In Nevada, you can be charged with DUI of drugs (DUID) if you get caught driving while under the influence of an intoxicating drug such as cocaine, methamphetamine or codeine. The crime is punished largely the same as a DUI of alcohol.
First-time misdemeanor defendants can usually avoid jail if they pay the fine and attend DUI school and a victim impact panel. And they can usually keep driving as long as they install an ignition interlock device in their vehicles.
Drugged driving is unlawful in Nevada even if the drugs themselves are legal or obtained through a doctor’s prescription. And unlike suspected drunk drivers, suspected drugged drivers are required to submit to a blood test (rather than being able to choose between a blood or breath test). They also face additional charges such as illegal drug possession (NRS 453.336) if there are narcotics in the vehicle.
In this article, our Las Vegas DUI lawyers discuss:
- 1. What is driving under the influence of drugs in Nevada?
- 2. Are blood tests required after an arrest?
- 3. Will I go to jail?
- 4. Will I lose my license?
- 5. Can DUID get reduced to reckless driving?
- 6. How can I fight the charges?
- 7. Will immigrants be deported?
- 8. When can I get my record sealed?
1. What is driving under the influence of drugs in Nevada?
Nevada’s legal definition of driving under the influence of a controlled substance is either:
- Driving after ingesting, inhaling, or injecting “a chemical, poison or organic solvent, or any compound or combination of any of these, to a degree which renders the person incapable of safely driving or exercising actual physical control of a vehicle.” Or
- Driving “with an amount of a prohibited substance in his or her blood or urine that is equal to or greater than”:
|Prohibited substance||per milliliter||per milliliter|
|(c) Cocaine metabolite||150||50|
|(e) Heroin metabolite:|
|(2) 6-monoacetyl morphine||10||10|
|(f) Lysergic acid diethylamide||25||10|
|(g) Marijuana (only for third- or successive DUIs in a seven year period)||no urine test, just blood||2|
|(h) Marijuana metabolite (only for third- or successive DUIs in a seven year period)||no urine test, just blood||5|
|(i) Methamphetamine (Meth)||500||100|
So it is unlawful per se to operate a motor vehicle with blood or urine that contains the minimum prohibited amount of drugs even if the person is driving safely and not impaired.
Note that it makes no difference if the drug is an illegal controlled substance, a prescription medication like Ambien or Vicodin, an over-the-counter med like Nyquil, or any other substance that can cause the driver to lose control of the car or to drive unsafely.1 See our related articles DUI of marijuana, DUI of prescription drugs, and DUI of methamphetamine.
2. Are blood tests required after an arrest?
Yes, DUID suspects in Nevada are required to provide a blood sample following an arrest. DUID suspects cannot elect to take a breath test because breathalyzers measure only BAC (blood alcohol content), not drug content.
When motorists are initially pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence, the officer may order them to perform field sobriety tests (FSTs) and to take a preliminary breath test (PBT). Failing the field sobriety tests but passing the breath test is a sign to law enforcement that the driver may be under the influence of narcotics rather than alcohol. At that point, the police may call for officers with specialized training in drug recognition evaluation (DREs) to take over the investigation and determine whether probable cause exists for an arrest.
All Nevada drivers are assumed to have given implied consent to submit to a blood and/or urine test if they are ever pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs. When drivers refuse to take a blood test for the purposes of determining DUID, the police will confiscate their driver’s license and use reasonable force such as constraining them in order to have the test administered by a medical professional. A refusal to take the chemical test can also be used against the defendant as evidence in a criminal trial.2
3. Will I go to jail?
Going to jail is rare for a first-time DUID in Nevada. But jail is mandatory for any successive convictions unless the defendant is admitted into the rehabilitation program DUI Court. DUID punishments are virtually identical to drunk driving penalties, and they increase with each successive offense. It does not matter whether the prior offenses involved alcohol instead of drugs:
|DUID offense ||Criminal sentence in Nevada|
|1st DUI (within 7 years)||Misdemeanor: |
|2nd DUI (within 7 years)||Misdemeanor: |
It may be possible to do Misdemeanor DUI Court in lieu of jail.
|3rd DUI (within 7 years)||Category B felony: |
It may be possible to do Felony DUI Court in lieu of prison.
|DUI causing substantial bodily harm or death (NRS 484C.430)||Category B felony: |
Note that if the driver has three or more previous DUI convictions, then a fatal DUI will be charged as vehicular homicide (NRS 484C.440) – a category A felony. The prison term is upped to 25 years or a life sentence, with the possibility of parole after 10 years.
