H511: North Carolina First Step Act. Latest Version

GENERAL ASSEMBLY OF NORTH CAROLINA

SESSION 2019

SESSION LAW 2020-47
HOUSE BILL 511

AN ACT TO INCREASE JUDICIAL DISCRETION IN SENTENCING FOR DRUG
TRAFFICKING OFFENSES.

The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:

SECTION 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as "The North Carolina First
Step Act."
SECTION 2.(a) G.S. 90-95(h) reads as rewritten:
"(h) Notwithstanding anyother provision of law, the following provisions apply except as

otherwise provided in this Article.

(5) Except as provided in this subdivision, subdivision or subdivision (5a) of this
subsection, a person being sentenced under this subsection may not receive a
suspended sentence or be placed on probation. The sentencing judge may
reduce the fine, or impose a prison term less than the applicable minimum
prison term provided by this subsection, or suspend the prison term imposed

and place a person on probation when such person has, to the best of his the
person's knowledge, provided substantial assistance in the identification,
arrest, or conviction of any accomplices, accessories, co-conspirators, or
principals if the sentencing judge enters in the record a finding that the person
to be sentenced has rendered such substantial assistance.
(5a) A judge sentencing a person for a conviction pursuant to G.S. 90-95(h) or

G.S. 90-95(i) for conspiracy to commit a violation of G.S. 90-95(h) shall
impose the applicable minimum prison term provided by this subsection. The
sentencing judge may reduce the fine and sentence the person consistent with
the applicable offense classification and prior record level provided in
G.S. 15A-1340.17, if after a hearing and an opportunity for the district
attorney to present evidence, including evidence from the investigating law
enforcement officer, other law enforcement officers, or witnesses with

knowledge of the defendant's conduct at any time prior to sentencing, the
judge enters into the record specific findings that all of the following are met:
a. The defendant has accepted responsibility for the defendant's criminal
conduct.
b. The defendant has not previously been convicted of a felony under
G.S. 90-95.
c. The defendant did not use violence or a credible threat of violence, or

possess a firearm or other dangerous weapon, in the commission of the
offense for which the defendant is being sentenced.
d. The defendant did not use violence or a credible threat of violence, or
possess a firearm or other dangerous weapon, in the commission of
any other violation of law.

*H511-v-7* e. The defendant has admitted that he or she has a substance abuse
disorder involving a controlled substance and has successfully
completed a treatment program approved by the Court to address the
substance abuse disorder.
f. Imposition of the mandatory minimum prison term would result in
substantial injustice.
g. Imposition of the mandatory minimum prison sentence is not

necessary for the protection of the public.
h. The defendant is being sentenced solely for trafficking, or conspiracy
to commit trafficking, as a result of possession of a controlled
substance.
i. There is no substantial evidence that the defendant has ever engaged
in the transport for purpose of sale, sale, manufacture, or delivery of a
controlled substance or the intent to transport for purpose of sale, sell,

manufacture, or deliver a controlled substance.
j. The defendant, to the best of his or her knowledge, has provided all
reasonable assistance in the identification, arrest, or conviction of any
accomplices, accessories, co-conspirators, or principals.
k. The defendant is being sentenced for trafficking, or conspiracy to
commit trafficking, for possession of an amount of a controlled

substance that is not of a quantity greater than the lowest category for
which a defendant may be convicted for trafficking of that controlled
substance under G.S. 90-95(h).
…."
SECTION 2.(b) This section becomes effective December 1, 2020, and applies to
sentences ordered on or after that date.
SECTION 3. G.S. 90-95 is amended by adding a new subsection to read:

"(j) Beginning December 1, 2021, and annually thereafter, the Administrative Office of
the Courts shall publish on its Web site a report on the number of sentences modified under
G.S. 90-95(h)(5a) in the prior calendar year."
SECTION 4.(a) Except as otherwise provided in this section, a person serving an
active sentence imposed solely for a violation of G.S. 90-95(h), or conspiracy to commit a
violation under G.S. 90-95(i), committed before the effective date of this section may file a
motion for appropriate relief in accordance with Article 89 of Chapter 15A of the General

