DUI laws in Nevada make it a crime to drive under the influence of not only alcohol but also drugs. And similar to drunk driving, "drugged driving" cases in Las Vegas carry potentially harsh penalties such as jail, high fines and license suspension.
This article will inform you about "Nevada DUI with drugs" laws including what it is, how it is punished, and how we can fight it. If you are facing "drugged driving" charges, our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers may be able to help get your case lowered to lesser charges or dismissed completely.
Definition (NRS 484C.110)
The legal definition of driving under the influence of drugs in Las Vegas, Nevada (DUID), is two-fold:
- Someone can be arrested for drugged driving in Nevada for operating a vehicle while under the influence of any "chemical, poison or organic solvent, or any compound or combination of any of these, to a degree which renders the person incapable of safely driving or exercising actual physical control of a vehicle." Therefore, it is a crime in Nevada to drive under the influence of not only illegal drugs but also prescription meds like Ambien or Vicodin, over-the-counter meds like Nyquil, or any other substance if it is causing the driver to lose control of the car or to drive unsafely.
- Someone can also be arrested for drugged driving in Nevada for operating a vehicle "with an amount of a prohibited substance in his or her blood or urine that is equal to or greater than":
|Prohibited substance||per milliliter||per milliliter|
|(c) Cocaine metabolite||150||50|
|(e) Heroin metabolite:|
|(2) 6-monoacetyl morphine||10||10|
|(f) Lysergic acid diethylamide||25||10|
|(g) Marijuana (Pot)||10||2|
|(h) Marijuana metabolite||15||5|
|(i) Methamphetamine (Meth)||500||100|
So even if you are driving safely and are not "under the influence" in Las Vegas, it is still illegal per se to drive if your blood or urine contains the minimum prohibited amount of illegal drugs. For information on the Nevada crime of DUI of prescription drugs, see our article on the Nevada crime of DUI of prescription drugs.
If a driver is pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence in Nevada, the officer will order them to perform field sobriety tests (FSTs) and to take a preliminary breath test (PBT). Failing the field sobriety tests but passing the breath test is a sign to the cop that the driver is under the influence of narcotics rather than alcohol. Officers with specialized training in drug recognition evaluation (DREs) may take over the investigation at this point.
Chemical Testing (NRS 484.160)
All drivers are assumed to have given "implied consent" to submit to a blood and/or urine test if they are ever pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs. If a driver refuses to take a blood test in Nevada for the purposes of determining DUID, the cop may use "reasonable force" such as constraining the driver in order to have the test administered by a medical professional. Evidence of the driver's refusal to take the test can also be used against him/her as evidence in a criminal trial.
Driver's License suspension
If someone is arrested for drunk driving in Las Vegas, the cop typically confiscates his/her license right away following a failed breath test. But in drugged driving cases where the driver submits only to a blood test, the driver's license will not be suspended until the test results come back and they are positive. This may not occur for several weeks following the initial arrest, and the Nevada DMV notifies the driver by mail of the suspension.
Being arrested for violating drugged driving laws in Nevada does not mean that you will also be convicted . . . prosecutors have to meet an extremely high standard of proof in order to secure a guilty plea. And even if they have a strong case that you were driving under the influence of drugs in Las Vegas, defense attorneys may be able to get these cases thrown out on technicalities. Some typical defenses in Las Vegas DUI with drug cases are:
- Faulty testing equipment or mishandling. Showing that the drug testing equipment was inoperable or administered incorrectly or that the samples were contaminated would raise a reasonable doubt that the driver was under the influence of drugs. Even showing that the drug tester's certification was expired may be enough to get the charge thrown out.
- The driver did not start ingesting drugs until after he/she stopped driving the vehicle. If the D.A. cannot show that the driving was under the influence of drugs, the DUID charge cannot stand.
- Lack of probable cause for traffic stop. Other than at checkpoints, Las Vegas police are not permitted to pull anyone over without "probable cause" for the traffic stop. If the cops did not observe the driver committing traffic violations or driving incompetently before they stopped him/her, the judge should agree to dismiss the case.
- Lack of causation in DUID with death or injury cases. A driver cannot be convicted of drugged driving causing death or injury in Nevada if the fatality was not caused by the drugged driving itself. If an attorney can show that the victim was totally at fault, or that something other than the driving caused the injuries or death, then the driver should not be convicted.
Penalties (NRS 484C.400)
Driving under the influence of drugs in Nevada is usually a misdemeanor. But if it is your third offense in seven years or it allegedly caused substantial bodily harm or death to another person, it will automatically be charged as a felony.
Below are the standard "Nevada DUI drugs" punishments, which are virtually identical to drunk driving penalties.
- 2 days to 6 months in jail or 24 hours to 96 hours of community service (the court typically orders a suspended jail sentence of 6 months)
- Nevada DUI School (an alcohol awareness program that the student pays for)
- $400 to $1,000 in fines plus court costs
- Nevada Victim Impact Panel
- 90 days suspension of your driver's license (you usually can get a restricted license after 45 days)
- (Penalties may be as much as doubled if the incident occurred in a work zone)
- 10 days to 6 months in jail or residential confinement
- $750 to $1,000 in fines or equivalent number of hours of community service
- Nevada Victim Impact Panel
- An alcohol/drug dependency evaluation (costs $100)
- 1 year driver's license suspension or revocation,
- An intensive alcohol or drug abuse treatment program (DUI Court, not Nevada DUI School)
- (Penalties can be doubled if it happened in a work zone)
Third DUI (in 7 years)
- 1 to 6 years in prison
- $2,000 to $5,000 in fines
- Nevada Victim Impact Panel
- 3 year driver's license suspension or revocation,
- An alcohol & drug evaluation
DUI causing injury or death
- 2 to 20 years in prison
- $2,000 to $5,000 in fines
- (If the driver has three or more previous DUI convictions, then the charge will be for Nevada Vehicular homicide. The prison term for Nevada vehicular homicide is upped to twenty-five years or a life sentence, with the possibility of parole after 10 years.)
If someone is arrested for DUI drugs in Nevada and the D.A.s refuse to dismiss the case, a defense attorney may be successful in convincing them to reduce the charge to Nevada Reckless Driving. Nevada Reckless Driving carries less of a stigma than drugged driving and may be sealed from criminal records after only two years, which is five years sooner than when DUIs may be sealed.
For more on how to reduce a DUI to reckless driving in Nevada, see our article on how to reduce a DUI to reckless driving in Nevada.
Call us if you have been charged with Nevada DUI Drugs . . .
If you have been arrested for driving under the influence of drugs in Nevada, call our Las Vegas DUI defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free phone meeting. We may be able to get your case reduced to a lesser offense or thrown out, and we can also steer you towards getting any rehabilitation help you may need. And if you are an immigrant or other non-citizen, we will proceed with caution to try to ensure that you stay out of immigration court and that your resident status remains intact.
For information about the DUI necessity defense in Nevada, go to our page on the DUI necessity defense in Nevada. To learn about California "DUI with drugs" law, go to our informational article on California "DUI with drugs" law.