Nevada DUI: Answers to your most frequently asked questions

(Nevada DUI Law Step-By-Step Guide)

You know the saying. . . “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” Of course, people come to Las Vegas to have a good time . . .but there are times when too much of a good time can lead to serious Nevada DUI law consequences and what happens here may follow you home. This is particularly true if you have been drinking and driving and end up with a DUI.

Whether you live in Nevada or you are just visiting, driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is a serious offense in Las Vegas that often carries harsh penalties. Being charged with a DUI does not have to ruin your life, but there are some things you should know. Keep reading for more information and get answers to your DUI questions.

Field sobriety tests and breath tests are pre-arrest tests under Nevada DUI Law.

This means they they are used to confirm a police officer’s suspicion of drunk driving.

The most important thing to know about field sobriety tests is that they are usually voluntary.

And…most people cant pass them even under the best of circumstances where there is no drinking involved.

Nevada DUI Chart

Despite the fact that less people are getting behind the wheel impaired, Nevada DUI law violations still happen daily in Las Vegas.

In this guide, we break down Nevada DUIs and explain the DUI process from start to finish.

But…before we get into the details of Nevada DUI, let’s first explain the laws.


traffic stop
Every state has laws designed to punish drivers who drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
Nevada is no exception.
And, if the consequences for a DUI seem extreme, we believe that’s a good thing.
The laws are designed to scare you away from drinking and driving.
You can find the Nevada DUI laws in the Nevada Revised Statutes at NRS 484C.
The statutes include definitions of Nevada DUI as well as explain the administrative and criminal penalties for receiving a DUI in Nevada.
Let’s break down the basics of the Nevada DUI Law.


DUI stands for Driving Under the Influence.

In Nevada, driving under the influence is defined as “the act of driving or being in actual physical control of a vehicle (including a motorcycle, bicycle, boat, and other vehicles) when your normal faculties are impaired by alcohol or drugs (legal or illegal), or when you have a breath or blood alcohol level of .08 or higher.”

DWI is also known as driving while intoxicated (DWI), drunk driving, operating under the influence, drinking and driving, and impaired driving.

Different states have different criminal titles for the act of operating a vehicle while impaired, such as DWI.

In Nevada, there is just one crime for driving under the influence.


police car

Each state has its own laws for a limit when someone is defined a being too impaired to operate a vehicle.

This is measured by blood alcohol concentration, or BAC.

Almost every state has a BAC limit of .08 including Nevada.

However, Nevada DUI law states the legal limit for a DUI for commercial drivers is .04 and for drivers under 21 the legal limit is .02.

It is important to remember that in Nevada, it isn’t just alcohol that could land you with a DUI.

If the police suspect you are under the influence, other substances like marijuana, cocaine, heroin, opium, meth, ecstasy, and acid can get you a DUI conviction – and any trace of these illegal drugs in your system makes you guilty.


Nevada DUI law has three sets of laws that you need to know: Illegal Per Se, Implied Consent and Open Container.

So what does this mean in non-lawyer speak?

Illegal Per Se means that if your BAC is above .08 you are automatically intoxicated by law.

This means that the prosecutor doesn’t have to show you were swerving lanes or wrecked your car because you were intoxicated.

It means all the prosecutor has to do is show your BAC is over .08 and you are presumed, by law, to be too intoxicated to drive.

The implied consent law in Nevada means that simply by getting behind the wheel of a vehicle to drive, you are agreeing to be tested for being under the influence.

In other words, just by driving you agree to be tested for being under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

If you refuse to take a test, the police officer may arrest you.

Finally, the open container law.

Simply put, it is illegal to drive a vehicle with an opened alcoholic beverage anywhere in the car.

Why is Nevada DUI law important?

Because no matter how sober or “ok to drive” you think you might be after a few drinks, the only thing that matters is your BAC once you get behind the wheel.

If you BAC exceeds the legal limit, you are too intoxicated to drive and you should expect to receive a charge for DUI.
And if you have an open container of alcohol in your car, even if you haven’t been drinking you can still be convicted of a crime.

Minimize the Impact the DUI Charge Has On Your Life

How Does Alcohol Affect Your Ability To Drive?

dui graphic

Needless to say, alcohol affects everyone differently. This is why some people can get “drunk” after 1 beer and some people take 10 beers to feel “drunk.”

The NHTSA (National High Way Traffic Safety Administration) reviewed 109 research studies regarding the effects of alcohol and impairment.

What the NHTSA can say is that alcohol slows down activity in the brain and other parts of the nervous system. . .for everyone.

That’s right! In every study reviewed by the NHTSA there was no question that alcohol had an effect, specifically a slowing effect, on people’s brain and nervous system.

