North Carolina Sheriff’s Association on the 2023 Legislative Session

Published 11:04 am Tuesday, October 31, 2023

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From the North Carolina Sheriff’s Association

As the 2023 legislative session has come to a close, sheriffs as well as other law enforcement agency heads and officers once again are grateful for action taken by the General Assembly to support law enforcement professionals. Sheriffs and other law enforcement professionals will have more tools to hold criminals accountable, support victims and protect the public.

Specific key legislation that supports public safety is discussed below.

Two bills were passed this session that increase criminal penalties for certain criminal offenses and create new criminal offenses. House Bill 34, Protect Those Who Protect and Serve Act, increases existing penalties for assaulting a law enforcement officer, public safety officer or member of the North Carolina National Guard and creates a new criminal offense for discharging a firearm into an unoccupied emergency vehicle. House Bill 40, Prevent Rioting and Civil Disorder is a bill which passed early in the session. The bill increases criminal penalties for rioting, related criminal offenses and makes it easier to hold a criminal accountable for injuring a law enforcement officer when engaged in a riot.

Also becoming law this session is Senate Bill 58, Protect Critical Infrastructure, which creates new penalties for damaging or destroying public utilities, energy facilities, communications equipment such as substations, wireless communication towers and telephone poles and wires. The bill was introduced in response to the catastrophic attack on multiple power substations in Moore County last year which left thousands without power for an extended period of time and caused significant economic loss.

The General Assembly also amended current law related to juvenile justice with House Bill 186, Juv Just Mods/DOI Expenses/Tech Changes. A specific portion of this law titled “Lyric and Devin’s Law” allows for the release of a juvenile’s identifying information to the public if a petition has been filed that the juvenile has committed a serious criminal offense or if exigent circumstances exist. Allowing the information to be released can assist law enforcement in the location and capture of dangerous individuals. This legislation is named after Lyric Woods and Devin Clark, two Orange County teenagers killed by a classmate who fled to Delaware to avoid arrest. Because of the previous law prohibiting disclosure of juvenile information, the suspect’s identifying information was not able to be released to the public and media and delayed his ultimate capture.

Senate Bill 189, Fentanyl Drug Offenses and Related Charges, amends current law pertaining to controlled substances such as the increasingly prevalent and deadly fentanyl. The law creates a new crime for the distribution of a controlled substance if the individual who received the controlled substance dies as a result of using the substance, even if no sale occurred. Senate Bill 189 also increases civil penalties for the trafficking of certain controlled substances.

Senate Bill 91, Amend Rule 4/Acceptance of Service, also became law this session and creates criminal offenses related to “street takeovers.” The bill criminalizes the act of blocking a portion of a public street for the purpose of performing vehicular stunts or contests. This bill came in response to an outcry from sheriffs and law enforcement across the state who needed more tools to confront participants in these dangerous spectacles. Street takeovers can lead to chases with law enforcement and to spectators and innocent bystanders being hurt.

House Bill 259, 2023 Appropriations Act, the state’s budget bill, became law towards the end of this session and included funds for numerous sheriffs’ offices and local law enforcement agencies for various types of equipment, training facilities, and other items to help them continue to keep their communities safe.

“The General Assembly has concluded yet another successful legislative session that has included legislation supporting sheriffs, law enforcement statewide, and the mission of the Association,” remarked Sheriff Darren Campbell, North Carolina Sheriffs’ Association President and Iredell County Sheriff. “We thank our state legislators for their continued dedication to improving public safety and supporting our state’s sheriffs and law enforcement officers.”