CARSON CITY — An American Civil Liberties Union lobbyist testified Tuesday that the rich will take advantage of legislation designed to allow people charged with minor offenses to pay a fine in lieu of having to perform community service.
“It’s a law for the rich,” lobbyist Joseph Turco told the Assembly Judiciary Committee. “It is just blatant. Money talks.”
Turco testified against Senate Bill 216, which would allow judges to order people to make a payment to the general fund of the city where they committed a crime, instead of having to perform community service.
The proposal only would apply to misdemeanor offenders who live outside the county where they committed their crimes and who would face an unreasonable burden in having to return to perform community service. It also would apply in cases where the offenders are physically incapable of performing jobs.
SB216 would supplement a current law that permits judges to require misdemeanor offenders to perform community service in lieu of sending them to jail or paying a fine.
In response to Turco, Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, said all offenders, regardless of their financial situation have “to pay for their transgressions.”
He said the bill would benefit people who commit crimes in border towns and would be hard-pressed to return to perform community service.
“We aren’t talking about high level crime,” he added. “We are talking about traffic violations.”
Misdemeanor offenders can be required to perform up to 200 hours of community service.
The bill requires these offenders to pay a fine to the local government equivalent to the mean statewide wage earned by building and grounds workers multiplied by the number of hours of community service.
That wage, in 2006, was $11.16 per hour. So someone ordered to perform 200 hours of community service would pay $2,232 instead of working.
The bill, which passed the Senate 21-0 on April 23, was introduced by Sen. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon.
McGinness introduced the bill in part because of concern expressed by Mesquite Municipal Judge Ron Dodd.
Dodd noted that a large number of minor offenders are from out of state or elderly. Under the original bill as proposed by Dodd, offenders would have made donations to charities instead of performing community service.
That requirement was amended out. Now the payment would go to the general fund of the city or town where the crime was committed.
Judiciary Committee Chairman Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks, took no vote on the bill.2007 Nevada Legislature