In the United States, the consequences of being arrested for Driving Under the Influence (DUI) can be severe, and Nevada is no exception. This charge is treated with the utmost seriousness by law enforcement and courts alike, often leading to significant penalties including hefty fines, license suspensions, mandatory educational programs, and even incarceration.
With Las Vegas widely known as the “entertainment capital of the world”, it is no surprise that DUI arrests are a common occurrence in Nevada.
Imagine this very possible scenario: you are enjoying a night out in Sin City, and have indulged in one too many drinks. You believe yourself to be sober enough to drive, but unfortunately get pulled over by the police and subsequently arrested for DUI.
What happens next? Will you be thrown in jail? Will you lose your license and never be able to drive again? What are the steps of the legal process and what can you expect from each step? These are all valid questions that may be running through your mind if you find yourself in this situation.
So if you or someone you know is facing a DUI charge in Nevada, it’s important to hire a skilled and experienced attorney who can guide you through the process and help minimize the potential consequences. But in the meantime, here is what you can expect when you get arrested for DUI in Nevada.
DUI Arrests Basics
First and foremost, it is important to remember that being arrested for DUI does not necessarily mean you will be convicted of the charge. Like any other criminal offense, you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law.
Once you have been arrested for DUI in Nevada, you will typically be taken to the nearest police station or jail for processing. This involves having your personal information recorded, being fingerprinted and photographed, and completing various legal forms. We’ll go over this more below starting with your first contact with law enforcement.
But before we get to that, it’s important to understand the different types of DUI charges in Nevada and how they can impact your case.
Types of DUI Charges in Nevada
In Nevada, there are two main types of DUI charges: misdemeanor and felony. The type of charge you face depends on various factors such as your blood alcohol concentration (BAC), any prior DUI convictions, and whether any injuries or fatalities occurred as a result of your alleged DUI.
A misdemeanor DUI charge is typically given for first-time offenders with a BAC below 0.18%. This is considered the “standard” DUI charge and carries penalties such as fines, license suspension, mandatory alcohol education programs, and possible jail time (up to six months).
On the other hand, a felony DUI charge is much more serious and can result in harsher penalties, including significant prison time. This type of charge is usually given for repeat offenders, those whose BAC was found to be above 0.18%, or if the alleged DUI resulted in injuries or fatalities.
It’s also important to note that Nevada has a zero-tolerance policy for drivers under the age of 21, meaning any driver under this age found to have a BAC of 0.02% or above can face DUI charges.
As mentioned before, being arrested for DUI does not automatically mean you will be convicted. You are entitled to a fair legal process and it’s important to know what to expect at each step.
First Contact with Law Enforcement
When law enforcement officers suspect that a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs, they have the authority to pull over the vehicle. This initial contact marks the beginning of the DUI investigation. The officer will look for signs of intoxication, such as erratic driving, slurred speech, or the smell of alcohol. If they have reasonable cause to believe that the driver is impaired, they will proceed with further testing (see more in the next section).
It’s important to note that in Nevada, driving is considered a privilege, not a right.
The Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) and the state issue driver’s licenses with the understanding that drivers must adhere to certain rules and regulations. If you are caught driving under the influence, you may face penalties, including suspension or revocation of your driver’s license.
Nevada also has an implied consent law, which means that by obtaining a driver’s license and driving in the state, you have already given your consent to submit to a chemical test (breath, blood, or urine) if suspected of DUI. Refusal to take these tests can result in automatic penalties and may be used against you in court.
Field Sobriety Tests
After being pulled over and questioned, the officer may ask you to perform a series of field sobriety tests (FSTs). These are physical and cognitive exercises designed to test your coordination, balance, and cognitive abilities—all of which would be “lacking” if you were under the influence.
The three standardized FSTs recognized by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) are as follows:
- Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus (HGN) Test: The officer will ask you to track an object, such as a pen or flashlight, with your eyes while they move it from side to side. They are checking for involuntary eye movements, which can be a sign of impairment.
- Walk and Turn Test: You will be asked to walk in a straight line, heel-to-toe, for a certain number of steps, turn, and walk back. The officer will observe your balance, ability to follow instructions, and any signs of impairment.
- One-Leg Stand Test: You will be instructed to stand on one leg while counting out loud. The officer will assess your balance, ability to follow instructions, and signs of impairment.
