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January 17, 2018

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Sporting out-of-state plates? Better be visiting

New law lets local constables fine those who don’t register

Some scofflaws advertise their misdeeds on their back bumpers.

Come Oct. 1 the state will place a $100 bounty on their heads.

The Legislature passed a law granting local constables the authority to cite motorists who don’t register their vehicles within 60 days of relocating to Nevada, as required by law. Citations will cost motorists $100.

“You can drive up a street and see one or two cars that have been there several years without changing their license plates,” said Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, sponsor of the bill, which also raises the maximum fine for failing to register a vehicle by the deadline to $1,000 from $500.

The law is the latest attempt to address a long-standing frustration among residents and officials, who have watched thousands of new residents continue to send vehicle-registration-related tax dollars out of state.

Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel, D-Henderson, who sponsored a similar bill that was combined with Parks’, estimated the loss at $20 million a year. In addition to registration fees and taxes, the vehicles in question are likely insured out of state, costing Nevada the 3 percent insurance premium tax, she said.

It’s impossible to know the magnitude of the problem, but the state Department of Motor Vehicles compiles and distributes each month to law enforcement a list of people who obtain a new Nevada driver’s license but do not register a car within 60 days. The DMV said there were 2,300 such individuals in May. The monthly average is about 2,000, officials said.

The state’s tourist economy has complicated officers’ efforts to enforce the law, officials said.

Nevada Highway Patrol Trooper Kevin Honea said officers frequently hear complaints about unregistered vehicles but can’t pull over a motorist with out-of-state license plates even if they suspect the owner is dodging the registration laws. Like Nevada’s seat belt law, failure to register is a secondary offense and an officer must first stop a motorist for another violation.

Officers patrol school parking lots early in the school year and typically find a handful of new teachers who have yet to register their cars with the DMV. Honea said troopers leave an informational sticker on their vehicles then check back to see whether the newcomers have complied.

Parks met with the constables of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson before enlisting them to crack down on vehicle registration scofflaws. Constables’ offices are funded by fees collected serving judicial orders, including arrest warrants, garnishments of wages, and evictions. State law allows lawmakers to add to constables’ duties.

Las Vegas Constable Robert “Bobby G” Gronauer told lawmakers that his office is too busy with its other duties to patrol for unregistered vehicles, but it plans to respond to calls from residents about unregistered vehicles.

The move comes as Nevadans will see higher costs to register their cars. As part of its tax package, the Legislature froze the depreciation rates used to calculate the state’s governmental services tax, which is based on a vehicle’s value.

Nevada’s vehicle registration costs tend to be higher than those in surrounding states.

Spiegel said registering a $25,000, 2009 Volkswagen would cost $471 in Nevada.

In California, the cost would be $250; in Oregon, $27.

Parks said Arizona offers big discounts on vehicle registrations for senior citizens, which may account for the large number of Arizona plates in Clark County.

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