Updated December 5, 2019
Las Vegas Nevada DUI Court is an alternative sentencing program that allows eligible DUI defendants to avoid jail by participating in intensive rehabilitation. Upon successful completion of the program, their charge for driving under the influence may be reduced to a lesser offense.
Most Nevada courts offer two types of rehab court programs, depending on whether the defendant is facing a misdemeanor or felony for driving under the influence:
- Misdemeanor DUI Court (also called Moderate Offenders Program in Clark County): This is for defendants facing a first-time DUI or second-time DUI, which are misdemeanors.
- Felony DUI Court (also called Serious Offenders Program in Clark County): This is for defendants facing a third-time DUI, which is a felony in Nevada.
Expectedly, Felony Court lasts longer and is more costly than Misdemeanor Court. Both are geared for defendants suffering from substance abuse. And people who fail to finish the program will be incarcerated.
In this article, our Las Vegas DUI defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What is DUI Court in Nevada?
- 2. Can anyone do it?
- 3. How are Misdemeanor and Felony Courts similar?
- 4. How are Misdemeanor and Felony Courts different?
- 5. How do I apply?
- 6. What if I do not finish?
1. What is DUI Court in Nevada?
Nevada DUI Court is a diversion program that allows eligible drunk or drugged driving defendants to enter an intensive rehabilitation program in lieu of incarceration. The program is time-consuming, intrusive, and costly. But upon successful completion, the DUI charge may be reduced to a lesser offense.
Following a Nevada arrest for driving under the influence, the defense attorney will first attempt to get the case dismissed or reduced to reckless driving. But if the prosecutor refuses to negotiate — and if going to trial seems too risky — then Nevada DUI Court may be a good option to explore.1
2. Can anyone do DUI Court in Nevada?
No. The following DUI defendants are automatically disqualified from the program:
- anyone who is not addicted to drugs or alcohol
- anyone who has seriously harmed or killed another person while driving under the influence
- anyone with more than two (2) DUI misdemeanor convictions in the past seven (7) years
- anyone with a past felony DUI conviction2
Note that nobody is automatically assured of a spot in the program. The program is very selective, and each participant is accepted on a case-by-case basis.
3. How are the Misdemeanor and Felony DUI Courts similar?
The formats of the Serious Offenders Program and the Moderate Offenders Program have a lot in common. Both require the following:
- Weekly status check meetings with the judge (these become more infrequent over time)
- Group counseling (such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous)
- Individual counseling
- Ignition interlock devices in the defendants’ cars
- Unannounced alcohol and drug testing
- SCRAM devices3
4. How are the Misdemeanor and Felony DUI Courts different?
Predictably, the Serious Offenders Program program is longer and harsher than the Moderate Offenders Program. Specifically, the ways the programs differ include the following:
|Misdemeanor DUI Court|
(For DUI 1st and DUI 2nd defendants)
|Felony DUI Court|
(For DUI 3rd defendants)
|Program lasts 6 months to 3 years||Program lasts 3 to 5 years|
|Possibly up to 90 days of house arrest||6 months of house arrest|
|Program costs approximately $4,500||Program costs approximately $11,000 – $15,000|
|For a DUI 1st, 1 day in jail or 24 hours of community service in Nevada|
For a DUI 2nd, 5 days in jail and up to 50 hours of community service
|As long as the defendant is compliant, no incarceration other than the 6 months of house arrest|
|Upon completion, the defendant’s charge may get reduced to reckless driving or other lesser charge.||Upon completion, the defendant’s charge gets reduced to a DUI 2nd, which is a misdemeanor|
The Moderate Offenders Program program has been around in some form as a specialty court program since 1983. The Serious Offenders Program came into existence only in 2007.4
5. How do I apply?
The application process requires the following steps:
- The defendant appears in court and pleads guilty or no contest to the DUI charge he/she was originally charged with.
- The defendant submits to the court 1) a completed application to the rehab program, and 2) a substance abuse evaluation completed by a certified counselor or doctor that declares the defendant is addicted to alcohol or drugs.
- The judge and prosecutor may request a court hearing within ten (10) days to debate whether the defendant should be accepted into rehab.
- If the defendant gets accepted into the rehab program, the judge will suspend the defendant’s original DUI sentence and transfer the case to DUI Court.5
6. What if I do not finish?
Then the judge will impose the defendant’s original sentence, which always involves incarceration. People expelled from the Moderate Offenders Program face up to six (6) months in jail. People expelled from the Serious Offenders Program face one to six (1 – 6) years in Nevada State Prison.6
Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney…
If you have been arrested for “driving under the influence” in Clark County or elsewhere in the state, call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys for a free consultation. We have decades of experience in persuading prosecutors to reduce or dismiss Nevada “driving under the influence” charges so your record remains clean.
- NRS 484C.320 Application by a first-time offender to undergo a program of treatment; sentencing of offender and conditional suspension of sentence; notice to Department.
- Id.; see Success adds up for DUI Court, Las Vegas Review-Journal (August 20, 2007); Nevada Senate Bill 277 (2017).
- NRS 484C.320-340.