Stand Your Ground Law: Arkansas

Arkansas has long been a state with reliable self-defense laws that definitively assert citizen’s right to defend themselves and others against the unlawful use of force.

flag of Arkansas

However, it is only recently with the signing of Arkansas Senate Bill 24 that the state has implemented so-called “stand your ground” laws properly.

Prior to the implementation of this bill into law the statutes contained language enumerating that a defender must attempt to retreat if it was plausible to do so without incurring any additional risk or harm.

That sounds reasonable enough on the surface, but such language places an undue burden on a defender who is already in extremely perilous circumstances.

Thankfully, the passage of Senate Bill 24 has tuned-up Arkansas statutes into a model example of modern stand your ground law.

Keep reading to get the rest of the story on Arkansas laws as well as the exact text of the modified statutes at the end.

What You Need to Know

  • Citizens in Arkansas may use force and self-defense to protect themselves from the unlawful use of force against their person or someone else. The defensive force used must be proportional to the threat, but includes deadly force if called upon.
  • Arkansas citizens may employ defensive force anywhere they have a legal, lawful right to be.
  • With the recent passage of Senate Bill 24, there is no longer any duty or obligation to attempt retreat under any circumstances so long as the use of defensive force is justified under the amended statutes.

General Provisions

Thanks to the aforementioned bill being signed by the governor into law, Arkansas citizens now enjoy uniformly excellent protection concerning the just use of force in self-defense.

Citizens in Arkansas may use force to protect themselves from any threat, or to protect someone else, so long as the force used is reasonable and proportional to the threat they are facing, but includes deadly force if required.

Additionally, citizens may employ force to protect themselves so long as they are anywhere that they legally, and lawfully have a right to be, and there is no longer any duty to retreat from such a place under any circumstances.

Force may also be used to stop the commission or imminent commission of a forcible felony.

Restrictions

The only restrictions concerning the lawful use of force and self-defense within the state of Arkansas are those covering said force used during the commission or imminent commission of a crime on the part of the would-be defender.

If the person claiming self-defense is committing a crime or preparing to commit a crime when force is used then the claim of self-defense will become more suspect and may not apply.

Similarly, if the would-be defender is the initial aggressor or antagonist in the encounter self-defense may not be claimed and the use of force will not be ruled justified unless they first make a good faith effort to withdraw from the encounter and stated their intention to do so to the other party, and the other party then continues pressing the encounter for the initial antagonist to be able to claim self-defense.

Assessment

Arkansas has long enjoyed robust laws protecting citizens who are forced to defend themselves against attack, but only very recently has the law been amended to include full stand your ground protections.

Arkansas citizens may use force and self-defense, including lethal force, so long as it is proportional to the threat against them or another person and they are in any place that they legally, lawfully have a right to be.

Relevant Arkansas Use of Force Statutes

***Note: Arkansas has recently enacted Senate Bill 24 which amends the existing state statutes concerning the lawful use of force in self-defense, including the “Stand Your Ground portions of the law. The text of the bill and relevant sections of the state statutes are below. ***

SENATE BILL 24

For An Act To Be Entitled

AN ACT CONCERNING THE DEFENSE OF A PERSON WITH THE

USE OF PHYSICAL FORCE OR DEADLY PHYSICAL FORCE; AND

FOR OTHER PURPOSES.

Subtitle

CONCERNING THE DEFENSE OF A PERSON WITH

THE USE OF PHYSICAL FORCE OR DEADLY

PHYSICAL FORCE.

BE IT ENACTED BY THE GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF THE STATE OF ARKANSAS:

SECTION 1. Arkansas Code § 5-2-606 is amended to read as follows:

5-2-606. Use of physical force in defense of a person.

(a)(1) A person is justified in using physical force upon another person to defend himself or herself or a third person from what the person reasonably believes to be the use or imminent use of unlawful physical force by that other person, and the person may use a degree of physical force that he or she reasonably believes to be necessary.

(2) However, the person may not use deadly physical force except as provided in § 5-2-607.

(b) A person is not justified in using physical force upon another person if:

(1) With purpose to cause physical injury or death to the other person, the person provokes the use of unlawful physical force by the other person;

(2)(A) The person is the initial aggressor.

(B) However, the initial aggressor’s use of physical force upon another person is justifiable if:

(i) The initial aggressor in good faith withdraws from the encounter and effectively communicates to the other person his or her purpose to withdraw from the encounter; and

(ii) The other person continues or threatens to continue the use of unlawful physical force; or

(3) The physical force involved is the product of a combat by agreement not authorized by law.

(c) A person who uses or threatens to use physical force as otherwise permitted under this subchapter does not have a duty to retreat before using or threatening to use the physical force if the person is:

(1) Lawfully present in the location;

(2) Not engaged in criminal activity that gives rise to the need to use physical force; and

(3) Not engaged in any activity in furtherance of a criminal gang, organization, or enterprise as defined under § 5-74-103.

21 SECTION 2. Arkansas Code § 5-2-607 is amended to read as follows:

22 5-2-607. Use of deadly physical force in defense of a person.

(a) A person is justified in using deadly physical force upon another person if the person reasonably believes that the other person is:

(1) Committing or about to commit a felony involving physical force or violence;

(2) Using or about to use unlawful deadly physical force; or

(3) Imminently endangering the person’s life or imminently about

to victimize the person as described in § 9-15-103 from the continuation of a pattern of domestic abuse.

