Fighting tickets for "failing to use headlights" in Nevada
(NRS 484D.100)

Failing to use headlights when required is a misdemeanor in Las Vegas carrying a fine of $205 and two (2) Nevada driver's license demerit points. Nevada law mandates that drivers use headlights in the following situations:

  1. 30 minutes after sunset to 30 minutes before sunrise;
  2. Whenever other vehicles and pedestrians within 1,000 feet are not visible (such as during a rainstorm); or
  3. When directed by an official traffic control device.

Prosecutor may be willing to reduce citations for failing to use headlights to a non-moving violation or possibly a dismissal. Common defenses to NRS 484D.100 charges are:

  • The defendant followed the law,
  • There was an emergency, or
  • The defendant was falsely accused

Defendants who forget to handle their traffic tickets risk having a Nevada bench warrant issued for their arrest. Consequently, people who are being prosecuted for a traffic violation are advised to seek legal counsel right away.

In this article, our Las Vegas traffic ticket attorneys will discuss:

car with headlights in the dark
Driving with headlights is a requirement in Nevada when it is dark or during inclement weather.

1. When headlights are required in Las Vegas, Nevada

Nevada drivers are required to turn on their headlights in the following three circumstances:

  1. From a half hour after sunset to a half hour before sunrise;
  2. Whenever insufficient light or inclement weather obscures seeing other vehicles and pedestrians within 1,000 feet; or
  3. When directed by an official traffic control device.

In short, drivers are required to use headlights when it is too dark to drive safely. Many cars now turn on headlights automatically when it gets dark.1

1.1. High Beams

Since high beams can be blinding to other motorists, drivers may not use them when they are either:

  • within 500 feet of an oncoming vehicle, or
  • within 300 feet of a vehicle in front of them2

Therefore, drivers tend to rely on brights only on rural roads where there is little traffic. Learn more about the Nevada crime of failing to dim high beams.

2. Fighting the charges

How best to defend against charges of not using headlights when necessary always depends on the facts of the case, such as the time of day and weather. Typical arguments to fight traffic charges include:

headlight symbol
False accusations can be a defense to NRS 484D.100 charges.
  1. The driver followed the law
  2. There was an emergency that justified not using headlights
  3. The driver was falsely accused

2.1. The driver followed the law

Sometimes police get it wrong and erroneously believe they observed someone violating a traffic law. Or perhaps a driver did forget to use headlights, the police mistakenly cited another, innocent driver. 

This is when a defense attorney would try to find surveillance video of the incident as well as eyewitnesses in an effort to demonstrate the defendant's innocence. As long as the D.A. cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant neglected to use headlights, the D.A. should drop the matter.

2.2. There was an emergency that justified not using headlights

Prosecutors may show sympathy when a person finds him/herself in a dangerous situation where there is no choice but to drive without headlights: Perhaps there is a fire or another natural disaster where the only mode of escape is a vehicle with broken headlights. Or perhaps a dangerous predator is stalking the defendant, and he/she turns off the headlights in an attempt to elude capture.

Under Nevada law, drivers can avoid civil liability for damages when they react reasonably to emergency situations.3 Depending on the case, prosecutors may accept this "sudden emergency doctrine" as a defense to criminal traffic charges as well. As long as any reasonable person in the same situation as the defendant would have driven without headlights, there is a good chance the D.A. will dismiss the charge.

2.3. The driver was falsely accused

Every day, drivers lose their cool and lash out at each other out of road rage. If a defendant may have been falsely accused by another driver of not using headlights, the defense attorney would hunt for all available surveillance video and eyewitnesses to prove the accuser wrong. As long as the D.A. has insufficient evidence to sustain a guilty verdict, the defendant should avoid conviction.

Note that most traffic cases involve no extensive litigation. Since there are so many traffic cases, prosecutors are usually quick to offer a favorable plea deal without any evidence of the defendants' innocence.

3. Penalties for failing to use headlights in Las Vegas, Nevada

close-up of headlights
Violating NRS 484D.100 is a misdemeanor.

The fine for failing to use headlights in the City of Las Vegas is $205.4 This fine is usually lower in other Nevada cities and counties.

Even though violating NRS 484D.100 carries a maximum misdemeanor penalty of $1,000 and/or six (6) months in jail, it is extremely rare for a court to impose incarceration for a simple traffic ticket.5

4. Getting the charge reduced to a non-moving violation

Most Nevada prosecutors are generous about lessening NRS 484D.100 charges down to a non-moving violation as part of a plea deal. And if the defense attorney can show that the state's evidence is particularly weak, the prosecutor may even be willing to dismiss the charge.

