Bill Summary for S 486 (2021-2022)

Summary date: 

Apr 5 2021

Bill Information:

View NCGA Bill Details2021
Senate Bill 486 (Public) Filed Thursday, April 1, 2021
AN ACT TO PROMOTE CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM IN NORTH CAROLINA.
Intro. by Mohammed, Fitch, Batch.

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Bill summary

Part I.

Amends GS 15A-534 to prohibit judicial officials from imposing a bond secured by a cash deposit as a condition of pretrial release pursuant to subdivision (a)(4) if no charge against the defendant is more severe than a Class 1, 2, or 3 misdemeanor, unless the judicial official makes written findings that the defendant will pose a danger of injury to any person. Makes clarifying and technical changes. Makes language gender-neutral. Applies to conditions of pretrial release imposed on or after October 1, 2021. 

Part II.

Enacts GS 20-24.1(g) to require the Division of Motor Vehicles (Division) to automatically restore a license 12 months after the effective date of revocation pursuant to subsection (a) for either failing to appear at trial or a hearing or to pay court-ordered fines, penalties, or other court costs for motor vehicle offenses, except for revocations resulting from impaired driving charges. Repeals existing subsection (f), which permits application to a court for a limited driving privilege valid for up to one year for licenses revoked due to failure to pay court-ordered fines, penalties, or other court costs for motor vehicle offenses. Revises the conditions for restoration of a license revoked under subsection (a) to include that the person demonstrates to the court that failure to pay the fine or penalty (was the penalty, fine, or costs) was not willful and the person is making a good faith effort to pay. Makes conforming and clarifying changes. Makes language gender-neutral.

Adds to GS 20-7 to authorize the Division to waive license restoration fees and other service fees if the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles finds that the license holder has shown good cause for not being able to pay the fine. 

Directs the Division to automatically restore any driver's license suspended for failure to pay after 12 months, except for offenses involving impaired driving.

Effective October 1, 2021. 

Part III. 

Amends GS 15A-601 to require any defendant charged with a misdemeanor under a magistrate's order or by criminal process who is held in the custody to have a first appearance before a district court judge in the district in which the crime is charged to have been committed. Specifies that this first appearance is a critical stage of the proceedings. Requires a defendant's first appearance before a district court judge to be held at the earlier of the first regular session of the district court in the county or within 48 hours after the defendant is taken into custody (previously, alternatively within 96 hours after taken into custody). Makes conforming changes regarding the clerk's authority to conduct the first appearance if the district court judge is unavailable within this period. Makes technical changes and language gender-neutral.

Further amends GS 15A-534 to no longer mandate a judicial official to require a defendant who has failed to appear on one or more prior occasions to answer the charge(s) to which pretrial conditions apply to execute a secured appearance bond in an amount at least double the amount of the most recent previous secured or unsecured bond, or $1,000 if no bond has been required of the charges. Instead, requires the judicial official to require the execution of a secured appearance bond of at least $1,000. Eliminates the provisions governing the judicial official's authority regarding the determination of the conditions of pretrial release for a defendant who is charged with an offense who is currently on pretrial release for a prior offense. 

Enacts GS 15A-534.8 to require a defendant who remains in custody due to imposed conditions of pretrial release following an initial appearance to be brought before a district court judge for a preventative detention hearing within five days of the initial appearance. Requires that the hearing be separate from the defendant's first appearance. Provides for counsel at the hearing, with counsel provided at the expense of the State if the defendant is found to be indigent. Provides for the defendant to present evidence and testimony at the hearing to determine whether the pretrial conditions are necessary to ensure the safety of any person, with the State given the opportunity to respond, present evidence, and examine witnesses. Requires a judge to set new conditions if the judge finds by clear and convincing evidence that the imposed conditions are not necessary to reasonably prevent injury to any person, or to make written findings as to why the continued detention is necessary if the judge does not rule in favor of the defendant, with conditions continued unless lawfully modified. 

Effective October 1, 2021, and applies to conditions of pretrial release imposed on or after that date. 

Part IV. 

Directs the Administrative Office of the Courts (AOC) to automatically enroll all criminal defendants into its court date reminder system. Requires criminal defendants to be allowed to opt out of the automatic enrollment by using a process developed by AOC, which must be developed and implemented by December 1, 2021. Effective December 1, 2021, and applies to criminal defendants arrested on or after that court date.

Enacts GS 15A-306 to require persons who fail to appear as required by a citation or other criminal process served pursuant to the Article to have 20 calendar days from the missed court date to contact the clerk of superior court to request a new court date. Mandates that such action requires the clerk to strike the person's failure to appear and any order for arrest or fines related to the failure to appear, and the clerk to provide a new court date in the case. Limits new court dates in criminal cases pursuant to these provisions to one. Effective October 1, 2021, and applies to failures to appear in court on or after that date. 

Part V.

Revises and expands the qualifications for indigent defense under GS 7A-451. Now provides for indigent defense in any case in which (1) a felony or misdemeanor is charged (was, limited to cases in which imprisonment, or a fine of $500 or more, is likely to be adjudged) or (2) for motions for appropriate relief if appointment of counsel is authorized by law and the defendant has been convicted of a felony, has been fined $200 (was, $500) or more, or has been sentenced to a term of imprisonment, among other existing eligibility criteria. Effective October 1, 2021. 

Appropriates $1.18 million in recurring funds from the General Fund to the Office of Indigent Defense Services, Private Assigned Counsel Fund, for each fiscal year of 2021-23 to fund the increased need of appointed counsel due to the expansion of eligibility. Effective July 1, 2021.

