Local News

Easley Toughens Criminal Penalties For Terrorism

Posted November 28, 2001 2:01 a.m. EST

— Gov. Mike Easley signed House Bill 1468 Wednesday, legislation that will give North Carolina the tools to deal with any threat of terrorism from chemical and biological attacks.

The state's only brush with anthrax came at a

Raleigh post office

in which officials found trace amounts that they deemed as medically insignificant.

Since Sept. 11, Easley has been pushing lawmakers to provide him with money for training and laws to punish terrorists.

"I didn't want to leave law enforcement with nothing more than an assault with a deadly weapon charge on something that when you set in motion a chemical or biological weapon, you have to keep in mind that you are setting something in motion that has ripple effects that no one can control," Easley said.

HB 1468 makes the manufacture, possession, storage, sale or transportation of weapons of mass destruction a felony that carries a sentence of 20 years to life in prison. It exempts from the law certain military personnel and law enforcement officials, researchers working under government contracts and others engaging in lawful research.

The law makes it a crime for people who perpetrate hoaxes involving fake substances that lead to a public panic punishable by a prison term of five to 15 years. It sets a penalty of 20 years to life for using the U.S. Postal Service to deliver such weapons.

HB 1468 also makes injuring someone with poison gas, radioactive material or a biological agent a felony that carries a sentence of life in prison without parole. Use of such weapons resulting in death will bring a mandatory first-degree murder charge, which can be punishable by the death penalty.