According to NRS 484c 350 and NRS 483.463, it is a crime for a person below 21 years to drive with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of 0.02 or more in Nevada. This law is more stringent than that of drivers above 21 years who should not drive with a BAC of 0.08% or more. If you are below 21 years and you operate a vehicle while intoxicated, you will face similar penalties as adult drivers. The potential penalties for underage driving include fines, DUI School, and jail time. If you face underage DUI charges in Las Vegas, NV, you should immediately contact an experienced DUI attorney. The Law Offices of Martin Hart can help you create a convincing defense.
Nevada's Zero Tolerance DUI Policy
The Nevada zero tolerance laws make it a crime for a person below 21 years to operate a vehicle with a BAC of 0.02 or more. It will not make any difference whether you are impaired or not as long as your BAC is at 0.02% or more. The underage DUI law is different from the lenient DUI laws for drivers above 21 years. A driver aged 21 years or older can drive with a blood alcohol content of 0.08 as long as he or she is not impaired by alcohol. This is four times the allowable BAC for underage drivers. The zero-tolerance double standards under NRS 484c and NRS 483.462 seek to discourage younger drivers from operating a vehicle even if they just had several sips of alcohol. People below 21 years should not consume alcohol, irrespective of whether they are driving or not.
The Court that Handles Underage DUI in Nevada
Which court handles underage DUI cases under Nevada law? Whether an underage DUI case is handled in a juvenile or criminal court depends on two factors:
- The type of driving offense
- The driver's age
If the driver is aged 18, 19, or 21 years, he or she will be tried in adult criminal court. It doesn't matter whether the driver commits a misdemeanor or a felony DUI offense. If you are below 18 years and the police arrest you for a misdemeanor DUI offense, you will be tried in juvenile court. If you are below 18 years and the police arrest you for a felony DUI crime, you might be prosecuted in the juvenile court or the adult criminal court. If the prosecutors intend to prosecute a minor in the criminal court, he or she must request the judge to certify the said minor as an adult.
The Punishment for Underage DUI Under Nevada Law
According to Nevada law, every DUI offender below 21 years should submit to a drug and alcohol test to determine if they have substance abuse issues. This type of evaluation costs $100. The other applicable penalties will vary depending on whether you are tried in an adult or a juvenile court.
Trial in a Juvenile Court
If you are tried in a juvenile court for a first-time DUI offense, the applicable penalties include:
- Mandatory attendance of educational classes to learn about the dangers of DUI
- Fines and community service
- The court will order you to avoid additional arrest and citations except for minor traffic offenses
- You will be subject to a suspended juvenile hall sentence. This sentence will not be affected provided you complete and comply with your other sentencing terms.
Trial in the Criminal Court
If you are prosecuted in the criminal court for underage DUI, you will face the same sentencing that adult DUI offenders do. The typical mandatory consequences for a first-time DUI offense conviction are:
- Paying fines ranging between $400 and $1000
- Mandatory attendance of DUI school
- Participating in a Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) victim impact panel
- The court will order you to avoid further citations and arrests other than for minor traffic violations
- You will have to install an IID (Ignition Interlock Device) in your vehicle for a minimum of six months
- A suspended jail time of six months meaning that you will not do jail time as long as you abide by the sentencing terms.
You will face harsher penalties if you commit a second-time DUI offense in Nevada. The penalties for a second-time violation include mandatory jail time. A 3rd DUI crime under Nevada law is an automatic felony that leads to jail time.
Seeking a Plea Bargain
Your DUI attorney may negotiate for a plea bargain depending on the evidence on your case. Your attorney may negotiate with the district attorney and persuade him or her to reduce your charges into reckless driving. A wet reckless is a less serious offense than an underage DUI. There are several reasons why you would be better of being convicted of reckless driving than underage DUI:
- Compared to drunk driving, reckless driving carries less stigma because it is a lesser offense
- If you are arrested for a second-time DUI offense, you will be subject to DUI first charges and not DUI second charges. This is because the D.A had reduced your previous DUI conviction into a reckless driving charge. Upon reducing the DUI offense into reckless driving, the offense will not count as a prior DUI.
- A reckless driving conviction only carries eight demerit points, but a DUI conviction carries a compulsory driver's license suspension.
- With a reckless driving conviction, you will only have to wait for one year after the closure of the case to seal the criminal record. However, for a DUI charge, you will wait for seven years after the closure of your case to apply for sealing of the criminal record. With your attorney, you can consider going to trial if the district attorney does not offer you a favorable plea bargain. You will face a bench trial if you face misdemeanor DUI charges. If you face felony DUI charges, you will be subject to a jury trial.
Additional Consequences (Non-Legal)
Other than the legal penalties, an underage DUI conviction will affect your life in different ways. For instance, some universities and other educational institutions in Nevada impose additional penalties to students who engage in underage driving. The non-legal consequences could even be more devastating than the legal consequences. The sentences might include suspension, expulsion, or disqualification from applying to certain educational institutions.
Many vehicle insurance companies are incredibly harsh to underage drivers with DUI convictions. Some insurance companies will increase your insurance premiums after the sentence. Some insurers will go to the extent of revoking the insurance policy. If you are below 21 years and get arrested for underage driving in Nevada, it is advisable to immediately hire a DUI defense attorney. An attorney will do everything in their power to have your DUI charges reduced or dismissed.