Part VI.

Revises Article 1 of GS Chapter 9 regarding preparation of jury lists and drawing of panels as follows. 

Amends GS 9-2 to require the jury commission to annually prepare a master list of qualified prospective jurors to serve on January 1 of the next year (previously provided for biennium lists, or upon request of the senior resident superior court judge, annually). Makes conforming changes.

Makes a clarifying change to GS 9-4 to refer to the clerk of superior court's duty to maintain the master jury list.

Makes conforming changes to GS 20-43.4 regarding the list of currently licensed drivers that must be provided by the Commissioner of Motor Vehicles (Commissioner) to each county jury commission, now annually. Now requires the list to include the driver's race. Enacts subsection (b1) to require the raw data of date of birth, sex, and race to be used to develop the list provided by the Commissioner to be made available for analysis by clerks of court, jury commissions, and the public. Makes conforming changes.

Further amends GS 9-2, enacting subsection (l) to require the data of date of birth, sex, and race to be compiled by each county as public records for master jury lists, lists of jurors summoned, lists of jurors that have served, lists of jurors that have been excused, lists of jurors that have been disqualified, and lists of jurors whose service has been deferred. Applies to lists prepared on or after October 1, 2021. 

Part VII.

Enacts Article 83A, Dignity for Women Who are Incarcerated Act, in GS Chapter 15A. Sets forth 11 defined terms. 

Prohibits Department of Public Safety (DPS) and correctional facility employees from using leg restraints, wrist restraints, restraints connected to other incarcerated persons, or waist shackles on pregnant incarcerated women during the second and third trimester of pregnancy, during labor and delivery, and during the six-week postpartum recovery period. Defines correctional facility employee to include DPS employees and any persons employed by a correctional facility, defined to mean any unit of the State prison system, local confinement facility, juvenile detention facility, or other entity under the authority of any state or local law enforcement agency that has the power to detain or restrain a person under state law. Restricts use of wrist restraints during the postpartum recovery period to being held in front of her body, if the employee determines extraordinary circumstances exist, as defined, and the employee makes a written report to the warden or administrator within 72 hours containing justification for the use of the restraints. Clarifies that the provisions do not affect licensed health care professionals' use of medical restraints to ensure the medical safety of a pregnant incarcerated woman. 

Prohibits correctional facility employees from conducting invasive body cavity searches of incarcerated women who are pregnant or in the postpartum recovery period unless the employee has compelling grounds to believe the person is concealing contraband that presents an immediate threat or harm to the person, fetus, or another person, and the employee submits a written report to the warden or the administrator within 72 hours containing the justification for the search. 

Requires DPS and administrators of correctional facilities to ensure pregnant incarcerated women are provided sufficient food and dietary supplements, and access to food at appropriate times of day, as ordered by a physician, physician staff member, or a correctional facility nutritionist as specified. 

Prohibits DPS and administrators of correctional facilities from placing pregnant incarcerated women or incarcerated persons in the postpartum recovery period in restrictive housing, as defined, unless the employee makes a determination that an extraordinary circumstance exists, as defined, and submits a written report to the warden or administrator within 72 hours containing the justification for the placement. 

Prohibits DPS and correctional facility administrators from assigning incarcerated women who are pregnant or in the postpartum recovery period to any bed that is elevated more than 3 feet from the floor of the facility. 

Requires prenatal, labor, and delivery care to be provided to pregnant incarcerated women at no cost to the incarcerated woman.

Directs the warden or administrator of the correctional facility to compile a monthly summary of all written reports received as required under the Article and submit the summary to the DPS Secretary. 

Requires DPS and correctional facility administrators to permit a newborn to remain with the incarcerated woman for at least 72 hours unless the medical provider has a reasonable belief that remaining poses a health or safety risk to the newborn. Requires DPS and administrators to make all necessary nutritional and hygiene products available during the postpartum recovery period, provided at no cost to the incarcerated woman. 

Mandates DPS to place incarcerated persons in the custody of the State prison system who are parents of minor children within 250 miles of their permanent address to the extent practicable and after accounting for security and capacity. Requires DPS and administrators of correctional facilities to adopt visitation rules for persons with low- or minimum-security classifications who are parents to minor children to allow for visitation by the minors at least twice a week (except as specified) with no limitation on the number of dependent minors that may be permitted privileges and requires authorization of contact visits. 

Requires DPS and administrators of correctional facilities to issue regulations that limit inspections by male employees when a female incarcerated person is in a state of undress to the greatest extent practicable and consistent with safety and order, and availability of female employees. Requires male correctional employees to make a written report within 72 hours containing the justification for inspection of a female incarcerated person while in a state of undress. 

Requires DPS and administrators of correctional facilities to ensure availability of sufficient menstrual products for all incarcerated women as appropriate, at no cost to the incarcerated women.

Directs DPS and administrators of correctional facilities to develop and provide all correctional facility employees who have contact with pregnant incarcerated women training related to the physical and mental needs of pregnant incarcerated women and fetuses, as specified. Requires consultation with specified divisions of the Department of Health and Human Services. Also directs DPS and administrators of correctional facilities to develop and provide educational programming for pregnant incarcerated women, as specified.  

Revises GS 143B-702 to make rules and regulations adopted by the Division of Adult Correction and Juvenile Justice subject to new Article 83A, GS Chapter 15A.

Enacts GS 153A-221.2 to subject local confinement facilities to the requirements of new Article 83A, GS Chapter 15A. 

Effective October 1, 2021. 

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