Dozens of new laws in effect this month

By DeeAnna Haney | Dec 08, 2013

More than 40 new state laws that went into effect at the beginning of this month tackle a variety of issues from meth to abortion.

One that could prove effective locally makes it a felony for any convicted meth cooker or user to possess products containing pseudoephedrine, a key ingredient used to make meth. In addition, the law imposes an aggravated penalty on those who manufacture meth when children, disabled or elderly are present.

Meth labs have surged in North Carolina and nationwide as a simpler method for making small amounts of the drug has spread. Law enforcement has discovered more than 500 meth labs in North Carolina so far in 2013, beating last year’s record of 460 labs, according to the NC Department of Justice.

About 85 percent of the meth labs busted in the state this year used the “one pot” method, which uses a small amount of pseudoephedrine to cook meth in a plastic soda bottle. The new law makes it illegal for a convicted meth cook or user to have any pseudoephedrine, even the small amount needed for a one pot lab, according to a press release from the NC Department of Justice.

Waynesville Police Chief Bill Hollingsed believes that any law that makes it tougher for meth users and cookers to get their hands on key ingredients is a good law.

“If they have been convicted and they have shown that the only reason they are buying it is for the purpose of making meth to sell to our kids, then I don’t see a problem with that,” he said. “Even though they keep coming up with different methods to make meth, the ingredient that cannot be changed is pseudoephedrine and ephedrine.”

Those who are found cooking meth around children, seniors or people with disabilities could see an added 24 months to their sentence because of the law.

This year, 91 children and seniors have been found living around meth labs. When a vulnerable person is removed from a meth lab home, their clothing and other belongings usually have to be destroyed because of the hazardous fumes given off during the cooking process, according to the department.

If convicted meth cookers are looking to treat a sickness, Hollingsed said, “there are other products on the market that you can buy to help a head cold.”

According to another new law, people who alert an officer that they have a hypodermic needle or other sharp object prior to a search will not be charged with possession of drug paraphernalia.

Hollingsed believes this law was passed with the safety of law enforcement officers in mind.

“I think the legislators who sponsored the bill were trying to help decrease the number of needle sticks and exposure to law enforcement officers because the threat of spreading HIV or hepatitis is something that we face on a continual basis,” he said.

If the suspect possesses the drugs that can be injected, the person will still be charged with the drugs.

Limiting abortions

A law that started Dec. 3 makes it illegal to carry out abortions based on the baby’s gender and puts limits on abortion coverage in insurance plans offered by cities and counties to cases involving rape, incest and danger to the mother’s life.

Child safety

There are also several acts of legislation regarding children. Kilah’s Law seeks to increase the penalty for the most serious child abuse charge from 15 years to 33 years. The law was named after Kilah Davenport, a 3-year-old Union County child who suffered brain damage after her stepfather beat her last year.

Lily’s Law stems from a 2010 murder case in Alamance County involving a child who died from complications at birth after her mother was shot. The act makes it first-degree murder if a child is born but later dies as a result of injuries that occurred prior to birth.

Caylee’s Law makes it illegal for a person to fail to report the disappearance of a child to law enforcement and to report the abuse, neglect, dependency or death due to maltreatment of a child. It’s similar to laws adopted in other states following the highly publicized Casey Anthony trial regarding her toddler who was killed but not reported missing for a month.

The new North Carolina School Bus Safety Act imposes a minimum $500 fine for drivers who pass a stopped school bus including revocation of the person’s driver’s license in certain circumstances. Violators will not be allowed to renew their vehicle registration without paying the fine. The law also encourages local boards of education to use the money from the fines to purchase automated cameras and video recording systems to install on school buses.

The state is reclassifying 25 misdemeanors and reducing the punishment to an infraction or fine. Some of those charges include speeding more than 15 mph above the speed limit or in excess of 80 mph, failure to carry a driver's license, fishing without a license and worthless checks under $2,000.

The lowest category of misdemeanors will carry a maximum of $200 as long as the defendant has fewer than three convictions.

Various other laws make it illegal to discharge a firearm within an enclosed area with the intent to incite fear, require those convicted of human trafficking to the register as a sex offender and prohibit disorderly conduct at a funeral, memorial service or processional route.

For a full list of laws recently enacted, visit the website for the NC General Assembly.