Five laws cre­ate new crim­i­nal of­fenses

Open al­co­hol con­tain­ers, pos­sess­ing credit-card skim­mer among vi­o­la­tions

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - NATIONAL - JOHN MORITZ

Arkansans caught rid­ing shot­gun with an open con­tainer of al­co­hol will find them­selves sub­ject to ar­rest and pos­si­bly 30 days in the county jail start­ing Tues­day, when a host of new crim­i­nal codes go into ef­fect.

Five laws that go into ef­fect that day cre­ate new crim­i­nal of­fenses, such as the state’s new open con­tainer pro­hi­bi­tion.

Nearly 30 more laws ex­panded the def­i­ni­tions or amended the pun­ish­ments of ex­ist­ing crimes, ac­cord­ing to a re­view by the Arkansas Demo­crat-Gazette.

The other var­i­ous ac­tiv­i­ties made il­le­gal start­ing Tues­day in­clude:

■ Pos­sess­ing a credit-card skim­ming de­vice (Act 932) ■ Im­proper us­age of the state seal (Act 590)

■ Sex­ual ex­tor­tion (Act 664)

■ Falsely claim­ing mil­i­tary ser­vice to re­ceive a ben­e­fit (Act 907, or the Stolen Valor Act)

Most of the new crim­i­nal codes go­ing into ef­fect deal with mis­de­meanor of­fenses, mean­ing they are un­likely to have much of an im­pact on the state’s swollen pris­ons, where felons are in­car­cer­ated.

The Arkansas Sen­tenc­ing Com­mis­sion, which pro­vides law­mak­ers im­pact state­ments on pro­posed leg­is­la­tion, iden­ti­fied five new of­fenses and re­vi­sions to ex­ist­ing felony crimes that are each ex­pected to send no more than 10 of­fend­ers to prison a year.

None of the new laws are pro­jected to in­crease the Depart­ment of Cor­rec­tion’s in­mate cost or re­quire more prison beds.

The Leg­is­la­ture passed a pair of laws cre­at­ing new felony of­fenses.

Act 664, by Rep. Kim Ham­mer, R-Benton, made the of­fense of sex­ual ex­tor­tion pun­ish­able by up to 20 years in prison and a $15,000 fine. Act 932, by Sen. Ja­son Rapert, R-Bigelow, makes pos­ses­sion of a credit-card skim­mer pun­ish­able by up to 10 years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

No data are avail­able for the Sen­tenc­ing Com­mis­sion to es­ti­mate how many peo­ple will be charged un­der ei­ther law, ac­cord­ing to im­pact state­ments.

The new sex­ual ex­tor­tion law crim­i­nal­izes the act of threat­en­ing or co­erc­ing some­one to have sex or par­tic­i­pate in sex­ual con­duct, in­clud­ing black­mail­ing them to pro­duce nude im­ages.

Ham­mer said it was in­tended in part to pros­e­cute in­stances of “re­venge porn,” or dis­tribut­ing sex­ual im­ages of some­one with­out his con­sent.

Those acts may al­ready be cov­ered by a pair of ex­ist­ing crim­i­nal stat­ues — pro­hi­bi­tions on co­er­cion and the un­law­ful dis­tri­bu­tion of sex­ual im­ages or record­ings — that to­gether led to a sin­gle con­vic­tion be­tween 2013 and 2015, ac­cord­ing to the Sen­tenc­ing Com­mis­sion.

Ham­mer said the new law would in­crease penal­ties for such of­fend­ers, with the hope of de­ter­ring such crimes.

Ac­cord­ing to the non­profit Cy­ber Civil Rights Ini­tia­tive, 38 states have laws against “re­venge porn,” in­clud­ing the Arkansas pro­hi­bi­tion on re­leas­ing un­law­ful sex­ual record­ings, which went to ef­fect in 2015.

Other crimes cre­ated by the 91st Gen­eral Assem­bly carry less weighty pun­ish­ments.

For ex­am­ple Act 849, the open con­tainer law, makes rid­ing in a car with an open can of beer a Class C mis­de­meanor, the low­est cat­e­gory of of­fense pun­ish­able by jail time and a $500 fine.

Be­fore the law, spon­sored by Rep. Dan Dou­glas, R-Ben­tonville, was passed, Arkansas was one of just 10 states that did not pro­hibit open con­tain­ers for ve­hi­cle pas­sen­gers, ac­cord­ing to the Na­tional Con­fer­ence of State Leg­is­la­tures. Drink­ing while on the road is al­ready a mis­de­meanor.

Us­ing the Arkansas state seal to send unau­tho­rized com­mu­ni­ca­tions for pur­poses such as fraud or ha­rass­ment will be a Class A mis­de­meanor, pun­ish­able by up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.

Im­per­son­at­ing a mem­ber of the mil­i­tary or pre­tend­ing to have re­ceived a mil­i­tary honor for the pur­pose of re­ceiv­ing some ben­e­fit will be a Class C mis­de­meanor for a first of­fense, and sub­se­quent of­fenses are a Class B mis­de­meanor. A Class B mis­de­meanor is pun­ish­able by 90 days in jail and up to a $1,000 fine.



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