Bill Summary for H 27 (2011-2012)

Summary date: 

Feb 1 2011

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2011-2012 Session
House Bill 27 (Public) Filed Tuesday, February 1, 2011
TO (1) CREATE THE NORTH CAROLINA FORENSIC SCIENCE ADVISORY BOARD, (2) ENCOURAGE EFFORTS TO ELIMINATE SOURCES OF HUMAN ERROR IN FORENSIC EXAMINATIONS, (3) REQUIRE CERTIFICATION OF FORENSIC SCIENCE PROFESSIONALS, (4) RENAME THE STATE BUREAU OF INVESTIGATION LABORATORY AS THE NORTH CAROLINA STATE CRIME LABORATORY, (5) CREATE THE POSITION OF OMBUDSMAN TO ENSURE THAT THE BEST FORENSIC PROCESSES AND PROCEDURES ARE UTILIZED IN THE STATE CRIME LABORATORY, (6) CLARIFY STATUTES THAT ALLOW FOR THE ADMISSIBILITY OF FORENSIC ANALYSES INTO EVIDENCE, (7) CLARIFY THE STATE'S OBLIGATION TO DISCLOSE TO THE DEFENDANT ALL INFORMATION RELATING TO THE TESTING OR EXAMINATION OF EVIDENCE AND TO PENALIZE OMISSION OR MISREPRESENTATION RELATING TO DISCLOSURE, AND (8) CLARIFY THAT STATE CRIME LABORATORY PERSONNEL SERVE THE PUBLIC AND THE CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM, AS RECOMMENDED BY THE JOINT SELECT COMMITTEE ON THE PRESERVATION OF BIOLOGICAL EVIDENCE, AND TO PROVIDE THAT THE ACT SHALL BE ENTITLED "THE FORENSIC SCIENCES ACT OF 2011.”
Intro. by Glazier, Stam, Michaux, Jackson.

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Bill summary

Enacts new GS 114-16.1, establishing a 16-member North Carolina Forensic Science Advisory Board (Board) in the Department of Justice (DOJ). Indicates that the membership will include the State Crime Laboratory Director, and 15 specified members, appointed by the Attorney General. Details meeting, membership term, and expense requirements for the Board. Authorizes the Board to review State Crime Laboratory (Laboratory) operations and make recommendations as necessary and concerning any of the following: (1) new scientific programs, protocols, and methods of testing; (2) plans for new program implementation, and existing program maintenance, improvement, or elimination; (3) testing protocols, and examination methods and guidelines for court presentations; and (4) qualification standards for Laboratory forensic scientists. Directs the Board to, at the Laboratory Director’s request, review the work of Laboratory scientists. Explains that the reviewed records retain their confidential status and are considered part of a criminal investigation. Details procedures for Board review of records, and directs the Board to recommend to the Laboratory a review process for retesting and reexamination requests.
Directs the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) to encourage and seek collaborative opportunities and grant funds, in association with the university program or independent nationally-recognized forensic institutions, to research human observer bias and sources of human error in forensic examinations. Directs the Laboratory, in consultation with the Board, to develop standard operating procedures to minimize potential bias and sources of human error in forensic science, and to apply the procedures to all forensic analyses that may be used in litigation.
Mandates individual certification of Laboratory forensic science professionals as soon as practicable, and no later than June 1, 2012, unless inconsistent with international and ISO standards. Provides access to the certification process to all forensic science professionals.
Directs the Revisor of Statutes to replace the name of the State Bureau of Investigation or any other similar reference, with “North Carolina State Crime Laboratory.”
Creates the position of ombudsman in the Laboratory within the DOJ. Directs the ombudsman to work with interested parties and the general public to ensure that Laboratory procedures and protocols are consistent with state and federal law, best forensic law practices, and in the best interests of justice. Lists additional responsibilities and reporting requirements. Makes the creation of the ombudsman position effective July 1, 2011.
Amends GS 8-58.20 (pertaining to the admissibility of forensic evidence) to require that a forensic analysis or a DNA analysis be performed by a laboratory that is accredited by an accrediting body that requires conformance to forensic specific requirements, and is a signatory to the International Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation (ILAC) Mutual Recognition Arrangement for Testing (previously required accord with SBI or accreditation by the American Society of Crime Laboratory Directors/Laboratory Accreditation Board). Makes a conforming change to GS 20-139.1(c2) (providing admissibility requirements for chemical analyses of blood and urine).
Amends GS 15A-903 to specify that any matter or evidence submitted for testing or examination, any results, and all other data, calculations, or writings, including, but not limited to, preliminary test or screening results and bench notes, be provided, upon motion, to the defendant. Requires that all public and private entities that obtain information related to an investigation, disclose the information to the appropriate prosecutorial agency for disclosure to the defendant. Provides that a knowing and voluntary omission or misrepresentation in connection with the statute constitutes an obstruction of justice and is punishable as provided by law. Makes technical and conforming changes.
Amends GS 114-16 to clarify that employees of the Laboratory provide services to the public and the criminal justice system (rather than the prosecuting officers of the state).
Provides that nothing in the act is intended to amend or modify the statutory or criminal law applicable to discovery in criminal cases, which was applicable before the act’s effective date. Clarifies that prosecutions for offenses committed before the act’s effective date are not abated or affected, and the statutes that would apply but for the act remain applicable to those prosecutions.

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