Raleigh, N.C. — The Senate Rules Committee on Wednesday approved the latest omnibus bill of changes to criminal laws, including provisions in the wake of the April kidnapping of the father of a Wake County prosecutor.
A provision that would have denied workers compensation claims by undocumented workers was stripped from the House Bill 394 before the committee meeting. Sen. Thom Goolsby, R-New Hanover, said the issue was better suited for debate during next year's longer legislative session.
Among the provisions left in the bill, anyone who committed an assault in retaliation of work carried out by law enforcement officers or court officials would face a felony. Also, the penalty was increased for supplying a cellphone to an inmate.
Investigators say a prison inmate used a cellphone to orchestrate the kidnapping of Frank Janssen, the father of the prosecutor who put him behind bars.
The bill also revived a plan that the House removed from a regulatory reform bill last month that would allow landlords to hire private firms or individuals to serve eviction notices.
The North Carolina Sheriffs Association opposed the earlier plan, saying armed deputies were better able to head off any violent confrontations in an eviction. Goolsby said that the latest provision would allow for a private firm to serve the papers only if a deputy wasn't able to do so in a specified time, noting that landlords cannot seek damages from an evicted tenant unless they have actually received a copy of the eviction notice.
A representative of the Sheriffs Association said the group's lawyers would have to review the new language before taking a position on it.
The bill also includes a provision that already cleared the House that would allow State Crime Lab analysts to testify via videoconference in criminal cases to save travel time to courthouses around the state. It also would change the practice of deferred prosecutions to conditional discharges, obtaining guilty pleas in advance from first-time defendants in case they don't meet the conditions set by prosecutors to have the charge dropped.