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Arkansas Criminal Law: An Overview

Regardless of the offense you’ve been charged with—even if it’s a non-criminal violation—knowing about Arkansas’s criminal laws can prepare you for the consequences. With the help of a criminal defense attorney and an understanding of the laws, you may even be able to reduce the penalties you may face.

Use LawInfo’s criminal law articles to help educate yourself about Arkansas’s laws and how they affect your case. You can learn about the difference between misdemeanors and felonies, intoxicated driving charges and many other state-specific criminal law topics. You can also use LawInfo to connect with an Arkansas criminal law attorney in Little Rock, Fort Smith, Fayetteville or elsewhere in the state.

Arkansas Prosecutors File Criminal Charges

The role of the police in the Arkansas criminal procedure is often misunderstood. The police perform arrests, investigate crimes, collect evidence and occasionally testify in court for criminal cases. They are not the ones who charge defendants with crimes or prosecute defendants in courts. District attorneys, United States attorneys and other kinds of state or federal attorneys act as criminal prosecutors.

While a prosecutor is often a criminally charged person’s adversary in court, there are times when the defendant should collaborate with their prosecutor. With the assistance of your defense attorney, you could work out a plea bargain with the prosecutor or possibly learn about their case strategy.

Sealing an Arkansas Criminal Record

A criminal record could complicate your life beyond the penalties you might be subjected to. Your record could affect your career, driving privileges and child visitation or custody rights. If your record doesn’t possess severe crimes, you might be eligible for sealing your record. (See Arkansas Code § 16-90-1405, 1406 and 1408.)

Sealing a criminal record closes it from public review. Certain felonies are ineligible for sealing, including:

  • Class Y felonies.
  • Class A felonies.
  • Class B felonies.
  • Manslaughter
  • Unclassified felonies with a maximum imprisonment sentence of more than 10 years.
  • Sex offense felonies.
  • Violent felonies.
  • Felonies that include an imprisonment sentence at the Arkansas Department of Correction.
  • Traffic felonies in which the driver held a commercial learner’s permit or driver’s license.

Arkansas’s criminal record sealing laws places waiting periods between serving out a sentence and having a record sealed for all eligible violations, misdemeanors and felonies. Additionally, specific criminal charges are limited to the number of times they can be sealed.

Crime Classifications in Arkansas

Every state has its own system of classifying crimes which also identifies the statutory punishments for each classification. Like many states, Arkansas has three main classifications of crimes, listed from the most to least severe: felonies, misdemeanors and violations.

Both felonies and misdemeanors are divided further into sub-classifications. These sub-classifications help to define the sentences certain groups of criminal offenses may receive. A sentence may include a fine, imprisonment or both. Some offenses are unclassified such as capital offenses (the worst criminal offenses).

Misdemeanors are classified by order of most to least serious as Classes A, B, and C. Felonies are classified by order of most to least serious as Classes Y, A, B, C, and D. Class Y felonies are the second worst type of offenses after capital offenses. Violations such as parking tickets and disturbance of the peace do not possess sub-classifications. The Arkansas Sentencing Commission provides a table listing every felony offense in order of seriousness for your reference.

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