A second DUI within seven years of a prior DUI conviction is generally a misdemeanor in Nevada under NRS 484C.400. The prior case can be from any state. Penalties typically include:
- 10 days in jail,
- a one-year driver’s license revocation,
- up to $1,000 in fines,
- a Victim Impact Panel, and
- a Breath Interlock Device
But it may be possible to get the charge reduced to reckless driving (NRS 484B.653) or full dismissal.
In this article, our Las Vegas DUI lawyers discuss:
- 1. Can I go to jail for a DUI-second in Nevada?
- 2. What counts as prior DUIs?
- 3. How does a DUI- second affect my driver’s license and criminal record?
- 4. What are common defenses?
- 5. Can I get a DUI-second reduced or dismissed?
For a broad overview of drunk driving punishments under Nevada DUI laws, go to our article on Nevada drunk driving penalties.
1. Can I go to jail for a DUI-second in Nevada?
Yes, a conviction for a 2nd offense of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs carries a mandatory 10-day jail sentence.1
A second-time drunk driving charge — within seven (7) years of a prior misdemeanor DUI — is also a misdemeanor; therefore, the court may order the maximum misdemeanor jail sentence of six (6) months in jail.2 But in practice, judges usually impose the following penalties for a DUI 2nd conviction:
- Ten (10) days in jail (the judge may allow the defendant to serve part of the time in home confinement);
- $750 to $1,000 in fines plus court costs, which typically amounts to $1,100 total;
- The judge may allow the defendant to perform 100 to 200 hours of community service in lieu of the fine;
- If the defendant’s blood alcohol concentration (BAC) measured 0.18 or higher, the defendant has to submit to an alcohol/drug dependency evaluation (“DUI Assessment Program), which costs $100. Depending on the results, the defendant will have to complete up to one (1) year of clinical supervision by a treatment facility (treatment program);
- Victim impact panel:
- Such as a MADD lecture;
- An order to “stay out of trouble”:
- The defendant cannot get arrested or cited again other than for minor traffic tickets while the DUI case is open;
- Revocation of driving privileges:
- Driver’s license revocation for a year period by the Department of Motor Vehicles;
- The defendant must get SR-22 insurance for three (3) years to reinstate and keep the license;
- Ignition interlock device (IID):
- If the defendant’s blood alcohol content measured 0.18 or higher, the court will order an IID to be installed in the defendant’s car(s) for 1 to 3 years (12 – 36 months);
- If the defendant’s BAC measured under 0.18, the judge will still order the IID be installed in the defendant’s car(s) for 185 days probably; and
- A suspended jail sentence of six (6) months, which will be imposed only if the defendant does not complete any of the above sentencing terms3
Note that anyone arrested with a BAC of at least 0.08% has to use an ignition interlock device for a time after the DUI arrest in order to get a restricted license. It makes no difference if the DUI charge eventually gets dismissed.4
Note that the judge may impose a harsher penalty if the defendant was transporting a child under 15 at the time of the incident. For example, the judge may increase the fines or order more jail time.5
1.1. Admonishment of Rights
Whenever a person enters a guilty (or no contest) plea to a second offense of drunk driving in Nevada, he/she is required to sign an “admonishment of rights” form. (Click here for an example.) This form explains how drunk driving is a “priorable” offense, meaning that the penalties increase with each successive conviction within seven years.
Any misdemeanor drunk driving arrest that occurred within seven (7) years of a defendant’s current drunk driving arrest counts as a prior DUI. But if that prior arrest did not result in a DUI conviction, it does not count as a prior DUI. So an earlier drunk driving arrest that ended in a reckless driving conviction cannot count as a prior DUI.6
The date that prosecutors use to calculate whether there are prior DUIs is the date of the arrest, not the date of the conviction or when the case ends. Henderson criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an example:
Example: Bernice was arrested for driving under the influence without injuries in Las Vegas on January 1, 2018. She has two past misdemeanor DUI convictions In Nevada: the arrest for the first case was on January 1, 2008, and the arrest for the second case was on January 1, 2011.
