92nd General Assembly

Signed into Law

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I. CHECKS AND SCREENINGS

Studies show that when individuals who were formerly incarcerated have easier access to jobs—and thus fewer barriers to reentry—they are less likely to return to prison. But, in most cases, the state of Arkansas denies licensure for individuals with criminal records. Considering the fact that more than one-quarter of occupations in the United States require a state license, this is particularly alarming. While background checks may be justified in certain instances, they can often place an
undue burden on those who were once incarcerated and create collateral
consequences for returning citizens. 

 

Occupations That Require Checks & Screenings

Act 314 (HB1422): An Act To Require A Criminal Background Check As A Requirement For Licensure As A Physical Therapist Or A Physical Therapist Assistant; And For Other Purposes
 

Sponsored by: Representatives Boyd and Vaught; Senator K.Hammer

This law requires an individual wishing to receive a license to become a physical therapist or physical therapist assistant to submit to a federal and state criminal background check, and be responsible to the Department of Arkansas State Police for the payment of any fee related to the criminal background check. They must also sign a release of information to the licensing board.

 

Other Notable Bills

Act 536 (HB1544): An Act To Amend Provisions Of The Arkansas Code Governing Background Checks For Licensed And Classified School Personnel; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by:  Representative S. Meeks; Senator J. Sturch

 

          Currently, when applying for both licensed and unlicensed school personnel positions, a past 
          expunged or pardoned conviction would not disqualify an individual if the offense was at least
          ten years old and not listed as one of forty-seven disqualifying offenses. This law adds three
          additional crimes to the list of disqualified offenses (the trafficking of a person, patronizing a
          victim of human trafficking, aggravated assault on a family or household member, and
          computer crimes against a minor), but also removes that ten year requirement and allows for
          those with sealed convictions, as well as expunged and pardoned convictions (as long as they
          are not for disqualifying offenses), to be considered for these positions. 

 
 
II. COURTS

Some of the most severe injustices of the criminal punishment system originate and are
carried out in court rooms. Most of the laws passed during the 92nd General Assembly related
to procedural changes in the courts. Significant judicial redistricting redrew judicial districts
and created additional judgeships.  

Criminal Record Sealing

Act 57 (HB1016): An Act Concerning The Time Period Before Which A Court May Grant A Uniform Petition To Seal A Criminal Record; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Representative Capp; Senator B. Ballinger

Under current law, after a person files a uniform petition to seal their criminal conviction, the prosecuting attorney has thirty days to potentially file a notice of opposition. If the notice is not filed, the court may grant the petition. If it is filed, the court may not sign the order without first holding a hearing. 
 

Previously, the petition could not be granted by the court until 90 days had passed since the prosecuting attorney was served with the petition.  However, with the passage of this law, the period is reduced to thirty days.

Driving Related

 

Act 57 (HB1016): An Act Concerning The Time Period Before Which A Court May Grant A Uniform Petition To Seal A Criminal Record; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Representative Capp; Senator B. Ballinger

          Under current law, after a person files a uniform petition to seal their criminal conviction, the
          prosecuting attorney has thirty days to potentially file a notice of opposition. If the notice is
          not filed, the court may grant the petition. If it is filed, the court may not sign the order without
          first holding a hearing. 

          Previously, if the court granted the petition following the hearing, they were required to wait
          ninety days. However, with the passage of this law, the wait period is reduced to thirty days.

 

Juveniles

Testimonies

Act 329 (SB7): An Act To Allow Members Of The General Assembly To Attend Hearings Held Under The Arkansas Juvenile Code Of 1989; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Senator A. Clark; Representative Sullivan

          With minor exceptions, juvenile hearings are closed under current law. 

          But this law allows a member of the Arkansas General Assembly to potentially attend any 
          hearing held under the Arkansas Juvenile Code of 1989, unless the court excludes the member
          based on their authority under the Arkansas Rules of Civil Procedure or the Arkansas Rules of
          Evidence or the best interest of the child.

Testimonies

 

Act 301 (HB1126): An Act Concerning A Victim Impact Statement In A Criminal Trial; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Representative Evans; Senator B. Ballinger

 

          This law requires a defendant to physically remain in the courtroom during the presentation of
          any victim impact statement, unless the court determines they are behaving in a manner that is
          disruptive or presents a threat to the safety of others present in the courtroom.

