In the wake of a federal court order, the Las Vegas constable’s office Thursday temporarily suspended its enforcement of a state law requiring new residents to obtain Nevada license plates after 30 days.
“We have suspended enforcement until we deal with the legal people to find out exactly where we stand,” Deputy Chief Dean Lauer said. “We want to make sure we’re doing it correctly, the way it’s supposed to be done.”
On Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Andrew Gordon issued a preliminary injunction barring the constable’s office from pursuing a $100 collection fee against a former Utah woman it cited for not having Nevada plates.
The woman, Nicole McMillen, filed a lawsuit in May accusing the constable’s office of violating her constitutional rights and shaking her down for the $100.
Constable John Bonaventura and his office have defended the practice of collecting the fee, arguing it was authorized by a Nevada law aimed at cracking down on people who don’t register their cars after they move to the state. It is a misdemeanor not to register after 30 days of becoming a resident.
But Gordon said Wednesday that he was concerned about the way the constable’s office has been collecting the $100 fee.
Gordon said he was “troubled” that there is no opportunity in state court for McMillen to challenge the collection process, and that violates her constitutional due process rights.
On Thursday, Lauer said he hoped the enforcement suspension would not be long.
“I don’t want to be out of service and leave the public hanging out there,” Lauer said. “I want to get it resolved as soon as possible.”
Lauer said his office has four deputies who have been writing vehicle registration citations. The deputies work on a commission and get $65 of the $100 for each citation they write.
Former District Attorney David Roger has said giving the deputies a cash incentive to enforce the law creates an appearance of impropriety.
After McMillen was cited in March at Turnberry Towers, she obtained Nevada license plates, but refused to pay the constable’s office the $100 and now faces a misdemeanor charge in Justice Court over it.
Her attorney Jeffrey Barr said he has been besieged with calls from other people complaining about the $100 fee and is preparing to turn McMillen’s case against the constable’s office into a class-action lawsuit.
Lauer said Thursday that his office continues to receive a lot of calls from people reporting out-of-state license plates at local residences.
Contact Jeff German at email@example.com or 702-380-8135. Find him on Twitter: @JGermanRJ.