H237: Unmasking Mobs and Criminals. Latest Version

Session: 2023 - 2024

House
Passed 1st Reading
Committee
Rules
Senate
Passed 1st Reading
Committee
Rules
Passed 3rd Reading


AN ACT to repeal the physical health and safety of others exemption to certain laws prohibiting wearing masks; to enhance punishment if the defendant was wearing a mask or other clothing or device to conceal or attempt to conceal the defendant's identity; to prohibit gubernatorial executive orders, secretarial declarations, municipal or local government prohibitions and restrictions, or other rules or regulations by a political subdivision of this state from imposing additional limitations on religious institutions that are not applicable to businesses, nonprofit organizations, or other private entities affected by the same or similar emergency; to increase the penalty for impeding a road during a demonstration or obstructing an emergency vehicle from accessing a road at any time; and to create civil liability for a demonstration organizer of a demonstration that obstructs an emergency vehicle.



The General Assembly of North Carolina enacts:



SECTION 1.(a)  G.S. 14‑12.11 reads as rewritten:



§ 14‑12.11.  Exemptions from provisions of Article.



(a)        Any of the following are exempted from the provisions of G.S. 14‑12.7, 14‑12.8, 14‑12.9, 14‑12.10 and 14‑12.14:



(1)        Any person or persons wearing traditional holiday costumes in season.



(2)        Any person or persons engaged in trades and employment where a mask is worn for the purpose of ensuring the physical safety of the wearer, or because of the nature of the occupation, trade or profession.



(3)        Any person or persons using masks in theatrical productions including use in Mardi Gras celebrations and masquerade balls.



(4)        Persons wearing gas masks prescribed in civil defense drills and exercises or emergencies.



(5)        Any person or persons, as members or members elect of a society, order or organization, engaged in any parade, ritual, initiation, ceremony, celebration or requirement of such society, order or organization, and wearing or using any manner of costume, paraphernalia, disguise, facial makeup, hood, implement or device, whether the identity of such person or persons is concealed or not, on any public or private street, road, way or property, or in any public or private building, provided permission shall have been first obtained therefor by a representative of such society, order or organization from the governing body of the municipality in which the same takes place, or, if not in a municipality, from the board of county commissioners of the county in which the same takes place.



(6)        Any person wearing a mask for the purpose of ensuring the physical health or safety of the wearer or others.



(a1)      This Article shall not apply to any preliminary meetings held in good faith for the purpose of organizing, promoting or forming a labor union or a local organization or subdivision of any labor union nor shall the provisions of this Article apply to any meetings held by a labor union or organization already organized, operating and functioning and holding meetings for the purpose of transacting and carrying out functions, pursuits and affairs expressly pertaining to such labor union.



(b)        Notwithstanding G.S. 14‑12.7 and G.S. 14‑12.8, a person may wear a mask for the purpose of protecting the person's head, face, or head and face, when operating a motorcycle, as defined in G.S. 20‑4.01. A person wearing a mask when operating a motorcycle shall remove the mask during a traffic stop, including at a checkpoint or roadblock under G.S. 20‑16.3A, or when approached by a law enforcement officer.



(c)        Notwithstanding subdivision (a)(6) of this section, a person wearing a mask for the purpose of ensuring the physical health or safety of the wearer or others shall remove the mask, upon request by a law enforcement officer, in any of the following circumstances:



(1)        During a traffic stop, including a checkpoint or roadblock pursuant to G.S. 20‑16.3A.



(2)        When a law enforcement officer has reasonable suspicion or probable cause during a criminal investigation.



SECTION 1.(b)  This section is effective when it becomes law and applies to offenses committed on or after that date.



SECTION 2.(a)  Article 81B of Chapter 15A of the General Statutes is amended by adding a new section to read:



§ 15A‑1340.16G.  Enhanced sentence if defendant is convicted of a misdemeanor or felony and the defendant was wearing a mask or other clothing or device to conceal or attempt to conceal the defendant's identity.



