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North Carolina Criminal Law 14-401.22: Concealment of Death

1. Definition and Elements of the Crime

Under North Carolina Criminal Law Chapter 14-401.22, the crime of concealment of death is defined as the intentional concealment of a person’s death by failing to notify law enforcement of a person’s death, secretly burying a dead human body or secretly disposing of a dead human body.

The penalties for this offense increase if the victim is less than 16 years of age.

To prove a charge of concealment of death, the State must be able to establish the following prima facie elements Beyond a Reasonable Doubt:

  • That the Defendant either:
    1. Failed to notify law enforcement of a death of a human being OR
    2. Secretly buried a dead human body OR
    3. Secretly disposed of a dead human body
  • That the Defendant intended to conceal the death of a human being

If the dead human being is less than 16 years of age, the Defendant may be charged with a Class H felony instead of a Class I felony. G.S. 14-401.22(a1).

Additionally, if Defendant conceals the death of an adult or child knowing that the adult or child did not die of natural causes, Defendant can be charged with a Class D felony. G.S. 14-401.22(e).

2. Examples

Defendant is hunting in the woods. Defendant stumbles upon the body of a young woman. The news had been asking the community for help in locating a missing young woman who had gone hiking. Defendant decides to ignore the incident and pretend it didn’t happen. Defendant can be charged with concealment of death by failing to notify law enforcement.

Defendant’s friend confesses that he pushed his brother down the stairs. The brother broke his neck during the fall and died instantly. Friend asks Defendant to help him dispose of the body in a remote location. Defendant can be charged with class D felony concealment of death.

Defendant’s mother dies of natural causes in her home. Defendant finds Mom and buries her body in a wooded area where his Mom requested to be buried. Defendant does not inform anyone of the death. A neighbor stumbles upon the makeshift grave and alerts the authorities. Defendant can be charged with concealment of death.

3. Related Offenses

Topics of interest or related offenses include:

  1. NC Felony Sentencing Grid
  2. North Carolina General Statute: Concealment of Death
  3. What are the Top 3 Things to do if Arrested
  4. What Does Indictment Mean in North Carolina?
  5. DWI Death / Homicide Charges
  6. PODCAST: Homicide – What to Do When You or a Loved one is Facing Murder or Manslaughter Charges – Part 1
  7. PODCAST: Homicide – What to Do When You or a Loved one is Facing Murder or Manslaughter Charges – Part 2
4. Defenses to Concealment of Death

The Defendant has a viable defense under North Carolina law if he or she can prove his or her acts were not intentional. As such, specific intent is a necessary element of the offense.

Common Law defenses for such matters may include things like duress and mistake of law.

5. Penalties

The crime of concealment of death is a Class I felony punishable by a maximum period of incarceration of 24 months in a state correctional facility. If Defendant knew the dead human being did not die of natural causes, the crime may be indicted and possibly prosecuted as a Class D felony punishable by a maximum period of incarceration of 204 months in a state correctional facility.

6. Criminal Defense for Concealment of Death

If you have been charged with the crime of concealment of death, you need to contact an experienced North Carolina criminal attorney who can advise you of your rights and guide you through the court process.

If you intentionally (willfully) conceal the death of person who did not die from natural causes, you could potentially face a substantial active prison term.

If questioned by the authorities, exercise your right to legal counsel. Take the 5th. Politely decline to cooperate in the investigation and seek out legal counsel immediately.

Our team of Charlotte Criminal Defense Lawyers are experienced courtroom lawyers. We are dedicated to zealous advocacy and providing sound legal advice.

Given the substantial punishments for Concealment of Death cases in North Carolina, we recommend you call now to schedule a consultation.

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