A Refresher on Criminal Law in Arkansas for 2024

A Refresher on Criminal Law in Arkansas for 2024

New year, new laws. The State of Arkansas has implemented a few new acts that affect the way criminal laws are handled. We’ll go over that in great detail so you can familiarize yourself with these laws, whether it’s for yourself, a loved one, or general curiosity. It’s also a good idea to brush up on Arkansas’ stance and sentencing time towards felonies and misdemeanors.  

What’s New in Arkansas?

Act 659, commonly known as the Protect Arkansas Act, has profound implications for those involved in felony offenses. This act mandates that individuals convicted of serious crimes such as murder, rape, aggravated robbery, trafficking, and sex crimes involving minors must serve their entire sentences. For those convicted of other felonies, a minimum of 85% of their sentences is required to be served.

Act 8 has brought about a clarification in an existing law concerning sentencing for felony offenses involving firearms. Effective from January 1, 2024, individuals sentenced for felonies committed with a firearm are no longer eligible for early release. This amendment aims to reinforce the severity of crimes involving firearms and emphasizes the commitment to public safety.

Act 584 specifically addresses fentanyl-related felonies. Individuals convicted of offenses related to fentanyl are now ineligible for early release. This legislative move underscores the gravity of fentanyl-related crimes and reflects a determined effort to combat the opioid crisis, safeguarding the community from the devastating consequences of these offenses.

The Basics of Criminal Law in Arkansas

Do you remember the difference between a felony and a misdemeanor? 

A felony is a more serious criminal offense, typically involving actions that pose a significant threat to public safety or individuals. A misdemeanor is a less severe criminal offense, usually involving actions that are harmful but not as grave as felonies. 

There’s a major difference in the types and severity of these offenses. Here’s a quick refresher on sentencing guidelines and the difference between felonies and misdemeanors. 

Sentencing Guidelines

The state follows specific sentencing guidelines that determine the penalties for various offenses according to the Arkansas Sentencing Standards

So, for example, a person with one offense and no criminal history, may be recommended an alternative sanction as opposed to legal punishment. But a person with several offenses and a long rap sheet, they may see jail time from 25+ years on average.

Misdemeanors are generally punishable by less severe consequences, such as fines, probation, or shorter jail sentences. The sentences for misdemeanors are limited to a certain duration, providing a more lenient response compared to felonies.

On the other hand, the key characteristic of felonies is their gravity, often resulting in severe consequences for those convicted. For instance, sentences for felonies may range from several years to life imprisonment, or even capital punishment in extreme cases.


In Arkansas, felony sentences are classified as follows:

  • Class Y Felony: Not less than 10 years and not more than 40 years, or life.
  • Class A Felony: Not less than 6 years nor more than 30 years.
  • Class B Felony: Not less than 5 years nor more than 20 years.
  • Class C Felony: Not less than 3 years nor more than 10 years.
  • Class D Felony: Not to exceed 6 years.
  • Unclassified Felony: In accordance with the limitations defined by the statute for the specific felony.

Felonies are serious crimes that carry severe penalties. Examples of felonies include crimes such as murder, rape, aggravated robbery, trafficking, and certain sex crimes involving minors. 


In the case of misdemeanor convictions in Arkansas, sentencing is determined by the following limitations:

  • Class A Misdemeanor: Not to exceed one (1) year.
  • Class B Misdemeanor: Not to exceed ninety (90) days.
  • Class C Misdemeanor: Not to exceed thirty (30) days.
  • Unclassified Misdemeanor: In accordance with the limitations specified by the statute defining the misdemeanor.

Misdemeanors are less severe offenses compared to felonies. Examples of misdemeanors include simple assault, petty theft, and disorderly conduct. 

Hickey & Hull Has Decades of Combined Experience

Has a loved one been charged with a crime? No matter what it is, there’s no offense too big or too small for the team at Hickey & Hull Law Partners. With decades of combined experience, there’s truly nothing we haven’t yet seen. 

But we also know the position you’re in is not an easy one, so be sure to chat, fill out our online form, or contact us today to get a free consultation. Our River Valley office number is 479.434.2414, and our Northwest Arkansas number is 479.802.6560.