolen during a state of emergency
  • the property was obtained by threat, or
  • the property is oil or gas equipment valued between $1,000 and $5,000 and involved incidental damages or was taken across state lines.

A Class C felony theft conviction carries a sentence of 3 to 10 years in prison and a fine of up to $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 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
  • public utility property valued at $500 or more, or
  • oil and gas equipment valued at more than $5,000.

A Class B felony theft offense under Arkansas law carries a sentence of 5 to 20 years of prison time and a $15,000 fine.

(Ark. Code §§ 5-4-201, 5-4-401 (2023).)

Enhanced Penalties for Theft Crimes in Arkansas

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.

Repeat Offenders

Arkansas's habitual offender laws don't apply to repeat theft offenses. However, a judge considers 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.

Theft During a State of Emergency

For 30 days after a state of emergency is declared, enhanced and mandatory penalties apply for the theft of:

  • any equipment used to transmit electric power or telephone services, and
  • generators intended for use by hospitals, airports, public utilities, public safety agencies, and any other vital facility.

A person commits a class C felony when the value of that property is $500 or more and a class D felony when stolen property's value is between $100 and $500.

Shoplifting Penalties in Arkansas

A person who steals merchandise from a store or business establishment 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.

Criminal Penalties for Shoplifting Offenses

For the most part, shoplifting carries the criminal penalties detailed above based on the value of the merchandise.

The law also makes it a crime to knowingly:

  • possess or use a theft detection shielding device, or
  • remove a theft detection device from merchandise.

An offender is guilty of a class A misdemeanor the first time they engage in such unlawful conduct and a class D felony for subsequent times.

Civil Penalties for Shoplifting Offenses

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 the 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:

  • damages in the amount of the retail value of the merchandise (if not returned) or the loss of retail value for returned items
  • a civil penalty of up to $1,000 (for adult offenders), and
  • court costs and reasonable attorneys' fees.

(Ark. Code §§ 5-36-401, 5-36-402, 5-46-403, 5-36-40416-122-102 (2020).)

Talk to a Lawyer

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).

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