Even a first drunk driving offense can have serious consequences for a driver. Imprisonment and license suspension are possible, as well as heavy fines and court fees.
Although community service may be granted instead of jail time, a defendant will still have a conviction on his or her criminal record. This has many consequences including criminal penalties and affecting your reputation. Hiring a Las Vegas criminal defense attorney to represent you for your DUI case can help. A Las Vegas criminal defense attorney can assist with legal representation for your DUI offense.
What Happens During the First DUI Charge?
When you’re arrested for your first DUI offense, you face two cases. The first is a DMV case, which will determine whether or not your driver’s license will be revoked. The second is a criminal case, which will determine whether or not you are convicted of DUI.
The DMV case begins when you are arrested for driving under the influence. The DMV suspends a driver’s license for 185 days and 1 year for commercial vehicle drivers. Usually, you will have to pay fees to receive your license back.
Also, a first-time DUI case goes to the defendant’s criminal record for up to seven years. The following are the basic penalties that may be imposed for a first-time intoxicated driving offense in Nevada:
- 2 days to 6 months in county jail (a defendant may face 24 hours to 96 hours of community service instead)
- Fines of $400 to $1,000
- Court fees (often $600 for a first DUI)
- 90-day suspension of your driver’s license and a civil penalty fee of $35
- 8-hour DUI School, paid for by the defendant
- Victim Impact Panel, a MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) lecture
- Possible ignition interlock device in the defendant’s vehicle, at the defendant’s expense
- 185-days license revocation
It is important to note that these penalties may vary depending on the unique circumstances of the case and the presence of any factors that may result in enhanced sentencing. Such factors include a child in the vehicle at the time of the offense or the blood alcohol concentration (usually outlined in NRS 484C.020).
What Is the Difference Between the First DUI and Subsequent DUI Charges?
The first DUI charge in Nevada is a misdemeanor, and the subsequent DUI charges are felonies. In some circumstances, a first DUI offense may be charged as a felony rather than as a misdemeanor. The penalties for felony charges are different as well.
In Nevada, if you had prior convictions for driving under the influence before being charged with your current offense, then you may be charged with felony DUI.
“Prior conviction” in Nevada applies if you were previously convicted of driving under the influence within seven years of your current offense. If you were convicted more than seven years ago, then that prior conviction does not count toward determining your criminal charge.
DUI penalties in Nevada get more severe with each subsequent offense. This means that a first-time DUI arrest can be treated as a misdemeanor, which has serious consequences if convicted.
But you don’t have to go through it alone. A Las Vegas DUI attorney can help you avoid some of the harsh penalties associated with this charge, such as jail time and license suspension. Possible defenses include:
#1. The Police Never Read Your Miranda Rights
If you didn’t receive your Miranda rights (right to remain silent, right to an attorney), then any statements that you made after being arrested may not be admissible at trial. Your lawyer can file a motion to suppress those statements and evidence gathered as a result of them, including the results of any field sobriety tests or breathalyzer tests.
#2. Alcohol on the Breath Doesn’t Imply Drunk Driving
People can drink alcohol without becoming intoxicated or impaired. Alcohol odor in the breath is not an indication of how much has been consumed, which means that there’s no direct correlation between how much you’ve had to drink and the odor in your breath. Certainly, it doesn’t imply the person was so intoxicated they were unable to drive safely (the standard in a Las Vegas drunk driving case).
#3. Heartburn or Acid Reflux Can Contaminate the DUI Breathalyzer
In some cases, drivers are charged with a DUI even though they did not consume any alcohol whatsoever. This can happen if they suffer from acid reflux or heartburn caused by medication they’re taking for other ailments.
The driver’s body can react to this condition by producing excess carbon dioxide in their breath which can then be misinterpreted by police officers using a portable breath test device (PBT). This device does not account for other potential causes for high levels of CO2 in breath such as exercise or stress, and this becomes a valid defense against the first DUI case.
#4. Field Sobriety Tests Not Given Properly
Field sobriety tests can be highly inaccurate while often producing false positives. The officers administering the test often fail to follow appropriate procedures when conducting them. This can lead to improper administration of these tests and false positives for those who are not intoxicated.
#5. No Probable Cause for the Traffic Stop
One of the best defenses for a first-time DUI offense is a lack of probable cause for the traffic stop. If there was no legal reason for the officer to pull you over, then all evidence gathered after the stop should be suppressed. This means that if you are convicted at trial, prosecutors cannot use any evidence from the traffic stop against you – including any breath or blood test results.
#6. Inaccuracy From Field Sobriety Tests
Another common defense is that field sobriety tests have an extremely high inaccuracy rate and don’t necessarily prove impairment beyond a reasonable doubt. For example, some people may perform poorly on these tests because they suffer from conditions like diabetes or vertigo that are unrelated to alcohol consumption.
How Can a Las Vegas DUI Lawyer Help?
If you’ve been charged with a DUI offense in Las Vegas, you have options. A DUI defense attorney in Las Vegas can help you defend your charge.
A Nevada criminal defense lawyer can help you explore all of your legal options, including:
- Negotiating with the prosecution for a lesser charge
- Arranging for a plea bargain
- Contesting the charges at trial
- Developing a criminal defense strategy for your case
- Assessing the evidence against you and determining the best course of action
- Updating you on developments in your case
What to Do After the First DUI Case?
The good news is that you can petition the court to seal your case record. This means that if you are approved by the court to seal your record, any future employer will not be able to see this charge on your background check.
Sealing a record is permitted under NRS 179.255 when there are no prior convictions for a crime against a child (NRS 200.508), controlled substance (NRS 453), or DUI (NRS 484C). Sealing a record can also be beneficial if you want to avoid having your criminal history showing up on background checks when applying for jobs with companies like Uber or Lyft because these industries require drivers who have clean criminal records.
If you do get approval from the court to seal your record, it will not be removed from public view immediately. Rather, it will remain visible for seven years from the date of disposition. However, if the drunk driving charge gets dismissed, your Las Vegas criminal defense attorney can help you seal the record immediately.
Consult With a Las Vegas Criminal Lawyer
If you’ve been charged with your first DUI offense, call a Nevada DUI defense lawyer from our firm as soon as possible. At De Castroverde Accident & Injury Lawyers, we can help to protect your driving privileges at your DMV hearing and build a defense against the charges by representing your interests through the criminal court process.
Our team of attorneys has successfully represented countless clients against drunk driving charges, and we would be proud to fight for you. Contact us today and one of our criminal defense attorneys will be ready to help you learn more about your defense options.