The Difference Between Felonies Misdemeanors and Infractions in Arkansas | CourtRecords.org
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Felony, Misdemeanors, and Infractions in Arkansas.

The Arkansas justice system describes offenses as conducts that violate the laws and are punishable with imprisonment and fines, or either. The state categorises criminal offenses into three categories based on severity. They are: felony, misdemeanor and infractions. During an Arkansas trial, these crimes are ascribed penalties and punishments commensurate to their severity and threat to public safety. As provided for in the Arkansas Penal Code, felonies attract the most severe penalties and remain in an offender’s criminal records for a long period of time.

What is a felony in Arkansas?

Felonies are the highest ranked crimes in Arkansas. The Arkansas Criminal Justice system posits that crimes in this category are punishable by jail term or incarceration in the state prison. It could also be by life imprisonment or even the death sentence. These punishments depend on the severity of the crime as dictated by the state’s penal codes.

In Arkansas, like some other states in the US, felonies are categorised into degrees or classes, unlike states like California and Washington D.C that set fixed penalties for specific crimes. Arkansas felonies are categorised into classified and unclassified felonies. Classified felonies have fixed or probable sentences and punishments and are grouped into Classes Y, A, B, C and D. For unclassified felonies, sentences are often subject to the provisions of the criminal statutes.

The classes or degrees of felonies in the state of Arkansas are further described:

  • Class Y Felonies: This class of felony is ranked as very severe. For instance, possessing 500 pounds of marijuana is considered trafficking in the state of Arkansas and is designated under the Class Y felony. Statutory rape is another example. Crimes such as these are met with a compulsory and fixed sentence of imprisonment of 10 to 40 years (Ark. Code. Ann § 5–64–440) in a state or correctional facility. In some cases, the penalty could be a life sentence.
  • Class A Felonies: This type of felony is also serious and attracts severe penalties punishable by extended jail terms and steep fines. Possession of at least 10 grams of cocaine with intent to deliver to another individual is an example of Class A felony in the state of Arkansas (Ark. Code. Ann § 5–64–436). Crimes in this category attract a minimum of 6 years and maximum of 20 years imprisonment. Including a fine of $15,000 benchmark.
  • Class B Felonies: These include crimes considered less severe on the severity scale when compared to classes Y and A crimes. Examples include possession of between 25 and 100 pounds of marijuana, and domestic battery/assault in the first degree. This class of crimes attracts a mandatory 5 years minimum jail term and 20 years maximum sentence. Including a fine of up $15,000 (Ark. Code. Ann § 5–64–436).
  • Class C Felonies: This category attracts a mandatory 5 years minimum jail term, and a maximum of up to 10 years. This could be with a fine of $10,000 benchmark (Ark. Code. Ann. §5–64). Example is property theft worth at least $5,000, or possession and delivery of drugs, e.g marijuana of between 10 to 25 pounds.
  • Class D Felonies: These include theft/burglary, fraud, vandalism, and arson, worth at least $2,500 are categorised as Class D felonies. These crimes attract a mandatory 6-year jail term, and a fine with a $10,000 benchmark (Ark. Code. Ann. § 5–64–439).

Jail terms for felony convictions are administered on the basis of the crime’s severity, the offender’s criminal background and the circumstances surrounding the crime. The criminal records are repository in the various trial and appeal courts, correctional facilities in the state and its counties, as well as the different law enforcement agencies in the state. These records contain information on arrests, indictments, judgments, and pending dispositions, and can determine whether jail terms would be low, mild or severe.

What are some examples of felonies in Arkansas?

Crimes categorised as felonies in the state of Arkansas include:

  • Murder
  • Arson
  • Fraud
  • Armed robbery/Burglary
  • Retail theft or shoplifting
  • Drug felonies (including production, possession and trafficking).
  • Pornography (particularly child pornography)
  • Identity theft
  • Domestic violence
  • Spousal battery or assault
  • Juvenile felonies (including juvenile drug possession, underage drinking, unlicensed firearms possession and mishandling)
  • Illegal firearm possession
  • DWI 3rd degree (Driving While Intoxicated) or Driving under the influence of Alcoholic substances.

