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Ask a Lawyer: Drinking and driving in Nevada


In this article, we will focus on Driving Under the Influence of alcohol and the Nevada laws and rules associated with alcohol only. A thorough discussion of driving under the influence of drugs shall appear in the future.

Many people out there are social drinkers who have a drink or two with friends after work, have a drink with dinner, or have a drink on rare occasions, such as a wedding or special event. Regardless of when you drink, the law will come into play should you decide to consume alcohol and then drive your vehicle home.

Now at first blush, that may seem broad, to say, “any alcohol.” You may believe, “If I am not feeling drunk, then I am OK to drive.” Yet, so many different factors go into what can raise your blood alcohol level to the legal limit, that it becomes a gamble to assume you are legally OK to drive.

Let‘s start with the law in Nevada:

NRS 484C.110

1. It is unlawful for any person who:

(a) Is under the influence of intoxicating liquor;

(b) Has a concentration of alcohol of 0.08 or more in his or her blood or breath; or

(c) Is found by measurement within 2 hours after driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle to have a concentration of alcohol of 0.08 or more in his or her blood or breath, to drive or be in actual physical control of a vehicle on a highway or on premises to which the public has access.

Another way to state the law above, is that if you are driving a vehicle while under the influence of alcohol, however slight that influence may be, and you have a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08 or more, tested within two hours of your driving, then you are in violation of the law and will be arrested and held in jail for a minimum of 12 hours and (if you are unable to post bail) you could stay in jail for days. Generally, if you have a BAC of 0.08 or higher, it is a per se violation of the law and you will be arrested for DUI.

Certainly, an officer must have probable cause to stop your vehicle to begin with. Perhaps, you forgot to put on your headlights, you have a brake light out, you failed to maintain your lane, or you were speeding. Once your vehicle is legally stopped by the officer, a determination will be made as to whether or not there is reason to believe that you may have been consuming alcohol.

There needs to be some evidence of intoxication or of impairment for the officer to have probable cause to believe you may have consumed alcohol, and proceed with the Field Sobriety Tests (FSTs) and/or break out the breathalyzer (the Intoxilyzer 5000).

If probable cause exists (bloodshot or glassy eyes, slurred speech, odor of alcohol, etc.), then the officer will next proceed with a scientific determination as to whether or not you are currently under the influence of alcohol. The law gives the state up to two hours after you are seen operating a vehicle to actually withdraw your blood for the purposes of testing it for the BAC level. So, you can be pulled over at a traffic stop at 9:00 p.m. and have your blood drawn at the Clark County Detention Center at 10:58pm, and those BAC results are considered accurate.

What constitutes one’s BAC? Well, when we speak of having “a drink” – the drink most likely is in one of the following forms:

· (1) 12 oz. beer

· (1) 5 oz. glass of wine

· (1) 1.5 oz. shot of hard liquor

A driver who has had two drinks may have had two glasses of red wine or two shots of Tequila and the effect of these quantities on their ability to drive, and the resulting BAC level, is usually the same.

Many different factors go into what effect the consumed alcohol might have on an individual. These include, but are not limited to: the person’s weight, their gender, if they consumed food along with the alcohol, body-fat percentage, and the period of time during which they had the two drinks.

Some studies have shown that one drink could raise an individual’s BAC level to a 0.05. Due to the many personalized factors involved, it is very difficult to determine exactly how much alcohol it would take for a person to reach the 0.08 BAC limit, so it is obviously best to not even risk it at all.

Note: If a driver is under 21 years of age, their legal BAC limit is 0.02, which is nearly a “zero-tolerance” level for those who should not be drinking alcohol at all. There is also a similar “zero-tolerance” law for an individual with a commercial driver’s license driving a commercial vehicle.

Next, the Penalties for DUI in Nevada:

First Offense:

2 days to 6 months in Jail

Up to 96 Hours of Community Service

$400 - $600 Fine

License Suspended - 90 Days

Attend the Victim Impact Panel

Attend DUI School

Second Offense (within 7 years):

10 days to 6 months in Jail

100 - 200 Hours of Community Service

$750 - $1000 Fine

License Suspended – 1 year

Substance Abuse Program

Attend the Victim Impact Panel

Attend DUI School

Third Offense (within 7 years):

Felony

1 year to 6 years in Prison

$2000 - $5000 Fine

License Suspended – 3 years

As youcan see, the progressively harsher sentences go from a weekend at the county jail to a minimum of 1 year in a Nevada State Prison.

No matter what the case, once we take the risk of driving our vehicles under the influence of alcohol - however slight that influence may be – we open up a Pandora’s box of troubles and woes.

It simply is not worth trying to explain that you have only had two drinks and you are fine to drive, only to have to spend the night in jail, “under the suspicion of DUI.” It may later be determined that you were not legally intoxicated, but, because you were cutting it close, and the officer decided to make sure you were not a danger to the community, you spent the night in jail and will forever have the “arrest” on your record.

My advice? If you have consumed any alcohol, do not drive a vehicle. Leave your car in valet or in the parking lot and get a ride home from a friend. You’ll just owe that friend a favor in the future. If you don’t want to intrude on your friends, the other risk-free option is to call a cab. The cost of a cab ride home, compared to literally thousands of dollars you would spend on bail, fines, classes and lawyers, is next to nothing.

Be smart – don’t put yourself in a position where you are stuck trying to talk your way out of a traffic stop and/or DUI checkpoint. It most likely won’t work and you will end up spending that night sitting in a jail cell, full of regrets.

Listen to your lawyer and utilize a designated driver for the evening or spring for the cost of a cab ride home. It is certainly better to be safe than sorry.

Got something you’d like to ask a lawyer? Email your question to social@reviewjournal.com.

This information is for educational purposes and should not be considered specific legal advice. Always consult with a qualified attorney regarding your individual circumstances.

Marc Saggese is the owner of The Law Offices of Saggese & Associates. He has been a Las Vegas personal injury and criminal defense attorney for over 15 years. Mr. Saggese writes weekly about various issues of the law for reviewjournal.com. For more information visitwww.MaxLawNV.com or connect with him on Twitter, Facebook or Linkedin.