Even though a 1st time DUI is usually only a misdemeanor in Nevada, penalties can be very harsh. Plus the driver will have to wait at least seven years before the record can be sealed. But a seasoned Nevada drunk driving attorney may be able to negotiate a reduction to reckless driving or even a full dismissal.
This article discusses the law behind first offense drunk driving laws in Las Vegas. Keep reading to learn the definition, defenses and penalties.
Definition of driving under the influence
It is a crime in Nevada for someone to have physical control over a motor vehicle under either of the following conditions:
- the defendant's driving was impaired by alcohol or drugs, OR
- the defendant had a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08, OR
- the defendant's blood contained more than the maximum amount allowed of various illegal and prescription drugs (learn more at our article on Nevada drugged driving laws)
In other words, it is unlawful for someone to drive drunk on alcohol or high on drugs. Even if the driver is not impaired and is driving safely, it is still per se illegal to drive with a BAC of 0.08 or above or with too much of certain drugs in his/her blood.
Defenses to 1st Time DUI in Nevada
The best way to fight allegations of a first offense DUI in Nevada depends on the facts of the case. A good defense lawyer will examine every aspect of the matter including the initial confrontation between the driver and police, how the arrest was conducted, how the BAC was determined, and whether there were any witnesses.
The prosecution always has the burden to prove a defendant guilty beyond a reasonable doubt before a judge or jury can hand down a "guilty" verdict. A defense attorney may try to raise this reasonable doubt in drunk driving cases by demonstrating any of the following:
- the breath testing or blood testing equipment did not work properly or was misused
- the people handling the testing equipment were not properly certified
- the arresting officer lacked probable cause to pull the defendant over
- the arresting officer did not conduct the field sobriety tests correctly
- the defendant had a physical condition that caused the alcohol-detection equipment to register an inaccurately high reading
Penalties for 1st Offense DUI in Nevada
- up to 6 months in jail, but the court typically imposes a suspended jail sentence so the defendant does no time unless he/she violates a court order
- up to $1,000 in fines plus court costs (the court typically fines $585)
- Nevada DUI School (an alcohol awareness program at the driver's expense)
- And Nevada Victim Impact Panel such as a MADD lecture
- An order to "stay out of trouble," meaning no new arrests or citations other than minor traffic tickets
- If the defendant's BAC was 0.18 or greater, the judge will also order an alcohol/drug dependency evaluation which costs $100, perhaps an alcohol or drug abuse treatment program, and a Nevada breath interlock device on the defendant's car for up to 3 years.
Note that the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles will also impose a three-month suspension of the defendant's driver's license. However after forty-five days the DMV usually allows drivers to receive a restricted license allowing commuting to and from work.
For penalty information on 2nd- and 3rd-time DUIs, go to our article on second-time DUI penalties and third-time DUI penalties. And for a general overview on drunk driving sentences go to our article on Nevada DUI penalties.
Plea bargains and Record Seals
Sometimes it may be possible for a defense attorney to persuade the D.A. to reduce a DUI first to the Nevada crime of reckless driving. The judge will typically impose the same penalties for reckless driving as for a DUI first. However, getting a reckless driving conviction is superior to getting a DUI conviction in four main ways:
- If the defendant ever gets arrested for DUI again, the reckless driving conviction will not count as a previous DUI conviction. Therefore, the defendant will face prosecution for only a DUI first and not a DUI second, which carries much harsher penalties.
- Having a reckless driving conviction carries less of a social stigma than having a DUI conviction. Therefore prospective employers are less likely to pass over people for a job if they show only a reckless driving conviction and not a DUI.
- A reckless driving conviction does not cause an automatic license suspension like a DUI first does. (However, it will add 8 demerit points to the defendant's driver's license.)
- Finally, a defendant may petition to have a reckless driving conviction sealed from their criminal record after only two (2) years from the time the case is closed. In contrast, DUI Firsts may not be sealed until after seven (7) years have passed from the case closing. (Learn more about sealing criminal records in Nevada.)
Learn more about Nevada DUI laws at our article on Nevada DUI Laws.
Call us if you are facing charges . . . .
If you have been accused of a DUI first in Nevada, call our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free consultation today. They may be able to negotiate a favorable resolution without a trial. But if necessary they will argue your side to a jury and fight for a "not guilty" verdict.