(a)        If a person is convicted of a misdemeanor or felony and it is found as provided in this section that the person wore a mask or other clothing or device that concealed or attempted to conceal the person's identity at the time of the offense, then the person is guilty of a misdemeanor or felony that is one class higher than the underlying misdemeanor or felony for which the person was convicted. Notwithstanding any provision of this Article to the contrary, the court shall impose a sentence of imprisonment for a person convicted of an offense enhanced under this section if, after enhancement, the class of offense and prior record level permit active punishment as a sentence disposition.



(b)        An indictment or information for the offense shall allege in that indictment or information or in a separate indictment or information the facts that qualify the offense for an enhancement under this section. One pleading is sufficient for all offenses that are tried at a single trial.



(c)        The State shall prove the issues set out in subsection (a) of this section beyond a reasonable doubt during the same trial in which the defendant is tried for the offense unless the defendant pleads guilty or no contest to the issues. If the defendant pleads guilty or no contest to the offense but pleads not guilty to the issues laid out in subsection (a) of this section, then a jury shall be impaneled to determine the issues.



(d)       Subsection (a) of this section does not apply if the evidence of wearing a mask or other clothing or device to conceal or attempt to conceal the person's identity is needed to prove an element of the underlying misdemeanor or felony.



SECTION 2.(b)  This section is effective when it becomes law and applies to offenses committed on or after that date.



SECTION 3.(a)  G.S. 166A‑19.2 reads as rewritten:



§ 166A‑19.2.  Limitations.



(a)        Nothing in this Article shall be construed to do any of the following:



(1)        Interfere with dissemination of news or comment on public affairs; but any communications facility or organization, including, but not limited to, radio and television stations, wire services, and newspapers may be requested to transmit or print public service messages furnishing information or instructions in connection with an emergency, disaster, or war.



(2)        Limit, modify, or abridge the authority of the Governor to declare martial law or exercise any other powers vested in the Governor under the North Carolina Constitution, statutes, or common law of this State independent of, or in conjunction with, any provisions of this Article.



(b)        No religious institution shall be subject to an executive order, secretarial declaration, municipal or local government prohibition or restriction, or a rule or regulation by a political subdivision of this State that distinguishes between religious institutions and other public or private for‑profit or nonprofit entities that are subject to or affected by the same or similar emergency in a way that imposes additional limitations on the religious institution. For the purposes of this subsection, the term religious institution has the same meaning as in G.S. 131F‑2.



SECTION 3.(b)  This section becomes effective October 1, 2024, and applies to executive orders, declarations, prohibitions, restrictions, rules, or regulations in effect on or after that date.



SECTION 4.(a)  G.S. 20‑174.1 reads as rewritten:



§ 20‑174.1.  Standing, sitting or lying upon highways or streets prohibited.prohibited; obstruction of emergency vehicles; civil liability.



(a)        No person shall willfully stand, sit, or lie A person who willfully stands, sits, or lies upon the highway or street in such a manner as to impede the regular flow of traffic.traffic is guilty of a Class 2 misdemeanor.



(b)        Violation of this section is a Class 2 misdemeanor.



(c)        A person who violates subsection (a) of this section while participating in a demonstration intended to prohibit or impede the use of the highway or street is guilty of a Class A1 misdemeanor for a first offense and a Class H felony for a second or subsequent offense.



(d)       A person who violates subsection (a) of this section and obstructs an emergency vehicle, as defined in G.S. 14‑34.1A, from accessing the highway or street is guilty of a Class A1 misdemeanor.



(e)        Any person who organizes a demonstration that prohibits or impedes the use of a highway or street is civilly liable for injury to or death of any person resulting from delays caused by the obstruction of an emergency vehicle in violation of subsection (d) of this section. An action may be brought under this subsection regardless of whether a criminal action is brought or a criminal conviction is obtained for the conduct alleged in the civil action.



SECTION 4.(b)  This section becomes effective December 1, 2024, and applies to offenses committed and causes of action arising on or after that date.



SECTION 5.  Except as otherwise provided, this act is effective when it becomes law.