A common defense strategy in Nevada DUI cases is to enter a plea bargain in which the DUI charge is reduced to reckless driving. There are three primary benefits to this:
- you avoid a DUI conviction,
- you can seal your criminal record after only one year rather than seven years, and
- you may be able to avoid a driver’s license suspension.
In this article, our Las Vegas DUI defense attorneys will answer the following key questions:
- 1. Can my DUI get reduced to reckless driving in Nevada?
- 2. What are the benefits?
- 3. What are the penalties if my DUI gets dropped to reckless driving?
1. Can my DUI get reduced to reckless driving in Nevada?
It is possible but not automatic. Nevada law prohibits prosecutors from reducing or dropping DUI cases unless:
- there is no probable cause to support the DUI charge; or
- there is insufficient evidence to prove DUI beyond a reasonable doubt at trial.
In short, Nevada prosecutors are required to pursue DUI convictions except when their criminal case is clearly too weak. Five potential defenses that can persuade the state to lessen your DUI charge are:
- Law enforcement did not have reasonable suspicion to pull you over, or they did not have probable cause to arrest you.
- The police officers did not administer the field sobriety tests (FSTs) correctly.
- The breathalyzer was not calibrated, or the blood test samples were contaminated.
- You were suffering from a medical condition or taking a medication that caused inaccurate FST-, blood- or breath-test results.
- You had rising blood alcohol, meaning that your blood alcohol content (BAC) was legal while you were driving but rose to illegal levels after you stopped driving.
If your attorney convinces prosecutors to agree to a reckless driving plea bargain, you will initially plead guilty (or no contest) to DUI. Assuming the judge accepts the plea, the judge will impose sentencing terms to be completed within several months. Then once you complete the sentence, the court will adjudicate you guilty of reckless driving instead of DUI.1
2. What are the benefits?
There are four main benefits to getting a Nevada DUI charge reduced to reckless driving:
- Better criminal record;
- Lesser penalties on future DUIs;
- Earlier record seals; and
- No court-triggered license revocation.
2.1. Better criminal record
Employers are less likely to pass over job applicants whose background checks show reckless driving charges rather than DUIs. And a reckless driving conviction carries a lesser social stigma than DUI convictions do.
2.2. Lesser penalties on future DUIs
DUI penalties get much more severe with each successive conviction. So if your first DUI charge gets reduced to reckless driving – and you get arrested for DUI again in the future – this new case will be charged as a first offense DUI, not a second offense DUI.2
2.3. Earlier record seals
Misdemeanor DUI convictions can be sealed from criminal records seven years after the case closes. In contrast, misdemeanor reckless driving convictions are sealable only one year after the case closes.
Meanwhile, felony DUI convictions can never be sealed in Nevada. They remain on criminal records forever. But if the felony DUI charge gets reduced to felony reckless driving, the record can be sealed five years after the case ends.3
The sooner you can clear your record, the better your job-, housing-, and loan prospects. Learn more about sealing a DUI record in Nevada.
2.4. No court-triggered license revocation
Unlike DUIs, reckless driving does not carry driver’s license suspension as a penalty. However, each DUI arrest opens two separate cases:
- The criminal case, and
- The DMV administrative case.
So if your DUI charge gets reduced to reckless driving, you will still get your license revoked if you do not win the DMV hearing. The only way to avoid a license revocation is to win both the criminal case and DMV hearing.4
Your DUI attorney should represent you at both criminal court and the Nevada DMV.
3. What are the penalties if my DUI gets dropped to reckless driving?
If your Nevada drunk driving case gets dropped to reckless driving, the judge will still likely impose standard DUI penalties. A first-time DUI offense (causing no serious injuries) carries:
- Up to six months of jail time (but the judge almost always suspends the sentence);
- DUI School;
- Up to $1,000 in fines plus court costs (or the equivalent hours of community service);
- A Victim Impact Panel (such as a MADD lecture);
- an alcohol/drug evaluation (if your BAC was 0.18% or higher);
- 185-day license revocation (but it may be possible to continue driving with an ignition interlock device); and
- An order to avoid all new arrests and citations (other than minor driving offenses) while the case is open.5
If you complete all these sentencing terms, your DUI charge will be reduced to a reckless driving conviction. But if you do not complete these terms, then the judge may un-suspend the six-month jail sentence and convict you of DUI.
For additional help…
If you have been arrested for driving under the influence in Nevada, contact our Las Vegas DUI lawyers for legal advice. Our DUI defense lawyers fight to get your charges reduced or dismissed in Clark County (including Henderson and North Las Vegas), and throughout the state of Nevada.
See our related articles on sleeping under the influence laws, unauthorized speed contests in Nevada, DMV demerit points on driving records, reducing DUI to careless driving, and DUI causing injury or death.
- NRS 484C.110.
- NRS 484C.400. NRS 484B.653.
- NRS 179.245.
- See note 2.
- NRS 484C.400. See, for example, In re Discipline of Pawlowski, (2016) 132 Nev. 985.