Nevada laws for "Turning Right on Red"
(NRS 484B.307)

Nevada law permits drivers to make a right turn on the red light if:

  1. The driver is in the rightmost lane and signals right;
  2. The driver comes to a stop before turning and has right-of-way; and
  3. The intersection does not prohibit right turns on red, and it is safe to turn right.

Making an improper right turn is a misdemeanor in Las Vegas carrying a $305 fine and four (4) Nevada driver's license demerit points. But in many cases, making an illegal right turn can get lessened to a non-moving violation or even dismissed. Possible defense strategies are:

  • The defendant never broke the law,
  • There was an emergency, or
  • The defendant was falsely accused

People who get cited for making an illegal right turn risk getting a Nevada bench warrant if they do not handle the ticket in a timely manner. Therefore, traffic defendants should take care to hire an attorney to manage the case before the fine deadline passes.

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

red light and green arrow
Nevada law permits making right turns on red lights.

1. When drivers may turn right on red in Las Vegas, Nevada

Drivers may turn right at a red light in Nevada as long as the following six conditions are true:

  1. The driver is in the extreme right lane;
  2. The driver displays the right-turn signal;
  3. The driver comes to a complete stop prior to turning;
  4. There are no traffic signs prohibiting right turns on red lights;
  5. The driver has right-of-way; and
  6. It is safe to make a right turn (there is no pedestrian or motor traffic)

If a traffic lantern also has a right-turn arrow lens, then drivers may make a right on red only if the green arrow is illuminated.1

2. Fighting the charges

Every case is different, but some common defenses to charges of making an improper right turn include:

  1. The right turn was legal
  2. The driver behaved reasonably in an emergency
  3. The driver was falsely accused

Note that most prosecutors offer a favorable plea deal without making the defendant engage in extensive litigation first.

2.1. The driver broke no law

"no right turn on red sign"
The D.A. may drop charges for making an illegal right turn if there was an emergency.

Perhaps the police officer mistakenly believed a driver did not come to a complete stop before making a right on red. Or perhaps the police mistakenly believed that there was a "no right on red" sign.

The defense attorney's job would be to try to obtain surveillance video of the incident and find eyewitnesses to show that the defendant broke no law by turning right on red. As long as the D.A. cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant violated NRS 484B.307, the case should be dismissed.

2.2. The driver behaved reasonably in an emergency

Drivers have the responsibility to behave reasonably under the circumstances. And in some situations, making an illegal turn may be the best way to avoid an accident.

In Nevada personal injury cases, defendants should not be found liable of otherwise negligent behavior as long as they reacted reasonably in an emergency.2 Although this "sudden emergency doctrine" is a defense only in civil cases, it might still be enough to persuade a prosecutor to drop criminal traffic charges.

2.3. The driver was falsely accused

Tempers get very heated on the road, especially after an accident. And sometimes motorists accuse each other of traffic violations they did not commit. But since most traffic lights are affixed with surveillance cameras, it is often possible to disprove wrongful accusers with video evidence.

3. Penalties for illegally turning right on red in Las Vegas, Nevada

In the City of Las Vegas, the fine for making an illegal right turn on a red light is $305. The fine doubles if it occurred in a pedestrian safety zone.3 The fine is usually less in other Nevada cities and counties.

As discussed below in section 5, this offense also carries four (4) demerit point penalties.4

4. Getting the charge reduced to a non-moving violation in Las Vegas, Nevada

Defendants who do not have a long history of traffic violations may be able to get their NRS 484B.307 charge lowered to a non-moving violation. Charge reductions like this are always recommended because non-moving violations carry no demerit point penalties and usually do not cause car insurance rates to go up.

If the state's evidence is too weak to support a conviction, the defendant's attorney may even be able to persuade the prosecutor to dismiss the charge completely.

5. Nevada driver's license demerit points

"no right on red" sign
Making a wrongful turn carries demerit point penalties and insurance rate increases in Nevada.

The Nevada DMV adds four (4) demerit points to a defendant's driver's license for making an unlawful right-hand turn at a red light.5 These points remain on the person's license for one (1) year before disappearing.

Drivers need to be careful not to rack up twelve (12) or more demerit points; otherwise, the DMV will suspend their license for six (6) months. And the only way to contest the suspension is by having a DMV administrative hearing, which may be difficult to win.6

6. Auto insurance rates increases

People convicted of making an illegal right turn on a red light in Nevada can expect to see a car insurance rate increase because it is a moving violation. That is why traffic defendants should try to fight to get the charge reduced to a non-moving violation, which in most cases do not result in insurance premium hikes.

7. Traffic school

Traffic school is an online class that judges may order defendants to complete as a condition of their sentence. It is usually not required, but it can be useful if the prosecutor is unwilling to offer a plea bargain:

Upon successful completion of traffic school, the judge may knock the charge down to a non-moving violation. And non-moving violations carry no demerit point penalties and usually cause no car insurance increases.7

8. Bench warrants for ignoring traffic tickets

It is easy to forget about traffic tickets, but the consequences are dire. Once the defendant misses a court date or the deadline to pay the fine, the judge will issue a bench warrant for the defendant's arrest. Once a bench warrant has been issued, the defendant can get arrested at any time and possibly held without bail.

