The Raleigh Report

First Posted: 3/23/2012

The past few weeks have remained busy as I prepare for the short session that will follow the primary elections in May. I am developing ideas and working with my colleagues to prepare legislation that will help improve the education of our children and the economy. We will also introduce legislation to help working class people and the vulnerable. We also want to continue efforts to be inclusive and respectful of the diversity in our state. This includes efforts to protect voting rights and women’s rights.

At the same time, we will continue to make sure that people are treated fairly by our criminal justice system. Sometimes this means protecting the process used by police or the courts. Other times, it may mean increasing the punishment for a particular crime. This week, I wanted to share with you some of the criminal justice legislation sponsored by my Democratic colleagues that was passed into law during our last session. I hope you will find it helpful.

Thank you as always for your interest in state government and your work in our community. Please contact me if you have questions or if I can be of assistance to you.

Criminal Justice

— The standards for the use of forensic evidence in our courts are now more stringent. Legislation (HB 27, SB 684) passed last year raises the bar for the testing, examination, and admissibility of forensic evidence. It also provides measures for the certification and oversight of forensic science professionals and creates an advisory board to review crime lab operations.

— The state has enhanced its protection of victims and witnesses in the court system. The penalty for intimidating or interfering with a person who is summoned or acting as a witness in any court in the state has been increased from a Class H felony to a Class G felony. (SB 268)

— A defendant’s juvenile record can now be considered when bond is set for a subsequent violation. The law (SB 135) applies if the defendant in a criminal proceeding involving a Class A1 misdemeanor or a felony was less than 21 years of age at the time of the offense.

— Attorneys appointed by or under contract with the Office of Indigent Services can have the cost of certifying a court document as a true and accurate copy waived. Under the law (HB 243), the requesting attorney must be representing an indigent person at state expense.

— Jails in urban counties can now hold more inmates. A new law (SB 143) provides that each jail dormitory may house up to 64 inmates so long as the dormitory meets specific statutory requirements. The act applies to counties with populations in excess of 300,000 people, which makes the law applicable in Wake, Mecklenburg, Cumberland, Guilford, and Forsyth counties.