An Underage DUI and Your Driver's License
You might be wondering about how a DUI conviction in Nevada will affect your driver's license. An underage DUI in Nevada will result in the suspension of your driver's license. However, how long your driver's license is suspended will vary depending on several factors. The factors include your history of DUIs and your BAC level.
When Your BAC Ranges Between 0.02 and 0.08
If you are below 21 years, a first-time DUI offender and your BAC is at least 0.02 but less than 0.08; you will face a driver's license suspension for three months (90 days0. However, you can get a restricted license after 45 days. The restricted license will enable you to drive to designated places like work, school, or medical appointments. If you commit a subsequent underage DUI offense where your BAC is between 0.02 and 0.08, you will face a mandatory license suspension for 90 days.
When Your BAC is 0.08 or Higher
You will face the same license suspension consequences as an adult driver if you have a BAC of at least 0.08. For a first-time DUI offense, you could face a license revocation of up to 185 days. Halfway through the revocation period, you can apply for a restricted license on the condition that you install an ignition interlock device on your vehicle. When you commit a second-time DUI offense within seven years, you can apply for a driver's license revocation for one year. A 3rd time DUI offense within seven years will lead to license revocation for three years. After a license suspension of one year for a third-time offense, you can apply for a restricted license. You will also need to maintain an SR 22 insurance for three years to reinstate your driver's license.
Attending a DMV Hearing
During the DMV administrative hearing, you can contest the suspension of your driver's license. Even if the DMV hearing is more of a mini-trial, you have lower chances of prevailing in a DMV hearing than a criminal court trial. During the DMV hearing, the judge needs much less evidence to conclude that you are in the wrong. However, if it is evident that the police made a procedural mistake, you have a higher chance of prevailing in the DMV hearing. You could also have a higher chance of winning at the hearing if the arresting officer fails to show up. A DMV hearing is entirely distinct from a criminal case proceeding. The DMV judge can still revoke your driver's license even if the criminal court suspends your DUI case charge. Therefore, it is crucial to hire a skilled DUI attorney to represent you both at the DMV hearing and the criminal court. Involving a DUI attorney earlier in your case could help you save your driver's license.
Defenses for Underage DUI Cases in Las Vegas, Nevada
Together with your DUI attorney, you can adopt several defenses to fight underage DUI charges in Las Vegas, NV. The typical defenses include:
- The police had no probable cause to stop your vehicle — Nevada law outlines that the police must have probable cause to order a traffic stop. If you can prove that the officer pulled you over without a valid justification, you can successfully fight the underage DUI charges. With the help of your attorney, you can have the court dismiss your charges.
- The police used faulty breath test equipment to determine your BAC level — According to Nevada law, the breathalyzer equipment must undergo regular maintenance and calibration. If you prove that the breathalyzer equipment used to determine the BAC was faulty, you can persuade the court to disregard the BAC results.
- You were not under the influence — You can point out that you were not under the influence, but you merely recorded false high BAC results. For instance, rinsing your mouth with certain mouthwashes like Listerine could make you record a positive BAC even if you have not consumed alcohol.
- The police did not administer the FSTs properly — The Nevada law outlines how field sobriety tests should be conducted. While conducting FSTs, the police must adhere to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA). If the police fail to follow the necessary guidelines, the court may disregard the field sobriety tests' results. This would leave the prosecutor with weak evidence against you, leading to suspension of your charges.
- Your high BAC resulted from a medical condition — if you have certain medical conditions like Gerd, diabetes, acid reflux, or hypoglycemia, you may record high BAC results even if you are not under the influence of alcohol. Other factors that could lead to false BAC results include a low-carbohydrate diet, rising blood alcohol, auto-brewery syndrome, dentures, and other orthodontics devices.
- You were not under the influence while driving — You can only face charges if the prosecutor proves that your BAC was above the allowable limit of 0.02% while driving. Your case could be dismissed if you provide evidence showing that you did not begin taking alcohol or drugs until you stopped driving. Your DUI attorney will conduct a thorough investigation of your underage DUI case to identify all the facts. Your attorney will uncover the facts that the police may have missed. The attorney will rely on medical records, surveillance videos, eyewitnesses, police reports, and expert testimony to create the best defense for your charges.
Scaling of a DUI Conviction
Whether you can have your DUI conviction scaled will depend on:
- Whether the juvenile court or the adult court handled your case
- Whether the underage DUI offense was a misdemeanor or a felony
If the juvenile court handles the case, the record will be sealed automatically when you reach 21 years. You may apply to have the case scaled earlier. However, you must wait for three years after the closure of the case. If your case is handled in an adult court, whether you can seal the criminal record will depend on several factors. You cannot seal a felony DUI conviction. For a misdemeanor DUI offense, you must wait for seven years after the closure of the case to apply for sealing. For a reckless driving charge, you must wait one year before you apply for sealing.
Find an Underage DUI Attorney Near Me
In case you or your child is currently facing charges for driving under the influence while under 21 in Las Vegas, NV, we can help. At The Law Offices of Martin Hart, we have competent attorneys who will increase your chances of having your charges dismissed or reduced. Contact us at 702-380-4278 and speak to one of our attorneys.