Nevada drivers risk getting a traffic ticket for making an improper U-turn by:
- ignoring a "no U-turn" sign, or
- making a U-turn on a hill with 500 feet or less of visibility (or 1,000 feet in Clark County), or
- making a U-turn in a divided highway, business district or school zone (in certain conditions)
The typical fine for an unlawful U-turn in Las Vegas is $230, and it carries three (3) demerit points on the person's license. But in most cases, Nevada courts may reduce the charge to an illegal non-moving violation carrying no demerit points.
Even though an illegal U-turn citation is minor offense, Nevada judges always issue bench warrants for people who ignore their traffic tickets. People with bench warrants risk arrest, incarceration, and extra fines.
In this article our Las Vegas traffic ticket attorneys answer frequently-asked-questions about illegal U-turns laws in Clark County and throughout Nevada. Topics covered includes defenses, punishments, demerit points, record seals, and other relevant information. Click on a U-turn topic below to jump directly to that section:
- 1. When are U-turns illegal in Las Vegas, NV?
- 2. How do I fight illegal U-turn charges in Las Vegas, NV?
- 3. What are the penalties for an illegal U-turn in Las Vegas, NV?
- 4. Can I get an illegal U-turn charge reduced to a non-moving violation in Las Vegas, NV?
- 5. How many points will an illegal U-turn put on my driver's license in Las Vegas, NV?
- 6. Will an illegal U-turn ticket in Las Vegas, NV affect my auto insurance?
- 7. Do I have to do traffic school if I get cited for an illegal U-turn in Las Vegas, NV?
- 8. What happens if I ignore my illegal U-turn ticket in Las Vegas, NV?
- 9. How will an illegal U-turn affect my commercial driver's license in Las Vegas, NV?
- 10. What happens to my out-of-state driver's license if I get an illegal U-turn in Las Vegas, NV?
- 11. When can I get an illegal U-turn conviction sealed in Las Vegas, NV?
- 12. Will I get deported for an illegal U-turn?
- 13. Should I fight illegal U-turn tickets in Las Vegas, NV or just pay the fine?
- 14. Can I go to trial for an illegal U-turn case in Las Vegas, NV?
- 15. Do I need an attorney if I get an illegal U-turn ticket in Las Vegas, NV?
If you have been injured by a car that was making an illegal U-turn, you may be entitled to substantial money damages. Contact our Las Vegas personal injury attorneys to learn more.
U-turns are prohibited in Nevada under the five following circumstances:
- where there is a "No U-turn" traffic sign; and
- upon any curve or hill, or upon the approach to or near the crest of a grade, where there is 500 feet or less of visibility in both directions (in Clark County, the minimum is 1,000 feet of visibility); and
- upon a divided highway, except through an opening in the barrier or dividing section or space or at a crossover or intersection established by a public authority; and
- in a business district, except at an intersection or on a divided highway where an appropriate opening or crossing place exists; and
- in an area designated as a school zone or school crossing zone, except:
- when there are no children present;
- on a day on which school is not in session;
- during the period from a half hour after school is no longer in operation to a half hour before school is next in operation;
- if the zone is designated by an operational speed limit beacon, during the hours when the pupils of the school are in class and the yellow lights of the speed limit beacon are not flashing in the manner which indicates that the speed limit is in effect; or
- if the zone is not designated by an operational speed limit beacon, during the times when the sign designating the school zone or school crossing zone indicates that the speed limit is not in effect.
Otherwise, U-turns are generally allowed on Nevada roadways as long as they can be done safely. Henderson criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an example:
Example: It is Saturday night in North Las Vegas, and Jane is driving through a school zone after missing her turn. So Jane makes a U-turn to get back on her route. Since school is not in session on Saturday, Jane should not be ticketed for making a U-turn in a school zone.
Like it sounds, the legal definition of “U-turn” is the turning of a vehicle upon a highway so as to proceed in the opposite direction, whether accomplished by one continuous movement or not.1
It is often possible to quickly and favorably resolve an improper U-turn case without extensive litigation. But if the prosecutor is being uncooperative, the defense attorney can always defend the case on the merits.
