Raleigh, N.C. – The state House of Representatives voted 109-4 on Thursday to increase penalties and enhance prosecution for gang members who commit crimes associated with criminal gang activity in North Carolina.
House Bill 138 ‘Revise Gang Laws’ changes gang activity to a sentencing enhancement rather than a separate criminal offense in North Carolina. It strengthens state law by allowing prosecutors to increase penalties for gang activity without seeking separate convictions against gang members.
The legislation would increase both misdemeanor and felony convictions by one class if committed by a member of a gang as part of illegal gang activity. A crime would be enhanced by two classes if committed by a ‘gang leader.’
House Bill 138 also increases the penalty for threatening to retaliate or retaliating against an individual for leaving a gang or helping someone leave a gang.
Supporters of the bill say an existing anti-gang law in North Carolina is insufficient for prosecutors to seek successful convictions due to its overly broad language. The current statute provides separate felony offenses for taking part in or profiting from illegal gang activity, but is rarely used and difficult to enforce.
“North Carolina has a gang problem, and I don’t think anybody in this body would deny that we have a gang problem in North Carolina, and we need to deal with it,” said bill sponsor Rep. Allen McNeill (R-Randolph).
Rep. John Faircloth (R-Guilford), Rep. Pat Hurley (R-Randolph) and Rep. Rena Turner (R-Iredell). are also primary sponsors of the legislation.
House Bill 138 is sent to the North Carolina Senate for consideration.