Redistricting

 

Act 614 (HB1791): An Act Concerning The Prosecuting Attorney For The Thirteenth Judicial District; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Representative Barker; Senator T. Garner

 

          This law converts the Thirteenth Judicial District from a Division B to a Division A Judicial
          District, which means that the district’s prosecuting attorneys will no longer be allowed to
          engage in private law practice during their terms in office. 

 
III. CORRECTIONS

In Arkansas, more than 18,000 prisoners are often held in unsanitary conditions, denied proper medical and mental health care, held in solitary confinement, and forced to work without compensation. More than 38,000 others are on probation and parole. These systems of state control place burdensome restrictions on people, often making it difficult for them to succeed which contributes to funneling people back into jails and prisons.

Incarcerated Persons

 

Act 444 (SB116): An Act Requiring An Inmate In The Department Of Correction To First Exhaust All Available Administrative Remedies As A Condition Precedent To Filing A Claim Under The Arkansas Civil Rights Act Of 1993 Or Any Other State Law Concerning Prison Conditions; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Senator B. Ballinger; Representative Capp


          This law requires incarcerated persons to exhaust all available administrative remedies before
          filing a lawsuit regarding prison conditions under the Arkansas Civil Rights Act of 1993. 

         

          According to the Arkansas Department of Correction Inmate Handbook, administrative
          remedies involve an individual firstly submitting an informal complaint, within fifteen days from
          the date of the incident, to a designated problem-solving staff member. The “Problem Solver”
          has three working days to resolve the issue, but if it cannot be resolved or the designated staff
          member does not respond in the given time, the individual may submit a formal complaint,
          within three working days. Incarcerated individuals are only allowed to submit three formal
          grievances each seven day period, and if they are not satisfied with the response given, the
          complaint can be appealed. And at that point, the person has exhausted their administrative
          remedies. 

Probation and Parole

 

Act 69 (HB 1241): An Act Concerning Probationer and Parolee Restricted Driver’s Licenses Permits; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Representative Tosh; Senator Irvin

 

          Prior to the passage of this law, the Office of Driver Services was already required to issue a
          driver’s license or identification card to incarcerated individuals who were within 180 days of
          release. This law extends the requirement to include individuals who have been released from
          custody for up to six months. While this may seem redundant, it is likely an attempt to provide
          Arkansas Community Correction with additional authority and time in the event of an
          oversight.

          Individuals on probation or parole or within 90 days of release or parole whose license was
          previously suspended, assuming the license has not expired, may apply to receive a restricted
          driver’s license from The Department of Finance and Administration that would allow them to
          drive a motor vehicle directly to and directly home from their place of employment, their          
          school, their child’s school, a scheduled meeting with their probation or parole officer, and
          anywhere their probation or parole officer has allowed them to travel.

 
IV. FINES, FEES, AND COURT COSTS

A study from 2011 estimates that tens of millions of Americans nationwide have been assessed fines or fees as a part of their punishment. Of course, that’s happening in Arkansas as well. As the state’s use of fines and fees increases, poor Arkansans are being disproportionately impacted and can be sent to jail on the sole basis of inability to pay their debt owed to courts. While these monetary penalties are an effort to support its budget—and keep up with the growth of the criminal injustice system—they create an unjust incentive for courts to collect as much money as possible, even if it means not properly considering a defendant’s ability to pay. 

Act 246 (HB1147): An Act To Permit The Reopening Of A Circuit Court Case Without The Payment Of A Filing Fee In Order To Enforce A Monetary Judgment; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Representative Capp; Senator G. Stubblefield

 

          Currently, there is a mandatory filing fee to open or reopen a cause of action in circuit court. 
          To file a civil lawsuit, the initial filing fee is $165.00. If the final order has been entered and the
          cause of action deals with the same parties and issues presented in the initial cause of action,
          the filing fee to reopen the case is $50.  

          However, there is an exception for certain types of cases.  Applications made to revoke the
          conditional release of a person with mental illness or for an order of income withholding (which
          requires an employer of a parent ordered to make child support payments to surrender a
          portion of their income for these payments) are excluded.

         

          This law creates a third instance under which the mandatory filing fee to reopen the case
          would not be required. If a judgment for monetary damages was entered in the initial cause of
          action, and the party attempts to enforce it through a pleading or some other form of court
          action within twelve months of the final judgment, no filing fee is required to reopen the case.