Typical evidence defense attorneys use to fight Nevada charges of illegal U-turns are:
- surveillance video and photographs that show that the defendant did nothing illegal and/or that there was no signage;
- eye-witnesses to the incident that can attest to the defendant's legal driving, and/or
- GPS coordinates of the car (from the vehicle's navigation system or the driver's phone) that show the driver was not in an area that prohibited U-turns
Often there is no evidence of the alleged U-turn other than the police's recollection, especially when there was no accident involved. If the defense attorney can show the prosecutors that their evidence is too inadequate and unreliable to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, the prosecutors may be willing to reduce or dismiss the charge.
In the city of Las Vegas, a first-time illegal U-turn citation carries a $230 fine, and a second-offense carries $280. The fines vary by city and county, but they are typically in the low hundreds. Note that fines can be doubled if the incident occurred in a work zone or pedestrian safety zone.
Like all minor traffic violations in Nevada, illegal U-turns are treated as misdemeanor offenses. Unlike California, Nevada does not have traffic "infractions." Misdemeanors technically carry up to $1,000 in fines and/or up to six (6) months in jail. But it is exceedingly rare for a Nevada judge to impose anything other than a fine for an improper U-turn.2
Note that many illegal U-turn charges can be reduced to a non-moving or parking violation with lesser penalties. Scroll down to learn more...
Most illegal U-turn charges in Nevada can be reduced to an illegal non-moving violation or non-moving violation. The primary benefit of non-moving violations is that they cause no demerit points to be tacked onto the person's driver's license.
Note that judges are less likely to reduce a U-turn to a lesser charge if the defendant has a history of traffic violations.
A Nevada conviction for an improper or prohibited U-turn causes three (3) demerit points to be added to the person's driver's license. A demerit point stays on a Nevada driver's licenses for a full year. Accruing twelve (12) or more demerit points in a year period will cause the license to be suspended for six (6) months. Also note that a defendant can avoid getting any demerit points if the U-turn charge gets reduced to a non-moving violation.3
If a person's Nevada driver's license does get suspended for having twelve (12) or more demerit points, the person may request a DMV hearing to contest the suspension. DMV hearings are similar to trials, but they are administrative procedures totally separate from criminal court. And the person has only thirty (30) days from receiving notice of the suspension to request the hearing from the Nevada DMV. It is advised that the driver retain a defense attorney appear for him/her at the DMV hearing.
Note that the Nevada DMV will also suspend a person's driver's license if he/she fails to pay the fine for an illegal U-turn or fails to show up at any court appearances. In this event, the driver's defense attorney can ask the court for a "failure to appear" (FTA) clearance. The driver can then take the "FTA clearance" to the DMV to get the license reinstated.4
Also note that driving with a suspended license in Nevada is a misdemeanor, carrying up to six (6) months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
Probably yes, though it depends on the individual insurance company's policies. In general, the more demerit points a person's driver's license has, the higher the insurance premium will be.
Usually no. In many cases, the court demands only a fine when a driver pleads guilty to an illegal U-turn. However, doing traffic school has its benefits...
People who complete Level 1 Nevada Traffic school within five (5) days of pleading guilty to an illegal U-turn will usually have the charge amended down to a non-moving violation, and the DMV will not add any demerit points to their license.5
Nevada judges issue bench warrants for defendants who skip out on their traffic fines or court appearances; therefore, those defendants are at risk of being arrested if they ever get pulled over and the cop runs a warrant check. Furthermore, the Nevada DMV suspends the driver's licenses of people who "fail to appear" (FTA) at court or do not pay the fines.
Defendants with outstanding bench warrants can file a motion with the court requesting that the warrant be recalled ("quashed") and to resume the traffic case. But it is recommended that defendants retain an attorney to file the motion and appear in court on his/her behalf. Otherwise, the defendant risks getting arrested if he/she shows up to court and the warrant does not get quashed.
The judge who quashes the warrant can also issue an "FTA clearance." The defendant can then take the FTA clearance to the DMV to reinstate the license.6
An illegal U-turn will cause three (3) demerit points to be added to the person's commercial driver's license (CDL) in Nevada. Note the license will be suspended for six (6) months if the driver ever accrues twelve (12) or more demerit points in a year period.
