Arkansas Domestic Violence Laws

Learn about domestic battering and assault crimes and their penalties in Arkansas.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated May 02, 2024

In Arkansas, acts of domestic abuse or violence can result in mandatory arrests, criminal charges, orders of protection, jail or prison time, fines, and firearm restrictions.

What Is Domestic Abuse in Arkansas?

Arkansas law defines domestic abuse as physical harm, bodily injury, assault, sexual assault, or threats of harm by and against a "family or household member."

Family or household members include:

  • current or former spouses
  • parents and children
  • persons related by blood
  • a child living in the household
  • persons who currently or previously lived together
  • people who have a child together, and
  • persons who currently or formerly were in a dating relationship

Victims of domestic abuse can ask the court for an order of protection. This order prohibits the abuser from harming, threatening, or contacting the victim. A violation of the order can result in arrest and criminal charges. (More on this below.)

(Ark. Code §§ 5-26-302, 9-15-103, 9-15-207 (2024).)

What Are Domestic Violence Crimes in Arkansas?

Arkansas law has several crimes that are specific to domestic violence, including domestic battering, assault of a family or household member, and violation of an order of protection. Penalties for assault and battering crimes generally hinge on the risk or level of harm inflicted and whether a weapon was involved. Here are some definitions to aid in distinguishing the different offenses and penalties.

Physical injury refers to infliction of substantial pain, bruising, swelling, or a visible mark associated with physical trauma or impairment of a physical condition. These injuries could include a black eye, sprain, scratches, and cuts.

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 broken bones, gunshot wounds, and a laceration requiring dozens of stitches.

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 Domestic Battering in Arkansas?

Arkansas divides domestic battering 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.

Domestic Battering in the Third Degree

A person commits third-degree domestic battering by purposely or recklessly causing physical injury to a family or household member or negligently doing so with a deadly weapon. Purposely drugging a family or household member without their consent can also be third-degree domestic battering.

Arkansas classifies third-degree domestic battering as a Class A misdemeanor, which carries up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine. Charges for third-degree domestic battering increase to a first-degree offense (with Class B felony penalties) if the defendant has two or more similar priors in the past 10 years.

Domestic Battering in the Second Degree

Prosecutors can charge domestic battering in the second degree when a defendant purposely:

  • causes serious physical injuries to a family or household member
  • causes physical injuries to a family or household member by using a deadly weapon, or
  • causes physical injuries to a family or household member 60 or older or younger than 13.

Reckless acts that cause serious physical injuries to a child younger than five or involve a deadly weapon also fall under this offense level. A conviction carries Class C felony penalties of up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Charges for second-degree domestic battering increase to a first-degree offense (with Class B felony penalties) if the defendant has two or more similar priors in the past 10 years.

Domestic Battering in the First Degree

First-degree domestic battery charges are the most serious and can result in lengthy prison sentences.

A person commits first-degree domestic battering by causing serious physical injuries to a family or household member by using a deadly weapon or engaging in conduct showing extreme indifference to human life. It's also a first-degree offense if the defendant causes serious physical injuries to a family or household member who's younger than 13 or 60 or older. If the defendant uses a firearm, first-degree domestic battering charges apply when a victim suffers physical injuries. A conviction for any of these acts carries Class B felony penalties.

Class Y felony penalties apply when a defendant:

  • purposely causes a family or household member serious and permanent disfigurement or disability, such as permanently losing their sight or a limb, or
  • knowingly causes serious physical injury to a family or household member who is younger than five under circumstances showing extreme indifference to human life.

Penalties can include a fine of up to $15,000 and 5 to 20 years in prison (Class B felony) or 10 to 40 years in prison (Class Y felony).

Enhanced Penalties for Domestic Battering Offenses

Arkansas law also imposes enhanced or additional penalties for repeat offenders, crimes against a pregnant victim, and crimes committed in the presence of a child.

