The 2023 legislative session has come to a close in North Carolina and a lot of law enforcement officers were very pleased with the changes to state law that took place this year.

A press release sent out by the NC Sheriff’s Association on Monday, Oct. 30 stated that the association members were very grateful for actions by the General Assembly in 2023 that showed support for law enforcement.

It added that, due to those changes, law enforcement officers across the state now have more tools to “hold criminals accountable, support victims and protect the public.”

Two bills in particular that became law this year increased penalties for certain criminal offenses as well as created new criminal offenses that the association wanted to see put in place.

House Bill 34, the “Protect Those Who Protect and Serve Act,” increased existing penalties for assaulting a law enforcement officer, a public safety officer or a member of the NC National Guard.

That same new law created a new criminal offense for discharging a firearm into an unoccupied emergency vehicle.

House Bill 40, the “Prevent Rioting and Civil Disorder” bill that’s now a law, is also a welcome change for law enforcement officers in the state. The bill increases criminal penalties for rioting and related criminal offenses – and it makes it easier to hold criminals accountable for injuring an officer when engaged in a riot.

The association also gave a big thumbs up to several other bills passed this year.

Senate Bill 58, the “Protect Critical Infrastructure” legislation, which was voted into law in 2023, creates new penalties for damaging or destroying certain infrastructure such as  public utilities, energy facilities and communication-related sites.

This bill was introduced after several attacks on power substations in Moore County – and across the US – took place.

The NC Sheriff’s Association also stated in the release that its members were pleased that the General Assembly also amended state law related to juvenile justice via House Bill 186.  One part of this law – titled “Lyric and Devin’s Law” – allows for the release to the public of a juvenile’s identifying information if the juvenile has committed a serious criminal offense.

The press release from the NC Sheriff’s Association states “Allowing the information to be released can assist law enforcement in the location and capture of dangerous individuals. This legislation is named after Lyric Woods and Devin Clark, two Orange County teenagers killed by a classmate who fled to Delaware to avoid arrest. Because of the previous law prohibiting disclosure of juvenile information, the suspect’s identifying information was not able to be released to the public and media and delayed his ultimate capture.”

Senate Bill 189, the “Fentanyl Drug Offenses and Related Charges” bill, created a new crime for the distribution of a controlled substance if the person who received the substance dies as a result of using it – even if no sale occurred. Senate Bill 189 also increased penalties for the trafficking of certain controlled substances.

Other bills related to “street takeovers” and that gave law enforcement departments more leeway as to how their funds are used were also praised.