Nevada is one of 19 states that requires motorcycle drivers and passengers to wear helmets. The helmets have to meet strict federal safety standards. Otherwise, motorcyclists risk getting a traffic ticket for not wearing proper headgear.
An NRS 486.321 charge may be dismissed if the defense attorney can show either:
- The vehicle was not a motorcycle,
- The motorcycle was on a private driveway, or
- The defendant was falsely accused
Even though not wearing a helmet is a minor violation, Nevada judges never hesitate to issue bench warrants if the defendant continues to fail to pay the fine or show up to court. So defendants should hire an attorney as soon as possible to handle the case.
In this article, our Las Vegas traffic ticket attorneys will discuss:
- 1. Are helmets required for riding motorcycles in Las Vegas, NV?
- 2. How do I fight the charges?
- 3. What are the penalties?
- 4. Can I get the charge reduced to a non-moving violation in Las Vegas, NV?
- 5. How many points will go on my NV driver’s license?
- 6. Will my auto insurance rates go up?
- 7. Do I have to do traffic school?
- 8. What happens if I ignore my ticket?
- 9. What will happen to my commercial driver’s license in NV?
- 10. What will happen to my out-of-state driver’s license?
- 11. When can I seal a conviction in NV?
- 12. Will I get deported?
- 13. Should I fight my ticket or just pay the fine?
- 14. Can I go to trial?
- 15. Do I need an attorney?
- 16. If a driver hits me while I am not wearing a helmet, can I file a lawsuit?
- 17. Related traffic violations in NV
1. Do motorcyclists have to wear helmets in Nevada?
Yes. On public roadways, people riding motorcycles are required to wear “protective headgear securely fastened on the head.” And if the motorcycle has no transparent windscreen, riders are also required to wear protective goggles, glasses, or face shields.
Note that motorcycle drivers and passengers are required to wear helmets. And it makes no difference if they are driving slowly or there is no traffic.1
1.1. Helmet standards
Motorcyclists can still be cited for an NRS 486.231 violation if their helmets do not meet the following standards as outlined by the Nevada Department of Transportation (DOT) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA):
- The helmet weighs a minimum of three (3) pounds.
- The helmet has an inner liner comprised of a minimum one-inch thick layer of firm polystyrene foam.
- The helmet has strong chin strips with secure rivets.
- Any extra components (such as ornaments) extend no further than two-tenths of an inch from the surface of the helmet.
- The helmet has a label by the manufacturer indicating its name, model type, year, and materials.
- The helmet has a sticker on the back imprinted with “DOT,” which certifies compliance with the Federal Motor Vehicles Safety Standards.2
2. How do I fight the charges?
Some common defenses to NRS 486.321 allegations are:
- The vehicle was not a motorcycle
- The vehicle was not on a public road
- The driver was falsely accused
Note that it is not a defense that the requirement to wear a helmet impinges on the rider’s constitutional rights.3
2.1. The vehicle was not a motorcycle
Nevada law does not require helmets for mopeds or trimobiles.4 If the police mistakenly cited someone for not wearing a helmet while riding a non-motorcycle, the charge should be dismissed.
2.2. The vehicle was not on a public road
Nevada law requires helmets on motorcycles only on public roadways, such as city streets and highways.5 If the defense attorney can show that the defendant wore no helmet only while on a private driveway, the case should be dismissed.
2.3. The driver was falsely accused
Sometimes people levy false accusations against others out of rage or revenge. If a person is falsely accused of not wearing a motorcycle helmet, the defense attorney would get to work finding photographs, surveillance video, and eyewitnesses that prove the accused was wrong…
As long as the D.A. cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant was guilty, criminal charges should not stand.
3. What are the penalties for not wearing a motorcycle helmet in Las Vegas, Nevada?
The City of Las Vegas levies a $205 fine for not wearing a helmet on a motorcycle.6 In the City of Reno, the fine is much lower: $80.7. Every locality has its own penalty.
4. Can I get the charge reduced to a non-moving violation?
Defendants with clean or minimal criminal records have a very good chance of getting a motorcycle helmet charge reduced to a lesser charge or dismissed. Prosecutors do not want to go to trial, so they are usually amenable to hammering out a settlement that is favorable to the defendant.
5. How many points will go on my Nevada driver’s license?
Not wearing a motorcycle helmet causes two (2) demerit points to go on the person’s Nevada’s driver’s license.8 These points go away once one (1) year has passed.9
Defendants are not in danger of losing their license unless they accumulate twelve (12) or more demerit points. At that point, the DMV will suspend the license for six (6) months. But even then it may be possible to fight the suspension at a DMV hearing, which is similar to a trial but on a tinier scale.10
6. Will my motorcycle insurance rates go up?
Yes. Not wearing a helmet while riding a motorcycle in Nevada usually results in higher insurance premiums. That is why defendants are encouraged to fight their cases in pursuit of a charge reduction or dismissal, which should have no insurance consequences.
