Las Vegas is a city of transplants; people from all over the United States, and in fact, the world, to flock to the city to make their fortune or start a new life under a more favorable sky. Which is a great arrangement for both the Las Vegas economy and the new residents. That is, unless they own a car. This article in the Las Vegas Review Journal comments on the pending class action lawsuit filed by no less than 14,000 new residents who say they were unconstitutionally charged with a $100 re-registration fee for their vehicles as incoming Nevada residents. Attorneys in Las Vegas are lining up on both sides of the suit, which seeks to add “every deputy constable who has collected the $100 fee” from registrations.
Last week, amidst the public outcry against the practice, the constable’s office temporarily “suspended the enforcement of the state law requiring new residents to obtain Nevada plates after 30 days.” One former Utah woman, Nicole McMillen, leads the attorneys in Las Vegas in charge against the constable’s office after the claimed the constable’s office “violated her constitutional rights” and began “shaking her down for the $100.”
The Las Vegas constable’s office isn’t backing down. The practice of charging the $100 fee is authorized by part of a 2009 state law “aimed at cracking down on new residents who don’t register their cars.” On a basic level, the fee provides the city with revenue and gives new residents the confidence of having all their ducks in a row and being a bona fide citizen of the city. It’s a generally accepted process across several states, and many cities even require registration with the city itself for vehicles of residents living within the city limits.
But McMillen isn’t having it. She is arguing that the process is burdensome and an abuse of public power, especially when her car was towed after having obtained Nevada license plates but refusing to pay to $100 fee. McMillen now faces a misdemeanor charge in Justice Court over the ordeal. And as any avid watcher of CourtTV shows knows: a good offense is the best defense, at least legally. And while attorneys in Las Vegas like Ian McMenemy may not be in total agreement about it, at least one representing McMillen thinks she has a good case.
Basing the claim on the experience that when McMillen attempted to contest her citation, she discovered “there is no opportunity in state court for McMillen to challenge the collection process, and that violates her constitutional rights.” Combined with the statement by former District Attorney David Roger that the fact that deputies work on a commission and get $65 of every $100 citation they write is giving “deputies a cash incentive to enforce the law, creating an appearance of impropriety.” While attorneys in Las Vegas, including McMenemy, may be divided on this issue, it’s at least valid enough to merit consideration of a class action status, with thousands of plaintiffs reporting being “mistreated” by the constable’s office. Mistreatment or enforcement of public statues is a distinction remaining to be decided.