Arkansas's Negligent (Vehicular) Homicide Laws and Penalties

A motorist who drives negligently and kills another person will likely face negligent homicide charges.

In Arkansas, a motorist can be charged with "negligent homicide" (also called "vehicular homicide") for negligently causing the death of another person while driving.

Negligence. A person acts with negligence when unknowingly doing something that poses a "substantial and unjustifiable risk" to others. In other words, the person acts in a way that amounts to a gross deviation from the standard of care that a reasonable person would use under like circumstances.

Causation. A driver can be convicted of negligent homicide only if there's proof that the negligent driving was a legal cause of the death. It's not enough to merely show the defendant drove negligently and someone died—there needs to be a direct link between the defendant's driving and the death.

Negligent Homicide Penalties

Generally, negligent homicide is a class A misdemeanor. Convicted motorists face up to a year in jail and/or a maximum $2,500 in fines.

However, negligent homicide is a class B felony—a much more serious offense—if the motorist committed the offense while:

  • intoxicated on drugs or alcohol
  • having a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08% or more
  • unlawfully passing a school bus, or
  • fatigued.

For purposes of the negligent homicide statute, "intoxicated" means affected to such a degree that the motorist's "reactions, motor skills, and judgment are substantially altered and the operator therefore constitutes a clear and substantial danger of physical injury or death to himself or herself or to another person." The statute defines "fatigued" as having been without sleep for at least 24 hours.

Drivers who are convicted of negligent homicide as a class B felony face five to 20 years in prison and up to $15,000 in fines.

All negligent homicide convictions result in a one-year license revocation.


Sentencing law is complex. For example, a statute might list a "minimum" jail sentence that's longer than the actual amount of time (if any) a defendant will have to spend behind bars. All kinds of factors can affect actual punishment, including credits for good in-custody behavior and jail-alternative work programs.

If you face criminal charges, consult an experienced criminal defense lawyer. An attorney with command of the rules in your jurisdiction will be able to explain the law as it applies to your situation.

Talk to a Criminal Defense Attorney

A negligent homicide conviction comes with serious consequences. If you've been arrested for negligent homicide—or any other crime—get in contact with a criminal defense attorney right away. The facts of every case are different. An experienced defense attorney can explain how the law applies to the facts of your case and help you decide on the best plan of action.

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