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Lombardo signs catalytic converter law, taking aim at rampant thefts

By Greg Haas,


LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Starting on Oct. 1, police can arrest you for having a catalytic converter. That’s a big step forward in stopping thefts, along with other provisions in a law signed Wednesday by Gov. Joe Lombardo.

The crime is classified as a felony that carries more severe penalties depending on how many the person possesses:

  • 1 catalytic converter: Category E felony, punishable by 1-4 years, suspended, probation according to the court
  • 2-9: Category D felony, punishable by 1-4 years in prison with a maximum fine of $5,000
  • 10 or more: Category C felony, punishable by 1-5 years in prison with a maximum fine of $10,000

The thefts have skyrocketed since the start of the pandemic, and lawmakers responded with Senate Bill 243 ( SB243 ) to give law enforcement the power to stop them.

The problem, as described by Sen. Rochelle Nguyen when she presented the bill, is that it’s almost impossible to catch someone in the act. And before this law, there wasn’t really a way police could do anything, even if they caught someone pushing a shopping cart full of catalytic converters.

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The devices are valuable because of the precious metals they contain, and thieves have been cutting them right off of vehicles — sometimes in driveways, sometimes in broad daylight — to cash in on an easy score.

SB243 defines possession of two or more catalytic converters as a felony unless the person falls into one of these categories:

  • An automobile wrecker licensed pursuant to NRS 487.070
  • A scrap metal processor licensed pursuant to NRS 647.092 who maintains a fixed place of business and has obtained the used catalytic converter in accordance with the provisions of NRS 647.094 and 647.098
  • A motor vehicle manufacturer, distributor, dealer or rebuilder licensed pursuant to NRS 482.325
  • Any other business that may reasonably generate, possess or sell used catalytic converters
  • A person possessing documents that prove lawful ownership of the used catalytic converter (certificate of title or registration to the vehicle the device came from)

The law prohibits the purchase of a used catalytic converter, except by persons licensed in the businesses listed above.

Top 10 targeted vehicles in Las Vegas for catalytic converter theft

The bill requires detailed record-keeping for the purchase of the devices, and allows the court to suspend the license of a scrap metal dealer for violations for 30 days, and up to a year on the third offense.

A dealer that knowingly buys a stolen catalytic converter is subject to prosecution for illegally possessing the device(s).

SB243 was one of two bills originally under consideration. While both had support, SB250 did not advance.

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