Arkansas First-Degree Murder

In Arkansas, there are six types of criminal homicide: capital murder, murder in the first degree, murder in the second degree, manslaughter, negligent homicide, and physician-assisted suicide. This article provides a brief overview of Arkansas' capital murder and first-degree murder laws.

Capital Murder

Capital murder is the most serious type of homicide in Arkansas and, as the name suggests, can be punished by death. The following table outlines Arkansas' capital murder law.

Code Section

Arkansas Code section 5-10-101: Capital Murder

What's Prohibited?

Capital murder can be committed in any of the following ways:

1. While acting alone, or with one or more other people:

  • Committing (or attempting to commit): terrorism, rape, kidnapping, vehicular piracy, robbery, aggravated robbery, residential or commercial burglary, aggravated residential burglary, a felony under the Uniform Controlled Substance Act, first degree escape, and
  • During, in furtherance of, or in the immediate flight from one of the above felonies you, or an accomplice, causes the death of another person under circumstances that manifest an extreme indifference to the value of human life.

2. Acting alone or with one or more other people, you commit (or attempt to commit) arson, and in furtherance of the felony, or during the immediate flight, you or an accomplice causes the death of any person.

3. Having a premeditated and deliberate purpose of causing the death of:

  • A law enforcement officer, jailer, judge or court official, probation or parole officer, military personnel, or teacher and killing that person while they are acting in the line of duty
  • Another person, and causing the death of any person
  • Any public official (or a candidate for public office), and causing the death of that person, or
  • Another person while incarcerated, and causing the death of that person

4. Agreeing to kill someone in return for something of value, and then killing that person.

5. Hiring someone to kill someone else, and that killing is carried out.

6. Knowingly causing the death of a person 14 years old or younger under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to the value of human life, if the defendant is 18 years old or older.

7. Purposely firing a gun from a vehicle at a person, a vehicle, conveyance, or building that you know (or have good reason to believe) is occupied by a person, and causing the death of a person under circumstances manifesting an extreme indifference to the value of human life.

Penalties

Capital murder is a Class Y felony.

If the defendant was 18 years old or older at the time of the murder: Punishable by death, or life imprisonment without parole.

If the defendant was less than 18 years old at the time of the murder: Punishable by life imprisonment without parole, or life imprisonment with the possibility of parole after serving at least 28 years.

Affirmative Defenses

There are a few affirmative defenses to capital murder.

First-Degree Murder

In most states first-degree murder is defined as a premeditated and deliberate unlawful killing. However, in Arkansas premeditated and deliberate killings may be classified as either capital murder or as murder in the first degree, depending on the circumstances surrounding the killing. The chart below provides a brief overview of Arkansas' first-degree murder law.

Code Section

Arkansas Code section 5-10-102: Murder in the First Degree

What's Prohibited?

1. Acting alone, or with one or more other people:

  • Committing (or attempting to commit) a felony and
  • During, in furtherance of, or in the immediate flight from the felony, you or an accomplice causes the death of any person while manifesting an extreme indifference to the value of human life

2. With a purpose of causing the death of another person, you cause the death of another person, or

3. Knowingly causing the death of a person 14 years old or younger

Penalties

Class Y felony. Punishable by imprisonment for 10-40 years, or life in prison.

Affirmative Defenses

There are a few affirmative defenses to first-degree murder.

Additional Resources

State laws change frequently. For case specific information about Arkansas' first-degree murder law contact a local criminal defense attorney.

Next Steps: Search for a Local Attorney

Contact a qualified attorney.