A fifth-time DUI within a seven-year period is a category B felony under Nevada law, even if no one gets hurt. Penalties include 1 to 6 years in prison, $2,000 to $5,000 in fines, and a 3-year driver’s license suspension. Defendants are not eligible for DUI Court or probation.
But if the defendant’s four prior drunk driving convictions were from more than seven years ago – and if none of those prior DUIs were felonies – then a fifth-time offense would instead be prosecuted as a misdemeanor first DUI. Penalties for a first offense include:
- 2 days to 6 months of jail time (the jail sentence may be suspended for a first-time DUI, but not for any subsequent offenses);
- $400 to $1,000 in fines (the defendant may be able to do equivalent hours of community service instead) plus court costs;
- DUI School;
- Victim Impact Panel;
- If the blood alcohol content (BAC) ≥ 0.18%, an alcohol/drug evaluation and an ignition interlock device for 12 to 36 months; and
- 185-day license suspension of driving privileges (but defendants may get a restricted license right away with an ignition interlock device)
Or if just one of the prior four drunk driving conviction within the last seven years – and it was not a felony DUI – then a fifth-time offense would instead be prosecuted as a misdemeanor second offense DUI. Penalties for a 2nd offense include:
- 10 days to 6 months jail sentence (second DUIs always carry mandatory jail time);
- $750 to $1,000 in fines (the defendant may be able to do equivalent hours of community service instead) plus court costs;
- Victim Impact Panel;
- Alcohol/drug dependency evaluation;
- Breath interlock device for 185 days;
- If the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) ≥ 0.18%, a breath interlock device in the motor vehicle for 12 to 36 months; and
- 1-year license revocation by the DMV
Meanwhile, third DUIs and a fourth DUI offense have the same penalty range as 5th-time drunk driving cases. Except that defendants facing of a third offense of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs may be eligible for DUI Court (a treatment program that may result in the charge getting reduced to a misdemeanor).
What are defenses to a fifth DUI in Nevada?
Courts are already biased against repeat drunk driving offenders due to their past convictions, so an effective defense by an experienced DUI attorney is critical to avoiding a felony conviction. Possible DUI defenses are:
- The police did not have probable cause for the traffic stop
- The police did not administer the field sobriety tests correctly
- The breath test or blood test equipment was defective
- The technician who performed the chemical tests were not certified
- The defendant had a medical condition that caused an inaccurately high BAC reading
- The defendant’s BAC number was reflective of “rising blood alcohol” (where the BAC may have been normal while the defendant was driving but rose to illegal levels later on during the chemical test)
- The defendant did not begin drinking until he/she stopped driving
- Too much time elapsed between the traffic stop and the chemical test
What happens when drunk driving causes injury or death in Nevada?
A drunk/drugged driving incident that results in someone other than the driver getting killed or sustaining serious bodily injury is always a felony, even if the driver had no prior DUI charges or convictions. Like a fifth-time drunk driving case, causing injury or death from drunk driving is also a category B felony with a $2,000 to $5,000 fine and a three-year license suspension. But the prison sentence range is 2 to 20 years.
Note that if someone dies from drunk driving – and the defendant has at least three prior DUI convictions – the defendant will instead face charges for vehicular homicide (NRS 484C.440). This is a category A felony under Nevada DUI laws, with harsh DUI penalties of 25 years to life in prison (with the possibility of parole after 10 years).