 
V. JUVENILES

Over and over again, the Supreme Court of the United States has upheld the fact
that children are different than adults. Over the last several years, Arkansas has joined
other states across the nation in reevaluating its treatment of minors under the law.
Buoyed by the success of 2017’s Fair Sentencing of Minors Act (Act 539),
the most comprehensive reform efforts came on behalf of juveniles. 

Diversion

 

Act 189 (SB152): An Act To Improve Outcomes For Youth And Families Through The Transformation Of The Juvenile Justice System; And To Reform The Juvenile Justice System To Utilize Validated Risk Assessment Tools, Create A Plan For Diversion Options To Maximize The Benefits For Juvenile Offenders, And Develop A Plan For The Reinvestment Of Funds Into Community-Based Services

 

Sponsored by: Senators Irvin, B. Davis, and J. English; Representatives C. Fite, Barker, Bentley, Brown, Capp, Cavenaugh, Crawford, Dalby, Della Rosa, M. Gray, Lundstrum, J. Mayberry, Petty, Rushing, Speaks, and Vaught

 

          This law requires that the Juvenile Judges Committee of the Arkansas Judicial Council, in
          conjunction with the Division of Youth Services (DYS), select a validated risk assessment
          system to be used by courts and DYS for commitment throughout the state. Diversion
          agreements based on the validated assessment tool selected must also be implemented for
          nonjudicial probation by all juveniles courts and ensure restitution payments to victims.

          Courts may use only the validated risk assessment so selected and it must be applied to all
          commitment decisions for all juvenile offenders.

 

          If a juvenile who is adjudicated delinquent of only a misdemeanor offense is determined by
          the assessment to be a low risk, a court is no longer allowed to commit them to DYS. But if 
          a juvenile is determined to be a moderate or high risk, they may be committed to the division
          as long as the circuit court has made written findings considering: (1) the juvenile’s previous
          history; (2) if the juvenile has been adjudicated delinquent, and if so, whether the offense was
          against a person or property; (3) whether any other previous history of antisocial behavior or
          patterns of physical violence exist; (4) whether the circuit court has previously offered the
          juvenile less restrictive programs or services available to the court; (5) written reports and
          other materials relating to the juvenile's mental, physical, educational, and social history; and
          (6) any other factors deemed relevant by the circuit court.

 

          The duties of DYS are also amended through this law. In addition to overseeing reform of
          the state’s juvenile justice system, they now also include: (1) reviewing the quality and
          consistency of reforms and reform proposals; (2) monitoring youth and family outcomes
          related to reforms; (3) developing a reinvestment plan to redirect savings realized from
          reductions in the number of secure out-of-home placements; and (4) developing a
          collaborative information-sharing system among the Department of Human Services, the
          Administrative Office of the Courts, and other stakeholders. 

 

          DYS must also provide individualized treatment and placement decisions with measurable
          goals and regular reassessments, based on the results of an initial assessment and the risk
          level assigned to the juvenile by the validated risk assessment used in the court’s commitment
          decision.

Division of Youth Services (DYS)

 

Act 365 (HB1384): An Act To Clarify When The Division Of Youth Services May Release Information About A Juvenile To The General Public; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Representative C. Fite; Senator Rice


          Current law requires that if a juvenile is committed to DYS of the Department of Human
          Services for an offense for which they could have been tried as an adult and leaves “their
          assigned placement without authorization,” the Director of DYS, or their designee, must
          release a “description of the juvenile and any other pertinent information deemed necessary
          to aid in the apprehension of the juvenile and safeguard the public welfare,” including the
          juvenile’s name and age.

 

          This law no longer obligates disclosure of that information, but is replaced with a
          requirement to release the juvenile’s photograph, name, age, and “felony offense for which
          the juvenile is committed to the custody of DYS” in situations where the juvenile was
          committed to DYS for an offense that would be a felony if committed by an adult, and they 
          "[pose] a serious threat to public safety or a member of the public,” or are “at a heightened
          risk of harm if...not apprehended immediately due to [their] age, disability, medical condition,
          mental capacity, or another emergency circumstance.” The division may also release
          identifying information if the juvenile is committed under extended juvenile jurisdiction. 
          The division must also promulgate rules detailing the factors that will be considered in
          determining when identifying and descriptive information may be released. 

