Criminal trespassing occurs when a person intentionally enters another’s property without permission. In Arkansas, a person found guilty of criminal trespassing can be sentenced to varying fines and jail sentences depending upon the extent of the offense. However, the statute also sets forth several defenses that, if proven, would make a person innocent.
Criminal Trespassing in Arkansas
Under Arkansas Code Section 5-39-203, criminal trespassing occurs when a person purposefully and unlawfully enters either someone’s property or vehicle. Such an offense is a Class C misdemeanor. However, the crime is considered a Class B misdemeanor, which is more severe, if the vehicle is used as a residence, such as a motor home or RV, or the property is or could be lived in. More severe still is the Class A misdemeanor, which is applicable if you trespass and are in possession of a killing device; a harvesting device; a device to locate and dig up buried or submerged artifacts; any tools for breaking in, like a bolt cutter or, if the premises is for commercial fishing or fish breeding, any fishing equipment such as a pole or a net. You can also be charged with a Class A misdemeanor if you've been previously convicted of a Class A misdemeanor trespass, even if none of these items are in your possession. If you're convicted of two or more Class A misdemeanors under the statute and you do it again, you can be charged with a Class D felony.
Further, according to Section 5-39-305, a person can also commit criminal trespassing upon vacant or undeveloped land located just outside a town or city boundary line. If the land is designed for crops or is surrounded by fencing, a person can only enter with the owner’s written consent. The violation is a Class A misdemeanor under the same conditions as set forth above under Section 5-39-203. Any other violation is a Class C misdemeanor, unless the land is clearly marked with ‘Keep Out’ or ‘No Trespassing’ signs. In that case, the trespass is a Class B misdemeanor. As with ordinary criminal trespass, more than two convictions of a Class B misdemeanor will land you a Class D felony charge.
Read More: What Is the Typical Sentence for Criminal Trespassing?
Punishment for Criminal Trespassing in Arkansas
If a person is found guilty of criminal trespassing as a Class D felony, he can be sentenced to up to six years in jail and fined up to $10,000. For a Class A misdemeanor, the trespasser faces up to one year in jail and up to $2,500 in fines. Class B misdemeanor offenders could be fined up to $1,000 and/or jailed for up to 90 days, and Class C misdemeanor offenders face fines of up to $500 and sentences of up to 30 days in jail.
Defenses to a Criminal Trespass Charge
Arkansas’ criminal code does include several defenses to criminal trespassing. If a person can prove one of the defenses permitted under Section 5-39-305(c), he will be found not guilty. Applicable defenses include:
- the accused was the owner’s invited guest, with permission to be on the property.
- the property was public land or private land open for public use.
- the accused was on the property to conduct legitimate business or to protect public health or public safety.
- the accused entered the land accidentally and was not aware that he was trespassing.
Criminal trespassing in Arkansas occurs when a person purposefully enters someone else's property, including vacant or undeveloped land or a vehicle, and is not permitted to do so.
Bernadette A. Safrath is an attorney who has been writing professionally since 2008. Safrath was published in Touro Law Center's law review and now writes legal articles for various websites. Safrath has a Bachelor of Arts in music from Long Island University at C.W. Post, as well as a Juris Doctor from Touro College.