Driving under the influence, or DUI, refers to a person operating a motor vehicle while impaired by an intoxicant. Any substance which would impair a person’s motor skills, such as their ability to safely operate a motorized vehicle, can be included in a charge for driving under the influence.
Some examples of the most common substances include, but may not be limited to:
- Illicit or illegal drugs such as cocaine, PCP, etc.;
- Prescription medications known to cause impairment, such as pain killers, muscle relaxers, certain antidepressants, etc.; and
- Over the counter medications which could cause impairment, especially in larger doses, such as antihistamines or cold medicine.
Some states maintain different classifications for different types of DUIs. Additionally, some states include other vehicles, such as a bicycle, moped, or golf cart in their definition of driving a motor vehicle.
Other common names for DUI include:
- DWI (or, Driving While Intoxicated);
- OUI (or, Operating Under the Influence); and
- OMVI (or, Operating a Motor Vehicle Intoxicated).
In Nevada, driving under the influence is defined as operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of drugs. This also includes driving while legally drunk; in order to be legally drunk, a person’s blood alcohol content must meet or exceed the state’s limit. Nevada’s legal limit for a blood alcohol content (“BAC”) level is 0.08 percent. As such, if a driver has a blood alcohol content level that meets or exceeds 0.08% while simultaneously having physical control of a vehicle, they may be arrested on a DUI charge.
What Are the Potential Legal Penalties For a DUI Charge In Nevada?
Although impaired driving is illegal in every state, each state has its own laws and penalties for driving under the influence convictions. Other factors that could influence potential legal penalties include whether the driver is a repeat offender, and whether the crime is being considered a misdemeanor or a felony.
Most states charge first time offenses in which the BAC level of 0.08% is met or exceeded as a misdemeanor; or, whatever the equivalent in that state is. If convicted, the driver will generally face varying criminal fines and court costs, as well as a jail sentence to be served in a county jail facility. In general, this jail sentence is not to exceed one year of incarceration.
The driver may also be ordered to attend alcohol treatment and education courses, such as attending Alcoholics Anonymous meetings for a set amount of time. They may also be ordered to perform a certain amount of community service hours, or use an ignition interlock device such as a breathalyzer for a specific time frame.
The crime may be judged as a felony under the following conditions, although such conditions may also vary from state to state:
- Heightened Blood Alcohol Content Level: If the driver’s BAC level is above a certain percentage, they will receive a more serious charge. This remains true even if the driver is a first time offender, which is due to the especially dangerous nature of such impairment. In many states, 0.15% is the usual percentage at which the crime would be charged as a felony as opposed to a misdemeanor;
- Death and/or Bodily Injury: A DUI charge may be elevated to a felony if the impaired driver caused serious bodily injury or death to another person. Additionally, there could be separate criminal charges filed against the offender in such cases; and/or
- Prior DUI Conviction: If a person is a repeat offender, they will generally receive a higher charge with more severe punishments. Most states require the driver to maintain a clean driving record for five to ten years before the charging clock resets, and they would no longer be considered a repeat offender.
Reoffenders could face up to ten years in a federal prison facility, and those accused of intoxication manslaughter or similar charges could face additional years of incarceration. Additionally, DUIs are considerably expensive. A misdemeanor charge will cost thousands, which is multiplied with each higher charged degree.
In Nevada, a first time DUI offense is generally charged as a misdemeanor crime. Common penalties for the charge include:
- A jail sentence ranging from two days to six months;
- Fines ranging between $400 and $1,000;
- Mandatory completion of an online DUI educational course;
- Mandatory attendance to a Victim Impact Panel; and
- Driver’s license suspension for up to 185 days.
It is important to note that first time offenders in Nevada may be able to have their driver’s license restricted, as opposed to suspended. This would happen immediately if the driver agrees to have an ignition interlock device in their vehicles.
What Else Should I Know About Receiving a DUI Charge In Nevada?
You can be arrested for a driving under the influence charge even if you were under the influence of drugs, as opposed to alcohol. The state of Nevada does not maintain different separate drunk driving and drugged driving charges.
As previously mentioned, a driver is considered to be legally intoxicated in Nevada if their BAC level meets or exceeds 0.08% while they have physical control of the motor vehicle. “Physical control of the motor vehicle” means that the person was in the driver’s seat, and in control of the vehicle’s steering wheel or mechanism, at the time of the traffic stop.
If the vehicle was parked, and the vehicle’s operator was sitting in the driver’s seat, they would still likely be charged with a DUI. This is because Nevada considers a person to be in physical control of the vehicle so long as they are sitting in the driver’s seat; as such, it would not matter whether the vehicle was parked, or in motion.
It is important to discuss how a driver can be convicted of a DUI in Nevada even if their BAC level was below the legal limit of 0.08%. Prosecutors may employ the impairment theory in order to attempt to prove that a person is guilty of driving under the influence. This theory of impairment refers to the driver displaying certain physical signs of impairment although their BAC level was below 0.08 percent.
Common examples of such signs include, but may not be limited to:
- Blurry eyes;
- Swerving while driving; and
- Slurring their speech.
Some states maintain what is known as zero tolerance laws; Nevada is one such state. What this means is that an underage driver with any amount of alcohol found in their system will most likely be convicted of driving under the influence.
According to Nevada’s zero tolerance law, it is illegal for anyone under the age of 21 to operate a motor vehicle with any bodily alcohol content. Those convicted will likely face driver’s license suspension, among other penalties.
Do I Need An Attorney If I Am Facing DUI Charges In Nevada?
If you are being charged with driving under the influence in Nevada, you should speak with a Nevada DUI/DWI lawyer immediately. Because state laws vary regarding driving under the influence, it is important that you consult with an attorney who practices law in the state in which you are being charged.
An experienced and local Nevada DUI/DWI attorney will have the best understanding of your state’s laws, and how those laws will affect your case. An experienced attorney can also help you determine whether any legal defenses are available to you, based on the specifics of your case. Legal defense may reduce your sentence, or help you broker a favorable plea deal. Finally, an attorney will also be able to represent you in cour, as needed.