Safety and Wellbeing

 

Act 185 (SB168): An Act To Amend The Safe Haven Act; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Senator Bledsoe; Representative Petty

 

          It is an affirmative defense to the charge of endangering the welfare of a minor if a parent        
          “voluntarily delivered… and left the child with, or voluntarily arranged for another person to
          deliver… and leave the child with, a medical provider or law enforcement agency.” This law
          makes the same true of fire departments and also allows any of these three locations to
          voluntarily install “a newborn safety device.”

 

          If a hospital, law enforcement agency, or fire department chooses to do so, they are not only
          responsible for the cost but also the installment of an adequate dual alarm system that is
          connected to the physical location of the device. The alarm must be tested at least one time
          per week to ensure it is in working order and visually checked at least two times per day.

 

          The city of Benton has already voted to install a “Safe Haven Baby Box.”

Other Notable Bills

 

Act 640 (HB1398): An Act To Amend Provisions Of The Arkansas Code Concerning Student Attendance and Discipline; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Representative S. Meeks; Senator E. Cheatham


          This law makes many notable changes concerning school districts’ discipline policies.

          Discipline policies must now include programs, measures, or alternative means and methods to
          continue student engagement and access to education during periods of suspension or
          expulsion. Teachers and administrators, classified scheduled employees and volunteers shall be
          provided with training and support regarding appropriate student discipline, behavioral
          intervention, and classroom management. Two disciplinary acts—the “School Discipline Act”
          and the “School Dismissal Act”—were also repealed and removed from law. 

          In the matter of student suspension and expulsion, a superintendent is no longer required to    
          recommend an automatic one-year expulsion from school for the possession of a firearm or
          other prohibited weapon. And while the Department of Education will still collect information
          regarding the students who were expelled for firearm-related misconduct, it is no longer
          available by phone, fax, or mail “to any school in the state,” as it was previously. 

         

          Regarding the development of future disciplinary policies, the school district’s committee on
          personnel policies is required to review annually the school district’s existing student discipline
          policies and discipline data from the state and district and the committee may recommend
          changes “based on the committee’s review.”

 

          However, this law also grants a superintendent the ability to modify penalties for a student
          on a case-by-case basis (with potential deviation from the stated discipline policies).

         

          A teacher or school administrator had been defined by prior law as: “a person employed by a    
          school district and required to have a state issued educator license as a condition of their
          employment.” This law redefines teacher or school administrator as “a person employed by a
          school district and required to hold a valid Arkansas standard teaching license, an ancillary
          license, a provisional license, a technical permit, an administrator’s license issued by the State
          Board of Education, and a non licensed classroom teacher or administrator employed in  a
          position under a waiver from licensure.

         

          Any school district failing to file with the Department of Education disciplinary policies
          pursuant to these requirements shall have all state aid funds withheld until such disciplinary
          policies are filed with the Department.

 
VI. LAW ENFORCEMENT

All across the state, police corruption and excessive force persist. An increasingly militarized police force too often thinks of itself “at war” with the public, disproportionately affecting communities of color and the poor. This session saw a few positive changes, most notably as it relates to civil asset forfeiture, a process which allows police to seize and keep or sell any property they allege to be involved in a crime. Additionally, this session saw an expansion of police powers, and allowed public schools to institute their own private police forces.  

Act 288 (HB1182): An Act To Amend The Law Concerning Distracted Driving; To Make The Use Of A Handheld Wireless Telephone In A School Zone A Primary Offense; And For Other Purposes

 

Sponsored by: Representative C. Fite; Senator M. Pitsch

 

          Under current law, the driver of a motor vehicle is not allowed to use a handheld wireless
          telephone, unless it is for an emergency purpose, while passing a school building or school
          zone during school hours if children are present and outside the building. 

          This act creates an exception for law enforcement.  As long as they are “engaged in the
          performance of [their] official duties,” they do not have to comply with this regulation.  It also
          allows officers to “stop or detain a driver of a motor vehicle solely to determine” whether or
          not an individual is complying with this regulation.

VII. MODIFIED OFFENSES

A report compiled by The Arkansas Sentencing Commission counts eleven laws modifying or enhancing penalties for criminal offenses. These enhanced sentences will further exacerbate lengthy prison sentences and prison overcrowding in Arkansas. 

