Assault Laws in Arkansas

A person who commits assault in Arkansas can face serious criminal penalties, including lengthy terms of imprisonment and substantial fines.

By , Attorney (University of Houston Law Center)

In Arkansas, an assault occurs when a person intentionally causes a victim to fear immediate harm or engages in conduct that places another at risk of harm. If the conduct results in physical injury, Arkansas treats the crime as a battery.

This article will review the various definitions, offense levels, and penalties for assault crimes in Arkansas.

What Constitutes Assault in Arkansas?

Arkansas defines assault as an intentional act that causes the victim to fear, or places the victim at risk of, imminent physical harm. The more serious the harm could be, the more serious the penalties will be. Whether an assault can be charged as a felony or misdemeanor depends largely on the facts of the case. Below are some key definitions that help to understand the various degrees of assault.

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.

Recklessly. A person acts recklessly when they consciously disregard a substantial and unjustifiable risk. For example, in one case, a jury found a defendant guilty of assault in the first degree when he fired a gun at a car containing four passengers.

Serious physical injury. Serious physical injury means either physical injury that creates a substantial risk of death or physical injury that causes prolonged disfigurement, impairment of health, or impairment or loss of the function of any body part or organ.

Physical injury. Physical injury means either:

  • impairment of physical condition
  • infliction of substantial pain, or
  • infliction of bruising, swelling, or a visible mark associated with physical trauma.

What Are the Penalties for Assault Crimes in Arkansas?

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

Assault in the Third Degree: Crime and Penalties

Third-degree assault occurs when an offender purposely causes another person to fear imminent physical injury. This Class C misdemeanor subjects a defendant to up to 30 days in jail and a $500 fine.

Assault in the Second Degree: Crime and Penalties

A defendant is guilty of second-degree assault when they recklessly engage in conduct that creates a substantial risk of physical injury to another person. An offender guilty of this Class B misdemeanor faces up to 90 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Assault in the First Degree: Crime and Penalties

A person commits assault in the first degree they do one of the following acts:

  • recklessly engage in conduct that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to another person, or
  • purposely impede or prevent the breathing of another person or the circulation of another person's blood by applying pressure on the throat or neck or by blocking the nose or mouth of the other person.

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

Aggravated Assault: Crime and Penalties

The most serious assault falls under the aggravated assault category. A person commits aggravated assault if, under circumstances demonstrating extreme indifference to the value of human life, they purposely:

  • engage in conduct that creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to another person
  • display a firearm in a way that creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to another person, or
  • impede or prevent another person's ability to breathe or the circulation of their blood by applying pressure on the chest, throat, or neck or by blocking their nose or mouth.

A firearm includes 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.

Aggravated assault constitutes a Class D felony, punishable by up to six years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Enhanced Penalties for Assault

Arkansas imposes enhanced penalties under certain circumstances.

Law enforcement. Offenders who commit aggravated assault using a firearm on a law enforcement officer, while that officer is acting within the scope of their official duties, face a Class Y felony. Such an offense carries imprisonment of 10 to 40 years or a life sentence.

First responder. A defendant who purposely selected their victim because they were a first responder is subject to enhanced penalties, including an additional six months to two years of incarceration for an aggravated assault.

Child present. A person who commits felony assault on a family or household member in the presence of a child may be subject to an additional term of imprisonment of one to ten years.

Talk to an Attorney

Assault convictions can involve significant consequences, such as substantial fines and incarceration time. If you have been charged with any degree of assault, contact a local criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. 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, -401, -702, -704; 5-13-204 to -207, -211 (2021).)

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