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.
The General Assembly has passed H 937, which awaits the Governor’s signature. It is an omnibus gun bill, following rather closely on the heels of the omnibus firearms bill enacted in 2011, which I covered in part here. Assuming that it becomes law – and I am not aware of any prospect of a veto [update: it has been signed by the Governor] – at least two of its provisions will have a substantial effect on the criminal justice system. The bill:
- Creates the new status offense of armed habitual felon, which generally provides that a person who has been convicted of one “firearm-related felony,” and commits a second, shall be sentenced as a Class C felon with a minimum 120 month prison term.
- Expands the gun enhancement in G.S. 15A-1340.16A to apply to all felonies, rather than just Class A through Class E felonies. The enhancement now adds 72 months, rather than 60, to prison terms for Class A through Class E felonies; 36 months to Class F and Class G felonies; and 12 months to Class H and Class I felonies.
The bill makes a number of other changes, generally designed to expand the rights of gun owners, particularly concealed handgun permit holders. It:
- Amends G.S. 14-269 and G.S. 14-269.2 to allow concealed handgun permit holders to bring firearms onto school grounds and into parking lots for state government facilities so long the firearms are “in a closed compartment or container within the person’s locked vehicle.”
- Amends G.S. 14-269.3 to allow concealed handgun permit holders to bring firearms into “establishment[s] in which alcoholic beverages are sold and consumed,” such as bars and restaurants, and into “assembl[ies] where a fee has been charged for admission.”
- Amends G.S. 14-415.23 to remove local governments’ authority to prohibit concealed handguns at playgrounds and on greenways, and clarifies the extent of local governments’ authority to prohibit concealed handguns at certain other recreational facilities such as athletic fields and swimming pools.
- Imposes a 48-hour time limit on clerks of court to report to the NICS system certain mental-health related court determinations, such as involuntary commitment orders or findings of insanity or incompetence.
- Amends G.S. 14-415.17 to provide that “the list of [concealed carry] permit holders and the information collected by the sheriff to process an application for a permit are confidential and are not a public record.” The bill also provides that gun dealers’ records are not public records.
- Amends G.S. 14-277.2 to allow concealed carry permit holders to carry concealed handguns at parades and other gatherings.
- Retains, unlike earlier versions of the bill, G.S. 14-402 through 14-405, the statutes that require a person to obtain a handgun purchase permit from the sheriff before buying or receiving a handgun. The bill reduces the amount of time within which a sheriff must decide whether to issue a permit from 30 days to 14 days; gives a sheriff the authority to revoke a permit after issuance under certain circumstances; and makes most records related to such permits exempt from the public records law.
- Clarifies and further expands the rights of certain judicial officials to carry concealed handguns.
Many of the foregoing changes will be effective October 1, 2013.