Arkansas Trespassing Laws: What You Need to Know

Fast Facts on Trespassing

  • Trespass Law Covers: Structures, dwellings, vehicles, undeveloped land.
  • Crime Class: Misdemeanor; felony if offender has multiple prior trespassing convictions.
  • Fencing Required? Depends on property.
  • Signage Required? No, if verbal or mailed notice given.
  • Verbal Notice Required? No, if signage posted.
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Arkansas Trespassing Law Overview

Arkansas’ statutes on trespassing are noticeable for a couple of reasons. First, they allow an affirmative defense to the charge of trespassing if a person is recovering a dog or other animal that has wandered or escaped onto the property.

Second, Arkansas has intricate statutory qualifiers covering all kinds of land and all kinds of situations that detail whether or not signage has to to be posted and on what types of land.

While some parts of the law are pretty confusing, most of it is clear enough. Let’s hurry up and dig into it!

Relevant Arkansas State Statutes

  • Section 5-39-101 Definitions
  • Section 5-39-203 Criminal Trespass
  • Section 5-39-304 Notice to Cease Entering
  • Section 5-39-305 Criminal Trespass on premises located in unincorporated areas

Arkansas is another state that is heavy on the legal definitions. Many of them are clear and easy to understand, but you must read through them to gain a thorough understanding of subsequent trespassing laws on the books!

Subchapter 1 – General Provisions § 5-39-101. Definitions

As used in this chapter:

(2) “Commercial occupiable structure” means a vehicle, building, or other structure in which:

(A) Any person carries on a business or other calling; or

(B) People assemble for a purpose of business, government, education, religion, entertainment, or public transportation;

(3)

(A) “Enter or remain unlawfully” means to enter or remain in or upon premises when not licensed or privileged to enter or remain in or upon the premises.

(B)

(i) A person who enters or remains in or upon premises that are at the time open to the public does so with license and privilege, regardless of his or her purpose, unless he or she defies a lawful order not to enter or remain on the premises personally communicated to the person by the owner of the premises or another person authorized by the owner.

(ii) A license or privilege to enter or remain in or upon premises only part of which are open to the public is not a license or privilege to enter or remain in a part of the premises not open to the public.

(C) A person who enters or remains upon unimproved and apparently unused land not fenced or otherwise enclosed in a manner designed to exclude an intruder does so with license and privilege unless:

(i) Notice not to enter or remain is personally communicated to the person by the owner or a person authorized by the owner; or

(ii) Notice is given by posting in a conspicuous manner;

(7) “Premises” means an occupiable structure and any real property;

(8) (A) “Residential occupiable structure” means a vehicle, building, or other structure:

(i) In which any person lives; or

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

(B) “Residential occupiable structure” includes each unit of a residential occupiable structure divided into a separately occupied unit; 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.

The section above covers all kinds of property that a person might own and makes it clear that any notification received to leave to stay off the premises has weight of law behind it.

It is worth noting however in the case of vacant land that is unenclosed by fencing that a lack of no-trespass signage means that a person has general license to be on the property until told to leave.

The penalty schedule for trespass in Arkansas is in section 5-39-203. This is another lengthy section covering all possible contingencies so I suggest you read it. I will, however, only be posting the most pertinent passages here:

Subchapter 2 – Offenses Generally § 5-39-203. Criminal trespass

(a) A person commits criminal trespass if he or she purposely enters or remains unlawfully in or upon:

(1) A vehicle of another person; or

(2) The premises owned or leased by another person.

(b) Criminal trespass is a:

(1) Class D felony if the person has two (2) or more convictions for a Class A misdemeanor violation of this section or § 5-39-305;

(3) Class B misdemeanor if:

(A) The vehicle or premises involved is an occupiable structure; or

(B) The conduct involves the removal of a posted sign, a fence, or a portion of a fence as defined in § 2-39-102; or

(4) Class C misdemeanor if otherwise committed.

