“Aggravating circumstances” bill filed in state Senate

“Aggravating circumstances” bill filed in state Senate
A bill that would delay the release of certain offenders until the offender has served at least 80 percent of his or her sentence, if the person purposely selected their victim, was filed Thursday in the Arkansas legislature. (Source: ABC/NBC)

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. (KAIT) - A bill that would delay the release of certain offenders until the offender has served at least 80 percent of his or her sentence, if the person purposely selected their victim, was filed Thursday in the Arkansas legislature.

SB622, filed by House Speaker Matthew Shepherd (R-El Dorado), Senate President Pro Tempore Jimmy Hickey Jr. (R-Texarkana), Rep. Carol Dalby (R-Texarkana) and Sen. Alan Clark (R-Lonsdale), was sent Thursday to the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill is part of a debate in the state on hate crimes legislation. Similar bills have been filed by Sen. Jim Hendren (I-Sulphur Springs) and Rep. Fred Love (D-Little Rock).

Those bills were filed last year but have not been before a committee.

According to the bill filed Thursday, the law would set parameters on “aggravating circumstances” as well as crimes that would be used under the bill.

“Aggravating circumstance means a defendant purposely selected the victim because the victim was a member of or was associated with a recognizable and identifiable group or class who share mental, physical, biological, cultural, political, or religious beliefs or characteristics,” according to the bill.

The person would not be eligible for parole unless they served at least 80% of the sentence, according to the bill.

The crimes listed in the bill include:

  • murder in the first degree.
  • murder in the second degree.
  • battery in the first degree.
  • aggravated assault
  • terroristic threatening, if a felony offense.
  • terroristic act.
  • arson.
  • unlawful discharge of a firearm from a vehicle.
  • an attempt, solicitation, or a conspiracy to commit an offense listed if the attempt, solicitation or conspiracy itself is a felony.

The bill would also create penalties for false reporting a crime to law enforcement as well as a registry on the issue.

Content partner Talk Business & Politics said the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce is in support of SB622.

“We work hard to make sure Arkansas is known as one of the best places to do business, live, and visit,” said Randy Zook, President and CEO of the Arkansas State Chamber of Commerce and Associated Industries of Arkansas. “Employers looking to create jobs, and employees looking to locate value equity and inclusion. They want to ensure they’re choosing a state that is welcoming and safe for their families. We are that state, and we must make it known.”

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