Pregnant victim; repeat offender. The penalties for all three degrees of domestic battering increase one felony level if the victim was pregnant or the defendant has a prior conviction (within the past 5 years) for domestic battering or aggravated assault on a family or household member.

Felony in the presence of a child. A person who commits felony domestic battering or aggravated assault of a family or household member in the presence of a child may be subject to an additional term of imprisonment of one to 10 years.

(Ark. Code §§ 5-4-702, 5-26-303, 5-26-304, 5-26-305 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for Assault on a Family or Household Member in Arkansas?

Assault crimes in Arkansas involve threatened harm, such as pointing a gun or knife at someone. The more serious the threat is, the greater the penalty will be. Like domestic battering, Arkansas divides these offenses into degrees.

Third-Degree Assault on a Family or Household Member

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

Second-Degree Assault on a Family or Household Member

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

First-Degree Assault on a Family or Household Member

A person commits assault in the first degree by recklessly engaging in conduct that creates a substantial risk of death or serious physical injury to a family or household member. Arkansas classifies this offense as a Class A misdemeanor, which carries up to one year in jail and a $2,500 fine.

Aggravated Assault on a Family or Household Member

The most serious assault falls under the aggravated assault category, which involves acts committed under circumstances showing extreme indifference to the value of human life. These acts include purposely:

  • engaging in conduct that creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to a family or household member
  • displaying a firearm in a way that creates a substantial danger of death or serious physical injury to a family or household member, or
  • impeding or preventing a family or household member's normal breathing or blood circulation by applying pressure on the chest, throat, or neck or blocking their nose or mouth.

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

(Ark. Code §§ 5-26-306, 5-26-307, 5-26-308, 5-26-309 (2024).)

What Are the Penalties for Violating an Order of Protection in Arkansas?

A person subject to an order of protection can face criminal penalties for a violation. The order generally prohibits the abuser from making any contact with, or causing harm to, the victim. It can also direct the abuser to move out of a shared residence.

A first violation carries Class A misdemeanor penalties of up to a year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Committing a subsequent violation within five years increases the penalty to a Class D felony, punishable by up to six years of prison time. If the abuser violates the order by stalking the victim, first-degree stalking charges may apply. A conviction can mean Class B felony penalties of 5 to 20 years in prison.

(Ark. Code §§ 5-71-229, 9-15-207 (2024).)

Domestic Violence Arrest, Bail, and Firearm Provisions in Arkansas

On top of incarceration and fines, Arkansas law imposes the following conditions, restrictions, and penalties for domestic abuse.

Warrantless and Mandatory Arrests

In Arkansas, police may arrest someone without a warrant when probable cause exists to believe the defendant violated an order of protection or committed domestic abuse. For acts amounting to a felony, the law requires an officer to arrest the suspect. Arrest is the preferred response in misdemeanor cases. The officer doesn't need to witness the abuse to make an arrest. (Ark. Code § 16-81-113 (2024).)

Bail and Pretrial Release Conditions

Before releasing a defendant on bail or own recognizance, the judge must consider the defendant's history of violence and whether the defendant poses a safety risk to others. The judge may set conditions of release that prohibit the defendant from contacting the victim and possessing dangerous weapons. If the defendant is accused of violating an order of protection, the judge may order electronic surveillance as a condition.

(Ark. R. Crim. P. 8.5, 9.3 (2024); Ark. Code § 9-15-217 (2024).)

Firearm Restrictions

As noted above, judges may prohibit possession of firearms as a condition of bail or pretrial release. Anyone subject to an order of protection is prohibited from possessing a firearm under federal law. Under both federal and state laws, anyone convicted of a felony is considered a prohibited person and can no longer possess firearms. (Ark. Code § 5-73-103 (2024); 18 U.S.C. § 922 (2024).)

Talk to an Attorney

If you're facing domestic violence charges or were served with an order of protection, contact a criminal defense attorney. A lawyer can help you understand your rights and the criminal legal process.

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