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Can DUIs be reduced to "reckless driving" in Nevada?

Posted by Neil Shouse | Apr 21, 2015 | 0 Comments

Sometimes, but it depends on the case.

In the majority of Nevada criminal cases, prosecutors are willing to reduce a criminal charge at least a little bit in exchange for not going to trial. Even in first-degree murder cases where there is overwhelming evidence of guilt, D.A.s often reduce a first-degree charge to a second-degree charge if the defendant agrees to waive his/her right to trial. But DUIs are a little different...

Nevada law under NRS 484C.420 explicitly prohibits prosecutors from reducing or dismissing DUI charges "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." In other words, D.A.s are not allowed to lessen or drop DUI charges unless they believe they would get a "not guilty" verdict if the case went to trial. Therefore, defense attorneys have to work extra hard to convince prosecutors to plea bargain Nevada DUI cases.

In Nevada DUI cases, defense attorneys examine every area of the case in an effort to find "bargaining chips" to help persuade the D.A. to negotiate a deal. Possible weaknesses in the state's case include:

  • the police lacked probable cause to pull over the driver
  • the police did not administer the field sobriety tests correctly
  • the breath- and blood-testing equipment was faulty
  • too much time elapsed between the incident and the breath and blood test

If the defense attorney can show the prosecutor that their evidence is too weak to support a Nevada DUI conviction, the prosecutor may agree to dismiss or reduce the charges. Most likely, the D.A. will agree to lessen the DUI charge to a reckless driving charge. If someone has to get a criminal conviction, reckless driving is far better than a DUI.

Like most DUIs, reckless driving is also a misdemeanor. However, reckless driving charges carry less of a social stigma than DUI. In addition, the penalties for reckless driving do not increase with each successive conviction. This is preferable to DUIs, where the punishments do get steeper for each conviction. Therefore if someone gets a DUI that is reduced to a reckless driving, and if that person later gets another DUI, that second DUI will be punished as a first instead of a second. Finally, reckless driving convictions can get sealed from the driver's criminal records after only two years from the time the case is closed. In contrast, DUIs cannot be sealed for seven years. Learn more information about the Nevada crime of reckless driving.

 Also see our article, How long does a DUI stay on your record in Nevada?

About the Author

Neil Shouse

A former Los Angeles prosecutor, attorney Neil Shouse graduated with honors from UC Berkeley and Harvard Law School (and completed additional graduate studies at MIT). He has been featured on CNN, Good Morning America, Dr Phil, Court TV, The Today Show and Court TV. Mr Shouse has been recognized by the National Trial Lawyers as one of the Top 100 Criminal and Top 100 Civil Attorneys.

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