Overcriminalization is a potent ailment that has infected every level of government across the nation. This proliferation - which has criminalized mundane behavior through the expansion of legislation - has particularly affected residents on a statewide scale. The collective of state residents who attempt to abide by the law in good faith are the demographic most impacted by overcriminalization, as its prevalence has increased rates of accidental crimes by usually law-abiding citizens.
Like many other states, North Carolina's criminal code contains an inordinate amount of crimes. State residents have criticized the ever-growing criminal code, arguing that features such as occupational licensing offenses and other untraditional offenses have become a major contributor in the state's issue of overcriminalization.
Senate Bill 114
In an effort to remedy this issue, North Carolina state representative Dennis Riddell has introduced a tax reform bill called “Create the Criminal Code Recodification Commission,” or SB 114. As its name suggests, SB 114 intends to reach outside the realm of tax reform and modify the state's restrictive criminal code.
According to Riddell, the law is considered one of the first steps in redrafting a “new, streamlined, comprehensive, orderly, and principled criminal code.” Riddell, along with other legislators who are supportive of the bill, claim that the act of committing a crime without being aware the act is a crime is becoming a common phenomenon in the state. They hope that the new bill will minimize the large number of residents who find themselves on the wrong side of the law for actions that, for instance, violate occupational license offenses.
A North Carolina health blogger, Steve Cooksey, fell victim to unknowingly committing an occupational license violation when he answered his reader's questions regarding health and nutrition. The N.C. Board of Dietetics/Nutrition came across his blog and informed that he was breaking the law because he was giving advice but was not a licensed nutritionist. A similar incident happened to Steven Pruner. He sold hot dogs near Duke University Medical Center without a permit and was arrested for it. Although his sentence was suspended, he was placed on unsupervised probation for an entire year - an incredibly harsh penalty for simply selling hotdogs.
While occupational licensing isn't the main focus of the bill, it indirectly addresses this extremely prohibitive system by recommending agencies, administrative boards, and local governments be subject to restrictions when it comes to creating new criminal laws. It also encourages legislators to examine current criminal offenses and determine if they should be reduced to infractions punishable by a fine only.
As of now, it is too early to tell if the bill will pass. Lawmakers on all sides of the political spectrum have expressed conflicting opinions about the bill. It remains in the Senate's Committee on Rules and Operations due to concerns about tax breaks.
Experienced North Carolina Defense Attorneys
If you have recently been arrested and charged with a crime in the state of North Carolina, you should immediately consult with a skilled attorney. The attorneys at Caulder & Valentine are dedicated to protecting the rights of defendants who have been charged with a variety of offenses. Contact them today for a consultation.