WTF? Nevada DMV runs out of license plate numbers

WTF NevadaThe Department of Motor Vehicles is changing its license plate numbering scheme for the first time in more than three decades.

KTVN-TV reports Division Administrator of Central Services Sean McDonald says the department simply ran out of the 12 million possibilities possible under the numbering system created in 1982.Instead of starting with three numbers and ending with three letters, license plates will now carry two numbers, a letter, and three numbers.

This new system creates 34 million possible combinations that McDonald said should last a long time into the future.

Glitch prevents released inmates from getting licenses

dmvnv-sample-privilege-cardThe Department of Motor Vehicles and Supreme Court officials are working on a glitch in the rules that’s stopping newly released prison inmates from getting drivers’ licenses.

Until about a year ago, inmates were getting new drivers’ licenses by simply showing an ID card issued by the Department of Corrections and their old license at DMV. But the Rev. Mike Patterson, an activist trying to help newly released inmates, told the Senate Finance Committee on Friday DMV stopped issuing licenses to anyone whose old license had expired unless that inmate could produce all the same personal identification documents now required under the Real ID Act.

But DMV changed the rules so only an inmate with a current license could get it renewed.

“It came as a surprise when this happened,” he said.

He said after the hearing inmates at the Reno Restitution Center see the change as just another attempt to prevent them from being successful on the outside.

Patterson said the system was set up and funded by religious groups so inmates could get the ID they need to get a job and, once again, drive.

Jude Hurin of DMV said the department has to follow the law but he’s willing to work with Patterson and court officials including Chief Justice Jim Hardesty to find a way to fix the problem. Hardesty urged them to move quickly to get Corrections officials to provide inmates with proper identification papers when they are released.

Nevada Legislature: Lawmakers look to drive down Nevada DMV wait times

Lawmakers agreed on Wednesday to add nearly 60 positions at the Department of Motor Vehicles to reduce long lines and wait times.

The list includes 54 technicians to man service windows primarily in urban DMV offices where customers have complained they must wait three hours or more to be served. It also includes five supervisors to oversee those technicians.

“There are lines out the door and long waits for service,” said Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas. “We need to get bodies behind the desks.”

The wait times are less severe in Carson City’s DMV office but waits of up to two hours have been reported.

But the joint Ways and Means/Senate Finance subcommittee couldn’t agree on DMV’s request for 16 staff positions above and beyond that total because of the high turnover in those positions — up to 25 percent in certain offices. They argued that would enable them to train replacements even as existing staffers moved on to other jobs.

Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, agreed saying the department needed the extra positions “in order to have enough people in the queue to fill vacancies.”

“I think DMV is like no other agency in the state because of the customer service demands,” she said.

But Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said DMV can’t even fill its regular positions and, until they do that, they don’t need the added 16 posts.

The issue will be taken up again at a Saturday hearing.

The subcommittee also approved a new one-dollar fee per transaction to cover the cost of replacing DMV’s antiquated computer system.

The new system is estimated to cost $109.4 million over the next five years. The computer system would be funded by $37.7 million in Highway Fund money this coming biennium plus the $9.8 million that one-dollar fee would generate.

The subcommittee actions will be taken up by the whole money committees this coming week.

Agonizingly long lines at state DMV offices could get even longer if several measures in the legislative hopper see approval this session, a panel of lawmakers was told Thursday.

CARSON CITY — Agonizingly long lines at state DMV offices could get even longer if several measures in the legislative hopper see approval this session, a panel of lawmakers was told Thursday.

An official with the Department of Motor Vehicles said long lines at offices are growing in part due to new demands placed on the agency, with bills this session that could add voter ID cards, moped registration and medical marijuana caregiver cards for pet owners to the mix.

Troy Dillard, director of the department, said increased staff has not accompanied the increased demands being placed on the agency.

The added responsibilities have led to waits that might be the longest ever, if not at least in recent memory.

The agency, for example, is responsible for issuing medical marijuana cards now, a process that has to be repeated every year, he told a joint Ways and Means and Senate Finance subcommittee reviewing the DMV budget.

There are 8,888 card holders as of February, a number that is expected to grow significantly when medical marijuana dispensaries open around the state.

Last session the Legislature authorized the driver authorization card for residents of Nevada who are not in the country legally as a way to improve driver safety. The agency issued 23,840 driver authorization cards and 2,070 driver authorization card instruction permits in its first year of operation in 2014.

The agency’s 2015-17 budget includes a request for 75 new front office positions to help with the long lines. The positions would come on line on July 1.

“Let’s face it, the customers coming into DMV offices are not coming because they elect to, they are coming because they are obligated to,” Dillard said.

