North Carolina

(information last updated January 2019)

Ongoing Projects: 

Federal Project(s) Operating in the State:

The Smithsonian supports North Carolina’s Candid Critters, a collaborative program of several state agencies. See About the Project, North Carolina’s Candid Critters, (last visited Feb. 7, 2019). Volunteers participate in a camera trap program to monitor trends in mammal populations, including deer, coyotes, and other species of concern. See id. The program is a part of the eMammal initiative. See id.


The international King Tides project conducts a citizen-science project called “What’s My Water Level?” organized at the University of North Carolina. See Join a Project, King Tides Project, (last visited Feb. 7, 2019). Anyone can submit data to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) GIS mapping tool. See All Contributions, What’s My Water Level?, (last visited Feb. 7, 2019). 


The National Science Foundation (“NSF”) supports Sentinels of the Sounds, a program of North Carolina State University. See Sentinels of the Sounds, (last visited Feb. 7, 2019). Participants provide photographs of cypress trees in and near sounds in North Carolina to help track changes to the shore and wetlands. See id.


The University of North Carolina, using a grant from NSF, conducts a project where citizen scientists help track seasonal changes of caterpillars, beetles, and spiders called Caterpillars Count. See Overview, Caterpillars Count! (last visited Feb. 7, 2019).


State Project(s):

The North Carolina Natural History Museum hosts Natural North Carolina, an iNaturalist project where volunteers can report wildlife, plant, and fungi sightings throughout the state. See Natural North Carolina, iNaturalist, (last visited Feb. 7, 2019).


In Raleigh, North Carolina, the Stormwater Division manages a Volunteer Stream Monitoring Program, which allows volunteers to monitor local stream health and share that data with local agencies and other volunteer groups. See Volunteer Stream Monitoring Program, Raleigh, (last updated Feb. 6, 2019). 



Collection of Information:

Ag-Gag Law:

“(a) Any person who intentionally gains access to the nonpublic areas of another’s premises and engages in an act that exceeds the person’s authority to enter those areas is liable to the owner or operator of the premises for any damages sustained.  For the purposes of this section, “nonpublic areas” shall mean those areas not accessible to or not intended to be accessed by the general public.

(b) For the purposes of this section, an act that exceeds a person’s authority to enter the nonpublic areas of another’s premises is any of the following:

(1) An employee who enters the nonpublic areas of an employer’s premises for a reason other than a bona fide intent of seeking or holding employment or doing business with the employer and thereafter without authorization captures or removes the employer’s data, paper, records, or any other documents and uses the information to breach the person’s duty of loyalty to the employer.

(2) …and thereafter without authorization records images or sound occurring within an employer’s premises and uses the recording to breach the person’s duty of loyalty to the employer.

(3) Knowingly or intentionally placing on the employer’s premises an unattended camera or electronic surveillance device and using that device to record images or data.”  N.C. Gen. Stat. § 99A-2. 


In a civil suit, a court may award the prevailing party, separately or in conjunction with equitable relief, compensatory damages, and costs and fees, “[e]xemplary damages as otherwise allowed by State or federal law in the amount of five thousand dollars ($5,000) for each day, or portion thereof, that a defendant has acted in violation of subsection (a) of this section.”  Id. § 99A-2(d).

Research Permit:

“A permit is required for any project involving the collection, removal or disturbance of any natural or cultural resource of any state park unit and for projects that require placing monitoring equipment in any state park unit.” Hours, Fees and Permits, N.C. Division of Parks & Recreation, (last visited Feb. 7, 2019); see also 7 N.C. Admin. Code 13B.0201(d); id. 13B.0104(d).

Drone Law:

See infra “Drone Laws.”

Trespass Laws:

Criminal Liability for Trespass Despite Lack of Notice:

No.  Entry upon property constitutes criminal trespass in the first degree only if the property is “so enclosed or secured as to demonstrate clearly an intent to keep out intruders.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-159.12(a). 


Other Provisions:

See infra “Critical Infrastructure Laws.”

Drone Laws: 

Surveillance Law:

“Except as otherwise provided in this section, no person . . . shall use an unmanned aircraft system to . . . [c]onduct surveillance of . . . [p]rivate real property without the consent of the owner, easement holder, or lessee of the property.”  N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-300.1(b)(1).


Civil Liability: 

“Any person . . . whose photograph is taken in violation of the provisions of this section, shall have a civil cause of action . . . [and] may elect to recover five thousand dollars ($ 5,000) for each photograph or video that is published or otherwise disseminated, as well as reasonable costs and attorneys’ fees and injunctive or other relief as determined by the court.” Id. § 15A-300.1(e).


Launch and Recovery Law:

“No unmanned aircraft system may be launched or recovered from any State or private property without consent.” N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-300.2(a).


State Parks:

“Park visitors are prohibited from ascending or taking-off within or upon any state park area or state park water surface, of any airplane, flying machine (includes drones, UAS, quadcopters)…or other apparatus for aviation. In some limited circumstances, these machines may be operated after obtaining a special activity permit from the Park.” Park Rules, N.C. Division of Parks & Recreation, (last visited Feb. 7, 2019); see also N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-300.2(a).


Critical Infrastructure Laws:


Trespass against a “facility . . . owned or operated by an electric power supplier[,]” a water treatment facility, a natural gas facility (including a “natural gas pipeline carrier”), or “[a]ny facility used or operated for agricultural activities” carries a heightened penalty as a Class A1 misdemeanor.  N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-159.12(c).

Stalking Laws:

Criminal Law:

“A defendant is guilty of stalking if the defendant willfully on more than one occasion harasses another person without legal purpose or willfully engages in a course of conduct directed at a specific person without legal purpose and the defendant knows or should know that the harassment or the course of conduct would cause a reasonable person to do any of the following:

(1)  Fear for the person’s safety or the safety of the person’s immediate family or close personal associates.

(2)  Suffer substantial emotional distress by placing that person in fear of death, bodily injury, or continued harassment.”  N.C. Gen. Stat. § 14-277.3A(c).

Use of Information:

Although our research is incomplete, this provision could be construed to prohibit the use of information collected by citizens.

Explicitly Prohibits:

“Evidence obtained or collected in violation of this section [which prohibits the surveillance of private real property by drone] is not admissible as evidence in a criminal prosecution in any court of law in this State except when obtained or collected under the objectively reasonable, good-faith belief that the actions were lawful.”  N.C. Gen. Stat. § 15A-300.1(f).

Evidentiary Standards:

Pleading a Claim:

Requires certification that the claim “is well grounded in fact.”  N.C. Gen. Stat. § 1A-1, Rule 11(a).

Authentication or Chain of Custody:


“The requirement of authentication or identification as a condition precedent to admissibility is satisfied by evidence sufficient to support a finding that the matter in question is what its proponent claims.”  N.C. Gen. Stat. § 8C-1, Rule 901(a).

Expert Testimony:

North Carolina Rule of Evidence 702 and Daubert standard.  See State v. McGrady, 368 N.C. 880, 884-93 (2016).


Please note that this discussion is not moderated by the Emmett Environmental Law & Policy Clinic.