 

Courts

 

Act 322 (HB1369): An Act Concerning The Offense Of Failure To Appear; To Amend The Definition Of “Pending Charge”; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Representative Capp

 

          Currently, if a person is cited or issued a summons as an accused party and fails to appear
          in court without “reasonable excuse,” they are guilty of failure to appear. A failure to appear
          occurs if the required appearance was in regard to a "pending charge” or disposition, This law
          extends the definition of “pending charge,” to not only include a charge from an arrest, but also
          the issuance of a citation or criminal summons.

Driving Related

 

Act 166 (HB1006): An Act To Amend The Law Concerning The Penalties Imposed For The Unlawful Passing Of A School Bus; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Representative C. Fite; Senator B. Ballinger

 

          Under existing law, if an individual were to unlawfully pass a school bus, they would, upon
          conviction, be guilty of a misdemeanor and fined no less than $250 but no more than $250 but
          no more than $100,000 and/or up to ninety days in jail. This law creates two exceptions to the 
          current penalties for violations involving school buses.


          Now, if an individual passes a school bus while it displays its alternating red warning lights
          for the purpose of loading or unloading passengers or fails to come to a complete stop, or
          the person demonstrates a “reckless disregard for the safety of the passengers of the school
          bus,” they would, upon conviction, be charged with a heightened penalty: a Class A
          misdemeanor and a fine of no less than $500 but no more than $2,500.

Human Trafficking

 

Act 842 (HB1634): An Act To Include Acts Committed By A Victim Of Human Trafficking Under The State’s Rape Shield Law; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Representatives Petty and Scott

          This law adds a victim’s prior sexual conduct to Rape Shield protections if they were a victim
          of human trafficking and the defendant is being prosecuted under the Human Trafficking
          Act of 2013. It is no longer admissible by the defendant, either through direct examination
          of any defense witness, or cross-examination of the victim or other prosecution witness, to
          attack the credibility of the victim, to prove consent or any other defense, or for any other
          purpose.

Mandated Reporters

 

Act 186 (HB1022): An Act Concerning The Civil And Criminal Liability Of Mandated Reporters Who Act In Good Faith; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Representatives Dotson, Warren, Capp, Cozart, Dalby, Evans, Gazaway, L. Johnson, Maddox, Vaught, and Wing; Senators J. English and B. Ballinger

          All mandated reporters are required to immediately notify the Child Abuse Hotline if they have
          “reasonable cause to suspect that a child” has been subjected to, or died as a result of, child
          maltreatment, or observes that a child being subjected to conditions or circumstances that
          would “reasonably result in child maltreatment.” 

          This law states that if a person notifies the hotline “in good faith,” they are immune from civil
          and criminal liability.

Orders of Protection

 

Act 905 (HB1734): An Act Concerning The Affirmative Defenses To A Violation Of An Order Of Protection; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Representative Gazaway

 

          Currently, it is an affirmative defense to the offense of violation of an order of protection if: (1)             the parties have reconciled prior to the violation, and (2) the petitioner invited the defendant
          to come to their residence or place of employment which is listed in the order with knowledge
   
      that the defendant’s presence would be in violation of the order of protection.

          This law also makes it an affirmative defense to the offense of violating an order of
          protection if: (1) the petitioner arranged or invited the defendant to meet at a location, or
          took affirmative steps to communicate with the defendant, with the promise that they would
          not report the defendant to law enforcement for the violation, or (2) the petitioner visited
          the residence or place of employment of the defendant on their own accord, and without
          any threat, duress, or coercion on the part of the defendant.

Reproductive Rights

 

Act 180 (SB149): An Act To Create The Arkansas Human Life Protection Act; To Abolish Abortion In Arkansas And Protect The Lives Of Unborn Children; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Senators Rapert, B. Ballinger, Bledsoe, A. Clark, B. Davis, Hester, Hill, B. Johnson, G. Stubblefield, J. Cooper, Flippo, T. Garner, K. Hammer, and Irvin; Representatives Bentley, Barker, Beck, Bragg, Breaux, Cavenaugh, Christiansen, Cloud, Coleman, C. Cooper, Crawford, Della Rosa, Dotson, Gates, Gonzales, G. Hodges, Holcomb, Lowery, Lundstrum, J. Mayberry, McCollum, Penzo, Petty, Richmond, S. Smith, Speaks, Sullivan, Womack, Wooten, A. Davis, Hawks, Payton, and B. Smith

 

          In 1973, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Roe v. Wade that a woman has the
          constitutional right to an abortion, and that states are not allowed to interfere with that right.
          However, six states—Arkansas included—have passed “trigger laws” that would make
          abortion illegal in the event that Roe v. Wade, “in whole or in part,” is overturned.