Current wait times of two to four hours are unacceptable, he said.

“We are in crisis management mode,” Dillard said.

Employees are authorized overtime every day to handle the customer volume, he said.

Field Services Administrator Nancy Wojcik said the additional positions would allow the agency to fully staff all the windows at the five metropolitan DMV offices, including the four in Las Vegas.

Dillard said the offices now can typically serve about 100 customers an hour. If there are 500 customers waiting when a DMV office opens, some will have a five-hour wait, he said.

The long-term solution is the new $109 million computer system proposed in the agency’s budget that will take five years to fully implement, but a short-term fix is also needed, Dillard said.

Sen. Mark Lipparelli, R-Las Vegas, asked what could be done to reduce the lines by reducing the requirement for people to go to the DMV in the first place.

Dillard said the new mobile platform technology offered by the agency so that customers can text in or email to get in line is helping with the volume of customers. The agency budget has additional funding to improve that system, he said.

Without it, customers would be waiting outside DMV offices on sidewalks and curbs because there would be no room inside the offices, Dillard said.

The move to an eight-year license from four years will ultimately reduce customer volume significantly, but the benefits won’t be seen for several more years, he said.

There is also a proposal from the Department of Health and Human Services to take over the medical marijuana card process that would reduce customer volumes, Dillard said.

Assemblyman Chris Edwards, R-Las Vegas, asked whether the issuance of free voter ID cards, should a bill pass to implement the program, should be handled through the secretary of state’s office rather than the DMV.

A DMV official testified earlier this week that an estimated 21,000 registered Nevada voters would need an ID issued free of charge by the agency if an ID requirement is approved by the Legislature.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801.

Nevada DMV seeks weapons — just in case

screenshot from hot women with gunsCARSON CITY — With ever-lengthening lines of frustrated people waiting for service at Southern Nevada DMV offices, the agency wants to be ready for the day when the interminable waits might provoke someone to violence.

On a recent evening at the Department of Motor Vehicles’ Flamingo branch in Las Vegas, about 500 people were still waiting for service as the clock ticked to 5 p.m.

Despite assurances that all customers inside the building would be served,about 100 left at 6:30 p.m. without receiving assistance and were forced to return another day.

While the agency has ambitious plans to address the crowded conditions, which is the result of new programs and a rebounding economy, officials want to be ready for a worst-case scenario as well.

To that end the DMV budget request for the next two years includes funding for what it is calling an “Active Shooter Program” aimed at improving its response to a possible shooting at a DMV office.

A total of $48,000 has been included in the agency’s budget for equipment and training for the program, including the purchase of 12 Sig Sauer M400 5.56 semi-automatic rifles with related equipment at a cost of nearly $40,000.

Two rifles would be located at each of the four urban Clark County DMV offices, as well as the Reno and Carson City offices.

Some lawmakers were skeptical of the proposal at a hearing last week in front of a joint Assembly Ways and Means and state Senate Finance subcommittee.

Donnie Perry, administrator of the agency’s Compliance Enforcement Division, said active shooter incidents, where an individual attempts to kill a large number of people in a confined area, are unpredictable.

An incident could come from a current or former employee or an acquaintance, he said.

Usually the duration of such an incident is over before a law enforcement agency can respond, so the agency wants to be prepared to stop such an act as quickly as possible, Perry said.

Clark County has seen a couple of recent DMV scares, according to Nevada DMV spokesman Kevin Malone.

In 2012, a man with a loaded shotgun walked into the DMV office on Flamingo Road. A supervisor and two compliance enforcement investigators persuaded him to leave the property. No one was injured in the incident.

In February 2014, angry customers stormed the doors of the Sahara Avenue office that was filled to capacity. DMV staff had cut off access to a crowd of people waiting outside. An agency compliance enforcement officer who went outside to address the crowd was assaulted and sustained minor injuries.

Las Vegas police responded to both incidents, but made no arrests, Malone said.

Such incidents aren’t unique to Nevada DMV offices. In 2010, a former DMV employee in Monroe, N.C., was one of three arrested and charged after the shooting and robbery of two employees at the city’s DMV office. Otis Howie Jr., 46, and Melvin Luckey, 35, were sentenced to up to 105 years in prison, according to media reports and public records.

The Nevada proposal would not involve active shooter response training for the contracted security personnel who work at the offices, Perry said.

Instead, the agency’s existing 30 sworn law enforcement officers are involved in the program. They all received active shooter training from the FBI in October 2014 and will have access to the rifles, which would be locked in bio­metric safes in secure areas of the offices. The safes are part of the total equipment purchase.