Can I get a Felony Removed from a Court Record in Arkansas?

Yes, but under very stringent conditions. In Arkansas, a juvenile felony record can be expunged (removed) after a waiting period, but it is sealed automatically by law6. However, Arkansas does not generally allow adult felony records to be expunged, but they can be sealed. An adult felony record is only eligible for expungement (or sealing) in Arkansas, pursuant to Ark. Code §16–90–906. Under this code, an individual who has been acquitted of all charges for a crime previously accused of, or one that no guilty verdict was issued for, can petition the court to have all criminal and arrest records related to the crime removed from public records.

To become eligible for a felony record sealing, the applicant is required to fill a petition to seal firm after fulfilling the following criteria under Arkansas Criminal Record Sealing Act,§ 16–90–1401. He or she must have:

  • pleaded guilty or nolo contendere (that is, no contest) to the offense convicted for;
  • completed sentence pertaining to drug conviction as issued under Arkansas Code §16–90–1407;
  • fulfilled all terms and conditions relating to prison sentence under Arkansas Code §16–90–1405, probation, fines, and absence of previous felony convictions (that is, the individual should be a first-time offender) in accordance with the dictates of Ark. Code § 16–90–1406
  • received sentence under a statute that makes provision for criminal records expungement, including felonies.
  • received a pardon for the offense that the record is still in existence (Ark. § 16–19–1411).
  • a non-conviction, whereby no charges have been put forward against the individual seeking record expungement, or in which charges have been dismissed and the individual acquitted (Ark. §16–19–1415(d))

For a juvenile offender, Ark. Code Ann. § 9–27–309 (b)(2) stipulates that all criminal records are automatically sealed, and subsequently expunged on behalf of an individual upon turning 21. Such records may also be expunged prior to the offender’s 21st birthday, subject to approval by a court, or if a juvenile is granted pardon for a crime committed before the age of sixteen.

When the court orders a juvenile criminal record to be expunged pursuant to Ark. Code. Ann. 9–27–309 (b), all records relating to the crime must be destroyed from the following agencies:

  • Arkansas Crime Information Center records (ACIC)
  • Arkansas State Police records
  • Police Department Records,
  • Prosecuting Attorney, and
  • Public Defender, or Attorney of Record.

However, it is not every felony that can be expunged from an offender’s criminal records. For instance, in accordance with Ark. Code § 16–90–1408, the following felonies are not eligible for expungement:

  • Class A and B felonies,
  • Sexual offenses involving a child (less than 16 years),
  • Motor car violations by a licensed driver
  • Multiple felonies of any class,
  • Unclassified felonies charged with more than 10 years imprisonment,
  • All violent felonies

Is expungement the same as sealing court records in Arkansas?

In Arkansas, expungement and sealing are not the same but are used interchangeably. When a criminal record is expunged, it is stricken out of the criminal record of an offender. While a sealed record becomes confidential and inaccessible without a court order. According to Arkansas Code Ann. §16–90–902 an expunged/sealed crime is legally deemed never to have occurred and the offender can deny ever commiting the crime.

However, having a record expunged in Arkansas does not necessarily translate into the physical destruction of such records, except otherwise instructed by law (Ark. Code Ann. §16–90–902). What this means is that such records will be completely withdrawn/sealed from the depositories (files, records, computers etc) of agencies involved in the case, but it will not be destroyed physically. Consequent upon which it must not be made available or accessible to anyone except authorised by law. The same goes for a sealed record.

With this, the offender can honestly deny ever commiting the crime, and it will not come up during a background check.

How Long Does a Felony Stay on Your Record in Arkansas?

Felonies are severe crimes that are considered very weighty in the overall context of crimes. A felony will remain for as long as possible in an individual’s record unless proactive measures are taken to seal or ‘expunge’ it outrightly. One of the ways to determine if a felony is still on one’s criminal records is to run a background check.

Running a background check is often explored by the majority of employers who are concerned about the criminal status of their prospective employees. Hence, they often request for information about applicants’ history of criminal convictions in the selection process. The same goes for landlords, banks, financial institutions, educational institutions and law enforcement agencies. Therefore, having a history of felony offense that has not been expunged can be a serious setback in life for an individual with such records. This harrowing experience is a major reason why individuals show interest in having their criminal records expunged.

