The Senate Only Needs to Concur for Passage
By L.A. Williams, Correspondent
RALEIGH — Members of the House of Representatives continued their efforts this week to make the Tar Heel state a safer place for children by increasing the penalties for buying or selling a minor. Senate Bill 910, approved unanimously by the House on Thursday, also expands the list of felonies for which a DNA sample is taken upon arrest.
“This is part of an effort to deal with the growing problem of human trafficking in our state, which ranks eighth in the nation for this crime,” said the Rev. Mark Creech, executive director of the Christian Action League. “We look forward to the Senate concurring to finalize this much needed law.”
As it now stands, the sale, surrender or purchase of a child is only a Class 1 misdemeanor in North Carolina, comparable to possession of drug paraphernalia or communicating threats. S 910 would make it a Class F felony with a minimum fine of $5,000 on first offense and $10,000 on subsequent violations and a prison term of roughly 10 months to three years depending on aggravating or mitigating factors.
The bill would also order the North Carolina Conference of District Attorneys to study additional measures to help stop criminal activities involving the sale of children, with a written report due back to the General Assembly by Jan. 30, 2013.
The Senate unanimously approved an earlier version of the bill June 11, but questions regarding adoption and other child custody issues arose in a House subcommittee and led to further research and changes in the proposed law. Also, because the bill deals with the welfare of children, the Department of Health and Human Services requested the addition of a number of provisions that clarify how the department handles confidential information regarding reports of child abuse as well as licensed foster homes.
Finally, Rep. Justin Burr (R-Stanly) successfully amended the bill in the House Judiciary B subcommittee to include a list of offenses for which a DNA sample would be taken upon arrest. Modeled after House Bill 483, which passed the House but got mired in a Senate committee, the list includes murder, manslaughter, rape and other sex offenses as well as a long list of crimes that target minors, including transporting a child outside the state with intent to violate a custody order and abandonment of a child or children for six months.
Although some committee members questioned the need to collect DNA from suspects in these particular crimes, House Majority Leader Rep. Paul Stam (R-Wake) said it makes sense.
“Maybe the reason they are selling the child is because they don’t have money,” he said. “The people who have been convicted of felony abandonment are probably the more likely people to sell them later.”
He said anyone, parent or not, who is violating custody orders by taking a child out of state and hiding their whereabouts is obviously not looking after the welfare of the child.
“So you get their DNA so then if, later on, the child is missing and the parent is missing … this is going to help you find them,” he said.
Once on the House floor, the bill was amended to increase the fines, which had been $1,000 on first offense and $5,000 on subsequent offenses, to $5,000 and $10,000 respectively. The amendment was put forth by Rep. Elmer Floyd (D-Cumberland). Primary sponsor of the bill is Sen. Bob Atwater (D-Chatham).