New NC arson crimes, tougher penalties head to Cooper’s desk

Published 9:28 am Saturday, June 11, 2022

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Legislation headed for Gov. Roy Cooper’s desk creates new crimes for arson and stiffer punishments for such fire-related violations already in state law.

The measure received final General Assembly approval on Thursday when the House voted 89-6 for the changes that the Senate completed on the bill earlier in the week. The House had voted for an earlier version last year.

The bill creates new felony crimes for setting fire to a prison, an occupied commercial structure, and an unoccupied commercial structure. Someone who commits arson also would face a felony if a first responder suffers a “serious injury” because of it.

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The measure also requires applicants for paid or volunteer fire department jobs to submit to criminal background checks. Any applicant found to have been convicted of arson or a similar felony conviction related to burning or setting a fire couldn’t be hired.

Omitted from the final version was a House provision that would have given the state fire marshal’s office more formal authority to investigate fires alongside the State Bureau of Investigation and local agencies.