The budget includes $8,457 for training for two officers to attend a “train the trainer course.”

There would then be one trainer in the north and one in the south.

Perry said that while the officers are frequently out of the office during the day, the plan is that at least one officer would be available in each of the offices to respond to any incident.

Assembly Speaker John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, who had a nearly three-decade career in federal law enforcement, including the Presidential Protection Detail of the Secret Service, said he was concerned about the use of rifles in such an enclosed space.

He cited a photo included by the agency in its budget presentation, which showed a DMV office full of people waiting for service.

“There is going to be pure panic,” Hambrick said.

He questioned how much experience an officer would have in picking out a target in the midst of mass panic in such a close space.

“I’m very concerned,” Hambrick said.

Assemblyman Chris Edwards, R-Las Vegas, was unequivocal in his opposition to the proposal.

“My concern is I think we’re just going into overkill mode on this active shooter thing,” he said. “I think it is a waste of money and a waste of time.”

Edwards said the security now in place at the DMV offices should be able to respond to any potential incident. The use of a high-powered rifle in such an environment seems excessive, he said.

Perry said those responding to such an incident would have a better chance at fighting off a shooter with the rifles, which are more accurate at greater distances. A handgun is functional at up to 25 yards, but there are distances within the DMV offices that reach 60 yards, he said.

The rifles will have scopes to make them more accurate, Perry said.

“We also want to be able to respond to a threat at the appropriate level,” he said.

Active shooters often use a high-powered rifle, and a handgun in such a scenario is insufficient, Perry said.

Shootings at state office buildings have occurred but they are rare.

In October 2014, a 73-year-old man walked into the Department of Administration’s Hearings Division building, at 2200 S. Rancho Drive, near Sahara Avenue, shooting and injuring a state worker. The incident stemmed from a decade-old workers compensation dispute.

In 1993, a man drove his vehicle into the State Industrial Insurance System office in Las Vegas and fired shots at state workers.

The attacker was shot in the head by a security guard but survived. This attack also involved a dispute over workers’ compensation benefits.

In a 2010 incident which didn’t involve a state agency, a man upset over losing a lawsuit regarding his Social Security benefits walked into the Lloyd George U.S. Courthouse in downtown Las Vegas, pulled a shotgun from beneath his jacket and opened fire, killing a court security officer. The attacker was also killed.

The budget committees have not yet made a decision on the budget request.

Review-Journal photographer Jeff Scheid and writer Chris Kudialis contributed to this report. Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.

New systems create frustrations for all at the Nevada DMV

You don’t need a tank of gas and a map to drive to the nearest local Department of Motor Vehicles office. There are plenty of them in Southern Nevada.

And if you don’t have an address directory handy, just follow the frustrated crowds.

Frustration is something DMV front-line employees and their customers have in common these days as they try to adjust in real time. Technological changes intended to speed the process of registering vehicles and renewing licenses continue to bog it down, DMV insiders report.

In a job in which you’d think employees couldn’t wait for the end of each day of business, DMV workers lament the late afternoon rush. They know some customers will be turned away.

Some blame the department’s use of the “Dash Pass” computer and phone app reservation system for throwing an otherwise pretty orderly system into a panic.

Others report big increases in immigrant identification and license requests.

The collision of causes has created a pileup that has plenty of customers reporting daylong waits. Bob Romans of Las Vegas is just one of many examples I’ve received since tracking this story.

In mid-February he says he spent 90 minutes in line at the Decatur DMV just to reach the point of signing onto a waiting list. He kept a record of the texts he received starting at 11:13 a.m. and stopping at 5:48 p.m. when his number finally reached the front of the line.

“Too late,” he said in an email. “There was no way I could be there as I had other commitments that evening. So I will have to start over and do this again. The website would not allow me to sign up for the phone text option. So I had to go in person to get added to the list.”

Some customers report waiting from before 10 a.m. to nearly the end of the day for license renewals and duplicate IDs. Three hours is about the average wait time lately, DMV employees say, with the Henderson office obviously running off the rails. There have been multiple reports of Nevada Highway Patrol troopers adding their security presence to the building at the end of the business day.

A surveillance check on the Henderson office on Saturday showed it bursting at the seams. A DMV spokesman recently called it an unofficial record. He also noted to a local television news station that the department is understaffed by 75 employees.

With the Legislature in session, and budgets on chopping blocks, it’s difficult to tell how closely officials are listening. No DMV employee I’ve spoken with expects a crush of new hires to ride to the rescue any time soon.

Some would be satisfied if the bugs were worked out of the department’s much-touted but troublesome Dash Pass system.

