Editor’s note: This post has been altered from its original version to correct an error.
Most people don’t realize a subtle fact about traffic tickets: Technically, you’re under arrest and could be taken to jail for committing even the most minor traffic infraction.
Going 40 in a 35? It’s a misdemeanor. Illegal U-turn? Ditto. Failure to signal when changing lanes? Hello, county jail.
Now, in practice, nobody ever is arrested for these crimes. Some are given warnings. Many get tickets, imposing a fine or a court date to argue your innocence. But technically, that ticket represents a misdemeanor arrest, and your signature thereon a bailment contingent upon your promise to appear.
But now, many in the Legislature want to change that, reducing most traffic violations to the status of a civil penalty, not an arrestable misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor or felony. (Don’t worry, serious crimes such as DUI would remain criminal, and ridiculous crimes such as affixing “sample” license plates to your car or using a cell phone while driving would still be crimes.)
Most everything else would constitute civil infractions, however. And the maximum fine for violations would be capped at $250, unless a different amount is specified in the law. (Since we’re amending the law anyway, I think there should be a $1,000 fine for felony dickishness when somebody pulls out of a strip mall into traffic directly in your path, causing you to have brake radically, change lanes, honk your horn and flip the bird all at the same time. Who’s with me?)
The idea — set to be introduced today by Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, has garnered a lot of support thus far. I’m reliably told that almost all members of the Assembly save for Lesley Cohen, D-Henderson; Michael Sprinkle, D-Sparks and banned-from-the-building-and-from-being-a-legislator Steven Brooks, D-North Las Vegas, have signed on. In the state Senate, only Sens. Greg Brower, R-Reno; Justin Jones, D-Las Vegas and Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, haven’t signed on.
Changing the law is fairly complex, as you can see from the BDR of the bill: BDR43-616. But if all Fiore’s co-sponsors vote aye, it looks like this bill could meet even a two-thirds supermajority to pass! That’s a powerful statement to Gov. Brian Sandoval to sign the bill.
Oh, and before you cheer too loudly: Civil traffic violations would still count against your driving record, so heed Michael Conrad’s admonition handed out after roll call on Hill Street Blues and be careful out there.
UPDATE: The bill was introduced today as Assembly Bill 248. You can read it for yourself here: