Legal Columns

What Does It Mean to Be a Habitual Offender in Arkansas?

Generally defined, a habitual offender is a person who has been convicted of an offense and they have prior convictions on their record. In Arkansas, if someone is designated a habitual offender, they will be subject to enhanced sentencing upon conviction for the current crime. Additionally, some repeat offenders may not be eligible for a suspended sentence or probation, which means if they are found guilty of the offense, they will be sent to prison.

Subsections (C) and (D) of A.C.A 5-4-501

Before taking an in-depth look at what determines whether or not a person will be designated a habitual offender, it's beneficial to review subsections (c) and (d) Arkansas's law. The statute references these sections throughout.

Subsection C is concerned with serious felonies involving violence, which include:

  • First- and second-degree murder;
  • Kidnapping (when charged as a Class Y felony);
  • Aggravated robbery;
  • Terroristic act (when charged as a Class Y felony);
  • Rape;
  • First-degree sexual assault;
  • Causing a catastrophe;
  • Aggravated residential burglary;
  • Aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer or correctional facility employee; or
  • A conviction in another jurisdiction for an offense considered a serious felony involving violence

The felonies involving violence enumerated in subsection (d) include the following:

  • First- or second-degree murder;
  • Kidnapping;
  • Aggravated robbery;
  • Rape;
  • Battery;
  • Terroristic act;
  • First- or second-degree sexual assault;
  • First-degree domestic battery
  • Residential burglary;
  • Aggravated residential burglary;
  • Unlawful discharge of a firearm from a vehicle;
  • Criminal use of prohibited weapons (when charged as a Class B felony); or
  • A felony attempt, solicitation, or conspiracy to commit certain serious felony offenses involving violence

When a Person May Be Designated a Habitual Offender

Several situations exist that determine whether a court will designate a person a habitual offender under Arkansas law. These include when a person:

  • Is convicted of a crime other than one listed in subsections (c) and (d) and they have 1 or more prior felony convictions;
  • Is convicted of a crime listed in subsection (c) and they have more than 1 prior felony convictions for offenses other than those enumerated in subsection (c);
  • Is convicted of a crime listed in subsection (d) and they have more than 1 prior felony convictions for offenses other than those enumerated in subsection (d);
  • Is convicted of a serious felony involving violence listed in subsection (c) and has been convicted of 1 or more offenses enumerated in subsection (c); or
  • Is convicted of a felony involving violence listed in subsection (d) and has been convicted of 2 or more felonies of violence enumerated in subsection (d)

Enhanced Sentences for Habitual Offenders

A person designated a habitual offender, upon conviction of a current felony, may be subject to a longer term of imprisonment than a first-time offender. The sentence lengths depend on the nature of the offense and the number of previous convictions. For instance, if the individual is found guilty of a Class D felony other than one listed in subsections (c) or (d) and they have between 1 and 3 prior felony convictions, the maximum prison term is 12 years. However, if they have 4 or more prior felony convictions, they may face up to 15 years of imprisonment. That's a substantial increase in the maximum number of years: A first-time offender faces up to 6 years in prison upon conviction for the same offense.

Whether you've been charged with your first crime or have prior convictions in Northwest Arkansas, our team at Norwood & Norwood, P.A. is ready to fight aggressively for you. Schedule your free office visit to discuss your case by calling us at (479) 235-4600 or contacting us online.

Categories