Raleigh, N.C. — Gov. Beverly Perdue on Thursday signed four crime-related bills into law, including a bipartisan effort to reform sentencing and probation laws.
Other bills toughen penalties for impaired driving and intimidating witnesses and create a task force to crack down on fraud against senior adults.
House Bill 642, the "Justice Reinvestment Act," allows the state to place short-term punishments on probationers for small violations, with the hopes of pushing them to avoid serious violations. More released felons will be supervised, and repeat breaking-and-entering offenders will face tougher punishments. More misdemeanor violators will serve jail time, while more first-time drug offenders can avoid prosecution.
Bill supporters argue the changes could result in the need for 3,000 fewer prison beds. The bill grew out of bipartisan request in 2009 for input from with the State Council of Government's Justice Center.
House Bill 49, "Laura's Law," calls for tougher prison sentences and restrictions for people with multiple driving while impaired convictions.
It's named after Laura Fortenberry, 17, who died in a drunken-driving wreck in Gaston County last July involving Howard Pasour, who was on probation for two DWI convictions. Pasour, 29, pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in her death and will be in prison until 2035.
The bill requires a DWI offender to receive a one- to three-year prison sentence if there are three grossly aggravating factors, as well as a fine of up to $10,000. The court can require electronic alcohol monitoring of some offenders, and an additional $100 fee is imposed on DWI offenders.
Senate Bill 449 orders the state Justice Department's Consumer Protection Division to create a task force to look into fraud against senior adults. The task force is instructed to
- review state laws to find where they can be made to better protect seniors against fraud and abuse
- establish a statewide system to report fraud and mistreatment of seniors
- get the the state Banking Commission, financial industry and law enforcement working together to prevent fraud against seniors
- give the state attorney general authority to prosecute fraud against seniors
Senate Bill 268 makes intimidating a witness or crime victim a Class G felony, increasing the penalty for the offense.