5. Nevada driver's license demerit points

The Nevada DMV adds two (2) demerit points on a defendant's driver's license for failing to use headlights.6 Demerit points stay on a person's driver's license for one (1) year.

If a Nevada driver ever accumulates twelve (12) or more demerit points, the DMV will suspend the person's license for six (6) months. The only way to fight the suspension is through a DMV administrative hearing, which is like to a miniature trial.7

6. Auto insurance rates increases

Not using headlights is considered a moving violation in Nevada, and insurance companies usually do increase rates for moving violation convictions. Therefore, traffic defendants are advised to hire an attorney to try to get NRS 484D.100 charges reduced to a non-moving violation, which will not cause insurance rates to increase.

7. Traffic school

Most judges do not impose traffic school as a penalty for NRS 484D.100 violations. But if prosecutors are unwilling to plea bargain the case, doing traffic school may be a way to get the charge reduced to a non-moving violation. The benefit of non-moving violations is that they carry no demerit points and usually do not result in car insurance increases.8

8. Ignoring traffic tickets

closeup of headlight
Ignoring traffic tickets results in a bench warrant being issued for the defendant.

When defendants do not address their traffic tickets -- either by hiring an attorney or paying the fine -- after a thirty-day grace period, the judge will issue a bench warrant for their arrest. This means that the police may arrest the defendants at any time and hold them without bail.

(Defendants late on payments can do community service instead. But they must complete the service; otherwise, a bench warrant will issue anyway.)

Getting a bench warrant "quashed" (recalled) is not a simple procedure. First, the defense attorney has to file a motion with the court to quash the warrant. Then the attorney has to appear in court to ask the judge to quash the warrant. The whole process may take several days.

Judges usually do agree to quash warrants for a first-time offense. But if the defendant has a history of missing court appearances, judges are more likely to keep the defendant in custody pending the resolution of the traffic case.9

9. Commercial driver's licenses

The Nevada DMV treats commercial driver's licenses (CDLs) the same as regular driver's licenses. Therefore, commercial drivers will have two (2) points added to their CDL for failing to use headlights.10

10. Out-of-state licenses

Non-Nevadans who get ticketed in Nevada may face penalties from their home state DMV. They should consult an attorney from their home state to discuss how their Nevada case may affect their license.

11. Sealing convictions for failing to use headlights in Nevada

The waiting period to get an NRS 484D.100 conviction sealed is one (1) year after the case closes.11 But if the case gets dismissed -- meaning there is no conviction -- then the defendant can pursue a record seal right away.12

Learn more about sealing criminal records in Nevada.

12. Immigration consequences

headlights in the dark
Violating NRS 484D.100 is not a deportable offense.

A legal alien will not be deported for just an NRS 484D.100 conviction. (Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.)

But note that illegal aliens may be deported no matter whether they have committed a crime. Learn more about how our Nevada immigration attorneys may help undocumented immigrants obtain legal status in the U.S.

13. Fighting traffic citations versus paying the fine

It is usually a good idea to fight a traffic ticket because there is a high likelihood that prosecutors will agree to reduce the charge or possibly dismiss it. And this would allow the defendant to avoid car insurance hikes and demerit point penalties.

14. Going to trial

Most traffic defendants see no need to pursue a trial if they can score a beneficial plea bargain or dismissal. But traffic defendants do have the constitutional right to a Nevada bench trial. Bench trials are decided by the judge, unlike Nevada jury trials.13

15. Reasons to hire an attorney

  1. Criminal defense attorneys are more likely than unrepresented defendants to finagle a favorable plea bargain or dismissal from prosecutors.
  2. Defendants who hire an attorney never have to go to court (in most cases).
  3. Criminal defense attorneys can often resolve traffic ticket matters quickly. For example, Las Vegas Justice Court hosts biweekly "attorney sessions" on Tuesdays and Thursdays for the singular purpose of negotiating traffic matters.

16. Personal injury lawsuits

Drivers who fail to use headlights in the dark or harsh weather are exhibiting negligence to other drivers and pedestrians. Under Nevada law, car accident victims ("plaintiffs") may sue the other drivers ("defendants") under the legal doctrine of negligence per se. In order to prevail in a lawsuit, the defendant would need to show:

  1. the defendant violated a statute (ex. NRS 484D.100);
  2. this violation caused an injury (ex. an automobile collision); and
  3. the victim is part of the class of people that the statute is meant to protect (ex. others sharing the road).14

Even if the injured driver was partially at fault for causing the accident, he/she might still be able to get damages: Nevada's comparative negligence laws permit plaintiffs to recover money as long as they were no more than 50% to blame.15

No matter whether a car accident lawsuit resolves out of court or through a trial, our Las Vegas car accident attorneys fight to pursue ample financial rewards to cover the victims':

closeup of headlight
People who violate NRS 484D.100 may be liable for causing car accidents.