So what does this really mean? People may have different physical reactions to drinking but the more you drink, the higher your blood alcohol level and the stronger the effect of the alcohol on your reflexes and decision making.

How do different drugs affect your ability to drive?

The use of illicit drugs or the misuse of prescription drugs can make driving dangerous.

Just like alcohol, drugged driving puts everyone and violates Nevada DUI law.

Depressant drugs such as marijuana, opiates and benzos slow down the nervous system.

These drugs can slow reaction time, reduce concentration, increase drowsiness and make it difficult to process information.

Stimulant drugs such as amphetamines, cocaine and ecstasy speed up your central nervous system. This can lead to aggressive or reckless driving, increased risk taking and attention difficulties.

Psychedelics such as ketamine, LSD, magic mushrooms, mescaline and PCP distort a person’s perception of reality. Ecstasy and cannabis can also have some hallucinogenic effects.

Taking these drugs can lead to you seeing or hearing things that aren’t really there, or experiencing real things in a distorted way. Taking any of the drugs listed above can lead to an increased risk of being in an accident if you use these drugs and drive.

How can you avoid a DUI?

alcohol and driving
Like we’ve already said one of the easiest ways to avoid violating the Nevada DUI law is to not drink and drive.
But we know that with the statistics above, that isn’t always realistic.
So here are some ways to avoid getting a DUI if you have to drink: Drink Standard Drinks
If you drink a standard drink it is easier to monitor your consumption and thus your BAC.
A standard drink has 10 grams of alcohol in it.
To stay below the 0.05 BAC limit, drivers are advised to limit their drinking to one standard drink per hour.
Wait awhile after drinking
Waiting to drive after drinking will get your BAC down.
alcohol is absorbed.
Deciding how long to wait can be difficult.
For most people, you can get rid of one standard drink per hour.
Eat if you are waiting
Eating food if you are drinking will lessen the effect of alcohol versus drinking without food.
It is important to note that eating while drinking does not prevent intoxication if you drink a large amount of alcohol, or if you drink quickly.
So, although you can be pretty sure about having a lower blood alcohol level when you have your alcohol with food, the effect is so complicated that there is no way to be sure you aren’t over the legal limit.
Checking your alcohol level
The only way to know for sure if your BAC is not violating the Nevada DUI law is to check your alcohol level.
Many hotels, nightclubs and restaurants have BAC monitors. If you don’t know, simply ask.
You can also keep your own testing device although they are no very accurate and they can be expensive.
If you are over .08, get a ride share, catch a cab, take public transportation or call a friend.

How to Report the Facts of Your Arrest to the Judge

Field sobriety tests and breath tests are pre-arrest tests.

This means they they are used to confirm a police officer’s suspicion of drunk driving.

The most important thing to know about field sobriety tests is that they are usually voluntary.

And…most people cant pass them even under the best of circumstances where there is no drinking involved.

So what exactly are the field sobriety tests?

By definition, field sobriety tests are various divided attention tasks given to someone who is suspected of driving under the influence.

The purpose of field sobriety tests is to “prove” a person is driving under the influence.

Nevada DUI law dictates that the tests are solely graded by the police officer that suspects the driver of being impaired and whether you pass or fail is totally up to the officer’s observations. There are 3 standard field sobriety tests:

Horizontal Gaze Nystagmus

police test image
Horizontal gaze nystagmus (HGN) is an involuntary “jerking” of the eyeball which happens to everyone when the eyes are rotated at high peripheral angles.
When a person is intoxicated, however, the jerking of the eyes becomes more exaggerated and occurs at lesser angles.
For the HGN test, under the Nevada DUI law the officer will ask the driver to follow a moving object, such as a pen or flashlight, slowly from side to side.
The officer is trying to decide:
  • If the eye cannot follow the object smoothly
  • If jerking is distinct when the eye is at maximum deviation
  • If the angle of jerking onset is within 45 degrees
Research shows this test to be accurate in 77% of test subjects.
Walk-and-Turn Test
For the walk-and-turn test, the officer asks the driver to take nine steps, heel-to-toe, along a straight line, turn on one foot and return nine steps in the opposite direction.
During the test, the officer looks for seven indicators of impairment:
  • If the suspect cannot keep balance while listening to the instructions
  • Begins before the instructions are finished
  • Stops while walking to regain balance
  • Does not touch heel-to-toe
  • Uses arms to balance
  • Loses balance while turning
  • Takes an incorrect number of steps
If the driver exhibits two or more of the above indicators during the test, there is a 68% likelihood of at BAC level of 0.10.
One-Leg Stand Test
police officer testing
For the one-leg stand test, the officer asks the driver to stand with one foot about six inches off the ground and count by from 1,001 (one-thousand-one, one thousand-two, etc.) until the officer says to put the foot down.
During the next 30 seconds, the officer looks for these four indicators:
  • Swaying while balancing
  • Using arms to balance
  • Hopping to maintain balance
  • Putting the foot down
If the driver exhibits two or more of the above indicators, there is a 65% chance he has a BAC of 0.10 or greater.
Breath Tests
breath test
The field breath test or PAS is a handheld machine that police use to measure a driver’s breath alcohol concentration.
The purpose of the breath test is to measure your BAC in a less invasive way.
The test works when a person blows into the machine. The machine is supposed to measure the amount of alcohol on your breath and then convert it a BAC.
BEWARE: The breath test is never 100% accurate!
What you need to know about the tests:
By the time an officer asks you to take these tests, you are already believed to be drunk and the officer is just looking for more evidence to support the decision to arrest you.
Field Sobriety Tests, as we explained above, are largely unreliable and most of the field sobriety tests have been proven to have very little scientific value.
Other factors may affect your field sobriety test such as road conditions, weather, footwear, clothing, and your medical history.

