A handful of bills that North Carolina’s legislature passed into law over the past two years will go into effect Monday. Here are highlights of some of these new laws and their provisions:
House Bill 768, 2022 ABC Omnibus: Generally loosens the state’s alcoholic beverage restrictions. Effective Monday, the bill outlines the limitations and authorities granted to packaging and logistics permit holders. In a provision that took effect earlier, the bill also repealed the definition for private bars and then added a definition for bars. Private bars, a vestige of the 1930s post-Prohibition era, were venues that sold alcoholic beverages but not prepared food. Patrons had to pay a membership fee and provide their names and addresses. The new definition of bar is essentially a venue to drink alcoholic beverages with no membership requirement.
House Bill 607, Various Court Changes: Makes changes affecting the North Carolina court system. Under Section 1a of the bill, dismissed charges and not guilty verdicts shall not be expunged automatically from Aug. 1, 2022 to Aug. 1, 2023. Section 1a also states that the Administrative Office of the Courts shall immediately end all procedures related to the automatic expunction of dismissed charges, not guilty verdicts, and findings of not responsible. An expunction, or expungement, is a legal process to remove a criminal conviction or a criminal charge from a person’s record and to seal or destroy the state’s records of the arrest, charge, and/or conviction, as defined on the North Carolina’s Judicial Branch website.
On Dec. 1, following the enactment of the state’s Second Chance Act, certain misdemeanor and felony charges that were dismissed or disposed of as “not guilty” began being automatically removed from people’s criminal records. This avoided the need for expungement petitions with the court, which could be costly, complex and time-consuming, said Laura Holland, director of the N.C. Justice Center’s Fair Chance Criminal Justice Project.
HB 607 pauses automatic expungements to allow for recommendations on how to resolve issues that have arisen with the expunction of records, such as adequate notice to all relevant agencies and file retention. Holland said that North Carolina completely destroys records after expungement. District attorney’s offices, sheriff’s offices and others had concerns on how to access records after they were expunged, she said. They wanted a system to retain access, even if just for a limited number of people, as well as a more consistent system to receive notice of those expungements, she said
“There are probably hundreds of thousands of people in our state who are eligible for expungement, but don’t get it, because they don’t know how, they don’t know they’re eligible, or they can’t afford an attorney to help them navigate the process,” Holland said. “So it’s essential to have in place to make sure that people have the ability to get the relief they need to fully thrive in our state. But it’s also essential that we do it right.”
House Bill 560, Public Safety Reform: Modifies laws related to public safety. The bill has various provisions, with many parts of it not becoming effective until later this year. Starting in August, the bill increases the amount of money available for funeral expenses through the state’s Crime Victims Compensation Fund. The change allows families to get up to $10,000 for expenses related to funeral, cremation, and burial, including transportation of a body. Previously, it permitted only up to $5,000.
More laws taking effect Aug. 1
Senate Bill 339, 2022 WRC Amendments: Makes changes to laws governing the state’s Wildlife Resources Commission, a regulatory agency tasked with the conservation of the state’s fish and wildlife resources.
Senate Bill 496, DOI Omnibus Bill: Amends insurance laws, as recommended by the Department of Insurance.
Senate Bill 201, Various Motor Vehicle and Transportation Law Changes: Makes a list of changes to motor vehicle and transportation laws, such as clarifying move-over laws.
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