Las Vegas Sun

October 2, 2023

License to tattletale: Fines, court possible if vehicle isn’t registered in time, someone turns it in

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If you’re new to Nevada, watch out for the neighborhood snitches. They’re out there, turning you in.

More than 3,500 people have called Las Vegas Constable Robert “Bobby G” Gronauer’s office in the past month and a half to tattle on neighbors who have been driving cars with out-of-state license plates for way too long.

And some of the old-timers are doing their job with quiet glee: If I’ve got to pay a Nevada license fee, these Nevada newbies have to pay their fair share too!

Cash-strapped Nevada is cashing in on these tips — by fining the owners for having failed to register their vehicles in Nevada and then getting them to follow the law and registering their vehicles in the Silver State.

Gronauer bristles that his office has gotten calls accusing it of being “the Gestapo.”

“It’s not trying to be a Nazi regime or anything like that,” the constable said. “My dream for all this is that in two or three years, there will be no need for the program.”

Clark County Commissioner Steve Sisolak says he has long fielded complaints that out-of-staters don’t mind getting jobs here but aren’t taking the responsibility to change their car registrations.

“It’s a real issue,” he said.

So here’s the drill if you want to help turn in scofflaws and improve the state’s revenue stream: Call 455-FAIR (3247) and make your neighbor pay, like you did.

Many residents say the program gives them a bad feeling — spotlighting scofflaws, some say, should be law enforcement’s job, not theirs. Nobody likes a tattletale.

There’s no reward to those who turn in others, Gronauer said.

Gronauer unveiled the program, appropriately named “Fair Share,” in July, and it went into effect Aug. 24. In that time, the state and county collected $175,000 in car registration fees — a significant amount, he said.

Gronauer said he has no idea how many unregistered vehicles are out there, or exactly how much money the program will rake in once the tipsters start calling. In any event, it’s not just about dollars — it’s about fairness.

Nevada requires new residents to register their cars within 60 days. If the car owner doesn’t and is turned in, he faces a $100 fine, but if he registers the car within 30 days of being cited, his record is wiped clean of the citation.

If the scofflaw doesn’t register in time, Gronauer says, the fine becomes $1,000 and goes to court, where it may be lowered to $250 if the judge is nice and the car has been registered.

So far, Gronauer said, the program is working. Since it started, 137 citations have been issued. Of those, 41 people have paid their $100 fee and 22 people have registered their vehicles. The remaining 74 need to get on the ball or risk facing the $1,000 fine and court.

“A lot of people get upset about it,” he said. “But it’s not costing the taxpayers any money.”

It’s about compliance, Gronauer said, not punishment.

But, yes, it’s also about state revenue, no matter what Gronauer might say.

A 2010 Honda Civic GX, which has a sticker price of about $25,000, would cost an estimated $477 to register.

Part of the reason Nevada has high registration prices, Gronauer said, is because the state collects no income tax. The money, he said, has to come from somewhere.

Car registration fees pay for roads, schools and other government functions. When a car is registered, $33 goes to the state, he said. The rest goes to the county.

Exceptions are made in Nevada for military personnel, college students from out of state, and snowbirds, who spend their winters in the Nevada sun, he said. The rules don’t affect temporary employees. There’s no way to pay forward money that remains on registration from a driver’s state of origin. If there are months left on a car’s registration in another state, Gronauer said, that’s tough.

The transient nature of many Southern Nevadans irks many who say the new rule is unfair. Many workers come and go within a couple years of moving. People here don’t know their neighbors anyway, some say, and ratting on them isn’t going to help foster community.

Christiane Taubert moved to Las Vegas from Connecticut 16 years ago. Although the crackdown won’t affect her, she said she thought ratting out neighbors seemed unfair, especially in the down economy.

Click to enlarge photo

People outside the East Sahara Avenue Department of Motor Vehicles office.

“I don’t know how I feel about narking on someone,” she said, adding that many residents move to Nevada while still having months left of registration in their state of origin. “If you’re a neighbor, that’s not great neighbor relations.”

Taubert said she worried that temporary employees like interns would be unable to afford the fees. “That’s a lot, depending on your car,” she said.

Chris Zachary of Henderson, who was at the Department of Motor Vehicles recently, said he would have a hard time turning someone in. Moving is a stressful endeavor, he said, and you never know what brings someone to the state — it could be losing a job or something worse in this recession, he said.

“I think that’s ridiculous,” Zachary said of Fair Share. “It’s just way too high of a fine.”

Yvonne Santiago was at the DMV in Henderson to register her vehicle after moving from New Jersey to care for her ill parents.

“If I can do it, anybody can do it,” she said, adding that she had already changed to Nevada car insurance. “I believe if you’re going to live here, you should pay here.”

Santiago said she’d happily turn in scofflaws to the constable’s hotline.

“My parents, too. They hate that,” she said of people who don’t register. “You’re supposed to do that stuff.”

In California — where a program called “Cheaters” encourages the reporting of registration violators — new residents get 20 days to comply. Fines there are less than Nevada’s. Utah — which has no program to turn in scofflaws — gives newcomers six months to become residents and register their cars, said Charlie Roberts, spokesman for the Utah DMV.

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