Statutes for a modification of the person's sentence under the authority granted in
G.S. 90-95(h)(5a), as enacted in Section 2 of this act. A person sentenced under G.S. 90-95(h)(5)
is ineligible to file a motion for appropriate relief for a sentence modification under this section.
The court shall require the State to respond to a motion for appropriate relief filed pursuant to
this section within 60 days of the date of the filing and shall hold any hearing deemed necessary
by the court within 180 days of the date of the filing. Notwithstanding any provision of Article

89 of Chapter 15A of the General Statutes to the contrary, a motion for appropriate relief filed
pursuant to this section may only be granted if the following conditions are met:
(1) The motion for appropriate relief is filed within 36 months of the effective
date of this act.
(2) The person seeking a sentence modification has no other felony convictions
under G.S. 90-95.
(3) The person was convicted solely for trafficking, or conspiracy to commit

trafficking, as a result of possession of a controlled substance.
(4) The person seeking a sentence modification was sentenced for trafficking, or
conspiracy to commit trafficking, of a controlled substance that was not of a

Page 2 Session Law 2020-47 House Bill 511 quantity greater than the lowest category for which a defendant may be
convicted for trafficking of that controlled substance under G.S. 90-95(h).
If subdivisions (1), (2), (3), and (4) of this section are met, the court shall order that
the person be resentenced in accordance with G.S. 90-95(h)(5a).
SECTION 4.(b) This section becomes effective December 1, 2020, and applies to
sentences ordered on or before November 30, 2020.
SECTION 5.(a) The Department of Information Technology, Government Data

Analytics Center, shall conduct a statewide study to identify the criminal justice data elements
related to individuals who have been charged with infractions or criminal offenses that are
currently collected and maintained. The purpose of the study is to (i) identify gaps in data for use
by law enforcement, judicial officials, policymakers, and other stakeholders related to the
processing, detention, and adjudication of individuals charged with infractions or criminal
offenses and (ii) identify solutions for improving availability and accessibility of data available
to policymakers to inform public policy related to individuals who have been charged with

infractions or criminal offenses. In conducting this study, the Department may seek input from
agencies and organizations with relevant knowledge or information, including local or regional
detention facilityadministrators, the Administrative Office of the Courts, the Universityof North
Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Government, the North Carolina Sentencing and Policy
Advisory Commission, the North Carolina Sheriffs' Association, and the Division of Adult
Correction and Juvenile Justice.

SECTION 5.(b) The study shall examine all of the following issues:
(1) The data elements currently being collected by prisons and jails with regard
to individuals who have been charged with or incarcerated for criminal
offenses, and the current systems or systems planned or under development
for collecting, recording, maintaining, and searching these data elements.
(2) The data elements currently being collected by the courts with regard to
individuals who have been charged with infractions or criminal offenses,

including magistrates' records and information from the courtroom clerk such
as continuances, appearances, and failures to appear, and the current system
or systems planned or under development for collecting, recording,
maintaining, and searching these data elements.
(3) Steps that would be necessary to create a statewide program to integrate data
from courts, jails, and prison data systems, including options for integrating
data that currently are collected, as well as for addressing any data gaps

identified, and options formakingdataelements availableto lawenforcement,
judicial officials, and policymakers in an open electronic format. This
evaluation should include the costs and options to fund such a statewide data
integration program.
(4) A review of best practices of other states that collect and integrate criminal
justice data related to individuals who have been charged with infractions or

criminal offenses in an open electronic format. Best practices should include
solutions for privacy and data security issues, and whether the collection and
integration of data is through a system maintained and operated by the court
system or another State agency.
SECTION 5.(c) The Department shall report findings and recommendations to the
Joint Legislative Oversight Committee on Information Technology and the Joint Legislative
Oversight Committee on Justice and Public Safety no later than December 1, 2021.

House Bill 511 Session Law 2020-47 Page 3 SECTION 6. Except as otherwise provided, this act is effective when it becomes
law.
In the General Assembly read three times and ratified this the 17 day of June, 2020.

s/ Philip E. Berger
President Pro Tempore of the Senate

s/ Tim Moore
Speaker of the House of Representatives

s/ Roy Cooper

Governor

Approved 9:58 a.m. this 26 day of June, 2020

Page 4 Session Law 2020-47 House Bill 511