North Carolina Criminal Law 14-401.22: Concealment of Death

A death resulting from an unexpected event that wasn’t anticipated by those involved is referred to as an accidental death. Attempting to conceal an accidental death is an offense that is punishable by law, and any individual who has knowledge of a death and attempts to conceal or actively conceals that death will be found guilty and charged. Concealment can occur by doing acts that prevent a body from being discovered or similar acts or concealing a corpse.
If you’ve been charged with concealment of death charges, you need a reputable North Carolina criminal law attorney on your side immediately.

What Does Concealment of Death Mean?

According to the North Carolina Criminal Law Chapter 14-401.22,  concealment of death crime is the intentional concealment of an individual’s death through the act of not notifying law enforcement of the individual’s death, secretly disposing of the dead individual’s body, or secretly burying the dead individual’s body. If the victim is under the age of 16, the penalties for this offense will increase. 

To prove a concealment of death charge, the state of North Carolina must establish, beyond a reasonable doubt, the following prima facie elements:

  • The Defendant either:
    • Didn’t alert law enforcement of an individual’s death
    • Secretly buried a dead individual’s body
    • Secretly disposed of a dead individual’s body
  • The Defendant had the intention of concealing the death of an individual.

If the dead individual is under the age of 16, the Defendant could receive a Class H felony charge instead of a Class I felony. G.S. 14-401.22(a1).

Along with this, if the Defendant conceals the death of a child or adult knowing the child’s or adult’s death wasn’t due to natural causes, the Defendant can then receive a Class D felony. G.S. 14-401.22(e) charge. 

You Must Report Death of Any Kind

Not reporting the death of a human being is a crime. Despite this, you may be tempted to not report a death for various reasons, including:

  • You might fear you had a part in the death
  • You actually did have a part in the death
  • You fear you’ll be suspected of having a part in the death regardless of whether or not you did

It’s important to understand that not reporting a death will look suspicious to law enforcement since most individuals do so reflexively. Individuals who don’t report a death can and will likely be suspected of something more sinister.

Cohabitating with a corpse can result in obvious health risks, and you can face criminal charges by failing to report a death to law enforcement, a funeral home, or 911 if you “have reason to know or do know” that the death occurred.

Examples of Attempting to Conceal a Death

Example one: The Defendant is in the woods hunting. The Defendant then stumbles upon a young woman’s body. It’s been reported on the news of the young woman going missing after she went hiking, and the community has been asked for help searching for her. The Defendant who stumbled upon her decides to pretend they didn’t see her body or ignore the incident. By failing to notify the woman’s body to law enforcement, the Defendant can then receive a concealment of death charge.

Example two: The friend of the Defendant confesses that they pushed their brother down the stairs, leading to their brother breaking their neck and dying instantly. The friend asks the Defendant to assist them in disposing of their brother’s dead boy in a remote area. The Defendant can receive concealment of death (class D felony) charges.

Example three: The mother of the Defendant dies in her home of natural causes. The Defendant finds their mother and decides to bury her dead body in a location where their mother asked to be buried. The Defendant doesn’t inform law enforcement or anyone else of her death. A neighbor comes across the makeshift grave and notifies law enforcement. The Defendant can then receive concealment of death charges.

Defenses for Concealment of Death in North Carolina 

Under North Carolina law, the Defendant has a viable defense if they can prove their act wasn’t intentional. Therefore, specific intent is an important and necessary component of the offense. For such matters, Common Law defenses might include things like a mistake of law and duress.

Penalties for Concealment of Death Charges 

Concealment of death crime is considered a Class I felony punishable by a maximum 24-month incarceration in a state correctional facility. The crime could be indicted and potentially charged as a Class D felony that is punishable by a maximum 204-month incarceration in a state correctional facility if the Defendant was aware that the dead individual didn’t die of natural causes.

It’s vital that you seek legal representation right away from an experienced NC criminal defense lawyer if you’ve been charged with concealment of death.

Why Hire a NC Criminal Defense Attorney for a Concealment of Death Charge?

If you’ve received a concealment of death charge, you need to reach out to a highly-skilled NC criminal law lawyer who can inform you of your legal rights and help you navigate the court process. But, it’s important to know that if you willfully or intentionally conceal the death of an individual who didn’t die from natural causes, you may face a substantial active prison term.

If law enforcement questions you, you should take the 5th and exercise your right to legal representation. Politely decline to cooperate in the police officer’s investigation and seek legal representation right away.

An experienced criminal defense attorney in North Carolina has years of experience handling cases like this. They’re committed to providing zealous advocacy and sound legal guidance and advice. Given the significant concealment of death penalties and punishments in North Carolina, it’s highly recommended that you schedule a consultation with a criminal defense lawyer if you’ve been charged.

Contact the Reliable Criminal Defense Attorneys at King Law in North Carolina Today

The State of North Carolina takes death seriously, regardless of whether it’s intentional or accidental. By not notifying law enforcement of a death immediately, you will be facing the serious crime of concealment of death.

If you have received a concealment of death crime charge, it’s important that you reach out to King Law today to speak with our experienced NC criminal defense lawyers. You’re looking at severe consequences, and you’ll require legal representation from someone with extensive criminal defense experience. Call us today at (888) 748-5464 or (888) 748-KING or complete our contact form to schedule your initial consultation and case review.