Wednesday, Feb. 17, 2021 | 2 a.m.
CARSON CITY — A bill being proposed at the Nevada Legislature would change minor traffic violations from criminal to civil infractions, which would end the practice of issuing warrants when fines cannot be paid.
It’s being introduced by Assemblywoman Rochelle Nguyen, D-Las Vegas, to “totally decriminalize” minor traffic violations, where Nevada is one of 13 states that still arrests violators for such unpaid infractions.
“People who are unable to pay traffic fines for minor violations such as speeding or driving with a broken taillight can be arrested and even incarcerated. This costs taxpayers millions of dollars each year, and it can cost those who are unable to pay the loss of their jobs,” Nguyen said.
Leisa Moseley, the Nevada state director of the nonprofit Fines and Fees Justice Center, said lower-income communities and communities of color are disproportionately impacted by the fees associated with criminal violations. The center reports that 270,000 warrants were outstanding in the Las Vegas Justice Court at the outset of the pandemic.
In Clark County, someone spends on average three days in jail after being arrested on a traffic warrant, the group said. Those three days often produce a spiral effect, where a person loses their job and has even less money for expenses such as housing and caring for their family. That makes it even more difficult to pay the debt to the court system.
And that stay in jail costs taxpayers $400, the group said.
“It is our goal to eliminate fees that are associated with the criminal justice system,” Moseley said.
The state does have an example to look