LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — A crime problem that has blown up since the Nevada Legislature met two years ago is getting plenty of attention from lawmakers this session.
Two separate bills on catalytic converter theft were introduced on Thursday. The devices are part of automobile exhaust systems, and they contain precious metals that make them worth stealing. Thieves have been cutting them right off vehicles in people’s driveways, sometimes in broad daylight. Replacing the devices costs hundreds — sometimes thousands — of dollars, depending on the age and make of the vehicle.
The point of the proposed bills is to stop recyclers from buying used catalytic converters from people who aren’t properly licensed to sell them.
Senate Bill 243 (SB243) appears to be more comprehensive, including a section focusing on possession of catalytic convertors as well as sections about the purchase of the devices. SB250 seems to focus more on just the purchasers.
Both bills state who is allowed to purchase used catalytic converters:
- Licensed auto wrecker
- Licensed scrap metal processor
- Licensed motor vehicle manufacturer, distributor, dealer or rebuilder
- Other businesses that may reasonably generate, possess or sell used catalytic converters
- A person who possesses certain documentation that proves they are the lawful owner of a used catalytic converter
Both bills would set up new reporting procedures when used catalytic converters are sold. A database would be created to track the sales, and entries would be made electronically.
Both bills would also punish licensed scrap metal buyers for buying from anyone other than a licensed seller or the legal owner. The crime would be a misdemeanor, with fines starting at $1,000 for the first offense, $2,000 for the second offense or $4,000 for any subsequent offense.
Here’s a look at differences between the two proposals:
This bill removes catalytic converters from the list of “scrap metals” and defines offenses specifically as felonies. It allows law enforcement to presume that anyone in possession of two or more catalytic converters likely stole them unless they are an authorized dealer. It also establishes the theft or possession of such devices as a crime rather than leaving that to existing law.
It specifies that thefts are a category E felony for one, a category D felony for 2-4, a category B felony for 5-9 and a category B felony for 10 or more. For 5-9 catalytic converters, the offender could get a prison term of 1-6 years; for 10 or more, it’s 1-10 years in prison.
The bill has bipartisan support, with six primary sponsors and 18 cosponsors split between the Senate and Assembly.
This version provides fines that increase for repeat offenders in the theft of catalytic converters. The first offense is punishable by a $1,000 fine; the second offense brings a $2,000 fine and any subsequent offense brings a $4,000 fine. Prison time would depend on the value of the items stolen.
The bill has three primary sponsors — all Senate Democrats who are also cosponsors of SB243.