Reno courts to forgive minor violation warrants before end of year crackdown
The Reno Municipal Court is offering to forgive traffic and minor misdemeanor warrants — but that doesn't mean people are entirely off the hook.
For the next few months, people can have their traffic and misdemeanor warrants forgiven — first, they need to call Reno’s Municipal Court to pay up their original fines and fees. Municipal Judge Shelly O’Neill said a lot of folks that will benefit are unsheltered people.
“What we're lifting the warrants on are traffic matters and less serious misdemeanors,” she said. “Those are things like littering, some trespasses — we have a lot of casino trespasses. Sleeping in a doorway, a lot of things that people who are homeless get convicted of.”
O'Neill said people can settle their warrants remotely, without having to make a physical appearance in court. Court fines could also be paid off with community service.
The warrant forgiveness will only last until the end of September. After that, the courts will make an aggressive push to serve their warrants before next year. At that point, a new state law goes into effect that stops courts from issuing warrants for minor traffic violations.
“It's the end of the fiscal year,” O'Neill said. “I think that a lot of people want to clean things up. After January, the State of Nevada Legislature has mandated that a lot of the lesser traffic tickets go to civil infractions.”
Warrant forgiveness programs like these are welcomed by advocates. Nicholas Shepack is with the Fines and Fees Justice Center. He said as much as he likes these programs, they’re only a bandaid. For example, people who don’t have a lot of money opt for a payment plan to settle their fines, which also costs money to sign up for. If they miss a payment and don’t have the capacity to get to court in time to address it, a new warrant is issued.
“It traps people in this cycle where they are never able to fully get out from underneath their court debt,” Shepack said.
People have lost their livelihoods, and even custody of their children this way. Shepack added that Reno could follow Carson City’s lead, which has ceased to issue warrants for unpaid traffic citations.
People with traffic violation warrants could just sit and wait until next year when the new law takes place, but Shepack points out they’d have to be really lucky to avoid any encounter with cops or courts.
People who want to clear their warrants can check out Reno.gov. Nye County is also conducting a similar program that will end October 31.