Note that people with commercial driver's licenses are required to notify their employer within thirty (30) days of any traffic violation, even if he/she was driving a non-commercial vehicle at the time.7
The Nevada DMV shares its citation information with other states' DMVs. Therefore an out-of-state driver would be subject to his/her home state's DMV demerit penalties for an illegal U-turn.
People convicted of an illegal U-turn may petition the court to seal their criminal record one (1) year after the case is closed. The waiting period is the same if the charge got reduced to a non-moving violation or illegal parking.8
Note that if the judge completely dismisses the illegal U-turn case and the driver does not get convicted of any charge, there is no waiting period to begin the record seal process.9
Legal aliens will not be deported from the U.S. for committing an unlawful U-turn. This is because an illegal U-turn is not considered a deportable offense, an aggravated felony, or a crime involving moral turpitude.
Note that illegal aliens may be deported at any time even if they are otherwise law-abiding.
Any non-citizen facing criminal charges in Nevada is advised to retain counsel as soon as possible to help safeguard their resident status. Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.
It is always recommended that people slapped with an improper U-turn ticket fight the charge. In the majority of cases, the court is willing to reduce an illegal U-turn to a non-moving violation. And a non-moving violation looks better on a criminal record than an improper U-turn, it does not raise insurance rates, and it carries lower fines and no demerit points.
Anyone charged with making an unlawful U-turn in Nevada may take the case to trial, but traffic trials are exceedingly rare. Most of the time, traffic cases resolve favorably for the defendant without the need for a trial.
Note that people charged with making an illegal U-turn are entitled only to a bench trial (where the judge decides the case) and not a jury trial. This is because U-turn cases carry a maximum of six (6) months in jail, whereas jury trials are available only to defendants facing more than six (6) months in jail.10
Traffic ticket defendants may choose to proceed in traffic court without legal representation, but it is not recommended...
Firstly, prosecutors and judges are usually more open to reducing or dismissing charges when there is a defense attorney involved. And a better case resolution means less fines, less demerit points (if any), and a cleaner criminal record.
Furthermore, an experienced criminal defense attorney has long-standing relationships with court personnel and can often predict how specific prosecutors and judges will react to various defense strategies.
Finally, people who hire attorneys for their illegal U-turn cases do not have to go to court. An attorney can make all the court appearances for them. This is especially beneficial for out-of-state defendants as well as Nevadans who do not want to miss work.
15.1. Attorney sessions in Las Vegas Justice Court
Las Vegas Justice Court holds "attorney sessions" most Tuesdays and Thursdays for the sole purpose of negotiating traffic tickets. Therefore defendants who retain an attorney to handle their illegal U-turn tickets usually do not have to wait more than a few days before it can be resolved.
Traffic ticket? Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney...
If you have been cited for an illegal U-turn or other traffic violation in Clark County or elsewhere in Nevada, call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a FREE consultation. We may be able to get the charge reduced to a non-moving violation or dismissed completely with low fines, no traffic schools, and no demerit points.
And if you were the victim of a road accident, our Las Vegas car accident attorneys can fight to help you recover money for your injuries, lost wages, pain and suffering, and possibly punitive damages. Even if you were partly to blame for the collision, you may still be eligible for a significant monetary reward.
- NRS 484B.403; NRS 484B.363; NRS 484B.077; NRS 484B.407; Las Vegas City Code 11.12.050; North Las Vegas Code 10.20.300; Clark County Code 14.32.020; Nevada DMV Violation Codes; "The right and wrong of U-turning in Las Vegas" by Richard N. Velotta, Las Vegas Review-Journal (April 17, 2016). Note that the legal name for an illegal U-turn in Nevada is "Making improper or prohibited U Turn/U-Turn on a curve or hill." The Nevada DMV refers to illegal U-turns as Violation Code 319 or ACD Code N56. And Las Vegas Municipal Court refers to illegal U-turns as Violation Code 0517.
- NRS 484B.403; NRS 484B.227.
- NAC 483.500; NAC 483.510.
- NAC 483.764.
- See, e.g., Traffic School Information, North Las Vegas Municipal Court; Las Vegas Justice Court Traffic School.
- NRS 173.155; see, e.g. motion to place on calendar to quash the warrant at Las Vegas Justice Court; Nevada DMV Suspension.
- NAC 483.500; NAC 483.510.
- NRS 179.245.
- NRS 179.255.
- Sixth Amendment.