If you are charged with a third-DUI in Nevada and have a substance abuse disorder, you can avoid prison and a felony conviction by completing Felony DUI Treatment Court (FDUI). Once you graduate, your felony charge will be reduced to a misdemeanor.
Here are five key things to know:
- Felony DUI Treatment Court used to be called the Serious Offenders Program (SOP).
- This “specialty court” program requires three to five years of substance abuse counseling and treatment.
- You also have to do six months of house arrest.
- Another requirement is frequent alcohol and drug testing (including wearing a SCRAM anklet).
- Violating these terms may cause you to be kicked out of the program and remanded to prison.
In this article, our Las Vegas DUI attorneys discuss:
- 1. What is Felony DUI Treatment Court in Nevada?
- 2. What are the benefits?
- 3. Am I eligible?
- 4. What is it like?
- 5. How do I apply?
- 6. What if I relapse or break the rules?
- 7. What if I do not finish Nevada Felony DUI Court?
- 8. How much will it cost me?
- 9. What if this is only my first or second DUI?
- 10. What if I do not live in Nevada?
- Additional reading
Felony DUI Treatment Court (FDUI) – formerly called the “Serious Offenders Program” – allows you to avoid prison for a DUI third by completing rehab instead.
In short, FDUI is an alternative sentencing “specialty court” that aims to rehabilitate through counseling rather than punish through incarceration.
Felony DUI Court is the only way you can avoid prison for a DUI 3rd (unless the D.A. is willing to plea bargain).
However, it is a very intensive and rigorous outpatient program that lasts three to five years.2 So you should consider it only as a last resort when a charge reduction or dismissal is unavailable.
To be considered for Felony DUI Treatment Court, you have to meet all of the following criteria:
- You are a drug addict or alcoholic,
- You have no more than two misdemeanor DUI convictions in the last seven years,
- You are currently charged with a third-time DUI,
- You have never participated in FDUI before, and
- You have never killed or seriously hurt anyone while driving under the influence.3
Note that any past DUI charges that were reduced to reckless driving or dismissed do not count as prior DUIs.
Example: Dawn was just arrested for DUI. She had three prior DUI arrests in the last seven years, but one of them was reduced to reckless driving. Since she has only two prior DUI convictions, she is theoretically eligible for the Felony DUI Court program.
Felony DUI Treatment Court typically lasts three years, but it can extend to no more than five years. You are assigned a case manager who collaborates with you to make specific recommendations to the court about the length of the treatment and necessary terms.4
FDUI proceeds in several phases and typically consists of the following requirements:
Felony DUI School requirements
|“Status check” meetings with the judge
|These meetings start weekly. As you work through the program, these meetings dwindle to once every 3 months.
In Clark County, FDUI meets on Thursdays.
|House arrest (“residential confinement”) for at least the first 6 months of the program
|You may leave home for work and any DUI Court obligations. You may also have to wear a SCRAM device that monitors whether you ingested alcohol.
|An ignition interlock device installed in all your cars for at least 1 year.
|Also called a “breath interlock device (BID)”, this device is installed in your car and notifies authorities if your breath test detects a blood alcohol content of 0.02% or above.
|Group counseling/support group meetings such as Alcoholics Anonymous as well as individual mental health counseling.
|Counseling usually meets twice a week, but over time it may be reduced to weekly.
|Periodic alcohol testing (urine)
|The judge and case manager determine the frequency.
|Other terms individual to you
|For example, the judge may also give you a curfew and suspend your driver’s license.
If you complete all the terms of FDUI, your felony DUI charge will be reduced to a misdemeanor second-time DUI conviction.5
Judges may even throw mini-ceremonies where the court staff applauds all the new DUI School “graduates,” and everyone feasts on cupcakes. At one ceremony, a judge rewarded a new graduate who had struggled with the program by allowing her to smash a cake in his face.6
If you do not complete the program, you will be convicted of third-time DUI – which is a felony.7 Scroll down to question 7 for DUI 3rd penalties.
The process of applying to Felony DUI Treatment Court involves the following five steps:
- You appear in District Court, where you plead guilty or “nolo contendere” to a DUI third.
- While in court, you submit a completed application for FDUI as well as a substance abuse evaluation completed by a certified counselor or physician diagnosing you as an addict.
