Article I, North Carolina Constitution

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North Carolina Constitution
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Article I of the North Carolina Constitution is entitled Declaration of Rights and consists of 37 sections.


Text of Preamble:

That the great, general, and essential principles of liberty and free government may be recognized and established, and that the relations of this State to the Union and government of the United States and those of the people of this State to the rest of the American people may be defined and affirmed, we do declare that:

Section 1

Text of Section 1:

The Equality and Rights of Persons

We hold it to be self-evident that all persons are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, the enjoyment of the fruits of their own labor, and the pursuit of happiness.

Section 2

Text of Section 2:

Sovereignty of the People

All political power is vested in and derived from the people; all government of right originates from the people, is founded upon their will only, and is instituted solely for the good of the whole.

Section 3

Text of Section 3:

Internal Government of the State

The people of this State have the inherent, sole, and exclusive right of regulating the internal government and police thereof, and of altering or abolishing their Constitution and form of government whenever it may be necessary to their safety and happiness; but every such right shall be exercised in pursuance of law and consistently with the Constitution of the United States.

Section 4

Text of Section 4:

Secession Prohibited

This State shall ever remain a member of the American Union; the people thereof are part of the American nation; there is no right on the part of this State to secede; and all attempts, from whatever source or upon whatever pretext, to dissolve this Union or to sever this Nation, shall be resisted with the whole power of the State.

Section 5

Text of Section 5:

Allegiance to the United States

Every citizen of this State owes paramount allegiance to the Constitution and government of the United States, and no law or ordinance of the State in contravention or subversion thereof can have any binding force.

Section 6

Text of Section 6:

Separation of Powers

The legislative, executive, and supreme judicial powers of the State government shall be forever separate and distinct from each other.

Section 7

Text of Section 7:

Suspending Laws

All power of suspending laws or the execution of laws by any authority, without the consent of the representatives of the people, is injurious to their rights and shall not be exercised.

Section 8

Text of Section 8:

Representation and Taxation

The people of this State shall not be taxed or made subject to the payment of any impost or duty without the consent of themselves or their representatives in the General Assembly, freely given.

Section 9

Text of Section 9:

Frequent Elections

For redress of grievances and for amending and strengthening the laws, elections shall be often held.

Section 10

Text of Section 10:

Free Elections

All elections shall be free.

Section 11

Text of Section 11:

Property Qualifications

As political rights and privileges are not dependent upon or modified by property, no property qualification shall affect the right to vote or hold office.

Section 12

Text of Section 12:

Right of Assembly and Petition

The people have a right to assemble together to consult for their common good, to instruct their representatives, and to apply to the General Assembly for redress of grievances; but secret political societies are dangerous to the liberties of a free people and shall not be tolerated.

Section 13

Text of Section 13:

Religious Liberty

All persons have a natural and inalienable right to worship Almighty God according to the dictates of their own consciences, and no human authority shall, in any case whatever, control or interfere with the rights of conscience.

Section 14

Text of Section 14:

Freedom of Speech and Press

Freedom of speech and of the press are two of the great bulwarks of liberty and therefore shall never be restrained, but every person shall be held responsible for their abuse.

Section 15

Text of Section 15:


The people have a right to the privilege of education, and it is the duty of the State to guard and maintain that right.

Section 16

Text of Section 16:

Ex Post Facto Laws

Retrospective laws, punishing acts committed before the existence of such laws and by them only declared criminal, are oppressive, unjust, and incompatible with liberty, and therefore no ex post facto law shall be enacted. No law taxing retrospectively sales, purchases, or other acts previously done shall be enacted.

Section 17

Text of Section 17:

Slavery and Involuntary Servitude

Slavery is forever prohibited. Involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the parties have been adjudged guilty, is forever prohibited.

Section 18

Text of Section 18:

Court Shall be Open

All courts shall be open; every person for an injury done him in his lands, goods, person, or reputation shall have remedy by due course of law; and right and justice shall be administered without favor, denial, or delay.

Section 19

Text of Section 19:

Law of the Land; Equal Protection of the Laws

No person shall be taken, imprisoned, or disseized of his freehold, liberties, or privileges, or outlawed, or exiled, or in any manner deprived of his life, liberty, or property, but by the law of the land. No person shall be denied the equal protection of the laws; nor shall any person be subjected to discrimination by the State because of race, color, religion, or national origin.

Section 20

Text of Section 20:

General Warrants

General warrants, whereby any officer or other person may be commanded to search suspected places without evidence of the act committed, or to seize any person or persons not named, whose offense is not particularly described and supported by evidence, are dangerous to liberty and shall not be granted.

Section 21

Text of Section 21:

Inquiry into Restraints on Liberty

Every person restrained of his liberty is entitled to a remedy to inquire into the lawfulness thereof, and to remove the restraint if unlawful, and that remedy shall not be denied or delayed. The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended.

