Lawmakers vote to stiffen penalties for graffiti |

Lawmakers vote to stiffen penalties for graffiti

Associated Press Writer
Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Nevada Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko, prepares to talk Tuesday morning, at the Legislature in Carson City about the ongoing graffiti problems at a park near his rural Nevada home. Carpenter was pushing for tougher penalties in a bill that would mandate lengthy community service sentences and loss of driving privileges for those convicted of vandalizing property with graffiti.

An Assembly committee voted Tuesday for a bill that would toughen penalties for vandalizing property with graffiti, but took out a provision that would have lowered the threshold for felony graffiti to only $400.

As amended, AB14 would mandate fines of at least $400, as well as 100 hours of community service, for those convicted of graffiti vandalism. It also includes the cost of repairing or restoring the damaged property when calculating the value of the loss from graffiti.

AB 14 would classify graffiti that creates property losses of less than $1,000 as a misdemeanor. Prosecutors could file gross misdemeanor charges if losses range from $1,000 to $5,000; and felony charges if losses are more than $5,000. When calculating the loss, the proposed law includes the cost of restoring the damaged property.

The bill mandates several additional penalties for graffiti vandalism, including fines ranging from $400 to $1,000, and 100 hours of community service for a first offense. Graffiti offenders who are 18 or older would have their driver’s license suspended for at least six months, and anyone convicted of felony-level graffiti would have to spend at least 10 days in jail before being released on probation.

The bill’s sponsor, Assemblyman John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said that even with amendments the bill is strong because it includes the cost of repairs, and allows multiple offenses to be added together for felony offenses.

“Folks would see, if you did this crime, you would do some time, or lose a privilege like your driver’s license,” said Oceguera.

When he introduced the bill, Oceguera said the current law wasn’t working, and that Clark County had spent $2.5 million cleaning up over 700,000 graffiti markings in 2005 and 2006.

The Assembly Judiciary committee voted 13-1 to pass the bill as amended. Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko, cast the lone dissenting vote, saying that the amended bill didn’t bump up the penalties strongly enough.

Passing around photographs of graffiti sprayed across walls and parks near his home in Elko, Carpenter told his fellow lawmakers that graffiti was a problem even in the rural areas that he represents.

Carpenter said the bill should add the damage from all offenses together, even if they don’t reach the $5,000 felony level, to “catch the attention” of offenders by issuing more gross misdemeanors. As passed, the bill only allows aggregation of multiple offenses when $5,000 or more in damage is committed.

“People are really upset over graffiti,” said Carpenter. “It’s in my backyard. I think this bill is a good start but I don’t think it goes far enough.”

The committee also voted for AB49, to exempt a variety of law enforcement and government officials from jury service; and AB20, to allow any jurors who drive more than 30 miles to be reimbursed for travel expenses. Under current law, a juror must drive 65 miles before getting any reimbursement for travel.