(b) A person may not use deadly physical force in self-defense if the

person knows that he or she can avoid the necessity of using deadly physical

force:

(1)(A) By retreating.

(B) However, a person is not required to retreat if the person is:

(i) Unable to retreat with complete safety;

(ii) In the person’s dwelling or on the curtilage surrounding the person’s dwelling and was not the original aggressor; or

(iii) A law enforcement officer or a person assisting at the direction of a law enforcement officer; or

(2) With complete safety by surrendering possession of property to a person claiming a lawful right to possession of the property.

(b) A person is not required to retreat before using deadly physical force if the person:

(1) Is lawfully present at the location where deadly physical force is used;

(2) Has a reasonable belief that the person against whom the deadly physical force is used is imminently threatening to cause death or serious physical injury to the person or another person;

(3) Except as provided under § 5-2-606(b)(2)(B), is not the initial aggressor and has not provoked the person against whom the deadly physical force is used;

(4) Is not committing a felony offense of possession of a firearm by certain persons, § 5-73-103, with the firearm used to employ the deadly physical force, unless the person is in or at the person’s dwelling or in the curtilage surrounding the person’s dwelling;

(5) Is not engaged in criminal activity that gives rise to the need for the use of deadly physical force at the time the deadly physical force is used; and

(6) Is not engaged in any activity in furtherance of a criminal gang, organization, or enterprise as defined in § 5-74-103.

(c) As used in this section:

(1) “Curtilage” means the land adjoining a dwelling that is convenient for residential purposes and habitually used for residential purposes, but not necessarily enclosed, and includes an outbuilding that is directly and intimately connected with the dwelling and in close proximity to the dwelling; and

(2) “Domestic abuse” means:

(A) Physical harm, bodily injury, assault, or the infliction of fear of imminent physical harm, bodily injury, or assault between family or household members; or

(B) Any sexual conduct between family or household members, whether minors or adults, that constitutes a crime under the laws of this state.

SECTION 3. Arkansas Code § 5-2-615 is amended to read as follows:

5-2-615. Use of physical force by a pregnant woman in defense of her

unborn child.

(a) As used in this section:

(1) “Pregnant” means the female reproductive condition of having an unborn child in the female’s body; and

(2) “Unborn child” means the offspring of human beings from conception until birth.

(b) A pregnant woman is justified in using physical force or deadly physical force against another person to protect her unborn child if, under the circumstances as the pregnant woman reasonably believes them to be, she would be justified under § 5-2-606 or § 5-2-607 in using physical force or deadly physical force to protect herself against the unlawful physical force or unlawful deadly physical force she reasonably believes to be threatening her unborn child.

(c) The justification for using physical force or deadly physical force against another person to protect a pregnant woman’s unborn child is not available if:

(1) The the use of the physical force or deadly physical force for protection was used by a person other than the pregnant woman; or

(2)(A) The use of the deadly physical force for protection would not be allowed under § 5-2-607(b).

(B) However, the pregnant woman is not obligated to retreat or surrender possession of property as described in § 5-2-607(b) unless the pregnant woman knows she can avoid the necessity of using deadly physical force and simultaneously ensure the complete safety of her unborn child.

5-2-601. Definitions

As used in this subchapter:

(1) “Common carrier” means any vehicle used to transport for hire any member of the public;

(2) “Deadly physical force” means physical force that under the circumstances in which it is used is readily capable of causing death or serious physical injury;

(3) “Dwelling” means an enclosed space that is used or intended to be used as a human habitation, home, or residence on a temporary or permanent basis;

(4) “Minor” means any person under eighteen (18) years of age;

(5)

(A) “Occupiable structure” means a vehicle, building, or other structure:

(i) Where any person lives or carries on a business or other calling;

(ii) Where people assemble for a purpose of business, government, education, religion, entertainment, or public transportation; or

(iii) That is customarily used for overnight accommodation of a person whether or not a person is actually present.

(B) “Occupiable structure” includes each unit of an occupiable structure divided into a separately occupied unit;

(6) “Physical force” means:

(A) Any bodily impact, restraint, or confinement; or

(B) The threat of any bodily impact, restraint, or confinement;

(7) “Premises” means:

(A) An occupiable structure; or

(B) Any real property;

(8) “Unlawful physical force” means physical force that is employed without the consent of the person against whom it is directed and the employment of the physical force constitutes a criminal offense or tort or would constitute a criminal offense or tort except for a defense other than the defense of justification or privilege; and

(9) “Vehicle” means any craft or device designed for the transportation of a person or property across land or water or through the air.

5-2-614. Use of Reckless or Negligent Force

(a) When a person believes that the use of physical force is necessary for any purpose justifying that use of physical force under this subchapter but the person is reckless or negligent either in forming that belief or in employing an excessive degree of physical force, the justification afforded by this subchapter is unavailable in a prosecution for an offense for which recklessness or negligence suffices to establish a culpable mental state.

(b) When a person is justified under this subchapter in using physical force but he or she recklessly or negligently injures or creates a substantial risk of injury to a third party, the justification afforded by this subchapter is unavailable in a prosecution for the recklessness or negligence toward the third party.

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