by Brenée Goforth
Media Manager & Communications Associate, John Locke Foundation
“North Carolina’s criminal code is a muddled, archaic monstrosity,” according to JLF’s Mike Schietzelt. In his recent commentary published in Carolina Journal, Schietzelt observes the current disorganization of North Carolina’s criminal code. Schietzelt writes:
And thanks to years of inattention, [criminal] laws are scattered throughout thousands of pages of the N.C. General Statutes, agency regulations, and local ordinances.
In short, the criminal code needs a systematic overhaul. A streamlined, self-contained code would make the criminal justice system more effective, efficient, and fair.
One way the legislature is attempting to start such an overhaul is Senate Bill 584. According to Schietzelt, “Senate Bill 584 is a bill designed to slow the rapid growth of North Carolina’s criminal code.” SB 584 does this in three ways, he explains:
First, the bill would stop the automatic criminalization of local ordinances…
Second, SB 584 would require an automatic review of any new agency rule that may impose criminal sanctions…
Third, SB 584 creates a “mistake of law” defense for any new statutory crime not codified properly in the General Statutes.
If North Carolina takes these steps, our state will be much closer to a just and sustainable criminal code. As Schietzelt states:
SB 584 is another major step toward creating a criminal justice system that is more effective, more efficient, and fairer.