7. Do I have to do traffic school?
Judges usually require just a fine to close out a motorcycle helmet case. But if the defendant agrees to do traffic school, the judge may be more wiling to reduce the charge to a non-moving violation. And this, in turn, may prevent insurance rate increases and demerit points.11
8. What happens if I ignore my case?
Even though an NRS 486.231 charge is minor, missing a court appearance or fine payment will cause the judge to issue a bench warrant after a 30-grace period. Then the defendant may get arrested at any time and held in jail without bail.
Note that defendants late on their payment may be able to do community service instead. But if they then fail to complete the community service, the judge will issue a bench warrant.
The process of recalling (“quashing”) a bench warrant requires filing a motion with the court and having a hearing in front of the judge. A criminal defense attorney can usually succeed in getting a warrant quashed as long as the defendant does not have a history of missing court.12
9. What will happen to my Nevada commercial driver’s license?
The Nevada DMV treats commercial driver’s licenses (CDLs) and non-commercial licenses the same. Therefore, a commercial driver will have two (2) demerit points added to his/her CDL for not wearing a motorcycle helmet.13
10. What will happen to my out-of-state license?
Every state’s DMV has its own rules and regulations. Therefore, non-Nevadans cited in Nevada for wearing no motorcycle helmet should consult with an attorney in their home state for more information.
11. When can I seal a Nevada conviction for not wearing a motorcycle helmet?
There is a one (1)-year waiting period after the case ends before the defendant can petition the court for a criminal record seal.14
Note that if the case gets dismissed (meaning there is no conviction), then the defendant can petition for a seal immediately.15
12. Will I get deported?
No. Neglecting to wear a helmet while riding a motorcycle is not a deportable offense.
That being said, immigration law is in a precarious state. So any immigrants facing criminal charges should still seek out legal counsel no matter how minor the charges are. Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada.
13. Should I fight my charge or just pay the fine?
Even though violating NRS 486.231 is not a major charge, it still may be worth fighting the case. There is a high likelihood that the D.A. will agree to reduce or dismiss the charge. And if so, the defendant may escape getting demerit points and a higher insurance premium.
14. Can I go to trial?
Yes, a bench trial is available to people who wish to fight their NRS 486.231 charges in the courtroom. A bench trial is where the judge (and not a jury) decides the verdict.
Note that trials are very rare for minor misdemeanor offenses like not wearing proper headgear. Prosecutors are usually willing to negotiate a plea deal.16
15. Do I need a criminal defense attorney?
Hiring private counsel is always a wise idea for three main reasons:
- Defense attorneys are familiar with the local prosecutors and judges, and they know which strategies to use to coax out the best resolutions possible.
- Prosecutors are far more willing to reduce or dismiss charges when the defendant is represented by counsel.
- Barring extenuating circumstances, defendants who lawyer up never have to see the inside of a courtroom again because the attorney can appear in court for them.
16. If I was not wearing a motorcycle helmet, can I still sue another driver for hitting me?
Yes, but not wearing a helmet may reduce the amount of damages the victim is entitled to. Las Vegas motorcycle accident personal injury attorney Michael Becker gives an example:
Example: John is driving a motorcycle without a helmet on the Strip. Jim is driving his SUV drunk and hits John. John sustains a brain injury and a pelvis injury. John sues Jim for violating Nevada’s negligence laws, and the case goes to trial. The judge orders Jim to pay all of John’s medical expenses related to his pelvis but only half the medical expenses related to his brain. The judge’s reasoning is that John’s pelvis injuries would have been just as severe even if John had been wearing a helmet. However, John was partially responsible for the extent of his brain injuries for not wearing a helmet and therefore deserves less damages.
So under Nevada’s comparative negligence laws, motorcyclists may be entitled to less compensatory damages if they sustain a head injury while not wearing a helmet.17 Learn more about our Las Vegas personal injury attorneys.
17. Other traffic violations in Nevada
17.1. Not wearing a seat belt (NRS 484D.495)
Not wearing a seat belt in Nevada carries a maximum $25 fine and no demerit points. However, a first-time offense of improperly securing a child in a car seat carries up to a $500 fine or 50 hours of community service.18
17.2. No due care to bicyclists (NRS 484B.270)
The Nevada crime of drivers failing to exercise due care to a cyclist is a misdemeanor. A first-time offense carries a fine of $250 to $1,000. Additionally, the DMV adds four (4) demerit points to the person’s license.19
17.3. Texting while driving (NRS 484B.253)
The Nevada crime of texting while operating a vehicle is a misdemeanor. The first offense carries a $50 fine. A successive offense carries a $100 fine as well as four (4) driver’s license demerit points.20
Traffic ticket? Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney…
Were you cited in Nevada for not wearing proper motorcycle headgear? Then our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys can talk to you for FREE about how we can help. We will fight to get your citation dismissed or reduced.
