Raleigh, N.C. — The House Judiciary I Committee took quick action Monday afternoon on several proposals to change the state's criminal laws.
KIDS IN HOT CARS: House Bill 896 would allow bystanders to break into a locked car or other vehicle to rescue a child trapped inside if the bystander has "a good-faith belief that a forced entry into the vehicle is necessary to avert danger to the child."
Sponsor Rep. Ed Hanes, D-Forsyth, said the bill mirrors others passed recently in surrounding states. It requires the proposed rescuer to contact fire, police or other first responders immediately and to leave a note at the scene with his or her contact information, the reason for the break-in, the authorities notified and the current location of the child. The rescuer would be required to remain with the child in a safe, nearby location. Only "necessary force" could be used.
Hanes said the bill is in response to "the tragedies you see happening around the country" in which adults forget that a child is in the backseat of the vehicle, often strapped into a car seat. But it would allow for the rescue of any trapped minor, Hanes explained, because even an older child could fall unconscious in an overheated car and be unable to unlock the door and escape.
BODY CAMERAS: House Bill 811 would direct two state law enforcement panels to study the issue of body-worn cameras for law enforcement officers.
Sponsor Rep. John Faircloth, R-Guilford, said it's a follow-up to a bill the House passed last week that allows the release of body-camera video, where available, by court order or another investigatory body but stops short of making the video public record.
The joint study would be undertaken by the Criminal Justice Education, Training and Standards Commission and the Sheriffs' Education, Training and Standards Commission. They would be tasked with assessing the feasibility of equipping all state and local law enforcement officers with body-worn cameras and considering whether the cameras should be restricted to certain types of officers. They would also study possible funding options, necessary training, best practices for capturing and storing recordings, the level of public access that should be allowed and any other constitutional or procedural issues.
The study would be due back to lawmakers before or during next year's short session.
USED NEEDLE DISPOSAL: House Bill 712, also sponsored by Faircloth, would direct the State Bureau of Investigation to set up a used-needle disposal pilot program in two counties.
Faircloth said the SBI supports the bill, which also cleared the House Health Committee on Monday. Most of the collection would be done by the North Carolina Harm Reduction Coalition, a group that works with drug users to reduce overdoses and disease transmission through contaminated needles.
Under the bill, anyone turning in dirty needles for disposal by the pilot project would be immune from charges of possession of drug paraphernalia or possession of the residual amount of a controlled substance left in the syringe.
Faircloth said the change "would protect the general public from exposure to these needles, particularly in parks and places where children gather." He said three counties have already expressed interest in the pilot.
The SBI would be directed to report on the program's results after one year.
All three bills passed floor votes in the state House Monday night and will now be considered in the Senate.