A Nevada Senate panel on Monday began reviewing a hotly debated bill calling for the creation of a felony-level offense for multiple graffiti convictions.
Republican Assemblyman Lynn Stewart and numerous police lobbyists presented AB244 to the Senate Judiciary Committee. It previously passed the Assembly on a near party-line vote.
The bill would require anyone with two or more convictions for graffiti offenses, including at least one that’s a felony, to be automatically charged with a Class C felony. The charge carries a penalty of one to five years in prison.
Las Vegas police detective Scott Black testified for the bill and said his 15 years of handling graffiti cases led him to believe the threat of a heavy felony penalty would deter the small number of repeat graffiti offenders.
“They just appear to be thumbing their nose at the law,” he said.
Opponents, including Clark County Deputy Public Defender Steve Yeager, said current law sufficiently punish graffiti offenders and that anyone with more than a handful of convictions would have been sentenced to hundreds of hours of community service and served significant time in jail.
“I don’t think it’s good for this committee to be making policy based on a few individuals,” he said.
Las Vegas immigration activist Astrid Silva also testified against the bill and said the Legislature should avoid creating harsh punishments for non-violent crimes such as graffiti.
“There are other ways this can be done,” she said.
Stewart, who said he brought the bill forward at the request of Las Vegas police, said he believed the cost of incarcerating repeat offenders would be less than the cost of continually repairing graffiti damage.