House Bill 778: Amend Innocence Commission Laws

Among the many bills left open by the General Assembly at the end of this most recent session is a change to the North Carolina Innocence Inquiry Commission.  The only body of its kind in the nation, the Commission reviews claims of actual innocence by prisoners in North Carolina.  HB778 would make several changes to which prisoners are able to receive review from the Commission and how extensively they must prove their innocence.

Under the proposed legislation, the Commission would be prevented from reviewing cases in which the prisoner has pleaded guilty.  Though it is widely believed that some innocent people agree to plead guilty in order to avoid the potential of a harsher punishment, such as life in prison or the death penalty, the bill would take away the power that the Commission currently has to review guilty pleas.

In addition, the law would change the standard of proof required for the Commission to free a prisoner.  As it currently stands, a prisoner must prove his innocence by “clear and convincing evidence” the second highest burden in American jurisprudence.  The bill would raise the burden to the “beyond a reasonable doubt” standard, the highest burden in the justice system.

Currently, the Commission has only set one person free in it’s 5 year history.  Greg Taylor was freed in 2010 after a hearing in which the Commission determined that he was innocent of a murder for which he had been convicted in 1993.

Possible Change in North Carolina Collection Law

Introduction of House Bill 30; Allow Wage Garnishment to Satisfy Judgments

Recently, a bill has been introduced in the General Assembly to allow for wage garnishment in North Carolina.  Currently, North Carolina does not allow for a worker’s wages to be garnished to satisfy a judgment, except in very limited situations.  Most times, winning a lawsuit against a person is almost a symbolic move, because there is almost no way to collect on the judgment after it has been rendered.  If you get a judgment against that person, you have to attempt to get the sheriff to seize the debtor’s property and sell it at auction to satisfy the judgment.  If the debtor has little enough property that all of it is exempt from execution (and many people are entirely exempt from execution), then there is no way to get any money out of the judgment.

House Bill 30 would change that state of affairs.  It would allow almost all judgment creditors to garnish up to 15% of the wages of someone who owes them money after a lawsuit.  In addition, there are provisions in the law that would allow a person in financial hardship to avoid being subjected to garnishment.  If passed, the law would be a significant game changer in the area of collections.