As a city known for its nightlife and party atmosphere, the city of Las Vegas sees many DUI arrests each year. In 2007 alone, 12,538 people were arrested in the state of Nevada under DUI charges. Because Nevada’s drunk driving and buzzed driving laws are stricter and tougher than nearly any other state’s, visitors to Las Vegas, Reno, and other cities in the state are often taken by surprise when they learn what consequences are possible if they are convicted. Knowing what to expect and consulting with an experienced DUI lawyer are the first two steps toward mounting a successful defense against a DUI charge.
Las Vegas, Nevada DUI Arrest Process
Nevada state law prohibits the driving of a motor vehicle with a blood or breath alcohol concentration of 0.08 or higher, consistent with other states’ blood alcohol concentration (BAC) levels. Nevada police officers use various roadside tests along with one of two different pieces of alcohol detection equipment to determine whether a driver’s BAC is over the legal limit:
- Breath testing actually includes two different tests. A preliminary test, administered at the traffic stop, is used to determine whether there is enough probability to arrest the driver under DUI charges. At the police station, a more detailed test is performed to create a report that can be entered as evidence in court.
- The blood testing process takes place at a Las Vegas police station and in a laboratory. The results are more accurate than the breath test, but the additional professionals and specialized equipment used in the process incur high costs, which are passed on to the driver if he or she is convicted.
A driver who fails either the breath or blood test can be convicted of DUI unless successfully defended by a skillful DUI lawyer. An important component of a drunk driving lawyer’s job is to investigate the possibility of error on the part of the equipment used in testing alcohol levels.
Drunk Driving Penalties in Nevada
An individual who is convicted of DUI is subject to the following penalties, dependent on past offenses within a seven year period and the ability of his DUI lawyer to have the charges reduced.
- First offense: Misdemeanor. Six months in jail (usually suspended), maximum fines of $1,000, and possible treatment programs and prevention measures ordered by the court (a vehicle breath detection device, for example).
- Second offense: Misdemeanor. Minimum 10 days and maximum 6 months in jail. Maximum fines of $1,000, misdemeanor DUI court, and imposition of lengthy treatment and prevention measures.
- Third offense: Category B felony. One to six years in prison, fines between $2,000 and $5,000, and a vehicle alcohol detection device installed for three years.
- DUI causing injury or death: Category B felony. Up to 20 years in prison are possible. A DUI causing death with three previous DUI convictions is prosecuted as vehicular homicide, with the possibility of life in prison if convicted.
In addition to these immediate penalties, a misdemeanor or felony DUI conviction creates a spot on your criminal record that will adversely affect your life for many years to come, if not permanently. If an experienced drunk driving attorney is able to get your charges dismissed or reduced from DUI, you will avoid facing significant obstacles to hiring, education, and financial opportunities among others.
Working With a Drunk Driving Attorney
The primary step of any individual charged with drunk driving is to retain the counsel of a drunk driving lawyer with extensive experience in the Las Vegas legal system. A capable drunk driving attorney has a number of tools with which to oppose a life-changing DUI conviction:
- Faulty BAC testing: The procedures police are required to follow and the equipment used in testing BAC are very complex. If your drunk driving lawyer is able to show that incorrect testing methods and/or questionable equipment quality were involved, the judge will dismiss your case.
- Other procedural errors: Police often violate the constitutional rights of drivers when making a traffic stop and DUI arrest. By carefully listening to your story and comparing it with national and state law, a drunk driving lawyer can determine if your arrest was illegal and should be thrown out.
- Burden of proof: The prosecution is required to prove “beyond reasonable doubt” that you were operating a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol. With a long history of successfully defending against drunk driving charges, a Las Vegas DUI lawyer knows exactly what factors to look for in your case that may cast sufficient doubt for dismissal. As just one example, if your car was not in motion when you were addressed by your arresting officer, your lawyer can argue that you were not driving even if you were drunk.
- Charge reduction: If a conviction of some kind is unavoidable, your drunk driving attorney will use his familiarity with local courts and prosecutors to get your charges reduced. Often, a DUI can be changed to reckless driving, a misdemeanor that carries lesser penalties and less serious future consequences.