Short Preview of the Short Session

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Shea noted yesterday that the General Assembly has begun its 2014 session, and she summarized one of the bills that the legislature may take up. This post notes several other significant bills under consideration.

Background. In even-numbered years, the legislature has a “short session” during which only certain matters may be considered. The most important categories of legislation that may be advanced are (1) budgetary adjustments and (2) bills that passed “crossover” in the previous session, meaning that they were approved by one chamber but not yet approved or rejected by the other. A complete explanation of the rules, and a list of all the bills that passed crossover in 2013, is here.

Bills related to criminal law. Some of the bills of interest that the General Assembly may consider are:

  • H31, which would amend habitual DWI so that any prior conviction of habitual DWI, regardless of how long ago it took place, would render a new DWI a habitual DWI.
  • H40, which would amend habitual DWI so that two, rather than three, previous DWI convictions are needed to trigger the offense.
  • H183, which would allow public and private hospitals to conduct chemical analyses of blood or urine in DWI cases.
  • H217, which would, among other things, make transfer to superior court mandatory in certain serious sex crime cases involving older juveniles.
  • H888, which would authorize the Legislative Research Commission to study the criminal laws concerning the possession and distribution of prescription opiates.
  • H908, which would expand the use of investigative grand juries, currently authorized only in drug trafficking cases, to certain fraud and white collar investigations.

There are a few other criminal law bills that passed crossover, but they look like pretty small potatoes.

New bills may crop up. Every short session, new bills get introduced that didn’t pass crossover the previous session and that have nothing to do with the budget. There are a variety of legislative rules that permit that. For example, a new bill may be introduced if two-thirds of the members of each chamber sign on to a joint resolution authorizing its introduction. So the list above certainly does not represent the entire universe of criminal law bills that will be considered this session. Stay tuned for future developments.

3 comments on “Short Preview of the Short Session

  1. In regards to “H183, which would allow public and private hospitals to conduct chemical analyses of blood or urine in DWI cases”, the General Assembly already took care of this last year in Senate Bill 285 which became session law 2013-194. Unfortunately, not many jurisdictions have taken advantage of this law outside of some western counties. Despite the state setting aside $500,000 for the District Attorneys to be able to get the local hospitals to test blood in DWI cases, many DA’s have done absolutely nothing in regards to this while at the same time cases continue to get dismissed as the SBI is backlogged to a degree beyond belief.

  2. Comments on two parts of the roundup: First, HB888, which would authorize the Legislative Research Commission to study the criminal laws concerning the possession and distribution of prescription opiates, is without doubt going to recommend even more draconian sentences for even small possessions or transactions, due to the current knee jerk reaction to social symptoms manifesting themselves in yet another category of substance abuse.

    Legitimate pain patients cannot get treatment from almost any doctor anymore due to the stigma of diverted pills by a tiny minority of people. people in the rural parts of this state are left to suffer or use the black market, thus feeding the demand for supply and corrupting even the most unlikely patients to use the extra income for survival. There is a ” heroin epidemic ” acording to the press in many areas of the nation…the reason? As opiod pain meds are further removed from general medicine, the people who by their nature or circumstances or prediliction seek the sensations that such drugs provide will seek out the most cost effective and potent product, as any market force would.

    Until you can change the entire psyche of about 1% of the population ( the amount historically dependent on opiods long term ) , you can count on them seeking with all their being what they crave or need. Locking them up only encourages prison smuggling and violence and gangs, and an almost certain retrurn to their previous habits once released. Since the USA is not enlightened to use ” harm reduction ” as policy instead of caging sick patients and addicts with killers and rapists and thieves, it may be more effective and humane for family doctors to be encouraged to work with habituated persons to either taper off and quit or at least maintain as healthy and legal a lifestyle as possible. When hard core addicts that have no impetus to change are given clean doses of free or cheap narcotics, crime drops dramatically, public health and police involvement drop drastically, and most long term addicts in these programs actually work and contribute rather than beg and languish on the streets.

    Let the publicity sensitive politicians in Raleigh know in advance that acting ” tougher on drug crime ‘ will mean more prisons instead of desperately needed mental health beds; disabled mentaly ill non-criminal youth and adults are being treated shamelessly in NC while private prison operators and police unions slaver over the hope for even more warm bodies.

    Drugs are like a ” Whack – a Mole ” phenomenon: when you knock down one , another pops up, never ending..you will tire of whacking long before the moles tire of seeking relief from misery..only by dealing with the inherent misery in many humans will the hard drug issue be dealt with even to a degree. When someone is desperate they do not weigh the risks and penalties, they only know that they have a need that can only go away if they get what they want. pouring sick people into cages while so few kingpins get caught is a policy so amoral that it cannot be defended. The lack of courage and resolve by our politicians , their smug party loyalties, will mean a brutal, thuggish and almost neanderthal mentality will continue in this area…very sad.

    next: Investigative grand juries: What a blatant scam! Kepp them ONLY for drug cases, and make sure that the bigshots in white collars ripping off millions and working the system for benefit never get to be the subject of any grand jury panels. As long as the ” druggies ” are seen as subhuman weaklings deserving the harsh sentences they pass, with the benefit of bragging rights at campaign time about being ” tough on crime ” of course, then the gentlemen in Armani suits will be above the indignity of pesky local prosecutors who get wind of the often rank smell coming from the country club golf links…no worries..

    Grand juries should be for investigating the results of police investigations and DA evidence and issuing indictments when proper. However, especially in rural areas such as where I live, grand jurors are generally chosen for the ..how can I put this kindly?…lack of sophistication, education and any indication of an enquiring nature. prosecutors seek the most pliant, unchallenging and those likely to accept any offer of proof . In a fair world, grand jurors would have to complete a form that showed the ability to intellectually comprehend the concepts of 1. presumed innocence. 2. reasonable doubt. 3. the plain meaning of the statutes as written, and no bias toward police and the system. Most jurors no doubt believe that a suspect is likely guilty because they cannot understand why someone innocent would attract the attention of the authorities…instructions on reasonable doubt and presumed innocence will linger only a fleeting moment when a lifetime of conditioning takes over in their reasoning process. Only savvy and skeptical jurors can keep DA’s from spurious indictments..to use the current pool of jurors as investigators in any event is not good and sophisticated white collar crimes would no doubt either plunge the average juror into complete confusion or a state of utter languor…in either case the result will be not one of considered evidence but which lawyer manages to sway the stunned minds before them…with the states resources, they usually win…justice loses, but they win.

  3. Well said, I couldn’t have said it better myself and while we are on the subject of how good or bad our judicial system is, I have another one for you. Personally I think the felony murder rule is one of the most unfair, corrupt laws we have. A person brought up on such charges virtually doesn’t stand a chance. They are condemned before they even walk into a court room and if it’s election year , reasonable doubt and presumed innocence isn’t even a thought in the minds of the jury. You compound that with a public defender who has never handled a murder case and an over zealous DA out to defend his reputation before he retires and the situation takes on a whole new look of justice or lack there of. This country better wake up, by imposing longer sentences, convicting innocent people and a general lack of concern for justice is only creating a host of criminals that would other wise be law abiding citizens. Not to mention the money the states would save. Keep up the good work, maybe someday things will change.

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