Drunk driving is one of the most common offenses for Nevada drivers. An arrest for driving under the influence (DUI) still carries serious penalties, including heavy fines and fees, loss of your license, and mandatory alcohol awareness education. Higher blood alcohol levels and subsequent convictions can result in increased penalties. However, there are a number of possible defenses to DUI charges. An arrest does not have to lead to a conviction. If you have been charged with a DUI in Nevada, talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney who will fight to defend you.
First DUI in Nevada
Many people are surprised to learn that a drunk driving arrest results in both a criminal charge and an administrative license suspension. The criminal charge is handled by the courts, but the license suspension is an automatic process that goes through the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Even if the driver is not found guilty of drunk driving in court, the DMV may have already suspended the driver’s license. Your Nevada DUI attorney will be able to represent you at both the criminal hearing and the DMV hearing.
Under Nevada law, the police or highway patrol will arrest a driver if they suspect them to be impaired by drugs or alcohol. In most cases, a police officer will look for the smell of alcohol on the driver’s breath, slurred speech, red or watery eyes, and see if there is physical evidence of alcohol or drugs in the car. The police officer may then have the driver perform a set of field sobriety tests, and give a breath sample to test for alcohol. If the police officer thinks they have probable cause that the driver was operating under the influence, they will be arrested and taken to jail.
A first-offense DUI is generally a misdemeanor. Penalties may include up to 6 months in jail, mandatory DUI school, fines and fees of up to $1,000, community service, and a 90-day suspended license. For underage drivers, or if the suspect’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was 0.18% or higher, they may have to submit to a substance abuse evaluation and treatment program. A high BAC may also require an ignition interlock device on their vehicle.
For many people who are arrested for drunk driving, it is their first experience with the criminal justice system. They may not think they are even impaired or intoxicated, yet the police still put them under arrest and take them to jail. Even drivers who know they’ve had too much to drink may still feel like the police are not treating them fairly. It is important to talk to someone who understands how the police and prosecutors operate, so you don’t get treated unjustly by the courts.
Multiple DUI Arrests in Nevada
For drivers who are arrested for a second, third, or even fourth DUI, the penalties increase with each subsequent conviction. A second DUI arrest with 7 years of a prior DUI can result in from 10 days to 6 months in jail, mandatory DUI school, fines and fees of $1,000 or more, community service, a substance abuse evaluation and treatment program, an ignition interlock device on their vehicle, and a 1-year suspended license.
Unlike a first or second DUI, a third DUI arrest with 7 years of two prior DUIs is a felony. A third-DUI felony conviction can result in up to 6 years behind bars, thousands of dollars in fines, mandatory participation in drunk driving victim impact panels, a mandatory ignition interlock device on their vehicle, a mandatory substance abuse evaluation and treatment program, and a suspended license for up to 3 years. In addition to the penalties for a 3rd DUI, a felon may face restrictions on their voting rights, gun ownership rights, and find it difficult to get a job.
Commercial DUI in Nevada
For anyone who drives a truck or commercial vehicle as part of their job, a DUI arrest could take away their commercial driver’s license (CDL). For most drivers, a BAC of 0.08% or higher is over the legal limit. However, for commercial drivers, they can be arrested with a BAC of only 0.04%. For some people, a couple of beers over lunch could put them over the legal limit for operating a commercial vehicle, resulting in an arrest.
The penalties for a commercial DUI are similar for that of regular drivers. However, a commercial DUI will lead to a suspension of the driver’s CDL for one year. For many people, this may mean they will lose their job, or have a difficult time obtaining employment without their commercial driver’s license. A second commercial DUI conviction will result in a permanent loss of their commercial driving privileges.
Under 21 DUI in Nevada
Drivers under the age of 21 are not supposed to drive if they have any alcohol in their system. Nevada has a zero tolerance policy towards underage drinking and driving. If an underage driver has a BAC of only 0.02%, they can be convicted of DUI, even if they were not physically impaired. Underage DUI penalties can a 90-day license suspension, fines and fees, DUI school, and a drug and alcohol substance abuse evaluation and treatment. If the driver is a college student, their university may impose additional sanctions, including suspension, expulsion, or loss of financial aid.
Drugged Driving in Nevada
While drinking and driving has been on the decline nationwide, drugged driving is on the increase. It is a violation to operate a vehicle while under the influence of drugs. This includes illegal drugs, such as marijuana or amphetamines. It also includes legal prescription drugs and over the counter drugs if it renders the driver incapable of safe driving. Penalties for a drug DUI are similar to that of an alcohol DUI. However, drivers suspected of drugged driving will usually have to submit to a blood or urine test rather than a breath test.
Experienced Las Vegas DUI Defense Attorney
A DUI conviction can impact your job, your family, and your life. However, an arrest does not have to lead to a conviction. If you or a loved one has been arrested for drinking and driving, you need an experienced Las Vegas attorney to fight for you. Nadine Morton has over 13 years of experience defending individuals facing DUI charges in Las Vegas and throughout Clark County. Nadine Morton understands what it takes to build a strong case and fight for her clients.