A first drunk driving offense in Nevada is a misdemeanor, as is a second DUI conviction. But a third DUI charge in the state is a felony, the more serious type of crime in Nevada. A third charge is a category B felony even if there are no serious injuries or death. A felony DUI can land a driver in prison for one to six years. Anyone who drives a motor vehicle in the state of Nevada, and especially a driver with two previous DUIs, should be informed about the DUI statutes in general and the penalties for a third DUI in particular.
Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol in Nevada
Driving while intoxicated is a crime in every state. Nevada calls its law driving under the influence, or DUI. In Nevada, an individual can be charged with a DUI if they drive while their faculties are impaired by alcohol or drugs, drive with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 percent or higher, or drive after having taken any of a number of drugs if the amount in their system exceeds the specified limits set out in the Nevada DUI statutes.
Like most other states, Nevada increases DUI penalties if the driver has prior offenses. A first-time offense is given the least severe penalties, and a subsequent DUI conviction carries lower penalties than the third DUI arrest. Nevada doesn't simply count prior convictions. Rather, it uses a seven-year look-back period. When a driver is arrested for a DUI, the only convictions that count are those in the prior seven-year period. But those two DUIs can be convictions in Nevada or from any other state. If there are two convictions in that time period, the current DUI is a third offense.
Per Se DUI Laws and Implied Consent to Testing
The charges for driving under the influence that are based on the quantity of alcohol or drugs in a driver's system are termed "per se" DUIs. That means that proof of the level of substance in the driver's system is sufficient, in and of itself, for a DUI conviction. No other evidence of intoxication or impairment is required.
Both the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels and the amount of drugs in a person's system must be determined by chemical testing. The BAC is usually tested with a breath sample using the familiar breathalyzer or by a blood test. Blood and urine samples are required for drug concentration testing. The police officer is the one to determine which chemical test the driver is to take.
In order to encourage Nevada drivers to take the chemical or breath tests, the state enacted an Implied Consent Law. This Nevada law provides that anyone driving on Nevada roads implicitly consents to taking a chemical test if requested to do so by a police officer after a DUI stop. Refusal to take a test is a civil, not a criminal offense and results in license revocation. For a third offense, the revocation period is three years.
License Revocation is Automatic
A driver's license suspension is automatic, going into effect 31 days after the person's refusal if they do not ask for an administrative hearing. The administrative revocation is not dependent on the criminal DUI case and is, in fact, separate from it. The revocation will go into effect regardless of whether the driver is charged with a DUI and regardless of whether they are convicted. That is because refusal is a separate offense from the DUI itself.
Third DUI Prison Penalties
Penalties for Nevada DUIs – from the first DUI offense to the third and beyond – all include some period of incarceration, either in jail or in prison. For first offenses, community service can substitute for the mandatory minimum jail sentence of two days. For second offenses, home confinement can substitute for the mandatory minimum sentence of 10 days of jail time.
But for third offenses, the court is not allowed to substitute anything for the minimum one-year prison sentence, not even probation. That is, third offenders in Nevada are not eligible for probation. Under the statutes, Nevada courts have no choice but to sentence the third-offense driver to prison for between one and six years.
Nevada Serious Offender Program
There is one way for a third offender in Nevada to avoid state prison and have the crime reduced to a second offense – a program known as Felony DUI Court or Serious Offender Program. It may, in fact, take far longer to complete this program than the person would have spent in prison, but it is a huge opportunity since it allows someone with a third DUI offense to avoid both prison and a conviction for a felony offense, which is a scar that stays on a person's record for a lifetime. Upon successful completion of the program, the driver gets a second DUI on their record, which is a misdemeanor, instead of a third offense felony DUI conviction.
In order to be considered for this program, the driver must be either an alcoholic or a drug addict with no more than two prior DUI convictions in the last seven years. They must never have seriously injured anyone while driving under the influence and must not have killed anyone as the result of a DUI. They must be charged with a felony third offense DUI.
The Serious Offender Program is a rigorous program that includes house arrest, therapy and addiction treatment. The driver must undergo between three and five years of substance abuse counseling, as well as attend regular alcohol school and agree to drug testing. It includes the use of ignition interlock devices, a type of breathalyzer that attaches to the person's car and allows it to start only if the driver blows into it and their breath is clear of alcohol. It also includes six months of house arrest, as well as whatever other terms the court decides are appropriate.
Other Third DUI Sanctions
Other DUI sanctions can include fines, criminal license revocations, and drug and alcohol counseling. Fines for a third conviction for driving under the influence range from $2,085 to $5,085, depending on the county court. The driver must also pay court costs.
A driver with a third DUI offense will lose their license for up to three years. This is in addition to, and separate from, any administrative license revocation. Once the driver is out of jail and the revocation period is over, they can only regain driving privileges if they paid to install and maintain an IID in every car they own or drive regularly for one to three years. In addition, they would have to participate in an alcohol or drug treatment program and attend a victim impact panel.
- Nevada Law: NRS Chapter 484C Driving Under the Influence of Alcohol or a Prohibited Substance
- DUI Driving Laws: Nevada
- Shouse Law Firm: Nevada DUI
- DUI Process: Nevada DUI Laws and Penalties
- Las Vegas Criminal Defense: Third DUI
- Shouse Law Firm: Felony DUI Court
- The Shouse Law: Third Offense DUI Nevada
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.