Midyear Review of Criminal Law Legislation

The North Carolina General Assembly has been hard at work this legislative session, having already passed several bills affecting criminal law and procedure. There are a handful of laws that have already taken effect. As is typically the case, most of the other laws have an effective date of December 1 to allow the courts to prepare for the changes. This post provides a brief summary of the criminal law and related legislation enacted thus far during this legislative session.

Laws Effective Now

Guns. Effective March 29, 2023, section 2 of S.L. 2023-8 (S 41) repeals G.S. 14-402 through G.S. 14-405, G.S. 14-407.1, and G.S. 14-315(b1)(1), regarding pistol purchase permits. As a result of this change, permits are no longer required for the sale, gift, transfer, purchase, or receipt of pistols. Prosecutions for offenses committed before March 29, 2023 are not abated or affected by the repeal, and the statutes that would be applicable but for the repeal remain applicable to those prosecutions. Note that the act did not repeal G.S. 14-406 which requires pistols dealers to keep an accurate record of all sales, nor did it repeal G.S. 14-408 which makes the failure to keep that record a Class 2 misdemeanor.

Effective July 1, 2023, this act also expands the list of people with a valid concealed handgun permit who may carry a concealed handgun in the areas listed in G.S. 14-415.11(c) unless otherwise prohibited by federal law.

Probation modifications. Effective June 16, 2023, section 1 of S.L. 2023-45 (H 87) allows a district attorney to—based on the violation of a condition of probation—file a petition to reduce, terminate, extend, modify, or revoke probation in the district court or superior court district where probation was imposed. Any petition filed by a district attorney must be served on the probationer by the supervising probation officer. If a motion to extend is filed, a probationer determined to be indigent is entitled to services of counsel under G.S. 7A-451. While reports alleging a violation of the terms of probation typically are filed by a probation officer, this amendment authorizes a district attorney to address probation violation by filing a petition.

Health care laws. S.L. 2023-14 (S 20) makes various changes to health care laws, specifically those regarding abortion. The act first repeals G.S. 14-45.1, the statute that has made abortion generally legal before 20 weeks. It enacts provisions making abortion generally unlawful after the twelfth week of a woman’s pregnancy, while making exceptions for medical emergencies, pregnancies resulting from rape or incest, and pregnancies involving “life-limiting anomalies.” My colleague Jill Moore blogged about these changes more extensively on the Coates’ Canons NC Local Government Law blog.

The bill also creates (1) a new infraction carrying a fine of $5,000 per violation for providing abortion-inducing drugs in violation of statutory rules or for advertising to promote the sale of such drugs for unauthorized use, (2) a Class D felony for a health care practitioner to fail to attempt to preserve the life of a child born alive following an attempted abortion or for another practitioner or employee not to report such a failure, (3) a Class 3 misdemeanor for a person to practice midwifery without being duly approved, and (4) a Class I felony for a person to practice midwifery without being duly approved while also falsely representing himself or herself in a manner as being approved. Each of these offenses has an effective date of July 1, 2023.

Unmanned aircraft systems. Effective for activities occurring on or after July 1, 2023, section 2.6 of S.L. 2023-69 (H 192) amends G.S. 14-401.24 to clarify that “to fish” is defined as in G.S. 113-130, except when an unmanned aircraft or unmanned aircraft system is used during, immediately preparatory to, or immediately subsequent to the taking of fish for (i) spotting; locating; recording, broadcasting, or streaming video of fish; or (ii) deploying bait.

North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission. Effective for proceedings held on or after July 7, 2023, section 1 of S.L. 2023-74 (H 790) modifies laws related to the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission, including the rules regarding prehearing conferences, disclosure of information to parties, and provision of evidence.

Other Criminal Legislation of Interest

Below are other noteworthy criminal law enactments with effective dates later this year.

  • S.L. 2023-6 (H 40), enacting special pretrial release conditions for rioting and looting offenses; increasing the punishment and adding new offenses for assault on emergency personnel under G.S. 14-288.9; and, as amended by section 4 of S.L. 2023-71 (S 626), increasing the penalties and adding new offenses for rioting and inciting to riot under G.S. 14-288.2
  • S.L. 2023-8 (S 41), modifying several laws governing concealed carry
  • S.L. 2023-13 (S 157), extending the expiration for limited provisional licenses and expanding permissions for limited provisional licensees
  • S.L. 2023-14 (S 20),
    • providing punishment for owning or operating an abortion clinic without a license;
    • permitting lawful abandonment of an infant that is not more than 30 days of age;
    • providing punishment for assaulting a pregnant woman;
    • making substantial revisions to the North Carolina’s satellite-based monitoring (SBM) scheme, which my colleague Phil Dixon blogged about here; and
    • creating a newly defined “misdemeanor crime of domestic violence,” which I blogged about here
  • S.L. 2023-15 (S 206), amending the Controlled Substances Act to establish new violations involving controlled substances and counterfeit controlled substances
  • S.L. 2023-42 (H 347), authorizing and regulating wagering on horse racing and on professional, college, and amateur sports
  • S.L. 2023-45 (H 87), permitting the delegation of court authority to reduce a term of supervised probation
  • S.L. 2023-47 (S 58), providing punishment for property crimes against utilities and increasing the punishment for first degree trespass under certain circumstances
  • S.L. 2023-63 (S 582), making various changes to the agricultural and wastewater laws of the state, such as: providing punishment for leaving the scene of an animal waste spill, providing punishment for using an unmanned aircraft system near a forest fire, and expanding the offense of larceny of timber
  • S.L. 2023-71 (S 626), expanding the offense of human trafficking to include patronage and solicitation
  • S.L. 2023-74 (H 790), modifying laws regarding electronic recording of juvenile interrogations and enacting a new Article covering in-custody informant statements
  • S.L. 2023-75 (H 813), enacting new pretrial release laws and expanding a judge’s discretion for determining pretrial release for certain crimes
  • S.L. 2023-76 (H 34), creating a new offense for and modifying several offenses regarding assault on emergency personnel
  • S.L. 2023-85 (S 246), expanding the offense of second degree trespass
  • S.L. 2023-86 (S 171), expanding the definition of “reportable conviction” under G.S. 14-208.6(4)
  • S.L. 2023-97 (S 91), creating a new offense for street takeovers

As always, the final legislative summary document will be made available once the General Assembly has adjourned for this session. For now, you can read summaries of all of the criminal law and related legislation from previous years here.