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NC sexual assault reforms pass unanimously, await governor’s signature

by Kate Martin | Carolina Public Press  |  Published on November 1, 2019

RALEIGH, N.C. — A wide-ranging package of legislation reforming sexual assault laws passed both chambers of the General Assembly unanimously Thursday, with two measures closing decades-old legal loopholes on the definition of rape that set North Carolina apart.

The Senate passed Senate Bill 199 49-0 Thursday morning. The House voted 108-0 Thursday afternoon.

The package was hammered out over the last week in conference committee and had wide bipartisan support, despite related measures failing in committee in recent sessions of the legislature.

Two of the key measures, revocation of consent and sex with someone who was incapacitated due to alcohol or drugs, corrected loopholes in North Carolina due to old court precedents, which were strongly featured in the Seeking Conviction series examining the prosecution of sexual assault crimes in the state, which Carolina Public Press and a collaboration of 10 statewide media partners produced in March.

Before Thursday, North Carolina was the only state in the nation where continuing sex with someone after that person revoked consent was not considered a crime.

The legislation also increases the statute of limitation for a child sexual assault victim to sue, expands the duty of anyone over 18 to report knowledge of a sex crime against a juvenile, requires school personnel training on child sex abuse and sex trafficking, bans online conduct by high-risk sex offenders that endangers children and prohibits attempts to drug someone’s food or drink.

The measure would become law if signed by Gov. Roy Cooper.

Several of the measures in the bill had been strongly supported by North Carolina district attorneys, who said the loopholes created by precedents interfered with their ability prosecute some cases.

“There’s just an enormous amount of benefit for all of these things,” said District Attorney Ashley Welch, whose district includes the six southwestern counties of North Carolina. “This would allow us to more aggressively go after someone who engages in non-consensual (activity).”

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