 

          In Arkansas, if this law were to go into effect, a person would be prohibited from
          performing or attempting to perform an abortion except to save the life of a pregnant
          woman in a medical emergency. A violation of this act would be an unclassified felony with a
          fine up to $100,000 and/or imprisonment up to ten years.

 

          This law would also go into effect if an amendment to the U.S. Constitution is adopted that,
          in whole or in part, restores to the state of Arkansas the authority to prohibit abortion.​

Violent Offenses

 

Act 243 (SB305): An Act Concerning The Offenses Of Aggravated Assault And Aggravated Assault On A Family Or Household Member; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Senator G. Leding; Representative Clowney

 

          While aggravated assault under current law includes actions that obstruct the respiration or
          circulation of another person's blood by applying pressure to the throat or neck, or by blocking
          the other person’s nose or mouth, this act extends the offense’s definition to include actions
          that “[impede] or [prevent] the respiration of another person or the circulation of another
          person's blood by applying pressure on the chest.”

Other Notable Bills

 

Act 461 (HB1438): An Act Concerning The Offenses Of Voyeurism And Video Voyeurism And Persons Who Commit Repeat Offenses; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Representatives Hawk, Christiansen, Cloud, McCollum, Slape, and Watson; Senator Rapert

 

          Under current law, a person commits the offense of voyeurism if they personally or through
          the use of an unmanned vehicle or aircraft, for the purpose of sexual arousal or gratification,
          look into a “private place... that is a public accommodation… in which a person may
          reasonably be expected to be nude or partially nude” without the other person’s consent.
          This law enhances the charge from a Class A misdemeanor to a Class D felony for subsequent
          offenses.

          Similarly, if a person uses “an unmanned vehicle or aircraft, a camcorder, a motion picture
          camera, a photographic camera of any type, or other equipment that is concealed, flown
          operated in a manner to escape detection, or disguised to secretly or surreptitiously,” to
          “videotape, film, photograph, record, or view [the other person by] electronic means,” they are
          guilty of video voyeurism. This law heightens the charge of video voyeurism from a Class D
          felony to a Class C felony if it is at least the person’s third offense. 

 
VIII. NEW OFFENSES

According to a report compiled by The Arkansas Sentencing Commission, nineteen laws creating new offenses. The creation of new crimes will do nothing to address the state’s excessive prison population, and likely lead to a heightened number of people entering the system. 

Act 503 (HB1506): An Act To Impose A Criminal Penalty For Theft Of Decorative Or Memorial Items From A Cemetery Or Grave Site; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Representative Beck

 

          The theft of decorative or memorial items from a cemetery, graveyard, or a person’s grave site
          is a Class A misdemeanor. This law makes subsequent offenses a Class D felony.

 
IX. SEX OFFENFERS

Individuals who commit criminal offenses of a sexual nature often face continued punishment and
post-correctional sanctions after they have served their sentences. These sanctions come with a vast array of collateral consequences including homelessness, emotional harm to family members, loss of employment, decreased support networks, and increased pressure from probation and parole officers. Additional restrictions placed on “sex offenders” make it more difficult to comply with probation and parole requirements and successfully reintegrate into society. 

Less Restrictive

 

Act 587 (SB351): An Act To Amend The Law Concerning The Registration Requirements Of A Sex Offender; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Senator A. Clark

          This law changes the requirements for a sex offender, particularly in regards to adult-minor    
          relationships. If an individual who is no more than three years older than the other person
          participates in consensual intercourse with that person, who is under eighteen, they no longer
          have to register as an offender if the court determines that there was no evidence of force,
          compulsion, threat or intimidation in the commission of the sexual offense. 

More Restrictive

 

Act 187 (HB1023): An Act Concerning The Entry Upon A School Campus By A Person Who Is Required To Register As A Sex Offender; And For Other Purposes
 

Sponsored by: Representatives Warren, Dotson, Capp, Cozart, Dalby, Eubanks, Evans, Gazaway, L. Johnson, Maddox, Vaught, and Wing; Senator J. English and B. Ballinger

          This law amends slightly the restrictions regarding when individuals require to register as sex
          offenders can enter onto school campuses.  The individual must be a parent, guardian,
          grandparent, great-grandparent, brother or sister to be allowed on school property, except for
          special school-sponsored events and for attendance at a graduation or baccalaureate
          ceremony.

