LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) – It may sound like a traffic stop police have made many times.

According to a Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department report, an officer noticed that a vehicle did not have a rear license plate and initiated a traffic stop last November. A police report obtained by FOX5 News indicates the officer found a gun, drug paraphernalia and two cut catalytic converters in the trunk where the spare tire is stored.

As FOX5 has reported, law enforcement has found it difficult to charge suspects when they find catalytic converters in cars, because it’s difficult to connect converters to a theft and a victim. But this traffic stop was different because of SB 243.

The law went into place last fall and makes it a felony for people to possess two or more catalytic converters if they are not authorized to have them. An authorized person might be a licensed mechanic or a business, such as a licensed scrap yard.

The police report stated that since the suspect is not a “licensed mechanic” and had two or more cut converters, he is not authorized to possess the used catalytic converters and was in violation of SB 243, possession of a catalytic converter. Under SB243, a person could face one to ten years behind bars for possession of converters.

State Senator Rochelle Nguyen, who authored SB 243, commented on the arrest and case.

“I see it as progress,” she said.

Senator Nguyen represents District Three, central Las Vegas, and says she’s heard many stories about catalytic converter thefts, including from her neighbors. FOX5 has talked to several theft victims who were no longer able to drive their cars because they could not afford expensive repairs.

Repairs can range from a few hundred dollars to a few thousand dollars. Repairs for larger commercial vehicles and RV’s can cost much more.

“The impact is incredible on someone’s life. Your mode of transportation can be tied to health care, it can be tied to your job. And if you take away someone’s mode of transportation, they may not be able to get to their job. They may not be able to get to their doctor’s appointment. They may not be able to pick up their kids from school,” said Senator Nguyen.

Senator Nguyen says before Governor Joe Lombardo signed the statewide measure into law last year, suspects may have escaped any charges related to suspected stolen converters found by law enforcement in vehicles.

“Before this law, if you were walking down the road with a shopping cart full of catalytic converters that had clearly been sawed off of cars as you went through a neighborhood, if no one caught you in the act of stealing those catalytic converters there would be no crime. Now, if you are walking down the street with a shopping cart of catalytic converters, you have a felony charge that you are accountable for,” said Nguyen.

Senator Nguyen says officers don’t have to go and find every vehicle that had its converter stolen.

“You have to prove that they were all your catalytic converters and that you took them all off of your personal cars,” said Nguyen.

Precious metals inside catalytic converters are used to clean a car’s exhaust. Some of those metals can be worth more than gold when melted down. Some thieves can steal them in under a minute.

SB 243 also prohibits a licensed scrap metal processor from purchasing a used catalytic converter from any person, other than a licensed business, or a person who has certain documentation that proves they are the lawful owner or holder of a used catalytic converter.

The bill also required authorized purchases of used converters only from licensed or authorized businesses.

The suspect in the possession case is due back in court in April.


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