Field sobriety tests are subjective and can be influenced by various factors such as fatigue, medical conditions, or even nerves. So if you do choose to perform these tests, it’s important to be aware that they may not accurately reflect your level of impairment.
It is also important to note that you are not legally required to take these tests in Nevada. However, refusing to do so may result in immediate arrest and the suspension of your driver’s license for up to one year, even if you are not ultimately convicted of a DUI.
If the officer has probable cause to believe that you are driving under the influence, they may request that you submit to a chemical test to determine your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) or the presence of drugs in your system. In Nevada, the chemical tests can include breath tests, blood tests, or urine tests.
Refusing to take a chemical test can have serious consequences. If you refuse, your driver’s license will be automatically revoked for one year, and the prosecution may use your refusal as evidence against you in court. It’s important to consult with an attorney to understand the potential consequences of refusing a chemical test.
In the case of suspected drug impairment, the officer may request a blood or urine test instead of the more common breathalyzer. These tests can detect the presence of various drugs and their metabolites in your system.
Weed, or marijuana, is legal for adults in Nevada, but driving under the influence of marijuana can still result in a DUI charge. This is because the active ingredient in marijuana, THC (tetrahydrocannabinol), can impair your driving abilities and increase the risk of accidents.
If you are taking prescription medications, it’s important to be aware of their potential side effects. Some medications can cause drowsiness or impair your motor skills, making it unsafe for you to drive. It’s crucial to read the labels and follow your doctor’s instructions on how these medications may affect your ability to operate a vehicle.
If you are pulled over and suspected of DUI, be sure to inform the officer if you are currently taking prescribed medications. They may ask for documentation from your doctor or pharmacist to verify this information.
However, if the officer believes that your medication has impaired your ability to drive, you may still face DUI charges. It’s important to consult with a lawyer who can help defend your case and provide evidence of your prescribed medication use.
Arrest and Booking
If the officer determines that there is enough evidence to establish probable cause for a DUI arrest, you will be placed under arrest. You will then be taken to a local hospital, police station, or jail for the booking process. During booking, your personal belongings will be inventoried, and your fingerprints and mugshot will be taken.
If you got into an accident while driving under the influence, you may be taken to a hospital for medical treatment first before being booked.
Once the booking process is complete, you may be released on bail or held until your court date depending on the severity of your offense.
Depending on the circumstances of your arrest, you may be released immediately after booking, either on your own recognizance or after posting bail, or held until your court date.
Release by Bail
In cases where you are permitted to post bail, the process involves paying a set amount of money to the court, which acts as an assurance that you will appear for all future court dates. The bail amount is determined by the severity of your DUI charge, any prior offenses, and other factors.
Bail can be paid in full, or a bail bond can be obtained for a fraction of the total bail amount. If you comply with all court requirements, the bail money is returned after the case. However, failure to appear in court as scheduled can result in forfeiture of the bail money and additional legal consequences.
In DUIs without any aggravating factors, such as accidents or injuries, the court may allow for release on your own recognizance. This means you are not required to pay bail but must still attend all court dates.
Held Until Court Date
If you are not released on bail, it means you will be held in custody until your scheduled court date. This typically happens in more severe cases or if you have a history of missing court dates.
While in custody, you are unable to work, attend school, or fulfill other responsibilities. This is why having a legal representative becomes even more critical, as they can advocate for your release and help navigate the legal process moving forward.
Generally, the court will schedule your first appearance within 72 hours of your arrest. This is when you will be formally charged and enter a plea. It’s essential to have an attorney present at this hearing as it can significantly impact the outcome of your case.
Charges and Court Proceedings
Once you have been arrested and booked, the prosecutor will review the evidence and determine what charges to file against you. As mentioned above, DUIs are classified as misdemeanors or felonies, depending on the circumstances of the offense.
First-time offenders with no aggravating factors may face a misdemeanor charge, while multiple offenses, serious injuries or deaths, and other aggravating factors may result in felony charges.
Expected Penalties for Misdemeanor and Felony DUIs
Misdemeanor DUIs typically encompass first-time offenses with no aggravating factors. In these cases, fines range from $400 to $1,000 and jail times of up to six months. In some instances, the court may also order mandatory attendance at DUI education programs and community service, but additional fees may increase the total cost.
Felony DUIs carry more severe penalties, including higher fines ranging from $2,000 to $5,000 and longer jail sentences of up to six years. Other potential consequences include loss of driving privileges, probation, and mandatory enrollment in substance abuse programs.
