Bill Summary for H 148 (2021-2022)

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Summary date: 

Feb 24 2021

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2021
House Bill 148 (Public) Filed Wednesday, February 24, 2021
Intro. by McNeill, Hurley, C. Smith, Greene.

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Bill summary

Makes multiple amendments to GS Chapter 15A, Article 12 (Pen Registers; Trap and Trace Devices), by modifying existing sections GS 15A-260, 261, and 263 and adding new GS 15A-265 allowing the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) to conduct warrantless use of a pen register or trap and trace device in emergency situations.

Reworks GS 15A-260 (definitions) by putting existing definitions into separate subdivisions and adding definitions for law enforcement officer and location data.   

Amends GS 15A-261 (prohibition and exceptions) by allowing for any one of the listed exceptions to be sufficient for overcoming the general prohibition on the installation or use of a pen register or trap and trace device, and by adding a new exception in subdivision (b)(4) for emergency circumstances as provided in GS 15A-265.

Amends GS 15A-263 (issuance of order for pen register or trap and trace device) by reordering subsection (a) regarding what a judge must find before entering an ex parte order authorizing the installation and use of a pen register or trap and trace device.  Changes the standard for situations involving the commission of a felony, Class A1 or Class 1 misdemeanor offense from reasonable suspicion to probable cause. Adds additional ground which consists of finding that there exists an emergency situation as provided in GS 15A-263(a)(1)a. and that the information gained from the use of the device will be of material aid in locating an individual at risk of death or serious physical harm.   

Enacts new GS 15A-265 authorizing an SBI agent, with permission from the agent's supervisor, to install without a warrant on an emergency basis a pen register or trap and trace device, but requiring the agent to seek an order approving the installation or use within 48 hours; without the order, the installation or use must immediately terminate when the information is sought, the request for an order is denied, or 48 hours has passed, whichever occurs first.  Requires the agent to determine either (1) there exists immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury to any person and there are grounds upon which an order could be entered pursuant to GS 15A-263(a)(1) to authorize the installation and use of a pen register or trap and trace device or (2) an individual has disappeared, a child has run away, or a person is missing for which no criminal charge per GS 15A-263(a)(1)a. is readily apparent, but where there may be an immediate danger of death or serious bodily injury based wholly or partly on the individual's age, physical condition, or circumstances surrounding his or her disappearance.  Makes an agent who violates the provisions regarding seeking an order or termination of the use of a pen register or trap and trace device guilty of a Class 1 misdemeanor.  Requires a person who provides assistance to be reasonably compensated for expenses incurred. Requires any information gained from the use of pen registers or trap and trace devices under this statute that is not required to be retained for discovery purposes in a criminal prosecution to be destroyed as soon as practicable upon the resolution of the emergency situation.

Effective December 1, 2021, and applies to installations occurring on or after that date, and any criminal penalties created by this act apply to offenses committed on or after that date.