Reducing a Nevada DUI to "Careless Driving" (CCC 14.60.190)
(Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorneys)

"Careless driving" is a low-level traffic crime in Nevada that certain misdemeanor DUI charges may get pleaded down to. A conviction for careless driving is far better than one for drunk driving because it carries less of a stigma and has a shorter wait-time for Nevada record sealing.

In this article our Las Vegas DUI defense attorneys discuss reducing charges of "driving under the influence" to "careless driving" in Nevada. Click on a question below to go directly to that topic:

  1. Can misdemeanor DUI charges get reduced or dismissed in Nevada?
  2. What can a DUI charge get reduced to in Nevada?
  3. What is "careless driving" in Nevada?
  4. How do defense attorneys fight to get misdemeanor DUI charges reduced to "careless driving"?
  5. What are the benefits to pleading to "careless driving" in a misdemeanor DUI case in Nevada?
  6. Can felony DUI charges be reduced to "careless driving" in Nevada?
  7. If a DUI charge gets reduced to "careless driving" in Nevada, will the judge still impose standard DUI penalties?
  8. What is the process of getting a DUI charge reduced to "careless driving" in Nevada?
  9. After a defendant accepts a "DUI-to-careless driving" plea deal, what happens if the defendant never completes the sentence?
  10. Does a "DUI-to-careless driving" plea bargain prevent the defendant's drivers license from being suspended in Nevada?
  11. Does a careless driving" conviction in Nevada add demerit points to the defendant's drivers license?
  12. Can a Nevada DUI charge get dismissed without the defendant having to plead to "careless driving"?
  13. If a defendant gets convicted of DUI at trial in Nevada, can the defendant revert to a "careless driving" conviction instead?
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Nevada DUI charges are difficult to get reduced. But in some cases, the D.A. may be willing to lower a DUI to reckless driving or careless driving.

1) Can misdemeanor DUI charges get reduced or dismissed in Nevada?

Yes, but it is not easy. Nevada law specifically prohibits the D.A. from lowering or dismissing DUI charges unless he/she knows ... or it is apparent that ... the there is insufficient evidence to sustain a DUI conviction.1 So it is the defense attorney's job to convince the prosecutors they do not have a winnable DUI case.

2) What can a DUI charge get reduced to in Nevada?

As explained above, the majority of Nevada DUI cases do not get reduced to lesser charges. Of those that do get reduced, most involve pleading to the Nevada misdemeanor of reckless driving.2 Scoring a reckless plea is a huge victory because the consequences are so much less harsh than for DUI convictions...

But in a select few of cases, the D.A. may agree to reduce the charge even lower than reckless driving to the misdemeanor of "careless driving." Getting a careless driving plea in a DUI case is usually the best-case scenario second only to a complete dismissal.

3) What is "careless driving" in Nevada?

Unlike the state crime of reckless driving, "careless driving" is legislated by local city and county codes. Therefore, the exact wording of the law varies with each jurisdiction. But careless driving is generally defined as driving without giving it full attention.3 It is a misdemeanor in Nevada that is essentially as minor as an ordinary Nevada traffic ticket. Boulder City criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an illustration of careless driving:

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Careless driving in Nevada is driving without giving full attention to the road.
Example: Tommy is driving on the I-15 in North Las Vegas when a patrol officer from the North Las Vegas Police Department sees Tommy fiddling with his briefcase on the passenger seat for several seconds while keeping his eyes off the road. The cop pulls him over and cites him for violating North Las Vegas's careless driving law for not paying attention to the road while driving.4

Note that it is irrelevant that Tommy did not have an accident. He can still be convicted of careless driving even if there are no adverse consequences to his actions.

4) How do defense attorneys fight to get misdemeanor DUI charges reduced to "careless driving" in Nevada?

Defense attorneys execute painstaking investigations of all the evidence in attempt to uncover contradictions and errors in the prosecution's case. A few of the issues defense attorneys look for include the following:

  • whether law enforcement conducted an illegal traffic stop while pulling over the defendant
  • whether law enforcement followed correct protocols while questioning the defendant and conducting the Nevada field sobriety tests (FSTs)
  • whether the Nevada DUI breath-testing or Nevada DUI-blood testing devices were broken or utilized incorrectly
  • whether the defendant had a medical condition or had taken a medication that skewed the results of the FSTs, blood- or breath-tests
  • whether the police officer(s) on the case will be present at trial
  • whether other credible eyewitnesses saw the incident
  • whether surveillance video or other recordings of the incident exists

Note that the D.A. bears the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. Consequently, prosecutors can lessen a DUI charge to careless driving if the defense attorney can demonstrate that the state's case is too inadequate, holey, or otherwise problematic to sustain a drunk driving conviction.