(c) It is a defense to prosecution under this section that:

(1) The person was a guest or invitee;

(2) The person was required to enter upon the premises of the other person for a business reason or for health and safety reasons;

(3) The person was authorized by law to enter upon the premises;

(4) The privately owned premises were made open to the public; or

(5) The person owns or is employed by a person or entity that owns property adjoining the premises and is traveling over the premises with good faith or for a legitimate reason.

(e) (1) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section if the person who enters the premises of another person is:

(A) Temporarily on the premises of the other person for the sole purpose of recovering livestock, a dog, or any other domesticated animal; and

(B) Either:

(i) The owner of the livestock, dog, or other domesticated animal; or

(ii) An employee or agent of the owner of the livestock, dog, or other domesticated animal.

(2) A person who enters the premises of another person as described in subdivision (e)(1) of this section is subject to civil liability for any property damage that occurs in the course of recovering the livestock, dog, or other domesticated animal.

The above passages cover trespassing in all circumstances. If a person is notified verbally, by written notice or by conspicuously posted signage then they may not enter a property without violating the law.

Also note that a person entering undeveloped land by crossing or breaking a fence or other enclosure is will always be trespassing unless in pursuit of an animal they own that has crossed over onto the land in question.

Regarding specific regulations on written notification, you can see section 5-39-304. Note that the written article must specify precisely which tract of land is in question:

Subchapter 3 – Offenses Involving Posted and Enclosed Land § 5-39-304. Notice to cease entering — Further entrance

(a) The owner, agent, lessee, or assignee of any land, including farm, timber, or otherwise, may notify any person by certified mail, deliver to addressee only or by notice served by any official authorized to serve process to cease any trespass or to stay off the premises of any property belonging to the owner, his or her agent, or assignee.

(b) Notice shall specify the land by description containing section, township, and range.

(c) Any person receiving notice shall immediately cease any trespass or entrance upon the described land of the owner.

(d) Any further entrance or trespass by the person receiving the notice is considered a criminal trespass and the person is guilty of a Class C misdemeanor.

Lastly, section 5-39-305 covers all other rules and regs about trespassing in unincorporated areas. This is another area where signage may not be required if the land is a certain type of asset property. Additionally, this section specifies a penalty schedule of felony for certain types of trespass:

Subchapter 3 – Offenses Involving Posted and Enclosed Land § 5-39-305. Criminal trespass on premises located in unincorporated area

(a) (1) A person shall not purposely enter without written permission of the owner or lessee upon another person’s premises located outside the boundary of any city or town if those premises are either:

(A) Lawfully posted;

(B) Crop land or timber land; or

(C) Enclosed with a fence sufficient under § 2-39-101 et seq.

(2) The posting of premises is not a requirement under this section.

(b) Criminal trespass on premises located in an unincorporated area is a:

(1) Class D felony if the person has two (2) or more convictions for a Class A misdemeanor violation of this section or § 5-39-203;

(3) Class B misdemeanor if:

(A) The premises involved is an occupiable structure; or

(B) The conduct involves the removal of a posted sign, a fence, or a portion of a fence as defined in § 2-39-102; or

(e) (1) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section if the person who enters the premises of another person is:

(A) Temporarily on the premises of the other person for the sole purpose of recovering livestock, a dog, or any other domesticated animal; and

(B) Either:

(i) The owner of the livestock, dog, or other domesticated animal; or

(ii) An employee or agent of the owner of the livestock, dog, or other domesticated animal.

(2) A person who enters the premises of another person as described in subdivision (e)(1) of this section is subject to civil liability for any property damage that occurs in the course of recovering the livestock, dog, or other domesticated animal.

(f) This section does not repeal any law concerning posting of land or trespass.

Conclusion

Arkansas trespassing laws are fairly logical, but the sheet number of special circumstances might lead to confusion for the unwary.

Make sure you read and understand their statutes covering posting of signage and notification and you should have an easy time of it.

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