In order to get the bench warrant recalled (a.k.a. "quashed"), the defense attorney first has to file a motion with the court. Then the defense attorney has to schedule a hearing with the judge a few days later. Finally, at the hearing, the defense attorney has to convince the judge that the defendant will never miss any more court appearances or deadlines.8

In practice, judges understand mistakes happen are usually willing to quash bench warrants. But if the defendant has a history of missing court, the judge may be unwilling to release the defendant from custody until the traffic case is resolved.

9. Commercial driver's licenses

red light on traffic lantern
Making an unlawful right turn carries 4 demerit point penalties on commercial driver's licenses in Nevada.

The Nevada DMV appends four (4) demerit points to people's commercial driver's licenses (CDLs) for making an illegal red turn at a red light. In short, the DMV punishes non-commercial and commercial licenses identically.9

10. Out-of-state licenses

Every state's DMV is different. Therefore, people with non-Nevada licenses should contact an attorney in their home state to learn if and how a Nevada traffic citation will affect their license. In many cases, the home state DMV will penalize the defendant in the same way it would had the incident happened in the home state.

11. Sealing convictions for illegally turning right on red in Nevada

If a person gets convicted of violating NRS 484B.307, he/she has to wait one (1) year after the case ends before petitioning the court to seal the record.10 But if the charge gets dismissed so there is no conviction, then the defendant may commence the sealing process right away.11

It is always a good idea to get criminal records sealed, even for minor traffic offenses. Competition for employment is very high, and it always looks better to potential bosses to have a clean record. Learn more about sealing criminal records in Nevada.

12. Immigration consequences

Making an unlawful turn is not a deportable offense in Nevada. Still, immigration laws are in a constant state of flux. Therefore, any non-citizen facing traffic charges are encouraged to consult with an attorney. Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.

Remember that undocumented immigrants who get pulled over for a traffic violation are subject to removal even if they do not get convicted of the traffic charge. Illegal aliens are advised to consult with a Nevada immigration attorney to educate themselves about their options for obtaining legal residency in the U.S.

13. Fighting traffic citations versus paying the fine

Many people slapped with a traffic ticket want to "throw money at the problem" by just paying the fine online and forgetting about the whole thing. However, the consequences do not end there: Often, the defendant may get demerit points on their license and higher insurance rates.

But if the defendant hires an attorney to fight the ticket, there is a good chance the prosecutor will reduce it to a non-moving violation or possibly a dismissal with no DMV or insurance consequences. Therefore, it is always recommended that traffic defendants lawyer up and fight the charge. 

14. Going to trial

"no turn on red except from right lane" sign
People charged with violating NRS 484B.307 may have a bench trial.

People charged with wrongfully making a right turn on a red light can always fight the case at a Nevada bench trial. They are just like Nevada jury trials but without the jury -- the judge decides the verdict.12

It is rare for a traffic case to escalate to a trial, however. Prosecutors are often willing to reduce the charge as part of a plea bargain.

15. Why hire an attorney

Many traffic defendants proceed "pro se" (without an attorney), but they are putting themselves at a disadvantage because:

  1. Criminal defense attorneys are pros at getting moving violations reduced or dismissed;
  2. Criminal defense attorneys can usually handle the entire case without the defendant having to appear in court, which will relieve the defendant from having to travel or miss work for court; and
  3. Prosecutors often treat pro se defendants with less respect and may not extend them the best plea deals.

In addition, attorneys can usually resolve traffic cases within a few days. For instance, Las Vegas Justice Court holds biweekly "attorney sessions" on Tuesdays and Thursdays just for prosecutors and defense attorneys to resolve traffic tickets quickly.

16. Personal injury lawsuits

People who cause car accidents for violating traffic laws -- such as by making an illegal right on a red light -- can be sued by the victim(s) under the legal doctrine of negligence per se. The at-fault driver ("defendant") can be found liable to the victim ("plaintiff") in a negligence per se case if:

  1. the defendant broke a traffic law (such as NRS 484B.307);
  2. this broken law resulted in an injury (such as a car accident); and
  3. the victim is part of the class of people that the traffic law is meant to protect (such as other motorists on the road).13

It may not matter if the plaintiff was partially to blame for causing the accident. Under Nevada's comparative negligence laws, plaintiffs can still prevail in negligence lawsuits as long as the defendant was at least 50% at fault.14

Our Las Vegas car accident attorneys negotiate and litigate for the highest financial rewards available to pay for the victims':

In most cases, it is possible to achieve a favorable resolution without a trial. Learn more about our Las Vegas personal injury attorneys.

17. Related traffic violations in Nevada

17.1. Illegal u-turns (NRS 484B.403)

The Nevada crime of making an illegal u-turn carries a $230 fine in Las Vegas as well as three (3) driver's license demerit points. In the majority of cases, Nevada judges may reduce the charge to a non-moving violation carrying no demerit points.

17.2. Failing to yield when turning left (NRS 484B.253)

The Nevada crime of failing to yield before making a left against traffic carries a $305 fine in Las Vegas and four (4) driver's license demerit points. Commercial drivers will also have four (4) demerit points added to their CDL.

