What Law Enforcement Officers Should Know


Act 753 of 1991, as amended, prohibits the desecration of human remains in unregistered cemeteries and the trade or commercial display of remains or associated burial artifacts. The Act applies to all human remains, whether on private or public property, land or water.Act 753 of 1991 - What Law Enforcement Officers Should Know

Through Act 753, the Arkansas General Assembly intends that all human remains, regardless of ethnic origin, cultural background, religious affiliation or date of burial should receive equal treatment and respect. Burial sites include but are not limited to unmarked pioneer family cemeteries, Civil War unmarked grave sites, unmarked slave cemeteries, and prehistoric Indian burials.

Desecration is defined in the Act as "the intentional, willful, and/or knowing removal or disturbance of human skeletal burial remains or burial furniture which was placed with the buried human body and/or treating such human skeletal burial remains in an irreverent and contemptuous manner."

Under Act 753, any necessary excavation of an unmarked grave site must be conducted with the consent of the landowner by an archeologist employed by the State of Arkansas or the United States Government or who meets the U.S. Department of the Interior's professional qualifications as found in the current Code of Federal Regulations.

Anyone who knowingly desecrates or permits desecration of a burial site is guilty of a Class D felony for the first offense and a Class C felony for each subsequent offense.

Under Act 753 of 1991:

1. It is illegal to dig in unmarked graves.

2. It is illegal to sell, buy or barter human skeletal burial remains or grave furniture. Private artifact collections legally acquired before July 15, 1991, are exempt.

3. It is illegal to display human skeletal burial remains for profit or as a commercial enterprise.

4. Disturbance of grave sites or burial furniture through normal agricultural activity is exempted. However, even a landowner cannot knowingly or intentionally excavate an unmarked grave site or permit others to do so on his land.

5. The disposition of any human skeletal burial remains confiscated as evidence in criminal investigations must follow procedures in Section 8 and 9 of Act 753. Any burial furniture confiscated as evidence in criminal investigations becomes the property of the State of Arkansas at the conclusion of legal proceedings and should be transferred to a state curation repository which meets the standards outlined in Appendix J of A State Plan for the Conservation of Archeological Resources in Arkansas.

6. If a grave site in question may be part of a registered cemetery or a marked grave, contact the local State Health Department office.

7. If a law enforcement agency has a question concerning the Act or needs technical assistance, they are encouraged to contact the Arkansas Archeological Survey at 2475 N. Hatch Ave., Fayetteville, AR 72704, (501) 575-3556, or the Arkansas Historic Preservation Program, 1100 North Street, Little Rock, AR 72201, (501) 324-9880.