There is also a chance that a DUI charge can get lowered to careless driving if the defendant was asleep while inebriated in a parked vehicle that is running. Although sleeping while intoxicated with the engine on may still qualify as DUI, the D.A. could be amenable to lowering the charge because sleeping intoxicated in a parked car is less dangerous than driving drunk. Read more about Nevada sleeping under the influence laws.

5) What are the benefits of pleading to "careless driving" in a misdemeanor DUI case in Nevada?

Four of the primary "pros" to having a DUI charge lessened to careless driving include:

  1. Less serious criminal record.
  2. Laxer penalties on future DUIs
  3. Availability of record seals five years earlier
  4. No mandatory license suspension (in some cases)
1. Less serious criminal record

Getting a job is much harder with a DUI on the applicant's criminal record. Background checks that show only "careless driving" does not turn off employers as much.

2. Laxer penalties on future DUIs
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Getting a Nevada DUI charge reduced to careless driving means that a future DUI charge will be prosecuted as if the prior DUI charge never existed.

DUI penalties grow harsher with each successive conviction. So if a defendant's prior DUI charge was reduced to careless driving, any future DUI charge will proceed as if the prior DUI charge never happened. Henderson criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse provides an explanation:

Example: The Henderson Police arrests George for drunk driving in Henderson and books him at the Henderson Detention Center for DUI. The D.A. charges him with DUI before his defense lawyer manages to get it reduced to careless driving. Two years later George gets busted for DUI again, and this time he pleads to DUI. So although this is the second time he was arrested for DUI, it is his first DUI conviction. Consequently, the court imposes only first-time DUI penalties on George, which are substantially laxer than second-time DUI punishments.

If George in the above example never has his first DUI case reduced to careless driving, his second DUI case would have been prosecuted as a "DUI-second." Therefore, he would receive the harsher DUI-second penalties. Read more about Nevada DUI penalties.

3. Availability of record seals five years earlier

People with misdemeanor DUI convictions may not petition the court to seal their criminal records until seven (7) years have passed since the DUI case has closed. In contrast, the waiting period to seal careless driving records is only two (2) years after the case is closed. Therefore, reducing a DUI to careless driving permits the defendant to get a clean slate five years earlier.

Read more about sealing a DUI record in Nevada.

4. No mandatory license suspension (in some cases)

As opposed to DUI penalties, careless driving penalties do not include a driver's license suspension. But note that simply being arrested for a DUI may still cause the Nevada DMV to suspend the person's license whether or not the DUI charge ultimately gets lowered to careless driving. The reason for this is discussed in more detail in later questions.

6) Can felony DUI charges be reduced to "careless driving" charges in Nevada?

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It is rare for felony DUI charges to be reduced to a misdemeanor charge in Nevada.

It is possible but extremely rare unless the D.A.'s case is very weak. It is far more likely for a felony DUI charge such as third-time Nevada DUI or DUI causing injury or death in Nevada to get lessened to a felony reckless driving charge. But the upsides to this plea bargain are largely nominal: Both felony DUI and felony reckless driving carry time in Nevada State Prison and require the defendant wait fifteen (15) years before petitioning the court for a record seal. 

Note that defendants facing felony DUI charges might be allowed to attend felony DUI Court in Nevada instead of prison and have the charge reduced to a misdemeanor after completing the program. Learn more about felony DUI in Nevada.

7) If a DUI charge gets reduced to "careless driving" in Nevada, will the judge still impose standard DUI penalties?

Usually, yes. In exchange for granting a DUI defendant a reduced charge such as careless driving, judges will typically require the defendants to comply with DUI penalties.

The typical penalties in Nevada for first-time misdemeanor DUI include:

  • 2 days to 6 months in jail, or 24 hours to 96 hours of community service (note that the court typically imposes a suspended jail sentence of 6 months)
  • Nevada DUI School (an alcohol awareness program)
  • Fines of $400 to $1,000 plus court costs
  • A Victim Impact Panel (such as a MADD lecture)
  • If the defendant was younger than 21 or if his/her blood alcohol content (BAC) was .18% or greater, an alcohol/drug dependency evaluation
  • If the defendant's BAC was .18% or greater, an alcohol or drug abuse treatment program
  • If the defendant's BAC was .18% or greater, a Breath Interlock Device in his/her car for 12 months to 36 months

For more go to our article on DUI 1st penalties in Nevada.

In some circumstances, defendants who score a DUI-to-careless driving plea already have a prior DUI conviction on their record. If that past DUI case occurred within seven (7) years of the current case, the court may hand down typical second-time misdemeanor DUI penalties, including:

  • 10 days to 6 months in jail or residential confinement
  • Fines from $750 to $1,000 or community service
  • A Victim Impact Panel
  • An alcohol/drug dependency evaluation
  • An intensive alcohol or drug abuse treatment program (such as misdemeanor DUI Court in Nevada)
  • If the defendant's BAC was .18% or greater, a Breath Interlock Device in his/her car for 12 months to 36 months

Read more about DUI 2nd penalties in Nevada.

