The North Carolina Cemetery Survey and Protective Legislation
WHAT STATUTES PROTECT CEMETERIES?
G.S. 14-148 and G.S. 14-149 outline the penalties for defacing and desecrating gravesites and for plowing over or covering up graves: Violation is a misdemeanor and a Class I felony respectively. The fine is up to $500, and imprisonment is between sixty days and a year. Both penalties may result.
G.S. 65-1 through G.S. 65-3 outline the duties of the county commissioners: They are required to keep a list of all abandoned public cemeteries on file with the register of deeds. A copy is also to be sent to the secretary of state's office. The county commissioners are also required to take control of all abandoned public cemeteries and may appropriate whatever sums are deemed necessary for their upkeep.
G.S. 65-7 through G.S. 65-11 describe the legal means for setting up a trust fund for the upkeep of a cemetery: Money in amounts between $100 and $10,000 may be deposited with the clerk of superior court as a perpetual trust fund for the maintenance of cemeteries. Trustees may be appointed by the clerk.
G.S. 65-13 details the proper procedure for the removal of graves, including who may disinter, move, and reinter: The party moving the gravels) must give at least thirty days, written notice to the next of kin, if known. Notice must also be published at least once a week for four successive weeks in a newspaper published in the county in which the proposed removal is to take place. Removal expense is incurred by the mover, with some expense (not over $200) to be incurred by the next of kin. The removal is performed by a funeral director under the supervision of the county commissioners and the local health director. A certificate is then filed by the mover with the register of deeds.
G.S. 65-37 through G.S. 65-40 authorize municipalities to assume control of any a bandoned cemeteries within their boundaries: A municipality may appropriate, take possession of, and continue the use of certain lands as cemeteries. It is also authorized to use funds for improvement and maintenance.
G.S. 65-74 and G.S. 65-75 discuss who may enter private property in order to investigate, visit, or maintain a private grave or an abandoned public cemetery: A descendant of the interred or any other person with a special interest in the site may do so. He or she must notify the landowner in writing of his or her intent and then may visit periodically during daylight hours only, with the landowner's approval. If such approval cannot be obtained, the descendant may petition the clerk of superior court for an order allowing him or her access. After a special proceeding providing for notice and a hearing, the clerk may issue such an order, if deemed appropriate.
G.S. 70-29 through G.S. 70-33 give the procedure for notifying the proper authorities upon the discovery of unmarked remains: Anyone who discovers unmarked burials, or suspects that they are being disturbed, must notify the county medical examiner or the state archaeologist immediately. There is then a period of forty-eight hours to make arrangements for the protection or removal of the graves. The North Carolina Department of Cultural Resources may obtain administrative inspection warrants for the purpose of gathering additional information as necessary.
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