The North Carolina General Assembly has amended drug paraphernalia laws in an effort to reduce accidental law enforcement needle sticks. Last week the North Carolina Senate voted 48 to 0 to pass house bill 850, the “The possession of needles/tell a law officer” bill. The law, which passed the house in May aims to reduce needle stick injury among law officers by granting limited immunity to drug paraphernalia charges to suspects that declare possession of a syringe or other sharp object prior to a search. The immunity applies to only to syringes or sharp objects and not to drugs or other paraphernalia. Needle stick injuries classified as; “Being punctured by used syringes that could be contaminated by dangerous viruses, such as HIV or Hepatitis C” are common occupational hazards for law enforcement officers and the injuries typically occur as the officer searches the suspects pockets or belongings. Officer safety training reports that approximately 1 in 10 officers in North Carolina have suffered a needle stick during the line of duty, in some areas of the state that number climbs as high as 1 in 3. Currently law officers are encouraged to ask suspects prior to a search if he or she is in possession of needles or other sharp objects but fear of paraphernalia charges leads many suspects to lie or attempt to hide the objects thereby increasing the risk of needle sticks to officers. House bill 850 grants limited immunity on charges of paraphernalia with suspects who openly declare possession to the syringe or sharp objects prior to the officer searching them and the immunity will only apply to the syringe or other sharp objects. Having been passed by the house and the senate, House bill 850 now proceeds to the governors desk for his signature.