- The judge will then direct you to meet with the Nevada Division of Parole and Probation. The Division will compose a Presentence Investigation Report for the case, which gives its opinion about your suitability for FDUI.
- Within 10 days of receiving notice of the FDUI application, the prosecutor may request a hearing to contest it. The judge may also request a hearing if they have concerns about your suitability for the program.
- If the judge grants your application, the judge will suspend your prison sentence while the case is transferred to FDUI. You will then be ordered to report to Pretrial Services, who will instruct you on how to begin the program.
If you do not get accepted to Felony DUI Court, you will face regular DUI third penalties.8
The application process for the Clark County FDUI is very time-sensitive and technical, and not everyone is accepted. Therefore, it is highly recommended that you retain counsel to ensure it is done correctly.
The Felony DUI Treatment Court punishes relapses and mistakes on a case-by-case basis. The judge considers your criminal history, how far along you are in the program, and the circumstances of the incident.
For example, a judge may do the following if you get caught with alcohol in your system:
- Bumping you back to the first phase of the FDUI program,
- Sentencing you to two weeks in jail, and/or
- Requiring you to install alcohol breath-testing devices in your home; these devices video-record you breathing into it and transmit the video footage and test results to your case manager.
Many Las Vegas judges allow “one strike” before terminating you from FDUI. However, picking up a new DUI while in the program triggers an automatic expulsion, and the judge will remand you to prison to serve out your original felony sentence.9
If you do not finish FDUI, the judge expels you and orders you to complete your original felony sentence. The felony punishment for a 3rd-DUI conviction includes:
- 1 to 6 years in Nevada State Prison;
- $2,000 to $5,000 in fines;
- attendance at a Victim Impact Panel;
- an alcohol/drug dependency evaluation;
- a breath interlock device in your car for 1 – 3 years; and
- a 3-year driver’s license revocation.10
Furthermore, you will not be eligible to participate in DUI Court again.11
Felony DUI Treatment Court costs about $11,000 to $15,000 in total. In the Eighth Judicial District Court (which includes Las Vegas), it is $554.40 a month.
If you have limited resources, you may be able to pay less under a sliding fee scale. The costs go towards the following expenses:
- evaluation fee (one-time fee),
- electronic monitoring,
- supervision fees,
- counseling fees, and
- breath ignition devices.12
You are only eligible for FDUI if you are facing third DUI charges. If you are facing first- or second DUI charges, you instead may be eligible to do “DUI Treatment Court” specifically for misdemeanor DUI defendants struggling with addiction.
The requirements typically include:
- court monitoring,
- 90 days of house arrest,
- unannounced checks,
- one-on-one counseling, and
- a SCRAM anklet.
Depending on the plea bargain you agree to, successful completion of the program may result in your DUI conviction lessening to a less serious offense.
In Clark County, DUI Treatment Court used to go by the names Misdemeanor DUI Court and Moderate Offenders Program.
It depends on how flexible the judge and prosecutor are. You might be able to do a similar DUI Court program in your home state, but ultimately the court handles these requests case-by-case.13
- Understanding and Utilizing Specialty Court Programs – An overview of specialty court programs in Clark County
- Benefits of Specialty Court – a Powerpoint outlining why these courts serve a vital role in society
- Specialty Courts Breakdown – a summary of different specialty courts in Clark County
- Nevada Senate Bill 277 (2017); see Specialty Court Program Overview, Nevada Supreme Court; NRS 484C.340 Application by third-time offender to undergo a program of treatment; sentencing of offender and conditional suspension of proceedings; requirements to participate in the program of treatment; certain previous convictions preclude the offender from participating in the program of treatment.
- David Ferrara, Judge takes the cake for DUI program graduate, Las Vegas Review-Journal (March 14, 2015).
- NRS 484C.340.
- NRS 484C.400.
- NRS 484C.340.
- See, for example, Felony DUI Court Treatment Program Quick Reference, Carson.org; also see Specialty Courts Programs Nevada at a Glance, Advisory Commission on the Administration of Justice (NRS 176.0123) (March 17, 2008). Felony DUI Treatment Court (FDUI), Eighth Judicial District Court.
- NRS 458.325.