What are your rights with a field sobriety test under the Nevada DUI law?
bigstock know your rights banner

You also have the right to refuse a field sobriety test or chemical test. While this may be frustrating to the police, it is 100% your right to refuse the test.

All of the tests are completely subjective including the breath test. The breath test may be affected by medications which can lead to false positives as well as other factors.

You always have the right to consult with an attorney before you agree to any of the field sobriety tests. You should talk to an experienced DUI attorney ASAP because if you do, the police will stop asking you questions.

You have the right to ask if you are free to leave. Simply ask the officer if you are under arrest. If not, you need to ask the officer if you are free to go. If you are free to leave, you need to leave. Don’t say anything else. Just go.

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Most DUI cases start with a simple traffic stop. This could be pulling you over for something as small as a broken taillight. It could also mean pulling you over for something more concerning like swerving in your lane. Almost every time someone is arrested and charged with DUI it starts with a simple traffic stop.
And…once the stop occurs, you need to know what to expect next!

The Officer Will Observe You, Your Car and Your Passengers

police observation
If you are pulled over, the police officer will approach your vehicle like any other traffic stop.


Keep in mind that the officer is making note of how your vehicle looks when you pulled over.


For example, if the officer pulls you over to the side of the road and you have difficulty parking in your lane, or you pump your brakes multiple times before you finally stop or if you have fresh damage to your vehicle, the officer is making a mental note and will document it in a police report.


Once you are safely pulled over, the officer will get out of his vehicle and approach your car.




The Officer will come to your window and ask for your license and registration.


The Officer will take note of how you are acting. Do you fumble around for your document? Do you seem twitchy? Are you sweating? Are you talking really fast or really slow? Are you answering the Officer’s questions?


The Officer will also be observing the smells from you and your vehicle. Do you smell like alcohol? Is there a smell of marijuana or other odors in your car?


The Officer will observe the inside of your vehicle and your passengers. Do your passengers smell like alcohol or drugs? Is your car littered with empty beer cans?


Again, the Officer will make note of all of these observations and document them in the police report.

After The Officer Makes Initial Contact, You Should Expect To Be Questioned

If the Officer expects you have been drinking, you should expect the first question to be a direct “how much have you had to drink?” If you answer this question, it is likely you will be arrested on suspicion of DUI.

Most people who actually answer and admit that they have been drinking underestimate how much they have had to drink.

I can’t tell you the number of times people come to our office with a DUI and tell us “I only had 2 beers.” And… If we’ve heard it a million times the police have heard it 2 million times.

The bottom line? Once police have confirmation you’ve been drinking (regardless of the amount), you should almost ALWAYS expect to be arrested for DUI.

Your Car Might Be Searched Too

car search

It is not unusual that when someone is suspected of violating the Nevada DUI law, police search their car.

This is especially true if police believe you are under the influence of drugs.

If the police have reason to believe there is incriminating evidence in your car, they can search your car and everything inside your car.

And yes…this includes backpacks, gym bags, glove box, trunk and closed containers.

BEWARE: If you agree to allow the police to search your car, you have consented to the search and anything police find in your vehicle can be used against you.

Your Car Might Be Searched Too

police interrogation

We generally don’t recommend arguing with law enforcement when you are pulled over, especially if you are suspected of DUI.

That being said, you are certainly under no obligation to answer the officer’s questions.

Politely tell the police officer that you are not going to answer any questions without your lawyer.

If you are argue with the officer, chances you are going to raise suspicions about being under the influence.

If you choose to answer questions, be as vague as you can with your answers and definitely DO NOT ANSWER ANY QUESTIONS ABOUT HOW MUCH YOU HAVE HAD TO DRINK.

