NC Justice Reform Measures Continue to Roll Out in 2022

Three bills that align with recommendations of the Governor’s Task Force for Racial Equity in Criminal Justice (TREC) were signed by North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper on Sept. 2, 2021.

“We have seen that the criminal justice system doesn’t always treat everyone the same – and too often the differences are disproportionately felt by people of color,” said Gov. Cooper. “This legislation will take us one step further toward a more equitable and just North Carolina for all.”

The three bills that focus on criminal justice reform are the following:

North Carolina was among more than 30 states to pass new police oversight and reform laws in 2021.

Our team at Jetton & Meredith, PLLC has a keen interest in criminal justice reform efforts that positively impact our community and policing efforts. New laws can also directly affect our clients facing criminal charges.

Some provisions in the three bills became law immediately on the governor’s signature, while others took effect on Jan. 1, 2022.

Support Law Enforcement Mental Health

House Bill 436 requires prospective police officers to undergo a psychological screening examination prior to employment.

Other provisions in the law include the following:

  • Educates officers on maintaining good mental health
  • Makes officers statewide aware of mental health resources available to them
  • Adds in-service training that develops knowledge and increases awareness of effective mental health and wellness strategies

Law Enforcement Duty to Intervene

House Bill 536 creates a duty for law enforcement officers to intervene when they witness excessive force by a fellow law enforcement officer. The law also requires the officer to make a formal report of the excessive use of force.

Other provisions in the law include the following:

  • Requires that the National Decertification Index be searched as part of officer certification
  • Requires prosecutors to disclose all information that may be used to impeach the credibility of prosecution witnesses (including police officers)

Criminal Justice Reform

Senate Bill 300 makes important changes to improve policing and criminal justice in North Carolina, as recommended by TREC, including:

  • Promotes recruitment of officers with diverse backgrounds and experiences
  • Requires early intervention to identify and correct officers who use excessive force or other misconduct
  • Provides independent investigations of police-involved shootings
  • Limits local laws that criminalize poverty
  • Requires that the first appearance in court be held within 72 hours in misdemeanor when the defendant is in custody

Prior Criminal Justice Reform Efforts

These new laws are not the first criminal reform steps in North Carolina.

HB 511, the North Carolina First Step Act, allows courts to depart from mandatory minimum sentences for some drug trafficking offenses. Instead, judges can use the guidelines based on the classification of the offense. Anyone sentenced for drug trafficking prior to Nov. 30, 2020, may be eligible to have their sentences reconsidered.

SB 562, the Second Chance Act, expands the expungement of criminal records. The law allows people to petition the courts for expunction when state criminal charges were dismissed or for which they were found not guilty. Some state juvenile convictions and non-violent misdemeanors and felonies may be eligible for expunction.

Experienced Lawyers to Fight Criminal Charges

We believe that everyone deserves to have skilled representation when they are facing criminal charges. All allegations should be taken seriously. If you have been charged with a DUI/DWI, sex offenses, vehicular homicide, or any other crime, contact us right away. The sooner we are on your case, the sooner we can aggressively fight to protect your rights and your future.

Contact us online or call (704) 931-5535 to schedule your free initial consultation.