AN ACT TO EXPAND THE INVESTIGATORY POWERS OF THE OFFICE OF THE STATE FIRE MARSHAL WITH RESPECT TO CERTAIN FIRE INVESTIGATIONS, TO INCREASE THE PUNISHMENT FOR THE BURNING OF COMMERCIAL STRUCTURES, AND TO AMEND THE OFFENSE OF ARSON OR OTHER UNLAWFUL BURNINGS THAT RESULT IN INJURY TO A FIREFIGHTER, LAW ENFORCEMENT OFFICER, FIRE INVESTIGATOR, OR EMERGENCY MEDICAL TECHNICIAN.
Amends GS 58-79-1 to authorize the Commissioner of Insurance (was, the Director of the State Bureau of Investigation) to investigate fires, through the specified entities. Amends GS 58-79-5 to make it the duty of the Commissioner of Insurance through the Office of State Fire Marshal, in addition to the Director of the State Bureau of Investigation, to examine the cause, circumstances, and origin of all fires in the state to which the Commissioner's attention has been called. Gives the Commissioner of Insurance, through the office of the State Firm Marshal, in addition to the Director of the State Bureau of Investigation, the power of trial justice to summon and compel the attendance of witnesses to testify in relation to any manner that is the subject of inquiry and investigation, and to administer oaths and affirmations to the witnesses. Makes conforming changes to the statute and to GS 58-79-15. Amends GS 58-79-40 to require insurance companies investigating a fire loss of real or personal property to release any information related to the loss when requested by the Office of the State Fire Marshal (in addition to the already specified entities). Makes additional conforming changes to these statutes. Effective October 1, 2019.
Repeals GS 14-60, which made the burning of schoolhouses or buildings of educational institutions a Class F felony.
Enacts new GS 14-62.3 to provide the penalties for wantonly and willfully setting fire to or burning or aiding, counseling, or procuring the burning of any commercial structure, defined as any building or structure that is not designed principally for residential purposes. Violations are a Class D felony if the structure was occupied at the time of the burning and a Class E felony if the structure was unoccupied at the time of the burning.
Amends the following statutes to provide for the punishment stated in the statue unless the conduct is covered under some other provision of law that provides for greater punishment: GS 14-61 (burning of certain bridges and buildings), GS 14-62 (burning of certain buildings), GS 14-62.1 (burning of building or structure in process of construction), GS 14-62.2 (burning of churches and certain other religious buildings), and GS 14-64 (burning of commercial structure).
Amends GS 14-69.3 by adding that a person is guilty of a Class I felony for committing a felony under Article 15 (Arson and other burnings) where a firefighter, law enforcement officer, fire investigator, or emergency medical technician suffers physical injury while discharging (or attempting to do so) their official duties on the property, or proximate to the property, that is the subject of the individual's discharge of their respective duties.
Provides that prosecutions for offenses committed before the effective date of this act are not abated or affected by this act, and the statutes that would be applicable but for this act remain applicable to those prosecutions.
The act is effective December 1, 2019, and applies to offenses committed on or after that date.