Learn more about our Las Vegas personal injury attorneys.

17. Related traffic violations in Nevada

17.1. Unsafe Backing (NRS 484B.113)

The Nevada crime of improper backing carries a $205 fine in Las Vegas as well as two (2) driver's license demerit points. Unsafe backing comprises:

  • backing up around a corner, into a crosswalk or into an intersection,
  • backing up without yielding to pedestrians or other cars, or
  • backing up when it is unsafe to do so.

17.2. Improper Turns (NRS 484B.400)

The Nevada crime of making an improper turn carries a $395 fine in Las Vegas and four (4) driver's license demerit points. But it may be possible to get the charge dismissed or lessened to a non-moving violation.

17.3. Failing to signal (NRS 484B.413)

The Nevada crime of failure to signal is a moving violation that carries a small fine and one (1) driver's license demerit point. Using a signal is required 100 feet before turning or changing lanes in residential or business districts. On highways, drivers have to signal 300 feet before turning or changing lanes.

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Call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE today for a FREE consultation.

Traffic ticket? Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney...

Were you cited for failing to use headlights in Clark County or elsewhere in Nevada? Then call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a FREE consultation. We can discuss how we will fight to get your citation thrown out or lessened to a non-moving offense.

For California cases, please visit our page on traffic tickets for failing to use headlights in California - Vehicle Code 24250.

Legal References:

  1. NRS 484D.100 When lighted lamps are required.

          1. Every vehicle upon a highway of this State, subject to exceptions with respect to parked vehicles as stated in chapters 484A to 484E, inclusive, of NRS, must display lighted lamps and illuminating devices as respectively required in this chapter for different classes of vehicles:

          (a) At any time from one-half hour after sunset to one-half hour before sunrise;

          (b) At any other time when, because of insufficient light or unfavorable atmospheric conditions, persons and vehicles on the highway are not clearly discernible at a distance of 1,000 feet ahead; and

          (c) When directed by an official traffic control device.

  2. NRS 484D.215 Use of equipment for lighting road with multiple beams.

    Whenever a motor vehicle is being operated on the traveled portion of the highway, or shoulder adjacent thereto, during the times specified in NRS 484D.100, the driver shall use a distribution of light, or composite beam, directed high enough and of sufficient intensity to reveal persons and vehicles at a safe distance in advance of the vehicle, subject to the following requirements and limitations:

    1. Whenever a driver of a vehicle approaches an oncoming vehicle within 500 feet, the driver shall use a distribution of light, or composite beam, so aimed that the glaring rays are not projected into the eyes of the oncoming driver. The lowermost distribution of light, or composite beam, specified in subsection 2 of NRS 484D.210 shall be deemed to avoid glare at all times, regardless of road contour and loading.

    2. Whenever the driver of a vehicle follows another vehicle within 300 feet to the rear, the driver shall use a distribution of light permissible under this chapter other than the uppermost distribution of light specified in subsection 1 of NRS 484D.210.

  3. See Posas v. Horton, 228 P.3d 457, 126 Nev. 112 (2010)("[A] sudden emergency occurs when an unexpected condition confronts a party exercising reasonable care.").
  4. Las Vegas Municipal Bail Schedule & Sentencing Guidelines (the violation code is 1814).
  5. NRS 193.150.
  6. Nevada DMV Violation Codes (the violation code is 235, the ACD code is E55, and the description is Failure To Use Headlights As Required).
  7. NAC 483.500; NAC 483.510; NAC 483.764.
  8. See, e.g., Traffic School Information, North Las Vegas Municipal Court; Las Vegas Justice Court Traffic School.
  9. NRS 173.155; see, e.g. motion to place on calendar to quash the warrant at Las Vegas Justice Court; Nevada DMV Suspension Information Page.
  10. NAC 483.500; NAC 483.510.
  11. NRS 179.245.
  12. NRS 179.255.
  13. Sixth Amendment.
  14. Sagebrush Ltd. v. Carson City, 660 P.2d 1013, 1015, 99 Nev. 204, 207 (1983).
  15. NRS 41.141.

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