 
X. TRANSPARENCY

Throughout history, Arkansas has done a poor job of collecting and synthesizing data in helpful and meaningful ways, especially when it comes to the criminal punishment system. For this reason,  decARcerate attempted to pass HB1530, which would have required the Arkansas Department of Correction to collect data related to solitary confinement, as well as supported HB1788, which would have required the collection of data related to bail. In the 2019 Legislative Session, little was done to address this problem directly, and continued attacks against the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) only served to further limit government transparency and accountability.

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)

 

Act 810 (SB464): An Act To Ensure  The Confidentiality of Certain Procedures Involved In The Execution Of A Person For A Capital Offense; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Senator Hester; Representative Maddox

 

          In April of 2017, Arkansas’ Governor Asa Hutchinson scheduled eight executions in ten days—
          the largest mass execution in over half a century—and successfully put four men to death by
          lethal injection. There was lots of controversy around this unprecedented rush, particularly
          because the Arkansas Department of Correction (ADC) had been in breach of contracts put in
          place by distributor companies to prevent their drugs from being used in executions.

 

          After discovering that state officials had obtained these drugs through “false pretense, trickery,
          and bad faith,” healthcare company McKesson Company sued ADC and a temporary restraining
          order that prevented Arkansas from using the company’s drug in execution was issued. Days
          later, the state filed an emergency appeal with the Arkansas Supreme Court, who granted its
          motion and lifted the restraining order.

         

          This new law comes as a direct response to this legal decision, and is particularly problematic
          because it prevents the public from knowing if the state is carrying out executions in a
          constitutional matter. 

 

          Act 810 also expands on a law from 2015, which further prohibits the state from releasing
          documents, records, and information of pharmaceutical companies that “identify” or could
          “indirectly identify” suppliers and makers of lethal injection drugs. Pursuant to this law,
          “recklessly” disclosing this information is a Class D felony.

Data Collection

 

Act 943 (SB656): An Act To Create The Data-Sharing And Data-Driven Decision-Making Task Force; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Senator J. English

          Given our state’s resistance and inability to properly collect and make this data available, the
          passing of this law is particularly significant. It acknowledges the “lack of a quick and efficient
          data-driven delivery system,” and creates a “data-sharing and data-driven decision-making task
          force.” 

 

          The task-force is expected to offer specific solutions and legislation necessary to “create a
          statewide data sharing system for maintaining and sharing public data that is owned,
          controlled, collected, or maintained by a state agency” and “recommend funding mechanisms
          to support the use of statewide data sharing, including data analytics, machine learning, and
          innovative technologies to link data between agencies.” It is made up of six members of the
          Senate as well as six members of the House, and the meeting times can be found online. 

Other Notable Bills

 

Act 519 (SB266): An Act Concerning The Dissemination Of A Person’s Criminal History Information; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Senator Irvin

          Under current law, only certain individuals (persons performing research related to the
          administration of criminal justice, private contractors housing state inmates, and the Governor)
          have access to a person’s criminal history information. Now, after the passing of this law, 
          noncriminal justice agencies are allowed to request this information from the director of the
          Arkansas Crime Information Center, and it may be made available after a review and express
          approval by the director if specific requirements are met as to the use and protection of the
          information.

 
XI. MISCELLANEOUS

Act 894 (SB950): An Act To Prohibit A Person Convicted Of A Public Trust Crime From Filing As A Candidate For A Constitutional Office Or From Running As A Candidate For A Public Office; And For Other Purposes

Sponsored by: Senator Hester
 

          This law prohibits a person who pleads guilty or nolo contendere (no contest), or is found
          guilty, of a public trust crime from filing for, running for, or holding constitutional office, despite
          whether the offense has been sealed or expunged. 

          Additionally, a person who has had a public trust crime sealed or expunged is required to
          disclose the fact and nature of the offense upon inquiry. They are also prohibited from publicly
          stating or affirming under oath that: (1) the conduct underlying the plea or finding did not
          occur; (2) record of the underlying plea or finding does not exist; or (3) they have not been
          convicted of a criminal offense.

Written by Sarah Pickering
Edited by Zachary Crow, Jewell Harper, and Amy Pritchard

© 2020 by decARcerate

(501) 367-7890  l  contact@decarceratear.org  l  PO Box 7708, Little Rock, AR 72217  l   

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