Since the 2008 arrest occurred outside of the 7-year “washout period” (also called “lookback period”) prior to the current arrest, it does not count as a prior DUI. But since the 2011 arrest did occur within 7 years of the current arrest, it will count as a prior drunk driving conviction. Therefore, Bernice will face DUI 2nd charges for the 2018 incident.
Note that Nevada law counts prior DUI convictions from any state, not just Nevada. So if the 2011 DUI conviction in the above example was from California, Bernice would still be facing a DUI 2nd charge for the 2018 arrest in Nevada.7
2.1. Burden of proof
If a second drunk driving case goes to trial, the prosecutor has to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that:
- the defendant had a prior drunk driving arrest within the last seven (7) years, and
- that arrest resulted in a conviction for driving under the influence
In Nevada, a prosecutor can meet this requirement by presenting a certified docket showing the prior judgment of conviction. If the D.A. cannot produce this document, the defendant should not be convicted of DUI 2nd.8
2.2. “Once a felon, always a felon”
People with a prior felony drunk driving conviction who get arrested again for driving under the influence automatically face felony drunk driving charges. It does not matter if the current drunk driving case caused no injuries, or if the prior DUI conviction was more than seven (7) years earlier.9 Therefore, it is critically important that anyone facing felony DUI charges hire counsel in an attempt to get the charges lessened or dismissed.
Every DUI second arrest creates two (2) separate cases that function independently of one another:
- A DMV case, which may result in a one (1) year license revocation, and
- A criminal case, which may result in a DUI conviction that stays on the defendant’s criminal record for at least seven (7) years.
3.1. Driver’s License
People arrested for a second-time DUI face a one (1) year driver’s license revocation by the Nevada DMV. Restricted licenses are not available.10
If the driver has a commercial driver’s license (CDL), the CDL will be revoked for life. It makes no difference if the defendant was driving his/her own car during the incident.11
Defendants whose licenses got revoked for a DUI second may have to pay the following fees to reinstate the license:12
|Nevada DMV penalties for 2nd time DUI||Fees|
|Victims Compensation Civil Penalty||$35|
3.1.1 DMV Hearings
When a driver’s breath or blood test returns a BAC of at least .08, the suspect is given a temporary driver’s license good for seven (7) days. If the defendant decides not to demand a DMV hearing to contest the revocation, the revocation will start after the temporary license lapses. If the defendant does demand a DMV hearing, the revocation will not occur unless the DMV judge finds against the defendant.
DMV hearings are actually harder to win than criminal trials. This is because the state has a much lower burden of proof in DMV hearings. But it is still a possibility to prevail in a DMV hearing if the state’s case is weak, or if the arresting officer neglects to show up to the hearing.
Note that DUI defendants who win their DMV hearing may still have their license revoked if they ultimately get convicted of DUI 2nd in criminal court. Therefore, the only way to avoid a driver’s license revocation is by 1) winning the DMV hearing, and 2) not getting convicted of DUI 2nd.13
3.2. Criminal record
Drunk driving arrests and convictions go on the defendant’s criminal record, which means they come up in background checks. 2nd time DUI defendants have to wait seven (7) years after the case closes to ask the court to seal the record.14
However, the waiting period is only one (1) year If the DUI charge gets reduced to reckless driving.15 And if the drunk driving charge gets dismissed…or the defendant is acquitted at trial…then the defendant can pursue a record seal right away.16
Note that the record seal process is confusing, complicated, and can take weeks. It is recommended to hire an attorney to handle record seals.