8) What is the process of getting a DUI charge reduced to "careless driving" in Nevada?

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Very few misdemeanor DUI cases go to trial in Nevada. Most can be resolved through a plea.

If the D.A. agrees to lessen a DUI charge to careless driving, the defendant will typically still enter a plea of guilty (or no contest) to DUI at first. Then if the court accepts the plea deal, the judge will suspend judgment and impose a sentence. Once the defendant finishes carrying out the terms of the sentence, the judge will adjudicate the defendant guilty of careless driving instead of drunk driving.

9) After a Nevada DUI defendant accepts a "DUI-to-careless driving" plea deal, what happens if the defendant never completes the sentence?

The court will disregard the terms of the careless driving plea bargain, and the judge will adjudicate the defendant guilty of DUI. Depending on the case, the court may also hand down punishments such as fines and incarceration.

10) Does a "DUI-to-careless driving" plea bargain prevent the defendant's drivers license from being suspended in Nevada?

Actually, not always...

It is not commonly known that drivers license suspensions are are regulated by the Nevada DMV and not criminal courts. Consequently, the same defendant can be acquitted of DUI by a criminal court but still be found liable for drunk driving by the DMV. However, it may be possible for DUI defendants who get their DUI charge reduced to careless driving in criminal court to hang onto their licenses in DMV court....

Everyone has a right to a Nevada DMV hearing to contest a DUI license suspension. DMV hearings are similar to miniature trials where a defense attorney can offer evidence and compel witness testimony. If the DMV judge finds for the defendant, the defendant gets to keep his/her license (as long as his/her DUI charge was also reduced or dismissed in criminal court).

Note that a drivers license suspension in Nevada for a first-time DUI is three months, for a second-time DUI is one year, and for a third-time DUI is three years.

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"Careless driving" adds six demerit points to the person's drivers license in Nevada.

11) Does a "careless driving" conviction in Nevada add demerit points to the defendant's drivers license?

Yes. A careless driving conviction causes six (6) demerit points to be added to the defendant's drivers license. Demerit points remain on a person's record for one (1) year. If a defendant ever amasses twelve (12) or more demerit points in any one-year period, the DMV will suspend his/her license for six (6) months.

Note that DUI defendants who end up with a careless driving conviction will still have six (6) demerit points tacked on to their drivers license even if the DMV ultimately suspends their license for DUI. Read more about Nevada DMV demerit points.

12) Can a Nevada DUI charge get dismissed without the defendant having to plead to "careless driving"?

Perhaps. If the D.A.'s evidence is very insufficient and weak, the defense attorney might be able to persuade the state to throw out the DUI charges. Then the DUI charge would be totally dismissed, and there would be no convictions for careless driving either.

13) If a defendant gets convicted of DUI at trial in Nevada, can the defendant revert to a "careless driving" conviction instead?

Never. After a court renders a guilty verdict, the defendant may not then plead to a lesser charge even if the D.A. originally offered the lesser charge as part of a plea deal.

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Call 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a criminal defense attorney.

Arrested for DUI in Nevada? Call us for help...

If you have been charged with driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in Nevada, contact 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) to discuss your options for free. Our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys might be able to get the charges knocked down to "careless driving" or thrown out.

Learn about how to reduce charges for the California crime of DUI to the California crime of "wet reckless" or the California crime of "dry reckless."

Legal References

1 NRS 484C.420 Probation prohibited; suspension of sentence and plea bargaining restricted; mandatory orders when person is nonresident.

      1. A person convicted of violating the provisions of NRS 484C.110 or 484C.120 must not be released on probation, and a sentence imposed for violating those provisions must not be suspended except, as provided in NRS 4.373, 5.055, 484C.320, 484C.330 and 484C.340, that portion of the sentence imposed that exceeds the mandatory minimum. A prosecuting attorney shall not dismiss a charge of violating the provisions of NRS 484C.110 or 484C.120 in exchange for a plea of guilty, guilty but mentally ill or nolo contendere to a lesser charge or for any other reason unless the attorney knows or it is obvious that the charge is not supported by probable cause or cannot be proved at the time of trial.

      2. If the person who violated the provisions of NRS 484C.110 or 484C.120 possesses a driver's license issued by a state other than the State of Nevada and does not reside in the State of Nevada, in carrying out the provisions of subparagraph (1) of paragraph (a) of subsection 1 of NRS 484C.400, the court shall:

      (a) Order the person to pay tuition for and submit evidence of completion of an educational course on the abuse of alcohol and controlled substances approved by a governmental agency of the state of the person's residence within the time specified in the order; or

      (b) Order the person to complete an educational course by correspondence on the abuse of alcohol and controlled substances approved by the Department within the time specified in the order,

--> and the court shall notify the Department if the person fails to complete the assigned course within the specified time.

