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6 new laws set to take effect in Nevada

Updated December 29, 2022 - 10:03 am

Starting in the new year, Nevadans who get pulled over for minor traffic violations like speeding and cannot pay the fines no longer need to worry about a criminal charge being issued against them.

A bill passed in the last legislative session decriminalizing minor traffic violations and ending the practice of issuing arrest warrants when someone can’t afford to pay the fines will take effect Jan. 1.

Assembly Bill 116 establishes civil penalties for small traffic violations, such as speeding, or failing to use a turn signal when changing lanes, rather than criminal misdemeanors. Major violations will still be misdemeanors and considered criminal offenses, such as drag racing, reckless driving and DUIs.

Someone who receives a civil infraction has 90 days to respond. They can choose not to contest the violation and pay the civil penalty, which would then get reported to the Department of Motor Vehicles. Or they can contest the violation, and the case would go through a civil hearing where a judge would evaluate the facts and issue a ruling. If the person does nothing in 90 days, they will automatically be found to have committed the traffic offense and will be required to pay certain expenses.

If someone committed a minor traffic violation before Jan. 1, 2023, that person cannot be arrested for the offense, and it will instead become a civil matter. Each court in the state canceled outstanding bench warrants for those minor traffic violations in preparation for the law to take effect Jan. 1.

Las Vegas Municipal Court voided nearly 35,000 traffic warrants, North Las Vegas quashed almost 16,000 and Reno Municipal Court voided about 1,900 traffic violations.

Most states in the U.S. already have this system in place. Prior to the law taking effect, Nevada was one of 13 states to prosecute minor traffic violations as criminal misdemeanors rather than civil infractions, according to the Federal Sentencing Reporter.

Criminalizing minor traffic violations also affected individuals living in poverty who could not afford to pay a speeding ticket, as well as people of color, according to the Fines and Fees Justice Center, which argued that those kind of laws clog jails and courts, put Nevadans in debt and waste taxpayer money.

“This law is significant because it ends a cycle of debt that stems from a simple traffic violation that many people find themselves in because they are unable to pay it,” Assemblywoman Rochelle Nguyen, who sponsored the legislation, said in a statement. “People will no longer have to worry that they will be arrested and jailed for their inability to pay fines and fees associated with a traffic ticket.”

Las Vegas Justice Court Chief Judge Melissa Saragosa said the legislation will not have much impact overall, but it is important to understand that it does not convert all traffic offenses to civil infractions, only certain ones.

Failing to maintain auto insurance or registering your vehicle is still criminal, Saragosa said, so if you get pulled over for speeding while not having insurance, you will receive two different citations that will go through two different processes: one civil, the other criminal.

Nevada courts have had to create a separate process to deal with the different citations, and Nevada judges agreed upon a civil penalty schedule so the penalties will be consistent throughout the state, Saragosa said.

“I know that can be confusing for a lot of people,” Saragosa said. “I would hope that people are patient with the technological systems that might not work perfectly the first few months, some hiccups we might have to iron out the wrinkles on.”

The new law will not change Nevada’s existing demerit point system for drivers, Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman Kevin Malone previously said. Tickets are assigned varying amounts of demerit points based on their seriousness, and drivers who accumulate too many points can temporarily lose their license. However, tickets that are amended to parking are worth no demerit points.

Other laws taking effect Jan. 1:

Annual behavioral wellness visits for peace officers

Assembly Bill 336, sponsored by Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno, D-North Las Vegas, and former Republican Assemblyman Tom Roberts, R-Las Vegas, requires the Peace Officers’ Standards and Training Commission to adopt regulations for an annual behavioral wellness visit for peace officers to “aid in preserving the emotional and mental health” of officers.

Current law establishes minimum standards for the certification of police officers, and it requires the commission to adopt regulations to aid in preserving officers’ emotional and mental health. The law says officers must complete at least 12 hours annually of continuing education in courses that address racial profiling, mental health, well-being, implicit bias recognition, de-escalation, human trafficking and firearms.

Classic cars

Assembly Bill 349, sponsored by Assemblyman Howard Watts III, D-Las Vegas, revises provisions on classic cars. It provides that cars that are issued “Old Timer,” “classic rod” or “classic vehicle” license plates are exempt from smog check rules, so long as they are not used for general transportation and are driven less than 5,000 miles per year.

The classic vehicles must have proof of insurance specific to classic or antique vehicles in order to receive a special license plate and registration certificate for a classic vehicle, the law says.

Tobacco sales

Assembly Bill 360, sponsored by Republican Assembly members Gregory Hafen and Melissa Hardy, requires stores to check ID for people who appear to be 40 years old or younger using enhanced controls like scanning technology or other automated systems to verify age on a person’s drivers license before they can sell tobacco products.

Hafen said the legislation came about to “crack down” on youth smoking and make sure Nevada was eligible for federal funding. Nevada’s existing standards fell below the level needed to qualify for federal funding, Hafen said.

Gas stations, convenience stores and grocery stores already have equipment that scans the barcodes of driver’s licenses, and there is a federal software program that store owners can obtain for free that will scan the whole driver’s license, Hafen said.

Association websites

Senate Bill 186, sponsored by the Senate Committee on Commerce and Labor, requires unit-owner associations for condo or townhome communities to establish websites for unit owners where documents including notices and agendas for any upcoming meetings, annual budgets and copies of governing documents can be posted.

Utilities

Senate Bill 448, sponsored by now-former state Sen. Chris Brooks, D-Las Vegas, aims to advance Nevada’s goal of reaching 100 percent carbon-free energy by 2050. It requires utilities to plan for an 80-percent reduction in carbon dioxide emissions by the end of the decade. It also put legislative backing behind the “Greenlink Nevada” transmission upgrade project.

Parts of the legislation already took effect. The section that takes effect on Jan. 1 removes a requirement for a utility to submit an annual plan for carrying out the Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Demonstration Program. That program required utilities to provide incentives to build electric vehicle charging stations, according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Contact Jessica Hill at jehill@reviewjournal.com. Follow @jess_hillyeah on Twitter.

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