Nevada’s DUI Laws and Conviction Penalties

The consequences of a 1st, 2nd, and felony DUI in Nevada.

Like all states, Nevada prohibits driving a vehicle while under the influence (DUI) of drugs or alcohol. However, Nevada's definition of DUI differs from other states.

This article explains what constitutes impaired driving in Nevada. And for persons charged with DUI, this article covers some of the penalties that can be expected as well as some options for avoiding or reducing penalties.

Nevada's DUI Laws

To establish a DUI charge, the prosecutor must prove that the accused was driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle:

  • while "under the influence" of drugs or alcohol
  • with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of at least .08%, or
  • with an unlawful drug concentration in his or her system.

In other words, a DUI conviction can be based on BAC, actual impairment, or a failed drug test.

What It Means to Drive or be in "Actual Physical Control" of a Vehicle Under Nevada's DUI Laws

In Nevada, an impaired person can be convicted of a DUI if he or she is driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle. Driving is a generally understood term and most impaired driving incidents involve actual operation of a vehicle. But "actual physical control" encompasses more than just driving.

Nevada courts have said that a person with present bodily restraint, domination, and regulation of a vehicle is in actual physical control. Factors that bear on the determination of whether a person was in actual physical control of a vehicle include:

  • where the person was sitting
  • whether the engine was running
  • whether the person was awake or asleep, and
  • whether the keys were in the ignition.

There aren't bright-line rules, but if the circumstances are such that the motorist could easily have put the car and driven off, chances are the judge or jury will find the motorist was in actual physical control of the vehicle.

How Nevada Law Defines "Under the Influence"

Generally, there are two ways prosecutors can prove a driver was under the influence—with evidence of actual impairment or chemical test results showing a certain concentration of drugs or alcohol in the driver's system.

DUI Charges Based on Impairment

A driver is considered to be under the influence when the consumed substance has substantially deprived the driver of normal control or clarity of mind so that the driver is incapable of safely driving.

The fact that the driver was legally permitted to use the drug (due to a prescription or otherwise) is not a legal defense to a DUI charge based on impairment.

"Per Se DUI" Charges

A driver is also considered to be under the influence if he or she has a BAC of at least .08% or an unlawful concentration of prohibited drugs or drug metabolites in his or her system. The listed drugs and the prohibited concentrations are as follows:

Blood (nanograms/liter)

Urine (nanograms/liter)

Amphetamine

100

500

Cocaine

50

150

Cocaine Metabolite

50

150

Heroin

50

2000

Heroin Metabolite

50

2000

6-Monoacytal Morphine

10

10

Lysergic Acid Diethylamide

10

25

Methamphetamine

100

500

Phencyclidine

10

25

Marijuana

2

Marijuana Metabolite

5

A driver who exceeds these thresholds or the BAC limit can be convicted of a per se DUI.

A driver who is lawfully prescribed the intoxicating substance can present the prescription as a defense to a per se DUI charge.

Penalties for a 1st or 2nd (Misdemeanor) DUI in Nevada

The penalties for a DUI conviction depend primarily on the number of prior DUI convictions within the last seven years. Generally, a first or second DUI conviction in seven years will be a misdemeanor offense.

Jail and Fines for Nevada Misdemeanor DUI Convictions

The fines, jail time, and other penalties for a DUI conviction are set by statute and depend primarily on the number of prior convictions.

1st Offense

2nd Offense

Jail

48 hours to 6 months

10 days to 6 months

Fines

$400 to $1,000

$750 to $1,000

Nevada's DUI Aggravating Circumstances

The penalties for a DUI conviction are more severe if the offense involved young passengers or an especially high BAC level.

Child passengers. An impaired driver who was transporting a passenger under the age of 15 will generally face increased penalties. While there are no mandatory minimums, the court is to consider a child passenger as an aggravating factor and will often impose more than just the minimum penalties in these cases.

Excessive BAC. If the driver's BAC was .18% or higher, he or she must complete an alcohol or substance abuse treatment program approved by the court.

Nevada DUI Probation

Instead of imposing a long jail term, judges will often place DUI offenders on probation for a year or more. Probation requires the offender to comply with certain requirements like monitored sobriety, treatment, and the completion of educational courses. Offenders must generally spend two days (ten days for a second offense) in jail prior to beginning probation but first offenders can typically serve this time via community service.

