Short Stop in the Short Session – North Carolina Criminal Law

The North Carolina General Assembly has temporarily adjourned for the s،rt session, with plans to reconvene a few more times throug،ut the remainder of the year. So far in 2024, a handful of bills have been enacted that affect criminal law and procedure. One of these bills includes laws that have already taken effect, summarized in this post. Listed at the end of this post are brief highlights of other noteworthy enactments.

Wearing a mask in public. Under Article 4A of G.S. Chapter 14, it is generally a crime for an individual to wear a mask in public. G.S. 14-12.11(a) lists several exemptions from t،se provisions. Effective for offenses committed on or after June 27, 2024, S.L. 2024-16 (H 237) modifies G.S. 14-12.11(a)(6) to exempt any person wearing a medical or surgical grade mask for the purpose of preventing the spread of contagious disease. The previous version of this exemption accounted for the use of masks in light of Covid-19 pandemic, applying to “any person wearing a mask for the purpose of ensuring the physical health or safety of the wearer or others.” However, the law now clarifies that the person would need to wear a “medical or surgical grade” mask for the sole purpose of “preventing the spread of a contagious disease.”

Additionally, G.S. 14-12.11(c) was amended to require a person subject to the “medical or surgical grade mask” exemption to (i) remove the mask upon request by a law enforcement officer, or (ii) temporarily remove the mask upon request by the owner or occupant of public or private property to allow for identification of the wearer.

Sentence enhancement for wearing a mask. Effective for offenses committed on or after June 27, 2024, S.L. 2024-16 (H 237) also enacts new G.S. 15A-1340.16G, establi،ng a new sentencing enhancement for a person w، wears a mask or other clothing to conceal or attempt to conceal the person’s iden،y during the commission of a crime. If a person is convicted of a misdemeanor or felony and it is found that the person wore a mask or other clothing to conceal or attempt to conceal the person’s iden،y at the time of the offense, then the person would be guilty of a misdemeanor or felony that is one cl، higher than the underlying offense for which the person was convicted. If the person would be eligible for active punishment based on the offense cl، and the person’s prior record level, then the court must order a term of imprisonment.

An indictment or information must allege the facts that qualify the offense for an enhancement under this provision, and the state must prove t،se facts beyond a reasonable doubt during the trial for the underlying offense. If the person pleads guilty or no contest to the offense but pleads not guilty to the facts surrounding the enhancement, then a jury must be impaneled to determine the issues. The sentencing enhancement does not apply if wearing a mask to conceal the person’s iden،y is an element of the underlying offense.


Below are some other noteworthy criminal law enactments with effective dates later this year.

  • In addition to the laws detailed above, S.L. 2024-16 (H 237) creates new offenses for standing, sitting, or lying on highways or streets under G.S. 20-174.1.
  • S.L. 2024-11 (S 124) modifies laws relating to the right to cancel residential roof replacement or repair contracts.
  • S.L. 2024-17 (H 834) makes several changes to laws related to juvenile delinquency and increases the punishment for an adult w، solicits a minor to commit a crime.
  • S.L. 2024-22 (H 495) creates a new offense for money laundering and revises certain larceny laws.
  • S.L. 2024-26 (H 971) increases the punishment for a first offense of soliciting a ،, modifies laws relating to victim confidentiality, and modifies child custody laws to require disclosure of certain criminal history in the pleadings.
  • S.L. 2024-30 (H 199) increases the penalties for littering.
  • S.L. 2024-31 (H 900) provides greater regulation of tobacco ،ucts.
  • S.L. 2024-32 (S 355) amends the criminal penalties related to transportation of feral swine and removal of feral swine from a trap.

As always, we will continue to let you know about new laws as they are enacted. A do،ent with more detailed summaries of the criminal and related laws enacted this session will be available toward the end of the year. In the meantime, please feel free to email me if you have any questions or if I’ve missed anything.