Shooting bill advances in North Carolina

| 7/22/2005

A North Carolina House judiciary panel has approved a revised version of a bill that would increase penalties for people convicted of shooting into occupied homes and vehicles. It previously passed the Senate by unanimous consent.

The bill, dubbed “Rachel’s Law,” is named for Rachel Sanchez. The 4-year-old was struck by a sniper’s bullet as she rode with her family along Interstate 40 in Conover, NC, in February 2003.

A 15-year-old boy confessed to shooting onto the highway, the Winston-Salem Journal reported. He was sentenced to one year of probation. Rachel survived, but she is disabled.

The version of the bill that has been forwarded to the House Appropriations Committee would increase the penalty for shooting into an occupied vehicle or home when doing so causes serious injury.

Anyone found guilty would face eight years and one month behind bars. The original version of the bill – SB486 – called for criminals to receive 16 years and six months in prison.

Members of the judiciary panel approved the bill only after weakening the maximum sentence, which would have been the same as the penalty for second-degree murder. The current penalty is the same as second-degree rape and first-degree kidnapping.

The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Austin Allran, R-Hickory, told the newspaper he was glad the bill passed the panel but he would try to restore the tougher penalties in later negotiations.

If the bill eventually passes the full House, it will head back to the Senate for final approval or go before a conference committee to work out any differences before moving to Gov. Mike Easley’s desk.