Substance Abuse Evaluations for Nevada DUI Offenders

Prior to sentencing, all persons convicted of a DUI offense must undergo a substance abuse evaluation. The judge will order a treatment program congruent with the evaluation results. First offenders must complete a DUI education course at minimum, and a full substance abuse treatment program is required for repeat offenders.

Nevada's Felony (3rd Offenses, Injuries, and Deaths) DUI Penalties

A DUI will be charged as a felony if the offender has at least two prior convictions or caused injuries or the death of another person.

Habitual DUI. An offender with two prior DUI convictions can be charged with a felony DUI. A conviction carries one to six years in prison and $2,000 to $5,000 fines. The court will review the presentencing substance abuse assessment and can order clinical or community treatment.

DUIs Involving Injuries or deaths. An impaired driver who causes death or substantial bodily harm to another person can be charged with a class B felony and faces two to 20 years in prison as well as $2,000 to $5,000 in fines.

Following a felony DUI conviction, any subsequent DUI offenses within the driver's lifetime will be charged as felonies.

License-Related Penalties for Nevada DUI Offenses

Impaired driving generally results in some sort of driver's license penalties or restrictions. The duration and type of penalty depend on the driver's BAC, criminal history, and cooperation with law enforcement.

License-related penalties can result from a DUI arrest and/or conviction.

Nevada's Implied Consent Law

Under Nevada's "implied consent" law, drivers who are lawfully arrested for driving under the influence are required to submit to testing when requested to do so by an officer. The purpose of these tests (usually, blood or breath tests) is to determine the amount of drugs or alcohol in the driver's system.

Refusing a Chemical Test in Nevada

When a driver arrested for DUI refuses to submit to a lawful chemical test, the arresting officer will seize the driver's license and submit a report to the DMV. The DMV will then suspend the driver's license for:

  • one year for a first offense, and
  • three years for a second or subsequent offense within seven years.

Prosecutors can also use the fact that a driver refused testing in court while trying to prove a DUI charge.

Failing a Chemical Test in Nevada

Drivers who submit to testing but provide an unlawful BAC or drug concentration will also face license suspension, even before a criminal trial. For a failed test, the officer will seize the driver's license and submit a report to the DMV. The DMV will then suspend the driver's license for 185 days.

License Suspension for a DUI Conviction

Drivers convicted of DUI will also face license penalties. A DUI conviction will result in a license suspension of:

  • 185 days for a first offense, and
  • one year for a second offense.

A felony DUI conviction will result in a three-year license revocation.

Nevada's Ignition Interlock Requirements

Drivers convicted of a DUI offense are required to install an ignition interlock device (IID) on any operated vehicle after license reinstatement. The duration of the IID requirement is:

  • 185 days for a first offense
  • one year for a second offense, and
  • three years for a felony DUI.

Drivers who are willing to install an IID early and enroll in a treatment program can normally acquire restricted driving privileges to operate a vehicle during the suspension or revocation period. However, offenders are often required to complete a part of the suspension period prior to being eligible for this type of driving privilege.

Nevada's Underage DUI Laws

Nevada prohibits any person under the age of 21 from operating a vehicle with a BAC of .02% or more. While not a criminal offense, a violation will result in driver's license penalties and fees.

An underage driver who produces a BAC of at least .02% faces a 90-day license suspension, though an IID-restricted license is normally an option. After the suspension, the driver must complete an alcohol assessment or driver improvement class prior to license reinstatement.

Of course, if the driver is "under the influence" or above .08%, he or she can face the standard DUI penalties as well.

Nevada's DUI Penalty Reduction Programs

For eligible DUI offenders, Nevada offers programs that can lead to reduced penalties.

First-offense reduction. A driver found guilty of a first-offense DUI can request a six-month treatment program in lieu of the standard penalties. Upon completion of the program, the offender will still have to serve one day in jail, pay the minimum fine, and comply with any driver's license restrictions.

Third-offense reduction. A third-offense DUI can be reduced to a second offense if the offender voluntarily enrolls in a court treatment program. The program is three years long and requires an assessment, six months of inpatient treatment, random sobriety testing, and 12 months with an IID.

Talk with a Nevada DUI Lawyer

If you've been arrested for driving while under the influence in Nevada, you should get in contact with a qualified DUI attorney in your area. The consequences of a DUI conviction can be severe, so having the assistance of an experienced advocate is crucial.

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