A third DUI in seven years is an automatic felony in Las Vegas. It carries up to six years in prison . . . But you may be able to avoid incarceration by completing a Nevada DUI Court program.
Felony DUI Court in Las Vegas is a three-to-five year court program that allows you to receive counseling, submit to drug testing and do "house arrest" in lieu of you going to prison. It is costly and has very strict rules, but successful completion of the program will result in your DUI charge getting reduced to just a misdemeanor DUI conviction.
What is Nevada DUI Court?
Nevada DUI Court is an alternative sentencing program that allows alleged DUI offenders to complete rigorous counseling in lieu of incarceration. Clark County and many other counties maintain two types of DUI Courts: One for felony DUI, and one for misdemeanor DUI:
This webpage concerns "Felony DUI Court," which is specifically geared for people facing their third DUI charge. Felony DUI Court is also called the "Serious Offenders Program" in Clark County, and upon successful completion your felony DUI charge will be reduced to a misdemeanor. (You may visit our related page for information on Las Vegas Nevada misdemeanor DUI Court--The Moderate Offenders Program.)
Should I apply for Nevada Felony DUI Court?
You should consider doing Nevada Felony DUI Court only as a last resort if the prosecutor refuses to dismiss your case or to reduce your DUI charges to something minor. Otherwise, DUI Court is your only option to avoid prison.
Am I eligible for Nevada Felony DUI Court?
In order to be considered for Nevada Felony DUI Court, you have to meet all of the following criteria:
- You have no more than two misdemeanor DUI convictions in the last seven years,
- Your current DUI charge is for a felony in Nevada, and
- You have never killed or seriously hurt anyone while driving under the influence.
What is Nevada Felony DUI Court like?
Nevada Felony DUI Court typically lasts three years, but it can extend to no more than five years. you are assigned a case manager who makes specific recommendations to the judge about the length of your treatment and what terms are necessary.
Nevada DUI Court proceeds in several phases and typically consists of the following requirements:
- In the beginning you have weekly "status check" meetings with the judge, but as you successfully progress through the program these meetings occur only once every three months. (In Clark County, the DUI Court for the Serious Offenders Program meets every Thursday.)
- you are placed under house arrest ("residential confinement") for at least six months in the beginning of the program, but you may leave your home for work and any DUI Court obligations. You may also have to wear a SCRAM device (pictured below) that monitors whether you have had alcohol.
- A breath ignition interlock device is installed in all your cars for at least one year. It disables the car and notifies authorities if your breath test detects your blood alcohol content (BAC) is .02 or above.
- You attend group counseling such as Alcoholics Anonymous as well as individual counseling. it is usually twice a week but it may be reduced to weekly over time.
- You submit to periodic alcohol testing to be determined by the court and your case manager.
- Depending on the circumstances, the judge may also give you a curfew and suspend your driver's license.
If you successfully complete all the terms of your Las Vegas DUI Court program, your felony DUI charge will be reduced to a misdemeanor conviction.
How do I apply for Nevada Felony DUI Court?
The application process for Clark County DUI Court is very time-sensitive and technical, and not everyone is accepted. Therefore, it is highly recommended you retain counsel to ensure it is done correctly.
The process for applying to Nevada Felony DUI Court goes like this:
- You and your attorney appear in District Court, where you plead guilty or "nolo contendere" to felony DUI. At that time, your attorney submits a completed application for Felony DUI Court as well as a substance abuse evaluation completed by a certified counselor or physician.
- The judge will then direct you to meet with the Nevada Division of Parole and Probation, who will then compose a Presentence Investigation Report for your case.
- Within ten days of receiving notice of your DUI Court application, the prosecutor may request a hearing to contest it. The court may request a hearing on its own motion as well.
- If the judge grants your application, he/she will suspend your prison sentence while the case is transferred to DUI Court. You will then be ordered to report to Pretrial Services, who will instruct you how to begin the DUI Court program.
If you do not get accepted to Felony DUI Court in Las Vegas, you will face regular Nevada felony DUI penalties.
What if I relapse or break the rules of Nevada Felony DUI Court?
Nevada Felony DUI Court punishes relapses and mistakes on a case-by-case basis depending on your criminal history, how far along you are in the program, and the circumstances of the incident.
Sometimes being caught with alcohol in your system will cause you to be "bumped" back to phase one of the Felony DUI Court program and/or serve two weeks in jail. The court may even install alcohol breath-testing devices in your home that record video of you breathing into it and then transmit the footage and test results to your case manager.
Many Las Vegas judges allow program participants "one strike" before terminating them from Felony DUI Court completely. However, anyone who picks up another DUI during the course of treatment will automatically be expelled from the program and sent to prison to serve out their original felony sentence.
How much will Nevada DUI Court cost me?
Nevada Felony DUI Court usually costs you about $11,000 to $15,000 in total over the course of the program. However, applicants with limited resources may be able to pay less under a sliding fee scale.
The costs go towards the following expenses:
- Evaluation fee (one time fee)
- Electronic monitoring
- Supervision Fees
- Counseling Fees
- Breath Ignition Devices
What if this is only my first or second DUI?
you are eligible for Nevada Felony DUI Court only if you have been charged with your third DUI in seven years. If you have been charged with just your first or second DUI, your county may offer a "Misdemeanor DUI Court" program that you might be able to do in lieu of incarceration.
In Clark County, misdemeanor DUI court is called the "Moderate Offenders Program." The requirements typically include court monitoring, ninety days of house arrest, unannounced checks, one-on-one counseling, and a SCRAM anklet. Depending on the plea bargain you agree to, successful completion of the program may result in your DUI conviction getting reduced to a less serious offense. Read more at our Clark County Moderate Offender page.
Can I still do DUI Court if I live in a different city/state from where I got my Nevada DUI charge?
It depends. If you live out of state, your attorney might be able to arrange for you to do a similar DUI court program in your home state. If you live in a rural Nevada county that does not offer DUI Court, you might be able to complete the program in another county. It often depends on how flexible the prosecutor is in your case.
I never heard of DUI Court in felony cases. Is it new?
Somewhat. Just in 2007 the state legislature passed Senate Bill 277 to allow courts to institute Felony DUI Courts. Since driving under the influence is not a probational offense in Nevada, Felony DUI Court serves as a "last chance" for repeat DUI offenders to receive treatment instead of prison. (NRS 484C.340)
Call us for help . . . .
If you are facing felony DUI charges in Nevada, our Las Vegas drunk driving defense lawyers may be able to negotiate with prosecutors so your case gets dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense and you avoid DUI Court completely. Call us at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free consultation.