Just some of the many available DUI defenses include:
- Police mistakes:
- The police officer did not administer the field sobriety tests correctly, including the walk and turn test, one leg stand test, and horizontal gaze nystagmus test. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) has strict instructions on how to carry out these tests, and some cops lack training.17
- Medical conditions:
- An elevated BAC can be caused by various physical conditions that have nothing to do with being under the influence. Examples of these medical conditions include:
- Rising blood alcohol:
- When a person drinks, his/her BAC level continue to rise long after he/she stops drinking. And there is typically an hour or two lag-time between when a person gets stopped for DUI and when he/she gets tested. This means people may have a legal BAC while driving but will register an illegal BAC later during the chemical test. All that matters is the BAC level while driving.19
- Faulty chemical test equipment:
- Blood-testing equipment and breath-testing equipment like the Intoxilyzer 5000 EN breathalyzer can be defective. And they will fail and give false test results unless they are properly maintained.
- Lapsed certification:
- Lab technicians sometimes forget to renew their certification. Any lab work they do while uncertified should be invalid.
- No probable cause:
- If the police did not have reasonable grounds to believe a crime was being committed when they initiated the traffic stop, the case should be dismissed.
The most effective methods of fighting drunk driving charges always turn on the facts of the case. In order to craft a defense, the defendant’s lawyer will thoroughly investigate everything from why the cop targeted the defendant, how the cop carried out the arrest, who determined the BAC, and whether any witnesses saw the incident.
When investigating a case, the defense attorney often relies on the police report, witnesses, video (surveillance, dashcam, or smartphone), medical records, and testimony by expert witnesses.
It is possible for a drunk driving charge to get lessened to reckless driving or a full dismissal. But the Nevada D.A. may not reduce or drop a drunk driving case unless the state’s evidence is clearly deficient.20 Consequently, the defense attorney’s mission is to convince the D.A. that a trial would return a “not guilty” verdict, and that a favorable plea bargain is in everyone’s favor.
A defense attorney’s first goal is to try to get the entire DUI offense charge dismissed, though this is rare. Prosecutors do not dismiss DUI charges unless the evidence shows that the defendant was not impaired and had legal BAC levels.
5.2. Reckless Driving
A defense attorney’s next — and often more obtainable — goal is to get the DUI charge reduced to a reckless driving charge.21 Prosecutors are usually willing to allow this when the police made a procedural error, such as not administering a preliminary breath test.22
The penalties may still be the same as a standard DUI second, but the long-term consequences are beneficial in four ways:
- Having a reckless driving conviction will not count as having a previous DUI. This means that if the defendant is convicted of a new DUI, he/she will face lesser penalties.
- Pleading to reckless driving keeps the defendant’s criminal record more desirable to future employers. Bosses do not look down on reckless driving convictions as much as they do DUIs.
- Unlike DUIs, a reckless driving conviction does not trigger automatic license revocation. But note that it does tack on eight (8) demerit points to the defendant’s driver’s license.23
- The waiting period to get a reckless driving conviction sealed from the defendant’s criminal record is only one (1) year. DUI convictions mandate a seven (7) year waiting period to seal.24
If the case is in Clark County, it may be possible to plea bargain a DUI second charge down to “careless driving.” It is like reckless driving, but it carries just six (6) demerit points instead of eight (8).25
5.3. Misdemeanor DUI Court (rehab)
Defendants with a drinking problem may apply to do Misdemeanor DUI Court (aka the Moderate Offenders Program). If the defendant completes the program successfully, the DUI conviction should be reduced to a less serious offense like reckless driving. And participants have to do only five (5) days in jail rather than ten (10) days.
The length of DUI Court is about one (1) year, and the defendant has to pay all costs (which can be thousands). Just some of the requirements include counseling, house arrest, court appearances, random alcohol testing, and having to wear a SCRAM anklet.26
If the prosecution refuses to extend a good offer, the defendant may wish to explore going to trial. The D.A. has the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, which is a high standard.
However, DUI 2nd defendants may have just a bench trial (where the judge determines the verdict), not a jury trial.27 And historically, juries are more likely to hand down a “not guilty” verdict than judges.
