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Survey of Arkansas' Criminal Sentencing Law and Recent Enactments of Other States

NCJ Number
Date Published
6 pages
Basic provisions of recently enacted statutory laws of Arkansas, Arizona, California, Indiana, and South Dakota pertaining to sentencing, imprisonment, and parole of convicted felons are specified and discussed.
The Arkansas Criminal Code (Act 280 of 1975, as amended), classifies felonies as capital felony murder class A, class B, class C, class D, and unclassified. The penalty for capital felony murder is death or life imprisonment without parole. In addition, specific terms are stipulated for each class of offense, i.e., the term for a class A felony is not less than 5 years nor more than 50 years or life imprisonment. Within these guidelines, terms may be increased for habitual offenders. The Arizona Revised Criminal Code is effective as of October 1978. Under the new laws there are six classifications of felonies. As is the case with the Arkansas legislation, terms of imprisonment are stipulated; the penalty for the class 1 felony is life imprisonment or death. Inmates are eligible for parole after serving one-half of the sentence after 1 year of imprisonment of 60 days before sentence expiration, which ever is less. The California Determinate Sentencing Act of 1976 gives the judge three statutory sentence choices for each crime. For example, robbery is punishable by 2, 3, or 4 years of imprisonment. Uniformity in sentencing is emphasized through provision of sentencing criteria for trial judges. Indiana adopted a determinate sentencing law, effective October 1977. Murder is a separate category with a sentence of 40 years with as much as 20 additional years for aggravating circumstances or a decrease of as much as 10 years for mitigating circumstances. Comparable legislation of South Dakota became effective October 1977. Six classifications of felonies with imprisonment terms were established. All of the recent enactments establish a definite term of imprisonment specified for each crime with a narrow margin of discretion for the sentencing authority. Elimination of sentencing disparity is the primary purpose of such legislation. An addendum is provided with the report.