The Natural State has several laws to protect family and household members from domestic violence. Family and household members are defined as any of the following: spouses or former spouses, parents, children, persons related by blood within the fourth degree, children residing in the household, persons who presently or in the past resided together, persons who have a child in common, and persons who are or were previously dating. Read on to learn more about Arkansas' domestic violence laws.
Overview of Arkansas Domestic Violence Laws
In Arkansas, domestic violence or "domestic abuse" consists of inflicting any of the following on a family or household member: physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault. Therefore, even if no physical harm occurs, it is still abusive if the act, such as a threatening behavior, causes a fear of imminent bodily harm to the victim. It's also domestic violence if criminal sexual conduct, such as rape or assault, is inflicted upon a family or household member.
The penalty for domestic violence depends upon the abuse inflicted or crime committed. For example, first-degree assault is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in prison and up to $2,500 in fines. Rape, however, is Class Y felony punishable by up to life imprisonment and up to $15,000 in fines.
Victims can also seek a restraining order or an "order of protection" from a court to protect themselves from their abuser. Restraining orders are either temporary or permanent.
A temporary restraining order may be issued without the abuser present on the same day a petition is filed if the court believes that the victim is in immediate danger or an abuser is scheduled to be released from prison within 30 days and the victim believes that he or she will be in danger once the abuser is released. A temporary restraining order is valid from the time a petition is filed until the full court hearing for the permanent restraining order, which is generally 30 days.
A permanent restraining order requires a full court hearing with the abuser present so that the court can hear both sides before deciding upon the issuance of the order. The order lasts for 90 days - 10 years. The order may be renewed after it expires if the court finds that the threat of domestic violence still exists.
If a restraining or protective order is violated by the abuser, it is a Class A misdemeanor punishable by up to 1 year in prison and up to $2,500 in fines. A second offense is a Class D felony punishable by up to 6 years in prison and up to $10,000 in fines.
Getting Legal Help
If you're facing a domestic abuse charge or have violated an order of protection and need assistance, you can contact an Arkansas criminal defense attorney for help. Public defenders can also help those facing criminal charges. Various non-profit agencies also exist to assist domestic violence victims for no fee or a reduced fee.
Contact a qualified attorney.