If you have been arrested in the state of Nevada, phone our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers. We can speak with you for free regarding the odds of getting your case reduced to a lesser offense or dismissed completely. And if you wish, there is always the option of taking your matter to trial.
Arrested in California? See our article on DUI 2nd in California.
Arrested in Colorado? See our article on DUI 2nd in Colorado.
- NRS 484C.400 Penalties for first, second and third offenses; segregation of offender; intermittent confinement; consecutive sentences; aggravating factor.
- Unless a greater penalty is provided pursuant to NRS 484C.430 or 484C.440, and except as otherwise provided in NRS 484C.410, a person who violates the provisions of NRS 484C.110 or 484C.120:
- (a) For the first offense within 7 years, is guilty of a misdemeanor. Unless the person is allowed to undergo treatment as provided in NRS 484C.320, the court shall:
- (1) Except as otherwise provided in subparagraph (4) of this paragraph or subsection 2 of NRS 484C.420, order the person to pay tuition for an educational course on the abuse of alcohol and controlled substances approved by the Department and complete the course within the time specified in the order, and the court shall notify the Department if the person fails to complete the course within the specified time;
- (2) Unless the sentence is reduced pursuant to NRS 484C.320, sentence the person to imprisonment for not less than 2 days nor more than 6 months in jail, or to perform not less than 48 hours, but not more than 96 hours, of community service while dressed in distinctive garb that identifies the person as having violated the provisions of NRS 484C.110 or 484C.120;
- (3) Fine the person not less than $400 nor more than $1,000; and
- (4) If the person is found to have a concentration of alcohol of 0.18 or more in his or her blood or breath, order the person to attend a program of treatment for the abuse of alcohol or drugs pursuant to the provisions of NRS 484C.360.
- A person who willfully fails or refuses to complete successfully a term of residential confinement or a program of treatment ordered pursuant to this paragraph is guilty of a misdemeanor.
- A term of confinement imposed pursuant to the provisions of this section may be served intermittently at the discretion of the judge or justice of the peace, except that a person who is convicted of a second or subsequent offense within 7 years must be confined for at least one segment of not less than 48 consecutive hours. This discretion must be exercised after considering all the circumstances surrounding the offense, and the family and employment of the offender, but any sentence of 30 days or less must be served within 6 months after the date of conviction or, if the offender was sentenced pursuant to NRS 484C.320 or 484C.330 and the suspension of his or her sentence was revoked, within 6 months after the date of revocation. Any time for which the offender is confined must consist of not less than 24 consecutive hours.
- Jail sentences simultaneously imposed pursuant to this section and NRS 482.456, 483.560, 484C.410 or 485.330 must run consecutively.
- If the defendant was transporting a person who is less than 15 years of age in the motor vehicle at the time of the violation, the court shall consider that fact as an aggravating factor in determining the sentence of the defendant.
- NRS 193.150.
- NRS 484C.400; NRS 483.460.
- SB 259 (2017).
- NRS 484C.400.
- See NRS 175.191; see Prior Convictions in Impaired Driving Prosecutions, American Prosecutors Research Institute (“The prosecution must prove the prior conviction to the trier of fact beyond a reasonable doubt. Simply holding up the records of the prior conviction will not be sufficient. Evidence of the prior conviction must be introduced.”); see e.g. Florida v. Harbaugh, 754 So. 2d 691 (2000).
- NRS 484C.410.
- NRS 484C.210.
- 49 CFR §383.51.
- See Nevada DMV License Suspensions and Revocations.
- NAC 484C.894; NRS 484C.230; see NRS 484C.110.
- NRS 179.245.
- NRS 179.255.
- See Impaired Driving, NHTSA.
- See Challenges and Defenses II, The National Traffic Law Center.
- NRS 484C.420.
- NRS 484B.653.
- NRS 484C.430.
- NAC 483.510.
- NRS 179.245.
- CCC 14.60.190; NAC 483.510.
- NRS 484C.330.
- Sixth Amendment.