Section 22

Text of Section 22:

Modes of Prosecution

Except in misdemeanor cases initiated in the District Court Division, no person shall be put to answer any criminal charge but by indictment, presentment, or impeachment. But any person, when represented by counsel, may, under such regulations as the General Assembly shall prescribe, waive indictment in noncapital cases.

Section 23

Text of Section 23:

Rights of Accused

In all criminal prosecutions, every person charged with crime has the right to be informed of the accusation and to confront the accusers and witnesses with other testimony, and to have counsel for defense, and not be compelled to give self-incriminating evidence, or to pay costs, jail fees, or necessary witness fees of the defense, unless found guilty.

Section 24

Text of Section 24:

Right of Jury Trial in Criminal Cases

No person shall be convicted of any crime but by the unanimous verdict of a jury in open court, except that a person accused of any criminal offense for which the State is not seeking a sentence of death in superior court may, in writing or on the record in the court and with the consent of the trial judge, waive jury trial, subject to procedures prescribed by the General Assembly. The General Assembly may, however, provide for other means of trial for misdemeanors, with the right of appeal for trial de novo.


Section 25

Text of Section 25:

Right of Jury Trial in Civil Cases

In all controversies at law respecting property, the ancient mode of trial by jury is one of the best securities of the rights of the people, and shall remain sacred and inviolable.

Section 26

Text of Section 26:

Jury Service

No person shall be excluded from jury service on account of sex, race, color, religion, or national origin.

Section 27

Text of Section 27:

Bail, Fines, and Punishments

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel or unusual punishments inflicted.

Section 28

Text of Section 28:

Imprisonment for Debt

There shall be no imprisonment for debt in this State, except in cases of fraud.

Section 29

Text of Section 29:

Treason Against the State

Treason against the State shall consist only of levying war against it or adhering to its enemies by giving them aid and comfort. No person shall be convicted of treason unless on the testimony of two witnesses to the same overt act, or on confession in open court. No conviction of treason or attainder shall work corruption of blood or forfeiture.

Section 30

Text of Section 30:

Militia and the Right to Bear Arms

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed; and, as standing armies in time of peace are dangerous to liberty, they shall not be maintained, and the military shall be kept under strict subordination to, and governed by, the civil power. Nothing herein shall justify the practice of carrying concealed weapons, or prevent the General Assembly from enacting penal statutes against that practice.

Section 31

Text of Section 31:

Quartering of Soldiers

No soldier shall in time of peace be quartered in any house without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war but in a manner prescribed by law.

Section 32

Text of Section 32:

Exclusive Emoluments

No person or set of persons is entitled to exclusive or separate emoluments or privileges from the community but in consideration of public services.

Section 33

Text of Section 33:

Hereditary Emoluments and Honors

No hereditary emoluments, privileges, or honors shall be granted or conferred in this State.

Section 34

Text of Section 34:

Perpetuities and Monopolies

Perpetuities and monopolies are contrary to the genius of a free state and shall not be allowed.

Section 35

Text of Section 35:

Recurrence to Fundamental Principles

A frequent recurrence to fundamental principles is absolutely necessary to preserve the blessings of liberty.

Section 36

Text of Section 36:

Other Rights of the People

The enumeration of rights in this Article shall not be construed to impair or deny others retained by the people.

Section 37

Text of Section 37:

Rights of Victims of Crime

(1) Basic rights. Victims of crime, as prescribed by law, shall be entitled to the following basic rights:

(a) The right as prescribed by law to be informed of and to be present at court proceedings of the accused.
(b) The right to be heard at sentencing of the accused in a manner prescribed by law, and at other times as prescribed by law or deemed appropriate by the court.
(c) The right as prescribed by law to receive restitution.
(d) The right as prescribed by law to be given information about the crime, how the criminal justice system works, the rights of victims, and the availability of services for victims.
(e) The right as prescribed by law to receive information about the conviction or final disposition and sentence of the accused.
(f) The right as prescribed by law to receive notification of escape, release, proposed parole or pardon of the accused, or notice of a reprieve or commutation of the accused's sentence.
(g) The right as prescribed by law to present their views and concerns to the Governor or agency considering any action that could result in the release of the accused, prior to such action becoming effective.
(h) The right as prescribed by law to confer with the prosecution.

(2) No money damages; other enforcement. Nothing in this section shall be construed as creating a claim for money damages against the State, a county, a municipality, or any of the agencies, instrumentalities, or employees thereof. The General Assembly may provide for other remedies to ensure adequate enforcement of this section.

(3) No ground for relief in criminal case. The failure or inability of any person to provide a right or service provided under this section may not be used by a defendant in a criminal case, an inmate, or any other accused as a ground for relief in any trial, appeal, postconviction litigation, habeas corpus, civil action, or any similar criminal or civil proceeding.


(1995, c. 438, s. 1.)

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