A number of new laws went into effect in North Carolina on December 1, 2019. Some of these are administrative, and deal with various state boards, tuition rules at State colleges, etc., but some will have an immediate, direct impact on the citizens of North Carolina. Here is a summary of some of the changes you should be aware of. This list is NOT exhaustive:
INCREASED COURT COSTS: HB 323 will increase court costs in some cases by seeking to recover crime lab analyses that are performed during criminal investigation. This is a $600 cost that was previously only recovered in certain circumstances, but those circumstances are broadened. HB 323 / SL 2019‑150.
MOVE OVER: If you fail to move over for a stopped law enforcement vehicle on the roadside, and a law enforcement officer is injured or killed, you face stiffer penalties. The fine for failing to move over is $250 plus court costs; injuring or killing a first responder by failing to move over is now a felony. SB 29 / SL 2019‑119.
ROAD BARRIERS ON DANGEROUS ROADS: Where official road blocks are in place due to flooded or damaged roads, going around the roadblocks is now a misdemeanor. HB 67 / SL 2019‑84.
RIDESHARING: It is now a crime to impersonate an Uber, Lyft, or other “transportation network company” (ridesharing) service driver, and penalties for assaulting a legitimate rideshare driver are increased. While North Carolina generally only requires a rear license plate, the new law requires that the license plate (“tag”) number be visible from the front of the vehicle, either with a front license plate or some other device visible from the front of the vehicle, in a font at least 3” tall. HB 391 / SL 2019‑194.
HANDICAP PARKING: The law defining a “handicap parking space” has been expanded by HB 206 to clearly include access aisles, ramps, etc. surrounding the actual parking space, and penalties for parking in the actual space are applicable for parking in a way that obstructs this access to the space. HB 206 / SL 2019‑199.
CONNER’S LAW: Penalties are increased for assault on law enforcement officers with a firearm. HB 283 / SL 2019‑228.
DEATH BY DISTRIBUTION: Drug dealers may now be held criminally liable for the death by overdose of their illicit customers. HB 474 / SL 2019‑83.
REVOCATION OF CONSENT: Until recently, North Carolina was the only state in which a woman who has granted sexual consent could not revoke it. That is no longer the case: Consent is a matter of ongoing status, and the law now reflects that. With the implementation of SB 199, “I’ve changed my mind” has legal significance. SB 199 / SL 2019‑245.
RAISE THE AGE: North Carolina was the last state in the nation to classify 16‑ and 17‑year‑old offenders as adults by default for the purposes of criminal prosecution. This change in HB 966 shifts first‑time offenders under 18 into the juvenile justice system, which will provide considerable relief when it comes to dealing with petty offenses by teens. Because this will substantially increase the load on the juvenile justice system, more than $30M has been allocated to fund the adjustment to this change. HB 966 / Various.
CHILD SEXUAL ABUSE: The age limit for bringing civil claims for childhood sexual abuse is being raised from 21 to 28 under SB 199 / SL 2019‑245. The changes to this law also expand the affirmative, mandatory duty to report (summarized) and impose criminal penalties for failing to do so:
Any person 18 years of age or older who knows or should have reasonably known that a juvenile has been or is the victim of a violent offense, sexual offense, or misdemeanor child abuse shall immediately report the case to the appropriate local law enforcement agency in the county where the juvenile resides or is found, in person or by telephone. The report shall include any information which the person making the report believes might be helpful in establishing the need for law enforcement involvement. The person making the report shall give his or her name, address, and telephone number.
Penalty: Any person 18 years of age or older, who knows or should have reasonably known that a juvenile was the victim of a violent offense, sexual offense, or misdemeanor child abuse, and knowingly or willfully fails to report as required, or who knowingly or willfully prevents another person from reporting as required, is guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.
MEDICARE TRANSITION: With HB 656, changes have been made to the laws regarding Medicaid to allow the last stages of Medicaid Transformation. For those who may not be aware, North Carolina is undertaking a transition of the Medicaid program from a fee‑for‑service program (where your doctor bills Medicaid for what was done, and Medicaid cuts a check) to a managed care program, where (most) Medicaid recipients will choose a care provider and be enrolled in a network similar to an HMO. This new system goes beyond the services provided by an HMO, because it’s an integrated care system, where doctors partner with mental health providers and legal services providers like Legal Aid of North Carolina, to address not just the direct symptoms that trouble a patient, but to examine the underlying causes of health problems, like anxiety, food insecurity, unsafe housing, etc. HB 656.
RETURNED CHECK FEE: Until now, the most a merchant could charge you for a bounced check (outside of court) was $25. SB 529 / SL 2019‑77 raises that amount to $35. [This does not affect what your bank charges you; that amount is a matter of contract, and can vary considerably from bank to bank.]
PHONE NUMBER / CALLER ID SPOOFING: You know those telemarketing calls that appear to come from your own number, or a nearby number, or fake calls pretending to be from the Sheriff or the IRS? HB 724 implements fines from $500 to $5,000, imposed by the attorney general, for telemarketers who use misleading information to hide the origin of their calls. Citizens may also sue. To report violations, send the calling number, your number, and the date and time of the call, to the Attorney General; the AG’s office can now force telecom carriers to trace the actual origin of the call. [As a helpful note, this is not always technically possible, so it’s unclear how effective the new law will be.] HB 724 / SL 2019‑188.
POLITICAL SIGNS: Citizens may now legally remove political signs that have been left in a public right‑of‑way more than 30 days after the related election. (In the past, you had to report them to the City and have them remove the sign.) SB 220 / SL 2019‑119.
MARRIAGE FEES: The fee for having a magistrate perform a civil marriage is increased from $20.00 to $50.00. HB 470 / SL 2019‑243.