Reducing your DUI through a plea bargain
Nevada law prohibits prosecutors from dropping drunk and drugged driving charges unless the prosecutor knows — or it is obvious – that:
- The charge is not supported by probable cause, or
- The charge cannot be proved at the time of trial.1
As a result, it can be extremely difficult to get DUI charges reduced unless the prosecutor can somehow be convinced that the case against you is doubtful.
That’s where we come in.
Our caring Las Vegas and Reno DUI defense attorneys know that innocent people get charged with DUI every day. Retaining a DUI defense lawyer with plea bargaining experience gives you the best chance to get your Nevada DUI charges dismissed or reduced, regardless of whether the charges are:
- Misdemeanor DUI,
- Felony DUI,
- DUI causing injury, or
- Vehicular homicide.
To help you better understand how a Nevada DUI charge gets reduced, our Las Vegas DUI lawyers discuss the following, below:
- 1. Charges to which misdemeanor DUI can be reduced
- 2. Charges to which felony DUI can be reduced
- 3. How can a Nevada DUI attorney help get my DUI charge reduced?
- 4. Will my driver’s license be revoked if I accept a plea?
1. Charges to which misdemeanor DUI can be reduced
The most common offense that misdemeanor DUI charges are reduced to is reckless driving — defined as driving with willful disregard for the safety of other people or property.2 Reckless driving is a misdemeanor in Nevada, but one with less serious repercussions than a DUI conviction. Getting a DUI dropped to reckless driving can mean much lower penalties and consequences.
In rare cases, it may be possible to get a DUI charge reduced to careless driving.3 Unlike reckless driving, which is defined by Nevada state law, “careless driving” is legislated by local city and county codes. In general, however, careless driving means driving without giving full attention to what you are doing. While also classified as a misdemeanor, a careless driving conviction is usually no more serious than any other traffic violation.
1.1. Advantages to a plea bargain in a misdemeanor Nevada DUI case
Although reckless driving is also a misdemeanor, it has several advantages over a charge of DUI. The four main benefits of getting a DUI charge reduced to reckless driving are:
- Less serious criminal record.
- Less severe penalties on future DUIs.
- Possibility of sealing your record of conviction.
- No mandatory court-triggered driver’s license suspension (though note, however, that there is still the possibility of a Nevada DMV license suspension, as discussed below).
2. Charges to which felony DUI can be reduced
It is possible for Nevada felony DUI charges — such as a third or subsequent DUI within seven years or a DUI causing injury or death — to be reduced to felony reckless driving.
However, pleading to a lesser charge is often not as useful in a felony DUI case as in a misdemeanor one. It is most desirable when your felony DUI can be reduced to a misdemeanor reckless driving charge. In practice, however, this will seldom happen, unless the prosecution’s case is exceptionally weak.
2.1. Advantages to a plea bargain in a felony Nevada DUI case
If your DUI caused injury or death, reducing the charge to vehicular manslaughter or felony reckless driving can greatly reduce your potential prison time.
However, if your felony DUI did not result in injury or death, there are not as many benefits to reducing the charge to felony reckless driving. Both carry potential penalties that include time in Nevada State Prison. However, convictions for felony reckless driving may be sealed eventually. Felony DUI convictions may not. Learn more about DUI criminal record sealing.
The main advantage of a felony plea bargain to reduce a DUI charge to reckless driving is one of perception. For some people, reckless driving may carry less of a stigma.
But note that even if you are convicted of or plead guilty to felony DUI, your lawyer may be able to persuade the judge to allow you to attend felony DUI Court in lieu of prison. If you complete the program successfully, your charge will be reduced to a misdemeanor DUI without a plea bargain.
3. How can a Nevada DUI attorney help get my DUI charge reduced?
Prosecutors have the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. So the best way to get your DUI charge reduced is for your lawyer to show the prosecutor that his or evidence is too inconsistent, unreliable, or insufficient to prevail in court.
Reasons why the prosecutor case might have a weak case include (but are not limited to):
- Your blood alcohol concentration (BAC) was below the legal limit (.08% for adults) and there were reasons other than alcohol and/or drugs that could have caused your bad driving;
- The police did not strictly adhere to proper procedures when questioning you and/or administering field sobriety tests (FSTs);
- The technician who administered your DUI breath test or DUI blood test did not strictly adhere to the proper procedure;
- Independent testing of your blood sample turns up results different from the test results the police obtained;
- You suffered from a medical condition or were on a medication that can cause inaccurate results in FSTs or DUI chemical tests;
- Eyewitnesses to the incident are not credible or have offered inconsistent statements;
- Surveillance video or another recording of the event is inconsistent with the state’s evidence; or
- There is evidence that you were not the one who was driving when an accident occurred.
4. Will my driver’s license be revoked if I accept a plea?
There are two ways your driver’s license can be revoked for a DUI in Nevada:
- Mandatory license revocation by the Nevada DMV following a DUI arrest, or
- A conviction or plea of guilty or no contest to a DUI criminal charge.
Mandatory revocation happens after you are arrested for DUI if:
- You refuse to take a DUI chemical test; or
- A chemical test for DUI shows that you are above the legal limit for alcohol or the Nevada DUID limit for certain drugs.
You have the right to challenge a mandatory Nevada DMV revocation by requesting a hearing within 7 days of receiving notice of the revocation.
The DMV hearing is not a criminal hearing. You have the option to have one or not. If you do elect to have a hearing, it will not be to determine whether you were guilty of DUI. The administrative judge will simply determine whether the officer was justified in taking away your license.
Because it is not a criminal hearing, however, there are two important things to keep in mind:
- The DMV does not need to prove anything beyond a reasonable doubt. Rather, it is your job to convince the judge that revoking your license was unwarranted.
- The outcome of your DMV hearing has no bearing on your eventual criminal case (if any). Even if you win at the DMV, if you are subsequently convicted of (or plead guilty or no contest to) DUI in criminal court, your license will be revoked.
Conversely, if the DMV sustained your license revocation, then entering into a plea bargain on a lesser charge will not get your license back. And even if you prevail on your DMV case (or you were not subject to a mandatory revocation in the first place), a reckless driving plea bargain will add 8 demerit points to your Nevada DMV driving record.
Demerit points stay on your driving record for one year. If you accumulate 12 or more points in any one-year period, the Nevada DMV will revoke your license.
You may also wish to read our article, “How Long Will My Driver’s License Be Revoked for a Nevada DUI?”
Arrested for DUI in Nevada? Call us for help…
If you have been accused of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol in Nevada, call us to schedule a consultation with one of our Reno or Las Vegas DUI lawyers. You can also schedule a consultation with one of our attorneys by completing the form on this page.
We represent clients throughout Nevada, including in Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Reno, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight and Tonopah.
In California? See our articles on wet reckless and dry reckless.
- NRS 484C.420(1) [DUI], 484C.430(2) [DUI causing injury], and NRS 484C.440(3) [vehicular homicide].
- NRS 484B.653.
- See, for example, CCC 14.60.190.