Bill Summary for H 235 (2021-2022)

Summary date: 

Mar 8 2021

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2021
House Bill 235 (Public) Filed Monday, March 8, 2021
AN ACT TO ELIMINATE UNNECESSARY DELAY OF CRIMINAL PROCEEDINGS IN DISTRICT COURT BY PERMITTING THE REMOTE TESTIMONY OF CERTAIN WITNESSES USING TECHNOLOGY AND PROCEDURES THAT PROTECT THE RIGHTS OF DEFENDANTS AND ADVANCE THE EFFICIENT ADMINISTRATION OF JUSTICE.
Intro. by Arp, Blackwell, C. Smith, Bell.

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Bill summary

Includes whereas clauses. States 7 legislative findings regarding a defendant's right to proceedings free from unreasonable delay and testimony of forensic or chemical analysts and witnesses called to establish chain of custody of evidence. 

Amends GS 8-58.20 to mandate rather than permit written forensic analysis lab reports to be admissible as evidence in a criminal prosecution, without testimony of the analyst who prepared the report, if the report states the results of the analysis and is signed and sworn to by the person performing the analysis. Amends subsection (g), regarding the procedure for establishing chain of custody of forensic evidence. Current law states that subsection (g) does not preclude the right of any party to call a witness. Adds a new provision to except the right to call an analyst regarding the results of forensic testing and the testimony of each person in the associated chain of custody made available by remote testimony in real time in district court under GS 15A-1225.3, as amended. 

Amends GS 15A-1225.3 to require testimony by an analyst regarding the results of forensic testing admissible under GS 8-48.20 as amended, and reported by that analyst, and testimony by each person in the associated chain of custody admissible pursuant to GS 8-58.20 as amended, be permitted by remote testimony in any criminal proceeding in district court. Requires that the State provide a copy of the full lab report package to the defendant's attorney or the defendant if the person has no attorney, and the State give the defendant's attorney, or the defendant if the person has no attorney, 15 business days' prior notice of its intent to introduce testimony regarding the results of forensic testing using remote testimony. Specifies that the new provisions do not determine admissibility in a criminal proceeding in superior court. Makes existing remote testimony requirements applicable to remote forensic analyst testimony and chain of custody witness testimony. States that the statute does not obligate the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) or the State Crime Lab to incur expenses related to remote testimony absent a designated appropriation of funds. Makes conforming and clarifying changes. 

Makes substantively identical changes to GS 20-139.1, enacting new subsection (c6) to require testimony by a chemical analyst regarding the results of a chemical analysis of blood or urine admissible in any administrative hearing, district or superior court, or juvenile adjudicatory hearings under subsection (c1), and the testimony of each person in the associated chain of custody, admissible under subsection (c3), be permitted by remote testimony in any criminal proceeding in district court. Enacts identical notice requirements for the State as those enacted regarding forensic analysts and chain of custody witness testimony. Requires remote testimony under new subsection (c6) to allow the trier of fact and all parties to observe the demeanor of the remote witness as the witness testifies in a similar manner as if the witness were testifying at the hearing or trial location (identical to remote testimony requirements under GS 15A-1225.3(c) concerning forensic analysts and chain of custody witnesses). Requires full and fair opportunity for examination and cross-examination of the witness. States that the statute does not obligate the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) or the State Crime Lab to incur expenses related to remote testimony absent a designated appropriation of funds. Makes conforming changes to except testimony permitted by new subsection (c6) from the stated right of any party to call a witness in any administrative hearing or any court. Makes further conforming and clarifying changes. 

Applies to criminal proceedings, administrative hearings, and adjudicatory hearings in juvenile court beginning on or after the date the act becomes law. 

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