What are misdemeanors in Arkansas?

Misdemeanor are criminal acts/offences considered less severe when compared to felonies but are serious enough to get jail terms as punishment. Arkansas misdemeanors are regarded as ‘non-indictable’ offenses that attract minor jail terms up to 364 days in a state prison. Just like felonies, misdemeanors are also grouped into classified (A, B, C) and unclassified. The classes are thus defined:

  • Class A: Property theft with a $1000 benchmark
  • Class B: Online bullying
  • Class C: Public intoxication

Punishments and sentences are issued in accordance with the class of misdemeanor, such that convicted persons can be issued any or all, of jail terms, fines and community service.

What are some examples of misdemeanors in Arkansas?

Some notable examples of misdemeanors in the state of Arkansas include:

  • Reckless driving,
  • prostitution,
  • battery (including its domestic variant)
  • homicide
  • indecent exposure
  • sexual assault
  • indecent bodily exposure
  • gambling,
  • DWI or DUI,
  • disorderly conduct in the public, and
  • public intoxication

Can I Get a Misdemeanor Removed from a Record in Arkansas?

Yes you can. It is possible to have one’s police and court records removed such that the general public will not have access to them. However, complete deletion is far-fetched. Rather, the state of Arkansas makes provisions for the records to be sealed and branded ‘confidential’. This is regardless of whether they are kept in a file or in an online repository designated for record-keeping.

After sealing/expungement of misdemeanor records, access to such records is the exclusive preserve of the record bearer and his or her attorney. But it could also be accessible to employers of labour, especially when the record bearer goes job seeking. In the same vein, the Arkansas crime information Center keeps and has access to the sealed records for record keeping and investigative purposes.

In Arkansas, records of a misdemeanor offense may be sealed/expunged for the following categories of offenders:

  • persons on probation subject to rehabilitation for drug consumption, production and peddling,
  • first-time offenders,
  • persons who have been absolved of offenses for which they were falsely convicted in a trial or appeal court.

To get a record sealed/expunged in the state of Arkansas requires the applicant to obtain, fill and complete the Petition to Seal, and Order to Seal forms. These forms can be obtained from the clerk’s office in the specific court where the sentence was issued. The forms are legal documents that assist applicants in the records sealing process. For instance, the Petition to Seal/ expunge, and Order to Seal/expunge Misdemeanor are provided for under ACT 1460 of 2013 (A. C. A.16 - 90 - 1401, Et. Seq.).

There are some basic requirements that qualify an individual for criminal record expungement/sealing in the state of Arkansas. First, persons seeking record expungement must have pleaded to a ‘no contest’ or guilty of the crimes for which they were convicted. Second, it is crucial that all terms and conditions attached to a probation are fulfilled. Third, persons who have a previous or pending felony conviction do not qualify for record expungement. Fourth, it is very important that the statutes under whose auspice a sentence was issued makes provision for record expungement. Finally, persons convicted of sexual misdemeanors, whose victims are below the standard +18 years are automatically ineligible to file for record expungement. Persons in this bracket are required to obtain an application for pardon on the Arkansas Governor’s website.

Can a DUI Be Expunged in Arkansas?

Yes it can. It was not an option before, but under the provisions of Arkansas Code §16–90–1401 et seq, residents in the state can now seal or expunge DUI records from their criminal records. Specifically affected are first-time offenders who possess no prior DUI/DWI and have not been convicted within the last five years. Such persons are eligible to apply for DUI expungement after serving probation and strictly adhering to driving restrictions. Equally, records can be sealed as long as charges are not filed within the space of one year, or, where the case is dismissed and no conviction is obtained to that effect.

Having one’s DUI record expunged implies that the individual concerned can legally claim not to have ever had a DUI record, when questioned in that regard. Also, the individual concerned will have his or her driving rights restored, achieve complete exoneration and not have any of his or her civil rights or liberties curtailed further. This includes the right to vote, and freedom of association as provided for in Ark. Code Ann. § 16–90–1417.