4. Will I lose my license?
People arrested for DUID in Nevada can usually continue driving until the blood test results come back positive, which may take weeks. When defendants receive the DMV’s notice in the mail, they should ask their attorney right away to request a hearing to contest the suspension.
Defendants can then continue to keep driving until if and when the DMV hearing judge finds against the defendant. If defendants do not request a hearing, the license suspension will begin on the date specified in the DMV letter – usually within seven days.
The length of a DUID license suspension is the same as in DUI cases, and it increases with each successive offense. Note that it does not matter whether the prior offenses involved drugs or alcohol.
|DUI offense ||Length of Nevada driver’s license revocation|
|First offense (within 7 years)||185 days, though it may be possible to continue driving immediately with an ignition interlock device.|
|Second offense (within 7 years)||1 year, with no early reinstatement available|
|Third offense (within 7 years) or any other felony DUI||3 years, though defendants may be able to resume driving after 1 year with an ignition interlock device.5|
Note that each DUI arrest begins two cases:
- the DMV case, and
- the criminal case.
Even if defendants win the DMV case, they will still get their license revoked if they lose the criminal case. The only way to avoid a license suspension is to win both cases.
5. Can DUID get reduced to reckless driving?
Possibly, especially if the defense attorney can show prosecutors that the state’s evidence is questionable. The main advantage of getting a first-time DUID reduced to reckless driving (NRS 484B.853) is that any future DUI arrest would count as a first-time offense, not a successive one.
Another advantage is that a reckless driving conviction can be sealed from the defendant’s criminal record after only a one-year period once the case closes. Misdemeanor DUIDs must remain on the defendant’s record for seven years.6
6. How can I fight the charges?
Depending on the case and available evidence, three possible defenses in DUI with drug cases are:
- Police misconduct. Perhaps the police officer did not have reasonable suspicion to make the original traffic stop. Or perhaps the police administered the field sobriety tests incorrectly. In many cases, police mistakes could be enough to get a DUID charge dropped.
- Inaccurate blood results. Criminal defense attorneys investigate every aspect of the blood draw, including the chain of custody of the samples and whether the lab techs had current certification. If there is any question that the blood test results may have been compromised, the prosecutor may agree to drop the charge.
- No DUID. Perhaps the defendant did not start ingesting drugs until after being pulled over by the police. Or if there was an accident, perhaps the defendant did not start taking drugs until after getting out of the car. If the defense attorney can show that any drug use occurred after the defendant stopped driving, the DUID charge cannot stand.
Note that it is not a defense to any DUI charge that the defendant was driving safely and did not seem impaired. As long as drivers have illegal amounts of drugs in their blood, they are committing DUID.
7. Will immigrants be deported?
Driving under the influence is usually not a deportable offense. But when drugs are involved, things are less certain.7 Therefore, non-citizens charged with DUID should contact an experienced attorney to fight to get the charge dropped or reduced.
8. When can I get my record sealed?
A misdemeanor DUID conviction in Nevada can be sealed seven (7) years after the case closes. But if the DUID conviction is a felony, it must remain on the person’s record forever.
Meanwhile, any charge that gets dismissed can be sealed immediately.8 Learn how to seal criminal records.
Our criminal defense lawyers offer consultations in Las Vegas, Henderson, Reno, and throughout Clark County the state of Nevada.
See our related articles, Can police do a forced blood draw in a Nevada DUI arrest? and What is the difference between DWI and DUI in Nevada?
¿Habla español? Obtener información acerca de las leyes de conducir bajo la influencia de drogas en Nevada.
In California? See our article on DUI of drugs.
In Colorado? See our article on DUI of drugs.
- NRS 484C.110. See also Whisler v. State, (2005) 121 Nev. 401, 116 P.3d 59, 121 Nev. Adv. Rep. 40.
- NRS 484C.160; NRS 484C.150. See also State v. Jones, (1995) 111 Nev. 774, 895 P.2d 643, 111 Nev. Adv. Rep. 76.
- NRS 484C.400.
- NRS 484C.430.
- NRS 483.460.
- NRS 179.245.
- INA 237(a)(2)(B)(ii); 8 USC 1227(a)(2)(B)(ii).
- NRS 179.245; NRS 179.255.