One frustrated DMV employee says he’s disappointed in the tone of department director Troy Dillard, who didn’t go far enough in championing the difficult job workers accomplish under a crush of new customers and changing regulations.

Dillard told a legislative committee, “Each time we roll out a new process our technicians are having to learn new things.”

Chief among those things they’re learning is patience with a phone app that is in the process of being tuned to fit the heavy schedules at Southern Nevada DMV offices.

“Making the director’s words even more stinging is the fact that he has yet … communicated anything to the hundreds of DMV techs,” one department insider says. “No updates, no words of encouragement, no acknowledgment of the problems and challenges resulting from this ill-conceived endeavor.”

If that working stiff sounds frustrated, there’s plenty of it going around the DMV these days.

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Saturday. Email him atSmith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295. Follow him on Twitter @jlnevadasmith.

DUI Attorneys Challenge Legality of DMV Administration Suspensions – The suit contends that allowing a DMV employee to serve as prosecutor and judge in the administrative suspension process violates the constitutional rights of Californians

Lawsuit accuses DMV of unconstitutional practices. If the lawsuit prevails, the Nevada DMV may also be sued for unconstitutional practices.

DMV SuspensionMany Californians don’t realize that the DMV has the power to take away their drivers license following a DUI arrest via a procedure called an administrative suspension. Though the suspension can be challenged at a special hearing, in most cases drivers don’t even realize they need to take this step.

Ignorance of the law combined with what many consider unconstitutional DMV policies often lead to unfair and undeserved license suspensions.

CLICK HERE TO SEE THE LAWSUIT: SDSHH-Challenges-Constitutionality-of-DMV-Suspension-System

Last month, the California DUI Lawyers Association filed a lawsuit against the DMV. The suit contends that allowing a DMV employee to serve as prosecutor and judge in the administrative suspension process violates the constitutional rights of Californians. It also claims that the DMV pressures employees to decide cases against drivers rather than considering cases objectively.

It is certainly true that there are issues with the process. For example, while an acquittal on DUI charges will bring a revocation of the administrative suspension, license suspensions will not be revoked in cases whether the criminal case was dropped.

dmvTake the case of Thuan Ha. Ha was arrested for DUI, but never convicted. The DMV still suspended his license for four months as per usual for an administrative suspension.

Why? Because though Ha was not found guilty, he was not found innocent either. Instead, the charges against him were dropped after the judge ruled that officers had obtained his blood test illegally. This case shows that there are different standards of proof for DMV hearings and criminal trials. Indeed, often DMV employees will revoke a license based on nothing stronger the arresting officer’s statement that the individual was intoxicated.

According to DMV data from 2012, at least 135 individuals had their licenses taken away via the administrative suspension despite having either never been charged in criminal court or had their cases dismissed due to lack of evidence.

We will be watching the progress of this lawsuit carefully to see whether any positive changes in the administrative suspension process that better protect the rights of the accused will result.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

In a challenge to the way the Department of Motor Vehicles handles some 150,000 administrative license suspension hearings each year, a lawsuit has been filed alleging that the Department’s “Administrative Per Se” (“APS”) hearings are unconstitutional. The crux of the suit is that by design the DMV “Hearing Officers” who decide whether or not a person’s driver’s license is “administratively” suspended have a conflict of interest because they are also prosecuting the case on behalf of their employer, the DMV. The Due Process clauses of both the United States and California constitutions require that in “adjudicative administrative proceedings” a decision-maker such as these Hearing Officers must be a “fair and neutral arbiter”.mexiforniadriverslicense

As the California Supreme Court has said, “When due process requires a hearing, the adjudicator must be impartial.” (Haas v. County of San Bernardino (2001) 27 Cal.4th 1017 at 1025.) As an advocate for one party against the other appearing before him or her, the DMV’s combined Advocate/Arbiter is by definition not “impartial.” The lawsuit challenges both the design and implementation of this biased administrative system. Given the consequential nature of the suspension of driving privileges in our contemporary society, whether one lives in a crowded metropolitan area or on an isolated farm outside of a small town, it is surprising that there have been no prior direct challenges to these flawed procedures. Lead plaintiffs are the California DUI Lawyers Association, an association of lawyers who defend individuals accused of driving under the influence in court and in DMV hearings.

Among its purposes “…the [Association] shall…seek the improvement of laws and procedures governing the prosecution of impaired drivers.” Plaintiff Steven R. Mandell is a licensed attorney in Santa Monica. His practice since 1972 has included representing persons accused of DUI before the DMV in APS proceedings as well in courts of law but is not a member of CDLA.