(Nevada Current file photo)
The Department of Motor Vehicles has identified more than 33,000 records of people potentially eligible to have their driver’s license reinstated by a state law that goes into effect Friday.
Sean Sever, deputy administrator for the DMV, said the plan is to review all records by the end of the year and that people shouldn’t immediately rush to offices.
“As we work through these, we are going to send out the letters,” Sever said. “They aren’t going to go out at one time. As we go through each record, we will be sending them out sporadically throughout the next couple of weeks after Oct. 1.”
The Fines and Fees Justice Center, the Clark County Black Caucus, the Mass Liberation Project and the ACLU of Nevada recently hosted an information session with the DMV to go over details of Senate Bill 219, which was passed during the 2021 legislative session.
The bill prevents courts from suspending driver’s licenses as the result of “delinquent fines, administrative assessments or fees.”
“The first pool of drivers eligible for reinstatement will be those people who have more simple conviction records that are indicated by a delinquent fine notation on their records, a driving while suspended notation and commercial driver license holders with delinquent fines notations,” Sever said. “The first group will have their records reviewed by staff for clearance and reinstatement. They will be notified by the DMV once the clearances have been applied.”
Once cleared, he added people can drive using their current license if it hasn’t expired.
For those who need a new license or currently have a temporary restricted license and need to visit the DMV, Sever reminded people appointments are backed up several months.
Most cases, Sever said, are complicated and the DMV will need time to address the nuances that might have led to a suspension.
“The second pool of drivers with failure to comply or failure to appear notations, these records are more numerous and more complex and require more intensive review by us to determine if they will be able to reinstate,” Sever said. “These drivers will first need to work with the courts to obtain clearance and documentation for their fine-fee-related convictions, which can later be provided to the DMV so justification can be entered into our system to properly restore their driving privileges.”
Leisa Moseley, the Nevada director for the Fines and Fees Justice Center, said people have a lot of questions about what they are supposed to do.
One frequent question she’s heard was what people should do if they have multiple suspensions within different cities or courts.
“Any of these records or any of these citations or convictions that are on the record even for different jurisdictions, if they fall within SB 219 those all will be removed just the same,” said April Sanborn, another administrator for the DMV.
People should also be able to go on to the DMV website and view their driving history record to determine what citation fines and fees might be holding them back.
“We’re also available. They can reach out to us by phone. We don’t want everyone to come rushing into the office,” Sanborn said.
Sever said the DMV is moving as swiftly as possible and trying to balance implementing the new legislation with public safety.
“We do understand the importance of the legislation and getting people back on the roads and able to drive again,” Sever said. “The DMV also has the responsibility to ensure we don’t compromise our commitment to public safety and our partnerships.”
UNLV’s Misdemeanor Clinic with the Boyd School of Law is offering zoom appointments from 9 a.m. to noon Oct. 8 and Oct 16 to offer advice.
“Our goal is to help people figure out what’s happening in their court cases,” said Anne Traum, who co-directs the clinic. “If you give us your ticket or your name, we can look it up to make sure you understand what’s going on and help you navigate it and give you some tips for how to move forward on the case.”
Holly Welborn, the policy director for the ACLU of Nevada, also gave an update on Assembly Bill 116, which decriminalized minor traffic violations.
After being pushed for years by criminal justice organizers and proposed during the last six sessions, lawmakers finally voted to convert minor traffic offenses from criminal to civil matter.
“Many Nevadans are living paycheck to paycheck,” Welborn said. “An unpaid ticket for a speeding ticket, a broken taillight or an improper lane change, a minor traffic violation can send a person into an unending cycle of debt. In Clark County, 80% of all tickets issued (were) to individuals making under $40,000 a year.”
Though part of the law went into effect July 1, jurisdictions don’t have to implement the key provisions of the bill until January 2023.
“Because the bill doesn’t go into effect until January 2023, we have all these jurisdictions and different courts across the state are varying in their approach,” Welborn said. “Some courts have decided, ‘hey, the system is going to change so we’re not going to enforce those warrants for failure to pay a fine or fee.’ But then there are courts that are not.”
Moseley said the Fines and Fees Justice Center has been meeting with the district attorney associations about not issuing or enforcining warrants ahead of 2023.
She called Las Vegas Justice Court a great model because “they’re not issuing warrants or doing anything with warrants” while other jurisdictions including “North Las Vegas, Henderson and Las Vegas Municipal Court are still issuing and enforcing traffic warrants.”
“For the people who are stopped and on the hook for fines and fees as a result of enforcement of minor traffic tickets, I think it starts to feel completely arbitrary to them,” Traum added. “You can really have a tale of two tickets as a result of that.”
Even after the bill is fully active, Welborn warned people can still be “stopped by police if you commit minor traffic offenses.”
“The bill does not limit that law enforcement contact,” she added.
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