Nevada’s strict underage DUI laws reflect the state’s commitment to maintaining road safety and reducing the tragic impact of drunk driving. Underage drinking and driving is a serious offense in Nevada, with severe penalties that can significantly impact a young person’s future. This includes hefty fines, driver’s license suspension, and may even involve jail time in certain circumstances.
Despite these punitive measures, understanding your rights, potential defenses, and the importance of hiring an experienced attorney will be crucial if found in such a situation.
Nevada has a zero-tolerance policy for underage DUI, meaning that anyone under the age of 21 caught with even a minimal amount of alcohol in their system can be charged with a DUI.
Additionally, underage drivers who are suspected of having consumed marijuana or any other controlled substance can also be charged with a DUI in Nevada. This is due to the state’s strict drugged driving laws that prohibit operating a vehicle while under the influence of any impairing substance, regardless of age.
These laws may seem harsh, but they serve to protect young drivers and the general public from the dangers of drunk and drugged driving. However, they can also greatly affect an individual’s life if charged with a DUI.
If you or someone you know is charged with DUI, contact Ticket Busters.
Our experienced attorneys have a deep understanding of Nevada’s underage DUI laws and can provide the best possible defense for your case. We will work tirelessly to protect your rights and minimize the impact of these charges on your future.
Before diving in, it’s essential to understand the terms used in underage DUI cases in Nevada. These include:
- Underage/Minors: Refers to anyone under the legal drinking age of 21.
- BAC: Blood Alcohol Content is a measure of the percentage of alcohol in someone’s bloodstream. In Nevada, a BAC of .02 or higher is considered illegal for underage drivers.
- DUI: Driving Under the Influence is the act of operating a vehicle while impaired by drugs or alcohol. In Nevada, this includes being under the influence of any impairing substance, including marijuana and prescription drugs.
- Misdemeanor DUI: A DUI charge that is considered a less severe criminal offense. First and second offenses are typically charged as misdemeanors in Nevada.
- Felony DUI: A more serious DUI charge that can result in harsher penalties due to additional factors such as injury, death, or prior DUI convictions.
- Juvenile Court: A court system specifically designed to handle cases involving minors. This includes underage DUI cases.
- Adult/Criminal Court: The traditional court system that handles criminal offenses for adults.
How Underage DUI Differs from Adult DUIs
As mentioned earlier, Nevada has a zero-tolerance policy for underage DUIs. This means that the penalties for an underage driver convicted of DUI can be significantly harsher than those for an adult. Apart from the penalties, the legal process and consequences of an underage DUI also differ from adult DUIs.
Blood Alcohol Limit (BAC)
While the legal BAC limit for adults is .08, underage drivers can be charged with a DUI with just .02 BAC.
For illustration purposes, let’s say an 18-year-old driver is stopped by the police for suspected DUI and has a BAC of .03. While this amount may not seem significant, it is still considered illegal for underage drivers in Nevada and can result in a misdemeanor DUI charge.
How much alcohol is that exactly?
The answer depends on several factors such as your body weight. But all things being equal, for a 130-pound person, a single can of beer with 5% alcohol can result in a BAC of .03 —which is already higher than the allowed legal limit.
Imagine going to a party, having two beers, and then getting in your car to drive home. You may not feel impaired, but if you are pulled over, you can still be charged with a DUI.
In Nevada, underage DUI cases are typically handled in juvenile court. This is different from adult DUIs, which are handled in criminal court.
While the legal process may differ between courts, both involve a similar procedure where you will be required to enter a plea and attend hearings until your case is resolved.
Of course, this is more nuanced than that.
Nevada courts follow two main factors when determining whether to handle an underage DUI case in juvenile court or as an adult criminal offense:
- Age: If you are 18 years or older, your case will most likely be handled in adult criminal court. However, if you are under 18, it may still go to adult court depending on other factors; but generally are handled in juvenile court.
- Circumstances of the offense: If the underage DUI resulted in injury or death, it is more likely to be charged as a felony in adult criminal court, regardless of the driver’s age.
Why does this matter? Because the penalties and potential consequences of being charged in juvenile court differ from those faced in adult court.
Juvenile courts are primarily focused on rehabilitation, while adult criminal courts focus more on punishment. This means that penalties in juvenile court may include community service, counseling, and probation, while penalties in adult criminal court may involve jail time and a permanent criminal record.
Penalties for Underage DUI
The penalties for underage DUI vary depending on several factors but mainly will be different if tried in juvenile court as opposed to an adult in criminal court. Here are some of the potential consequences you may face if found guilty of an underage DUI in Nevada:
- License suspension or revocation
- Fines and court fees
- Mandatory attendance at alcohol education/treatment programs
- Community service
- Jail time (especially for repeat offenses or felony DUI)
Penalties if Tried in Juvenile Court
Remember, juvenile court is focused on rehabilitation rather than punishment.
If your case is tried in juvenile court, the penalties may be less severe than if you were charged as an adult. For example, instead of jail time, you may be required to attend a youth offender program or serve community service.
You’ll also be ordered to avoid any further offenses and attend alcohol education or counseling programs. You’ll also have a chance to get your record sealed or expunged once you turn 21 if your case is not too severe. This means that your underage DUI will not show up on background checks, and you can start with a clean slate.
However, while juvenile court may seem more lenient, it’s essential to take these penalties seriously as they can still have a significant impact on your life.
