We are wrapping up our discussion of changes to North Carolina’s criminal code that took effect on Dec. 1. The list looks a little haphazard — there is a trivia game in there somewhere: What do BB guns, Venus flytraps, inmates and cellphones have in common? Not much.
A few of them, however, show that the General Assembly is open to increasing penalties for some offenses.
For example, the penalty for carrying a concealed weapon without a permit has increased for second and subsequent violations. The first violation remains a misdemeanor. After that, the offense becomes a felony. Under certain circumstances, a conviction could put an offender in prison for two years or more.
Conceal and carry laws are a prickly subject in North Carolina. Before this law went into effect, gun rights groups protested the state’s ban on concealed weapons at the state fair. The Wake County judge who upheld the ban added a telling comment to his ruling: “This whole area of the law is an absolute quagmire.”
The last measure in our review relates to cellphones and inmates. The General Assembly has increased the penalty for giving or selling a cellphone to an inmate from a misdemeanor to a Class H felony — again, under certain circumstances, a conviction could mean a two-year prison sentence. Likewise, it is a Class H felony for an inmate to possess a cellphone.
The change was prompted by an incident involving the kidnapping of a Wake County prosecutor’s father. Authorities maintained that an inmate with an illegal cellphone had orchestrated the crime. The FBI was able to rescue the prosecutor’s father.
We should note that the law goes beyond cellphones. Any electronic device capable of wireless communication, or just a component of such a device, is covered by the statute. The law also applies to someone who asks a third party to hand over the prohibited device to an inmate.
Here’s a question for you: Will the change from misdemeanor to felony serve as a deterrent or just put more people in jail?
News & Record, “New North Carolina laws take effect Monday,” Nov. 30, 2014
N.C.G.S. Ann. § 14-258.1: “Furnishing poison, controlled substances, deadly weapons, cartridges, ammunition or alcoholic beverages to inmates of charitable, mental or penal institutions or local confinement facilities; furnishing tobacco products or mobile phones to inmates,” via WestlawNext