Also see our article on Nevada motorcycle safety laws.
Cited in California? Visit our page on Vehicle Code 27803 – Motorcycle Helmet Laws in California.
Cited in Colorado? Contact our Denver traffic attorneys.
- NRS 486.231 Protective headgear and glasses: Standards; when use required. 1. The Department shall adopt standards for protective headgear and protective glasses, goggles or face shields to be worn by the drivers and passengers of motorcycles and transparent windscreens for motorcycles.
2. Except as provided in this section, when any motorcycle, except a trimobile or moped, is being driven on a highway, the driver and passenger shall wear protective headgear securely fastened on the head and protective glasses, goggles or face shields meeting those standards. Drivers and passengers of trimobiles shall wear protective glasses, goggles or face shields which meet those standards.
3. When a motorcycle or a trimobile is equipped with a transparent windscreen meeting those standards, the driver and passenger are not required to wear glasses, goggles or face shields.
4. When a motorcycle is being driven in a parade authorized by a local authority, the driver and passenger are not required to wear the protective devices provided for in this section.
5. When a three-wheel motorcycle on which the driver and passengers ride within an enclosed cab is being driven on a highway, the driver and passengers are not required to wear the protective devices required by this section.
Nevada DMV Violation Codes; the Nevada DMV considers unsafe turning on highway as Failure to Yield Right of Way, Violation Code 421 or ACD Code N01.
- Federal Motor Vehicles Safety Standards No. 218 (49 CFR Sec. 571.218); see Nevada DMV Motorcycle Operator Manual; NV Attorney Genera Opinion No. 2002-41(“Helmets that comply with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration standards can be identified through examination of the mandatory stickers and the construction of the helmet. Furthermore, as more fully explained above, the best way to differentiate between a helmet that complies and one that does not is the presence, or absence, of the material used to attenuate impact in the event of a crash, including a chinstrap. However, the Office of the Attorney General recommends that a change be made to the current statutes through a graduated system of fines and education of the motorcycle riding public, which would also serve to make enforcement easier. These changes will provide the motorcycle riding public with incentives to ensure that they purchase helmets that conform to the safety standards set forth in Nevada and Federal law.”).
- State v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court, 101 Nev. 658, 708 P.2d 1022 (1985)(“Statute was legitimate exercise of state’s power to preserve and improve public health, safety, morals and general welfare. NRS 486.231, which requires drivers and passengers of motorcycles to wear protective headgear when operating motorcycle on highway, was legitimate exercise of state’s power to preserve and improve public health, safety, morals and general welfare…Statute did not violate right to privacy. NRS 486.231, which requires drivers and passengers of motorcycles to wear protective headgear when operating motorcycle on highway, did not violate defendant’s right to privacy under U.S. 9th amendment or Nev. Art. 1, s 20, because right to be left alone did not include right to do as one pleases on public highway.”)
- NRS 486.038 “Moped” defined. “Moped” means a motor-driven scooter, motor-driven cycle or similar vehicle that is propelled by a small engine which produces not more than 2 gross brake horsepower, has a displacement of not more than 50 cubic centimeters or produces not more than 1500 watts final output, and: 1. Is designed to travel on not more than three wheels in contact with the ground but is not a tractor; and
2. Is capable of a maximum speed of not more than 30 miles per hour on a flat surface with not more than 1 percent grade in any direction when the motor is engaged.
–> The term does not include an electric bicycle as defined in NRS 483.067.
NRS 486.057 “Trimobile” defined. “Trimobile” means every motor vehicle designed to travel with three wheels in contact with the ground, at least one of which is power driven. The term does not include a motorcycle with a sidecar.
- NRS 486.231.
- NRS 486.381 Violation of provisions concerning motorcycles and similar vehicles. Any person violating any provisions of NRS 486.011 to 486.361, inclusive, is guilty of a misdemeanor; Las Vegas Municipal Bail Schedule & Sentencing Guidelines; The violation code is for “Hdgear-Glasses/Shields Helmet Fastened” is 1307.
- Reno Municipal Bail Schedule; the violation code for “Safety equipment on motorcycles” is 6.06.685.
- Nevada DMV Violation Codes.
- NRS 483.475.
- NAC 483.500; NAC 483.510; NAC 483.764.
- NRS 483.475. 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 Information Page.
- NAC 483.500; NAC 483.510.
- NRS 179.245.
- NRS 179.255.
- Sixth Amendment.
- NRS 41.141.
- Las Vegas Municipal Bail Schedule & Sentencing Guidelines; Nevada DMV Violation Codes.