2 NRS 484B.653 Reckless driving and organization of unauthorized speed contests prohibited; penalties; court to suspend driver's license of certain offenders; additional penalties for violation committed in work zone or if driver is proximate cause of collision with pedestrian or person riding bicycle.

      1. It is unlawful for a person to:

      (a) Drive a vehicle in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property.

      (b) Drive a vehicle in an unauthorized speed contest on a public highway.

      (c) Organize an unauthorized speed contest on a public highway.

--> A violation of paragraph (a) or (b) of this subsection or subsection 1 of NRS 484B.550 constitutes reckless driving.

      2. If, while violating the provisions of subsections 1 to 5, inclusive, of NRS 484B.270, NRS 484B.280, paragraph (a) or (c) of subsection 1 of NRS 484B.283, NRS 484B.350, subsection 1 or 2 of NRS 484B.363 or subsection 1 of NRS 484B.600, the driver of a motor vehicle is the proximate cause of a collision with a pedestrian or a person riding a bicycle, the violation constitutes reckless driving.

      3. A person who violates paragraph (a) of subsection 1 is guilty of a misdemeanor and:

      (a) For the first offense, shall be punished:

             (1) By a fine of not less than $250 but not more than $1,000; or

             (2) By both fine and imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 6 months.

      (b) For the second offense, shall be punished:

             (1) By a fine of not less than $1,000 but not more than $1,500; or

             (2) By both fine and imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 6 months.

      (c) For the third and each subsequent offense, shall be punished:

             (1) By a fine of not less than $1,500 but not more than $2,000; or

             (2) By both fine and imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 6 months.

      4. A person who violates paragraph (b) or (c) of subsection 1 or commits a violation which constitutes reckless driving pursuant to subsection 2 is guilty of a misdemeanor and:

      (a) For the first offense:

             (1) Shall be punished by a fine of not less than $250 but not more than $1,000;

             (2) Shall perform not less than 50 hours, but not more than 99 hours, of community service; and

             (3) May be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 6 months.

      (b) For the second offense:

             (1) Shall be punished by a fine of not less than $1,000 but not more than $1,500;

             (2) Shall perform not less than 100 hours, but not more than 199 hours, of community service; and

             (3) May be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 6 months.

      (c) For the third and each subsequent offense:

             (1) Shall be punished by a fine of not less than $1,500 but not more than $2,000;

             (2) Shall perform 200 hours of community service; and

             (3) May be punished by imprisonment in the county jail for not more than 6 months.

      5. In addition to any fine, community service and imprisonment imposed upon a person pursuant to subsection 4, the court:

      (a) Shall issue an order suspending the driver's license of the person for a period of not less than 6 months but not more than 2 years and requiring the person to surrender all driver's licenses then held by the person;

      (b) Within 5 days after issuing an order pursuant to paragraph (a), shall forward to the Department any licenses, together with a copy of the order;

      (c) For the first offense, may issue an order impounding, for a period of 15 days, any vehicle that is registered to the person who violates paragraph (b) or (c) of subsection 1 if the vehicle is used in the commission of the offense; and

      (d) For the second and each subsequent offense, shall issue an order impounding, for a period of 30 days, any vehicle that is registered to the person who violates paragraph (b) or (c) of subsection 1 if the vehicle is used in the commission of the offense.

      6. Unless a greater penalty is provided pursuant to subsection 4 of NRS 484B.550, a person who does any act or neglects any duty imposed by law while driving or in actual physical control of any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property, if the act or neglect of duty proximately causes the death of or substantial bodily harm to another person, is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 6 years and by a fine of not less than $2,000 but not more than $5,000.

      7. A person who violates any provision of this section may be subject to the additional penalty set forth in NRS 484B.130 unless the person is subject to the penalty provided pursuant to subsection 4 of NRS 484B.550.

      8. As used in this section, “organize” means to plan, schedule or promote, or assist in the planning, scheduling or promotion of, an unauthorized speed contest on a public highway, regardless of whether a fee is charged for attending the unauthorized speed contest.

3 Clark County Code 14.60.190 Full Attention to Driving.

It is unlawful for any person to operate a motor vehicle upon a highway without giving full time and attention to the operation of the vehicle.

Las Vegas Municipal Code 11.22.010 Full time and attention.

A person shall, when operating a vehicle, give his full time and attention to the operation of the vehicle.

Washoe County Code 70.3877 Careless driving.

1. It is unlawful for any person to drive a motor vehicle in careless disregard of the safety of person or property on a public road or highway or on premises to which the public has access.

2. A violation of this section constitutes careless driving.

4 North Las Vegas City Code 10.20.010 - Full time and attention.

A person shall, when operating a vehicle, give his full time and attention to the operation of the same.

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