Driving while intoxicated by alcohol and/or drugs is illegal in all states, and generally the more prior convictions a driver has, the more sanctions are involved. This is the case in Nevada, where a second driving under the influence (DUI) offense carries more penalties than a first offense. While both are misdemeanors, a second DUI conviction carries increased potential jail time, fines and driver's license revocation period. Everyone driving in Nevada should have a clear overview of the Nevada DUI laws.
Driving Under the Influence in Nevada
In Nevada, the statutes describe regular DUI charges based on a driver's impaired behavior and also "per se" DUIs, based on a driver exceeding a legal limitation of how much of an intoxicating substance a person can have in their system while driving. While the former requires witness testimony of the driver's behavior both in and out of the vehicle, the per se DUI turns on the results of chemical testing. The term per se means "in and of itself," referring to the fact that a chemical test result that is over the statutory limit is sufficient proof of intoxication – in and of itself – to convict a driver of DUI in Nevada.
Chemical testing refers to testing of a driver's breath, blood or urine sample for the presence of alcohol or drugs. In the state of Nevada, controlled substances and marijuana are the drugs specified, but the statute uses inclusive language, making it a crime to drive under the influence of any drug or chemical or substance that can prevent a person from driving safely.
Per Se DUIs in Nevada
Since the time the breathalyzer became available (testing a driver's breath for alcohol when they blow into the device) all states have enacted laws providing for per se DUIs for alcohol consumption. The test determines the driver's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) for the law enforcement personnel administering the test. Although the states initially enacted varying BAC limits, with a nudge from the federal government based on the awarding of federal funds, all states have settled on a 0.08 percent BAC limit.
Nevada's per se DUI BAC legal limit for alcohol is also 0.08 percent. However, the BAC limit is reduced to 0.04 percent for commercial drivers, and those under the age of 21 are breaking the law if they drive with a BAC level of 0.02 percent or higher.
Many states have not set legal limits for the amount of drugs a person can have in their system while they are driving, and experts do not always agree as to the amounts that make a person too impaired to drive. Nevada has done so, however, and sets out in its statute the legal limits for many drugs including marijuana, cocaine, heroine and methamphetamine. If a blood or urine test reveals that a driver has the amount of a drug in their system that is at or above the statutory limit, it can serve as the basis for a DUI.
Second Offense DUIs
The first question a driver needs to ask when arrested a second time for a Nevada DUI is whether the offense will be treated as a second offense DUI. While a first offense DUI conviction will not automatically mean that the driver does jail time, a second offense conviction does carry a mandatory jail sentence. That makes the question important.
Nevada has a seven-year look-back period for DUIs. That means that the only DUIs on a driver's record that will count as priors for a new DUI are those convictions that occurred in the seven-year period before the current arrest. If the answer is zero, the current DUI arrest will be treated as a first DUI; if the answer is one, the current DUI will be treated as a second offense. The record of a DUI case is said to be sealed after seven years.
Administrative Penalties for a Second DUI Charge
In order to encourage drivers stopped for drunk driving offenses to take chemical tests, Nevada has passed the implied consent law. This law provides that anyone driving on Nevada roads is deemed to have consented to take a chemical or breath test if stopped for a DUI violation by a police officer.
The penalties for violating this law are administrative and include license revocation. For a first-time refusal, the penalty is a one-year license suspension. For second offense refusal, the penalty is a three-year license revocation. Administrative penalties are independent from the criminal case. So, if a driver refuses to take a chemical test and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) revokes their license, the outcome of the criminal DUI case will not change the administrative penalty.
Penalties for Second Nevada DUI
Both a first and a second DUI conviction in Nevada are considered misdemeanors as long as the driver doesn't cause any serious injury to others. Misdemeanors are the less serious type of crime but even so, second-time offenses carry some mandatory jail time. The regular second offense DUI sanctions, set out in NRS Section 484C.400, include a minimum of 10 days in jail or house arrest. The maximum standard period is six months.
A second offender will also be sentenced to a fine that varies from county to county. It usually falls between $750 and $1,000, and the driver will be required to pay additional court costs, as well. A variety of other sanctions will also cost the driver money, like attendance at a Nevada victim impact panel, taking an alcohol/drug dependency evaluation, and entering a controlled substance abuse or alcohol treatment program.
In addition, the person's driving privileges are suspended for one year. When the driver is legally permitted to drive again, they must install an ignition interlock device (IID) on every vehicle they own for 185 days, or between 12 and 36 months if their BAC was 0.18 percent or higher.
Second Offense Causing Injury or Death
While these DUI penalties are not lenient, they appear less severe when compared to the penalties facing someone who drives under the influence in Nevada and causes serious injury or death. The penalties for this type of DUI – charged as a category B felony – do not depend on prior DUI offenses. Even a driver who has no criminal history before the incident is charged with a felony DUI.
A driver who is convicted of drunk/drugged driving causing injury or death faces serious prison time. Under NRS Section 484C.430, they will face between two and 20 years in prison. The judge does not have authority to sentence the driver to probation instead of incarceration. And do not expect this serious crime to be sealed after seven years – it is not.
In addition to the time in prison, the driver can get fines ranging from $2,000 to $5,000. All of the other sanctions apply, including attendance at a victim impact panel and the mandatory use of an IID on every vehicle for one to three years after release.
Teo Spengler earned a J.D. from U.C. Berkeley's Boalt Hall. As an Assistant Attorney General in Juneau, she practiced before the Alaska Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme Court before opening a plaintiff's personal injury practice in San Francisco. She holds both an M.A. and an M.F.A in creative writing and enjoys writing legal blogs and articles. Her work has appeared in numerous online publications including USA Today, Legal Zoom, eHow Business, Livestrong, SF Gate, Go Banking Rates, Arizona Central, Houston Chronicle, Navy Federal Credit Union, Pearson, Quicken.com, TurboTax.com, and numerous attorney websites. Spengler splits her time between the French Basque Country and Northern California.