Felony DUI Court (aka Serious Offenders Program) is an alternative sentencing program in Nevada that allows DUI defendants to undergo intensive rehabilitation instead of prison. Once the defendant completes the program, the felony DUI charge may be reduced to a misdemeanor.
Felony DUI Court lasts three to five (3 - 5) years and involves house arrest, counseling, drug counseling, and other requirements. This is preferable to the penalties for a felony DUI conviction, which carries one to six (1 - 6) years in Nevada State Prison.
Not every felony DUI defendant is eligible to do the Serious Offenders Program. And participants who violate the regulations may be remanded to prison.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys answer frequently-asked-questions about Felony Drug Court in Nevada, including application processes, prices, and time frames. Click on a topic to jump directly to that section.
- 1. What is Felony DUI Court in Nevada?
- 2. Should I do Felony DUI Court in Nevada?
- 3. Am I eligible for Felony DUI Court in Nevada?
- 4. What is Felony DUI Court in Nevada like?
- 5. How do I apply for Felony DUI Court in Nevada?
- 6. What if I relapse or break the rules of Nevada Felony DUI Court?
- 7. How much will Nevada DUI Court cost me?
- 8. What if this is only my first or second DUI?
- 9. Can I still do DUI Court if I live in a different city/state from where I got my Nevada DUI charge?
Also learn about Misdemeanor DUI Court (Moderate Offenders Program) in Nevada.
Felony DUI Court (aka the "Serious Offenders Program" in Clark County) allows eligible third-time DUI offenders to complete rigorous counseling and rehabilitation in lieu of incarceration. Upon successful completion, the defendant's felony DUI charge will be reduced to a second-time DUI conviction (which is a misdemeanor).1
Defendants should consider doing Felony DUI Court only as a last resort if the prosecutor refuses to dismiss the case or reduce the charge to a misdemeanor. Otherwise, DUI Court is the defendant's only option to avoid prison.
In order to be considered for Nevada Felony DUI Court, the defendant have to meet all of the following criteria:
- The defendant has no more than two (2) misdemeanor DUI convictions in the last seven (7) years,
- The defendant is currently charged with a third-time DUI, which is a felony, and
- The defendant has never killed or seriously hurt anyone while driving under the influence.
Nevada Felony DUI Court typically lasts three (3) years, but it can extend to no more than five (5) years. The defendant is assigned a case manager who makes specific recommendations to the court about the length of the treatment and necessary terms.
Nevada DUI Court proceeds in several phases and typically consists of the following requirements:
- In the beginning there are weekly "status check" meetings with the judge. But as the defendant successfully progress through the program, these meetings occur only once every three (3) months. (In Clark County, the Serious Offenders Program meets every Thursday.)
- The defendant Is placed under house arrest ("residential confinement") for at least six (6) months in the beginning of the program, but he/she may leave his/her home for work and any DUI Court obligations. The defendant may also have to wear a SCRAM device (pictured below) that monitors whether he/she has had alcohol.
- A breath ignition interlock device is installed in all the defendant's cars for at least one (1) year. It disables the car and notifies authorities if the driver's breath test detects a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .02 or above.
- The defendant attends 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.
- The defendant submits to periodic alcohol testing to be determined by the court and the case manager.
- Depending on the circumstances, the judge may also give the defendant a curfew and suspend his/her driver's license.
If the defendant successfully complete all the terms of the DUI Court program, his/her felony DUI charge will be reduced to a misdemeanor (second-time DUI).
The application process for Clark County DUI Court is very time-sensitive and technical, and not everyone is accepted. Therefore, it is highly recommended the defendant retain counsel to ensure it is done correctly.
The process for applying to Nevada Felony DUI Court goes like this:
- The defendant and his/her attorney appear in District Court, where the defendant pleads guilty or "nolo contendere" to felony DUI. At that time, the 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 the defendant to meet with the Nevada Division of Parole and Probation, who will then compose a Presentence Investigation Report for the case.
- Within ten (10) days of receiving notice of the 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 the application, the judge will suspend the defendant's prison sentence while the case is transferred to DUI Court. The defendant will then be ordered to report to Pretrial Services, who will instruct him/her how to begin the DUI Court program.
If a defendant does not get accepted to Felony DUI Court in Las Vegas, he/she will face regular Nevada felony DUI penalties.
Nevada Felony DUI Court punishes relapses and mistakes on a case-by-case basis depending on the defendant's criminal history, how far along he/she is in the program, and the circumstances of the incident.
A defendant being caught with alcohol in his/her system may cause him/her to be "bumped" back to phase one of the Felony DUI Court program and/or serve two (2) weeks in jail. The court may even install alcohol breath-testing devices in his/her home that record video of him/her breathing into it and then transmit the footage and test results to the 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.
Nevada Felony DUI Court usually costs 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, and
- Breath Ignition Devices
Only Nevada defendants charged with their third DUI (within the last seven (7) years) are eligible for Felony DUI Court. People charged with just a first or second DUI may be eligible to do "Misdemeanor DUI Court" in lieu of incarceration.
In Clark County, misdemeanor DUI court is called the "Moderate Offenders Program." The requirements typically include court monitoring, ninety (90) days of house arrest, unannounced checks, one-on-one counseling, and a SCRAM anklet. Depending on the plea bargain the defendant agrees to, successful completion of the program may result in the DUI conviction getting reduced to a less serious offense.2
9. Can I still do DUI Court if I live in a different city/state from where I got my Nevada DUI charge?
It usually depends on how flexible the judge and prosecutor are. Out-of-state defendants may be able to do a similar DUI Court program in their home state. And defendants in Nevada counties with no DUI court may be able to complete the program in another county. But ultimately the court handles these requests case-by-case.
Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney...
Arrested for felony DUI 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.
- NRS 484C.340; Senate Bill 277.
- NRS 484C.320.