Blood tests in Nevada DUI cases are a common way to measure whether you drove with an illegal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or higher. People arrested for drunk driving can usually get to choose between taking a blood test or a breathalyzer test. But if you are suspected of driving under the influence of drugs, then you have to take a blood test specifically.
Driving with a BAC of 0.08% or higher is “per se” illegal even if you were sober and unimpaired. And if you refuse to take a chemical test, police can physically force you to submit to a blood draw. Refusing also triggers a driver’s license revocation for at least one year.
In this article, our Las Vegas DUI and criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. Are blood tests mandatory after a Nevada DUI arrest?
- 2. Can I keep my driver’s license if I take the blood test?
- 3. What is a failing blood test result?
- 4. Can I pass my blood test and still be convicted of DUI?
- 5. What happens if I refuse to take a DUI blood test in Nevada?
- 6. Will I lose my license for refusing a DUI blood test?
- 7. When are the blood tests taken?
- 8. Can I have my blood independently tested?
- 9. Are blood tests more expensive for defendants?
- 10. How can I contest blood test results in a Nevada DUI case?
1. Are blood tests mandatory after a Nevada DUI arrest?
You must submit to an evidentiary blood test if the police officers arrest you for “drugged driving.” This is because breath tests detect only alcohol, not controlled substances.
If you are suspected of “drunk driving,” you can elect to take either an evidentiary breath test or a blood test. But if you are unconscious (such as after a car accident), the arresting officer will order that a blood sample be taken.
Note that if you are on anticoagulants or have the medical condition hemophilia, then you are exempt from taking evidentiary blood tests. Instead, the police can order you to take a breath test or urine test.1
2. Can I keep my driver’s license if I take the blood test?
If you elect to take the blood test, you can keep your license for a few weeks until if/when the blood test results come back as 0.08% or higher. If this happens, the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles will mail you a notice of revocation.
You then have seven days to request a DMV hearing to contest the license revocation. Meanwhile you can continue driving pending the results of the DMV hearing, which may be another month or two away. And your defense attorney can appear at this hearing on your behalf.
Note that the DMV hearing is an administrative proceeding that is completely separate from the criminal case. Defendants can win the DMV hearing and lose the criminal case, and vice versa. The only way to avoid a license revocation is to win both the DMV hearing and the criminal case.2
3. What is a failing blood test result?
Nevada law prohibits driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.08%. Even if you were driving safely and seemed sober, you can still be convicted of DUI for having a BAC of 0.08% or higher.
Note that drivers under 21 are held to a stricter standard: They can be convicted of DUI for driving with a BAC of 0.02% or higher. (Learn more about underage DUI.)3
4. Can I pass my blood test and still be convicted of DUI?
Yes. Even if you have lawful levels of drugs or alcohol in your system, you can be convicted of DUI as long as you were driving impaired.4 However, prosecutors have a much more difficult time proving guilt in these cases. Oftentimes, the D.A. will drop DUI cases where your BAC was below 0.08%.
5. What happens if I refuse to take a DUI blood test in Nevada?
If you refuse to submit to a chemical breath- or blood test following a DUI arrest, the police will immediately confiscate your driver’s license and apply for a warrant or court order to administer the blood test. Then once the warrant or court order is issued, police can then use necessary “reasonable force” on you to carry out a forced blood draw.5
In addition, refusing to submit to a blood test when required carries a one-year license revocation – even if the DUI charges get dropped. Note that this license revocation will increase to three years if you previously refused to take a DUI blood test in the last seven years.6
And if the DUI case goes to trial, the prosecution can admit evidence that you refused the test.7
6. Will I lose my license for refusing a DUI blood test?
Yes. A first-time refusal to take a DUI blood test carries a one-year driver’s license revocation in Nevada. And if it is your second refusal in a seven-year period, then the revocation lasts three years.8
7. When are the blood tests taken?
Nevada police can order up to three blood draws within five hours of the DUI arrest.9
8. Can I have my blood independently tested?
Yes. You can have your DUI blood samples independently tested. (In California, this is called a “blood split.”)
Getting an independent test is highly recommended because it can potentially show that the blood test results reported by law enforcement were unreliable, mishandled, or inaccurate.
9. Are blood tests more expensive for defendants?
If you get convicted of DUI, you will be responsible for paying all blood test costs. This includes fees for any witnesses at the criminal trial or DMV hearing who are necessary because of the blood test. Witnesses cost at least $100 an hour, plus $50 an hour for traveling.10
10. How can I contest blood test results in a Nevada DUI case?
Just like California does with Title 17, Nevada law mandates rigid regulations that police and chemical testers must adhere to when conducting an evidentiary blood test and determining the results. If the defense attorney can show the state may have faltered in just one of these many areas, the whole DUI case might get dismissed.
The following are just eight of the defenses a DUI law attorney may explore in order to challenge the validity of Nevada DUI blood test results:
- The blood testing equipment was broken, not maintained properly, or otherwise faulty.
- The phlebotomist, registered nurse, or other technician who administered the blood test or tested the blood was not properly certified.
- The blood test was taken too long after the initial arrest to determine whether you were under the influence.
- There was a break in the chain-of-custody in the blood, and someone may have switched the samples or contaminated it.
- You had “rising blood alcohol“, so the blood test result did not accurately reflect your BAC at the time you were operating the car.
- The blood fermented after it was collected, which means that it can actually create its own alcohol and yield falsely high results.
- The phlebotomist sterilized the blood draw site with an alcohol-based product, which could have caused an inaccurately high BAC reading.
- The blood was stored improperly, or there were inadequate levels of anticoagulants and preservatives in the vial.
If the criminal defense lawyer can show prosecutors that the state’s evidence is too weak to prevail at trial, prosecutors will be much more amenable to negotiating down the criminal charges to something lesser or even dismissing the case outright.11
For further help…
Arrested for driving under the influence in Nevada? Contact our Henderson and Las Vegas, NV DUI defense attorneys. Our Nevada DUI lawyers serve clients throughout Clark County, Nye County, Washoe County, and the state.
See our related articles, Can police do a forced blood draw in a Nevada DUI arrest?, field sobriety tests and sealing criminal records for DUI offenses.
In California? Go to our article on DUI blood tests in California.
- NRS 484C.160 (Implied consent law). See, for example, State v. Hiatt, (1996) 112 Nev. 868, 920 P.2d 116. See also Michael Scott Davidson, Stopped for a suspected DUI? You could face an immediate blood draw, Las Vegas Review-Journal (September 6, 2022)(“State law gives police a two-hour window to collect a blood or breath sample from a suspect if they want it used as evidence in a DUI case…Nevada’s largest law enforcement agency will soon expand a program to ensure officers beat the clock. Starting in October, medical professionals will patrol with the Metropolitan Police Department seven nights a week to collect blood samples at traffic stops, rather than wait until a suspect is taken to jail.”).
- See Office of Administrative Hearings, Nevada DMV.
- NRS 484C.110. NRS 483.462.
- NRS 484C.110.
- NRS 484C.160.
- NRS 484C.210.
- NRS 484C.240.
- NRS 484C.210.
- NRS 484C.160.
- NRS 484C.160.
- NRS 484C.250. See, for example, State v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court of Nev. (2011) 267 P.3d 777, 127 Nev. 927.