It is important to note that these fines are in addition to other financial obligations such as court costs, restitution, and the cost of installing an ignition interlock device.
The court proceedings for a DUI case typically involve multiple hearings and can take several months to resolve. The prosecutor must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol to secure a conviction.
Your attorney can challenge evidence, present mitigating circumstances, and negotiate for reduced charges or penalties. It’s important to have experienced legal representation throughout this process to ensure your rights are protected and that you have the best chance at a favorable outcome.
Hiring an Attorney
Before your first court date, it is crucial to seek legal representation. While you have the option to represent yourself or be assigned a public defender, hiring an experienced DUI defense attorney can significantly improve your chances of achieving a favorable outcome.
An attorney can help navigate the complex legal system, gather evidence to support your case, and negotiate with prosecutors on your behalf. They can also advise you on the best course of action based on the specifics of your case.
Your first court appearance, known as an arraignment, is when you will be formally informed of the charges against you and your rights. The judge will ask for your plea which can be any one of the following:
- Not Guilty
- No Contest
Each of these pleas carries different implications, which your attorney can explain to you in more detail. It is crucial to have an experienced attorney present during the arraignment as any mistakes made at this stage can significantly impact the outcome of your case.
Following the arraignment, the court will schedule further proceedings, such as pre-trial, motions hearings, and, if necessary, a trial.
During the pre-trial phase, your attorney will review the evidence against you, gather additional evidence, and explore potential defense strategies. This phase can involve negotiations with the prosecuting attorney to pursue a plea agreement or seek the dismissal of charges. It is a critical period for building your defense and exploring all available options.
If no agreement is reached, your case may proceed to trial.
However, in many cases, pre-trial negotiations can result in more favorable outcomes such as reduced charges or penalties.
The duration of the pre-trial phase can vary depending on factors such as the complexity of the case, the court’s schedule, and the availability of evidence. Your attorney may need to request additional time to conduct investigations, obtain expert opinions, or negotiate with the prosecution.
During the pre-trial phase, your attorney may file motions to suppress evidence or dismiss certain charges. These hearings allow for arguments and evidence to be presented before the judge in an effort to exclude or limit certain pieces of evidence from being used against you at trial.
Motions hearings can also provide opportunities for your attorney to negotiate with the prosecution, potentially leading to more favorable outcomes.
Plea or Trial
At some point during the pre-trial phase, you will need to decide whether to accept a plea agreement or proceed to trial. Your attorney will advise you on the strengths and weaknesses of your case and the potential outcomes of each option.
If you choose to accept a plea agreement, you will enter a guilty or no contest plea, and the court will proceed with sentencing. The terms of the plea agreement may include reduced charges, lesser penalties, or alternative sentencing options.
If you choose to proceed to trial, your attorney will present your case before a judge or jury. It’s crucial to note that the prosecution bears the burden of proving beyond a reasonable doubt that you were driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
The prosecution will present their evidence, while your attorney will challenge their case through cross-examination of witnesses, presentation of evidence, and arguing on your behalf.
If you are found not guilty, the charges against you will be dismissed. If you are found guilty, the court will proceed with sentencing.
Sentencing and Penalties
The penalties for a DUI conviction in Nevada can vary depending on factors such as your BAC, previous DUI convictions, and the presence of aggravating circumstances. Generally speaking, you can expect penalties can be more severe, from jail time to fines and other requirements, for subsequent convictions.
You can learn more about the penalties for each offense here:
Aside from the legal penalties, a DUI conviction can have various other consequences. These may include increased insurance premiums, mandatory completion of alcohol or drug treatment programs, a negative impact on employment prospects, professional licensing issues, and restrictions on travel.
It is essential to consult with an attorney who specializes in DUI defense to understand the full scope of potential consequences and develop a comprehensive defense strategy tailored to your specific situation.
Facing DUI Charges?
Facing a DUI arrest in Nevada is a serious matter that requires immediate action and the guidance of an experienced DUI defense attorney. Understanding the process and the potential consequences can help you navigate the legal system more confidently.
If you have been arrested for DUI, it is crucial to consult with a reputable law firm like Ticket Busters. Our team of skilled attorneys will provide you with expert legal advice, protect your rights, and work diligently to achieve the best possible outcome for your case. Don’t face the complexities of a DUI arrest alone – reach out to Ticket Busters today for a free consultation and regain control of your future.