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

The Nevada crime of failure to signal carries a fine and just one (1) demerit point. In residential or business areas, drivers are required to signal no less than 100 feet prior to turning or changing lanes. On highways, drivers are required to signal 300 feet prior to turning or changing lanes.

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Were you cited for making an illegal right turn at a red light in Clark County or elsewhere in Nevada? Then our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) are here to help. Phone us for a FREE phone consult, and we will talk about how we will fight to get your ticket dropped or lessened to a non-moving violation.


Legal References:

  1. NRS 484B.307 Traffic controlled by official traffic-control devices exhibiting different colored lights: Rights and duties of vehicular traffic and pedestrians depending upon particular signal displayed; exceptions for person driving motorcycle, moped or trimobile or riding bicycle; signals placed over individual lanes; certain restrictions upon local authorities; additional penalty for violation committed in pedestrian safety zone...

          8. Where the signal is a steady red signal alone:

          (a) Vehicular traffic facing the signal must stop before entering the crosswalk on the nearest side of the intersection where the sign or pavement marking indicates where the stop must be made, or in the absence of any such crosswalk, sign or marking, then before entering the intersection, and, except as otherwise provided in paragraphs (c) and (d), must remain stopped or standing until the green signal is shown.

          (b) Pedestrians facing such a signal shall not enter the highway, unless permitted to proceed by another device as provided in NRS 484B.283.

          (c) After complying with the requirement to stop, vehicular traffic facing such a signal and situated on the extreme right of the highway may proceed into the intersection for a right turn only when the intersecting highway is two-directional or one-way to the right, or vehicular traffic facing such a signal and situated on the extreme left of a one-way highway may proceed into the intersection for a left turn only when the intersecting highway is one-way to the left, but must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and other traffic proceeding as directed by the signal at the intersection.

          (d) After complying with the requirement to stop, a person driving a motorcycle, moped or trimobile or riding a bicycle or an electric bicycle may proceed straight through or turn right or left if:

                 (1) The person waits for two complete cycles of the lights or lighted arrows of the applicable official traffic-control device and the signal does not change because of a malfunction or because the signal failed to detect the presence of the motorcycle, moped, trimobile, bicycle or electric bicycle;

                 (2) No other device at the place prohibits either or both such turns, if applicable; and

                 (3) The person yields the right-of-way to pedestrians and other traffic proceeding as directed by the signal at the intersection.

          (e) Vehicular traffic facing the signal may not proceed on or through any private or public property to enter the intersecting street where traffic is not facing a red signal to avoid the red signal.

          9. Where the signal is a steady red with a green turn arrow:

          (a) Except as otherwise provided in paragraph (b), vehicular traffic facing the signal may enter the intersection only to make the movement indicated by the green turn arrow, but must yield the right-of-way to pedestrians lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk and to other traffic lawfully using the intersection. Drivers turning in the direction of the arrow are thereby advised that so long as the turn arrow is illuminated, oncoming or opposing traffic simultaneously faces a steady red signal.

          (b) A person driving a motorcycle, moped or trimobile or riding a bicycle or an electric bicycle facing the signal may proceed straight through or turn in the direction opposite that indicated by the green turn arrow if:

                 (1) The person stops before entering the crosswalk on the nearest side of the intersection where the sign or pavement marking indicates where the stop must be made or, in the absence of any such crosswalk, sign or marking, before entering the intersection;

                 (2) The person waits for two complete cycles of the lights or lighted arrows of the applicable official traffic-control device and the signal does not change because of a malfunction or because the signal failed to detect the presence of the motorcycle, moped, trimobile, bicycle or electric bicycle;

                 (3) No other device at the place prohibits the turn, if applicable; and

                 (4) The person yields the right-of-way to pedestrians lawfully within an adjacent crosswalk and to other traffic lawfully using the intersection.

          (c) Pedestrians facing such a signal shall not enter the highway, unless permitted to proceed by another device as provided in NRS 484B.283...

          14. A person who violates any provision of this section may be subject to the additional penalty set forth in NRS 484B.135.

    See also Joe Bartels, Chris Benka, New NV Law Allows Smaller Vehicles to Turn Left on Red, LasVegasNow.com (September 24, 2013).
  2. 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.").
  3. Las Vegas Municipal Bail Schedule & Sentencing Guidelines (the violation code is 800).
  4. Nevada DMV Violation Codes (the violation code is 453, the ACD code is M16, and the description is Failure To Obey Traffic Signal Or Light); NRS 484B.135.
  5. Id.
  6. NAC 483.500; NAC 483.510; NAC 483.764.
  7. See, e.g., Traffic School Information, North Las Vegas Municipal Court; Las Vegas Justice Court Traffic School.
  8. 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.
  9. NAC 483.500; NAC 483.510.
  10. NRS 179.245.
  11. NRS 179.255.
  12. Sixth Amendment.
  13. Sagebrush Ltd. v. Carson City, 660 P.2d 1013, 1015, 99 Nev. 204, 207 (1983).
  14. NRS 41.141.

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