Nevada law makes it a class B felony to drive under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs and thereby cause someone to suffer substantial bodily injury or death. Penalties include two to twenty years in prison, fines ranging from $2,000 to $5,000, and a three-year driver’s license suspension.
NRS 484C.430 states that a driver who is impaired by alcohol or drugs – or who has illegal amounts of alcohol or drugs in their system – commits “DUI causing injury or death” when the driver:
“does any act or neglects any duty imposed by law while driving or in actual physical control of any vehicle on or off the highways of this State, if the act or neglect of duty proximately causes the death of, or substantial bodily harm to, another person[.]”
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What is the definition of “DUI with injury or death” in Nevada?
- 2. What is the sentence under NRS 484C.430?
- 3. Will my license be revoked?
- 4. What is the best way to fight the charges?
- 5. Can the charge be reduced?
- 6. Will it affect immigration status?
- 7. Can the criminal record be sealed?
- 8. Related offenses
1. What is the definition of “DUI with injury or death” in Nevada?
The legal definition of DUI causing injury or death applies when a motorist causes another person to die or sustain substantial bodily harm while the motorist either:
- Is under the influence of intoxicating liquor;
- Has a concentration of alcohol of 0.08 or more in his or her blood or breath;
- Is found by measurement within 2 hours after driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle to have a concentration of alcohol of 0.08 or more in his or her blood or breath;
- Is under the influence of a controlled substance or is under the combined influence of intoxicating liquor and a controlled substance;
- Inhales, ingests, applies or otherwise uses any 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
- Has a prohibited substance in his or her blood or urine, as applicable, in an amount that is equal to or greater than the amount set forth in subsection 3 or 4 of NRS 484C.110[.]1
In short, DUI with injury or death occurs when a person gets seriously hurt or killed as a result of a driver being drunk, high, or having illegal quantities of alcohol or drugs in his/her blood. Examples of injuries that qualify as substantial bodily harm are:
- Wounds needing stitches
- Organ damage
- Serious burns
- Long-lasting contusions
- Loss of consciousness
- Long-lasting cosmetic damage
- Chronic pain2
Note that defendants in fatal DUI cases may not be prosecuted for murder (NRS 200.030).3
2. What is the sentence under NRS 484C.430?
Causing a serious injury or fatality by drunk or drugged driving is a category B felony in Nevada. The punishment includes:
- 2 to 20 years in Nevada State Prison,
- A fine of $2,000 to $5,000 (at the judge’s discretion),
- A 3-year license revocation by the DMV, and
- 1 to 3 years of having an ignition interlock device as a condition of reinstating driving privileges
If the defendant was also transporting a child under fifteen years old at the time of the alleged violation, the court may consider it an aggravating factor when determining the length of the mandatory prison sentence and any fines.
If the defendant already had three prior DUI convictions, then causing a fatal DUI is charged as vehicular homicide (NRS 484C.440). This is a category A felony, carrying 25 years in prison or life in prison.
Note that the Nevada Department of Prisons tries to segregate people convicted of driving drunk from violent offenders and to house them in minimum-security facilities.4
3. Will my license be revoked?
Felony DUI convictions trigger a three-year license suspension in Nevada that begins after the defendant is released from prison. And in order to get the license reinstated, the defendant will need to install an ignition interlock device in his/her motor vehicles for up to three years.5
Note that automobiles involved in Nevada DUI cases are usually impounded. Read more about DUI impound laws.
4. What is the best way to fight the charges?
Defendants charged with DUI causing death or injury need a two-pronged attack to get the charge dismissed. First, they need to fight the allegation that they were driving under the influence. Second, they need to fight the allegation that the victim’s injury or death was their fault.
There are several ways to fight DUI charges, depending on the available evidence. Five common ones include:
- The police administered the field sobriety tests incorrectly;
- The breath test or blood test was administered incorrectly or were defective;
- The defendant had rising blood alcohol – the defendant’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was legal at the time of the driving, but it rose to illegal levels by the time the police took the blood test;
- The defendant suffered from a medical condition such as GERD which caused inaccurately high BAC results from the breathalyzer;
- The defendant did not begin drinking until after he/she stopped driving.
The best way to fight the allegation that the defendant caused the injury or death depends on the available evidence, such as:
- Eyewitness testimony
- Eyewitness recordings from phones
- Law enforcement reports
- Surveillance video
- GPS records
- Medical records
- Accident reconstruction expert testimony
As long as the defense attorney can raise a reasonable doubt that 1) the defendant committed DUI, and 2) the defendant caused the victim’s injury or death, then the criminal charge should not stand.
5. Can the charge be reduced?
If a DUI with injury or death charge cannot get dismissed, it still may be possible to get it reduced by showing either:
- The defendant was not DUI; or
- There was no causation between the defendant’s actions and the victim’s injuries or death.
If the prosecutor can prove DUI but cannot show that the defendant’s impaired driving caused the injury or death, the felony DUI charge could then be reduced to just a misdemeanor. (A first- or second-time DUI in a seven-year period is a misdemeanor. A third-time DUI in seven years is a felony, even if it causes no injury.)6
Or if the prosecutor can prove causation but cannot show that the defendant was impaired or had an illegal blood alcohol and drug concentration, then the NRS 484C.430 charge could be reduced to:
- If the victim was injured: felony reckless driving causing injury (NRS 484B.653); or
- If the victim died: vehicular manslaughter (NRS 484B.657), which is just a misdemeanor
6. Will it affect immigration status?
Even as a felony, DUI is generally not deportable unless it involved drugs.7 But there is no guarantee. Therefore, all non-citizens facing criminal charges should still retain an experienced attorney to try to get the matter dismissed or reduced to a lesser offense.
7. Can the criminal record be sealed?
Felony DUI charges that get dismissed can be sealed right away in Nevada. But a felony DUI conviction remains on the defendant’s criminal record forever.8 That is why it is so important to fight to get the charges reduced to a sealable offense or dropped.
Learn more about sealing Nevada criminal records.
8. Related offenses
8.1. Vehicular Homicide
Vehicular homicide (NRS 484C.440) is when a person commits DUI causing death, and the person has at least three prior DUI convictions. It is a category A felony, with penalties of 25 years in prison or a life sentence.
8.2. Reckless Driving Causing Death
Reckless driving (NRS 484B.653) causing death is when a person’s extremely careless and risky driving results in another person being killed, and the driver was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It is a category B felony, with penalties of 1 to 6 years in prison and $2,000 to $5,000 in fines.
8.3. Vehicular manslaughter
Vehicular manslaughter (NRS 484B.657) is when a person’s negligent driving results in another person being killed, and the driver was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. It is only a misdemeanor, with penalties of up to 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
Our criminal defense lawyers appear in courts throughout Clark County and the state, including Henderson, Reno, and Las Vegas, NV.
¿Habla español? Obtener información acerca de las leyes de DUI causando lesiones o la muerte de Nevada.
- NRS 484C.430.
- NRS 0.060.
- Leavell v. Eighth Judicial District Court, (2020) No. 79923 (September 14, 2020); David Ferrara, Nevada Supreme Court prohibits murder charges in fatal DUI cases, Las Vegas Review-Journal (September 14, 2020); NRS 200.030.
- NRS 484C.430; NRS 483.460.
- NRS 483.460.
- See Montiel-Barraza v. INS,(9th Cir., 2002) 275 F.3d 1178.
- NRS 179.245; NRS 179.255.