To be eligible for a DUI expungement, an applicant is required to meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • He or she must have no previous DUI charge, misdemeanor, felony or infraction.
  • Must have completed sentence or probation 5 years earlier.

How is a DUI punished in Arkansas?

Upon conviction, the onus is on the presiding judge to determine what jail term or fine is commensurate for a DUI offense. Such decisions may be influenced by a pre-sentence/drug and alcohol evaluation report from the Arkansas Department of Human Services. The report contains information on the severity of intoxication.

Since DUI is classified under misdemeanors in the Arkansas state, punishments are often issued on the basis of whether it is a first, second or third offense. Each attracts different jail terms, fines, community service and possible forfeiture or suspension of driving license. Arkansas DWI penalties are classified as follows:

  • First offender: Attracts 24 hours to one year prison sentence, excluding minors under the age of 16 who are subject to a minimum of 7 days in jail, and a fine of between $150 to $1000.
  • Second offenders: Can attract 7 days to one-year jail term, excluding minors under 16 years of age. They can serve a minimum of 30 days in jail as well as a fine within the range of $400 to $3,000.
  • Finally, third time DUI offenders can serve up to 90 days to 1-year jail term, a minimum jail term of 120 days for minors under age 16 and a possible fine within the range $900 to $5,000.

Aside from jail terms and fines, judges could take it upon themselves to assign community service or pronounce driver’s license sanctions. Suspension periods vary, depending on whether the DUI offense is the first, second or third within the last five years of offense committal.

DUI driver’s license sanctions:

  • First DUI offenses attract a license suspension period of up to six months,
  • Second DUI offenses attract a license suspension period of up to 24 months.
  • Third successive DUI offense attracts a license suspension period of up to 30 months.

However, it is possible for the convict to file for a restricted license during which the offender’s driving privileges become limited, and he or she is mandated to enroll for a compulsory DUI training course, and use an ignition interlock device throughout the suspension period.

DUI sanctions can also take the form of community service in the state of Arkansas. Depending on whether the offense is the first, second or third, sentences vary and are more severe as it comes. First offenders may be sentenced to a minimum of 24 hours of community service, except persons under the age of 16 who serve for seven days. Second offenders serve a minimum of 30 days, while minors under 16 years are made to serve 60 days. Finally, third offenders are likely to be issued a minimum of 90 days of community service with an exception for minors who may serve up to 120 days.

What constitutes an Infraction in Arkansas?

Infractions in the state of Arkansas cover mild crimes like theft and petty theft. They are considered the least severe crimes and often entail violation of administrative rules, ordinances and laws. The most common infractions are traffic laws which may attract fines in the form of traffic tickets and possible jail incarceration for at most, days.

Arkansas traffic violations are in variance, and fines are ascribed based on the number of demerit points accumulated within a specific period. Violations that pass as traffic law contrivances include: DUI (driving under influence), racing, fleeing or eluding an officer, failure to halt for a school bus, exiting an accident scene, at-fault accident, unlisted moving violation, non-moving violation, speeding 10 or less miles per hour over the limit, 11 to 20 miles per hour over the limit, 21 to 30 miles per hour over the limit, and 31 or more miles per hour over the limit.

Aside from traffic offenses, other types of infractions include such offenses as trespassing, disturbance of public peace, loitering and other mild offenses. Infractions do not necessarily attract elongated jail terms, steep fines and severe probations like felonies and certain types of misdemeanors. However, contrivances of failure to pay issued fines can aggravate it.

What are some examples of Infractions in Arkansas?

All infractions in Arkansas are assigned discipline infraction codes which detail the type of sanctions, punishments and fines that perpetrators stand to suffer upon conviction. Salient examples of offenses classified as infractions in Arkansas are:

  • Traffic rule violation
  • Indiscriminate drug, tobacco or alcohol consumption
  • Truancy
  • Student/Staff assault
  • Vandalism
  • Insubordination
  • Disorderly conduct
  • Bullying/fighting
  • Use of explosives
  • Illegal arms possession/use
  • Terroristic threats
  • Stealing/Theft
  • Harassment (including the sexual variant)
  • Cyberbullying
  • Indiscriminate use of technology and technological devices.
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