Penalties if Tried in Adult Criminal Court
If your DUI caused harm to others or if you have prior DUI convictions, your case may be charged as a felony in adult criminal court. This can result in more severe penalties, including possible jail time and a permanent criminal record.
In addition to the penalties mentioned above, you may also face:
- Jail time
- Fines and restitution for any damages caused
- Mandatory drug or alcohol treatment
- Installation of an ignition interlock device on your vehicle
- Community service
- Suspension or revocation of your driver’s license
- Increased insurance rates
The amount of incarceration and penalties will increase with each subsequent DUI offense, making it essential to seek legal help if you are facing a repeat offense.
For example, a first offense DUI (as an adult) in Nevada can result in a maximum of six months in jail but is usually closer to two days. However, for a third offense the minimum sentence is one year in jail. In either case, it’s important to seek legal assistance as soon as possible.
Defenses for Underage DUI
If charged with underage DUI in Nevada, it’s crucial to understand that there are possible defenses that can be used to fight these charges. These may include the following:
Lack of Probable Cause for Traffic Stop
One common defense is challenging the officer’s probable cause for initiating the traffic stop. According to Nevada law, the police must have a valid reason to pull someone over. If it can be proven that the officer lacked probable cause, it may lead to the dismissal of the underage DUI charges.
Faulty Breath Test Equipment
Challenging the accuracy of the breath test equipment used to determine the driver’s BAC is another potential defense. The equipment must be properly maintained and calibrated. If it can be demonstrated that the breathalyzer was faulty or not functioning correctly, it may cast doubt on the BAC results and weaken the prosecution’s case.
Rising Blood Alcohol Level
A rising blood alcohol level defense argues that the driver’s BAC was increasing at the time of testing. This can be supported by expert testimony and medical evidence, showing that the driver’s BAC was below the legal limit while driving but increased to an illegal level during the testing process.
Procedural errors made by law enforcement during the arrest and testing process can also be used as a defense. If the police failed to follow the required procedures outlined by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) when administering field sobriety tests, it may weaken the prosecution’s case and provide grounds for dismissal.
Medical Conditions or Other Factors
Certain medical conditions or external factors can potentially lead to false BAC results. Conditions such as gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), diabetes, or the use of certain medications can affect breathalyzer test results. Demonstrating that a medical condition or external factor influenced the BAC reading can help build a strong defense.
Importance of Hiring an Underage DUI Attorney
As you can see, the penalties for underage DUI in Nevada can have a significant impact on your life. That’s why it’s crucial to seek legal help from an experienced attorney who specializes in underage DUI cases.
An attorney will thoroughly review the details of your case and determine the best course of action to achieve the most favorable outcome. They will also be able to provide you with the support and guidance needed during this challenging time.
An experienced attorney can provide you with:
- Expert Legal Representation: An attorney specializing in DUI cases understands the complexities of the law and can provide expert legal advice and representation. They will guide you through the legal process, explain your rights, and develop a sound defense strategy tailored to your specific case.
- Knowledge of Underage DUI Laws: An underage DUI attorney possesses in-depth knowledge of Nevada’s underage DUI laws and regulations. They stay updated on the latest changes in the legal system and understand the nuances of defending underage individuals. With their expertise, they can identify potential weaknesses in the prosecution’s case and leverage the best defense strategies for your specific situation.
- Negotiating Plea Bargains: A skilled attorney can negotiate with the prosecution to seek a favorable plea bargain. Depending on the circumstances of your case, they may be able to reduce your charges to a lesser offense, such as reckless driving. This can result in reduced penalties, avoiding the stigma associated with a DUI conviction, and protecting your future opportunities.
- Building a Strong Defense: An underage DUI attorney will thoroughly examine the evidence, investigate the details of your case, and identify any potential defenses. They will gather witness statements, review police reports, and consult with experts if necessary. With this information, they will build a strong defense aimed at securing the best possible outcome for you.
- Guidance Through Administrative Proceedings: In addition to representing you in court, an underage DUI attorney can guide you through the administrative proceedings related to your driver’s license suspension. They can help you understand the process, assist in filing necessary paperwork, and advocate for your driving privileges to be reinstated as soon as possible.
If you or a loved one is facing DUI charges, contact Ticket Busters. Our experienced attorneys have a proven track record of successfully defending underage individuals charged with DUI in Nevada. Remember, the consequences of an underage DUI conviction can be severe, but with the right defense, you may be able to minimize or even avoid these penalties entirely.
Frequently Asked Questions
How does an underage DUI conviction affect me in the long run?
An underage DUI conviction can have long-term consequences, including potential denial of educational, employment, and financial opportunities. It can also result in social stigma that may impact your reputation.
Can I have an underage DUI charge expunged from my record?
Nevada does not allow for the expungement of DUI charges. However, record sealing may be possible depending on the specifics of your case. Consult with an underage DUI attorney to discuss your options.
What are the penalties for an underage DUI conviction in Nevada?
Penalties for underage DUI convictions can include fines, license suspension, community service, mandatory DUI or traffic safety classes, and the possibility of an ignition interlock device (IID) installation.
Are there other consequences of an underage DUI?
In addition to legal penalties, an underage DUI conviction can lead to consequences such as suspension or expulsion from educational institutions, increased insurance premiums, and limited employment opportunities.
What are the common defenses for an underage DUI charge?
Common defenses include challenging probable cause for the traffic stop, questioning the accuracy of breath test equipment, asserting a rising blood alcohol level defense, highlighting procedural errors, and demonstrating the influence of medical conditions or external factors.