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Driving Under the Influence

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DRIVING UNDER THE INFLUENCE (DUI)

In Nevada, it is against the law to drive a vehicle after consuming alcohol or drugs that negatively influence one’s ability to drive or control a vehicle safely.  DUI can be charged as:

  • Impaired Driving;
  • Driving with an alcohol content in one’s blood (BAC) of .08% or higher;
  • Driving with enough alcohol content that it still measures .08%  two hours after the driving; or
  • Driving by a person under 21 years old who has consumed any alcohol, regardless of the blood alcohol content. (The legal drinking age in Nevada is 21.)

DUI can be charged even if a car is not in motion because it violates Nevada law for an intoxicated person “to be in actual physical control of a vehicle” and that may include a stationary vehicle that is capable of being driven.  This is a factual question that is decided at trial.

Field Sobriety Tests
A law enforcement officer can ask a DUI suspect to perform certain exercises or tasks in order to test the coordination and concentration abilities of the suspect.  A person is not legally required to do the Field Sobriety Tests, but they can be helpful in demonstrating that a person is not under the influence of intoxicants.

Testing for Intoxicants
Nevada’s “Implied Consent Law” provides that any person who applies for and gets a Driver License is deemed to consent to testing for intoxicants so the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) can decide whether or not to revoke the driving privileges. A Preliminary Breath Test (PBT) is given by an officer having the suspect blow into a measuring apparatus to give an initial indication of the presence of alcohol in one’s breath.  That test is for administrative  license revocation purposes and is not admissible evidence in a criminal trial.  However, a PBT reading can give an officer probable cause to investigate further for a DUI arrest and prosecution.

Blood tests, breath analysis and urine tests can be performed to determine the presence of alcohol or drugs in one’s system for purposes of criminal prosecution.  Those tests are administered at the Washoe County Detention Facility (Jail) by trained Crime Lab professionals after a suspect has been arrested.  If an arrestee refuses all testing, law enforcement officers can obtain a telephonic Search and Seizure Warrant for Blood, issued by a Reno Municipal Court Judge.

Penalties for DUI in Nevada
DUIs adjudicated in Reno Municipal Court are Misdemeanors, punishable by a maximum sentence of 6 months in jail, $1,000 fine, 200 hours of Community Service, or all of that. There are also minimum penalties.  A First Offense DUI conviction is punishable by: at least 2 days jail or 48 hours of Community Service; a fine of not less than $400, plus fees and assessments; a $60 chemical testing fee for tests conducted at the jail at time of arrest; mandatory attendance in-person at a Victim Impact Panel (VIP) presentation; and an alcohol/drug awareness class or a period of counseling, as determined by a Judge.  In addition, whenever the BAC is over .18%, the Judge can order the driver to install a Breath Interlock Device (BID) on one’s vehicle for a time period sufficient to monitor and test the driver for alcohol. 

A Second Offense DUI committed within seven years of the first offense is still a Misdemeanor, but has increased minimum penalties: 10 days jail or 20 days House Arrest; a fine of no less than $750, plus fees and assessments; a $60 chemical testing fee for tests conducted at the jail at time of arrest; mandatory attendance in-person at a Victim Impact Panel (VIP) presentation; and a period of counseling, as determined by a judge.  Installation of a BID is required on a Second Offense DUI. 

If a driver is under 21 years of age, or has a BAC over .18%, or is charged with a Second Offense DUI, Nevada law requires that, before sentencing, a state-certified evaluator must perform a Substance Abuse Evaluation to recommend to the Judge the appropriate level of treatment needed by the defendant.

A Third Offense DUI committed within seven years of the first and second offenses, is prosecuted as a Category B Felony in Nevada. That is punishable by a possible prison sentence of one to six years in the custody of the Department of Corrections and a fine ranging from $2,000 to $5,000. If a death or substantial bodily harm is caused during any DUI, that is also a felony, punishable by a prison sentence ranging from 2 to 20 years, with no probation allowed.  Those are prosecuted by the Washoe County District Attorney and adjudicated by the Second Judicial District Court, not the Reno Municipal Court.

Loss of Driving Privileges
The DMV can take away one’s Driver License for 90 days upon conviction of a First Offense DUI, or for one year upon conviction of a Second Offense DUI. A Third Offense Felony DUI results in a 3-year loss of driving privileges. That is done in separate administrative  proceedings and is not a decision made by Reno Municipal Court. A person who drives on a suspended or revoked license faces severe fines, and if the license was lost due to a DUI, could also face a mandatory 30 days jail or 60 days House Arrest and a fine of $500 to $1,000. The license then is suspended for an additional year, as well. To get one’s license again, the driver must pay DMV a reinstatement fee, take tests again, and provide proof of insurance for three consecutive years.

The State Bar of Nevada’s Lawyer Referral and Information Service (1-800-789-5747) provides names of attorneys who handle DUI cases.

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