Again, you have the right and you should tell the officer you aren’t answering any questions without your lawyer.

What You Need To Know About Your DUI Arrest

If You’re Arrested For DUI, You Will Be Transported To Jail And Booked

arrested image

If the police they have enough evidence to arrest you for DUI, you will be transported by the police to jail.

The jail you are transported to will depend upon where you are arrested and which law enforcement agency is arresting you.

For example, if you are arrested in North Las Vegas by North Las Vegas police, you will likely be transported and booked into North Las Vegas City Jail. However, if you are arrested in North Las Vegas by Highway Patrol, it is likely you will be taken to North Las Vegas Detention Center.

Upon arriving at the jail, the jail will gather personal information, including but not limited to:

  • Getting your name
  • Getting your date of birth
  • Identifying your physical characteristics like height, weight, hair color and eye color
  • Running a background check to see if you have other criminal cases or prior criminal history

You will also be photographed and fingerprinted. Your photo and fingerprints will be logged into a criminal database.

You will be searched and any personal belongings you have will be confiscated.

You may be released from custody right after you are booked.

However, if you have multiple DUIs in your background or if you are wanted for other crimes, you will be placed in a holding cell until you can see a judge.

Release From Jail After Being Booked

bail bond art

Depending on the severity of your DUI and your criminal history, you may either be released on your own recognizance (an “OR” release) or you could be asked to post bail.

If you are asked to post bail, you should contact friends, family or even a bail bondsman.

Bail windows are open 24 hours a day in Clark County, Nevada which means anyone can post bail for you at any time.

After you are released from jail, you will be given paperwork telling you to return to Court for an arraignment.

Nevada DUI Arraignment

The arraignment is usually the hearing that occurs after you are released from jail. These hearings usually only take a few minutes.

Before the arraignment, the prosecutor will review the evidence gathered against you and decide whether or not to move forward with a formal case.

If the prosecutor decides there is not enough evidence to proceed with a formal case, you will likely be told no case is being filed and you are free to go.

If the prosecutor isn’t sure if there is enough evidence to file a case, they may ask to continue the arraignment to a later date. At this point, you will be asked to return to court for another arraignment hearing.

If the prosecutor has decided to pursue a formal case against you, you will be given a copy of the Nevada DUI law complaint the prosecutor has filed against you.

Next, the judge will call your case. You will be expected to stand up and the judge will read the charges filed against you.

Once the charges are read, you will be asked how you want to plead to the charges.

At this point, you will enter a plea of guilty, not guilty or no contest.


If you enter a not guilty plea, you will be given another court date and told to return to Court for either a status check, preliminary hearing, pretrial conference or trial.

Also, if you enter a not guilty plea, you will need to obtain discovery from the prosecutor. This is sometimes given at the arraignment hearing and sometimes, you will need to file a separate request for discovery.

If you plead guilty or no contest, the judge will ask you questions about your knowledge of the plea, whether you have been threatened or coerced into giving the plea and your understanding of the events about your case. The judge may choose to sentence you right then OR the judge may bring you back on another date for sentencing.

Ways To Get Your DUI Dismissed Or Reduced

case dismissed

Being charged with a DUI does not have to result in an automatic DUI conviction.

There are many ways to get evidence thrown out, get your charges reduced or even get a DUI dismissed.

In this guide, we list the most common ways to get a DUI charge reduced or dismissed . . .

The most common way to attack a DUI charge is to argue there was no probable cause for the stop. As we said above, the officer must have a legal reason to stop you in the first place. This means you were speeding, swerving, ran a red light, etc. If there was no legal reason for the stop, the DUI charge that follows should be dismissed.


You are entitled to have a judge determine whether or not the stop was legal.

You also have the right to challenge the field sobriety tests. Like we said above, there are lots of problems with field sobriety tests and they aren’t always accurate.

If you want to challenge the field sobriety test, you can argue the lighting in the area was poor, the ground was not stable, the weather conditions were poor, and a million other reasons that the tests should be thrown out.

If you can show that the conditions for administering the field sobriety test was less than ideal, you can argue that the test is not reliable and should not be considered.

Another way to have your DUI charge thrown out is to argue about the admissibility of the breath test. Like we said, the breath test is not accurate for lots of reasons.

If you can show the machine was not working properly or the test was not administered correctly, you can argue to dismiss all evidence of the breath test.

Again these are just a few ways to have a DUI reduced or dismissed. Hiring an experienced DUI attorney is critical! A qualified DUI lawyer will explore all of the possible ways to have your charges dismissed.

Frequently Asked Questions About The DUI Process


Do I need to appear at my arraignment?

It depends on the charges. If you were charged with a misdemeanor, chances are you can have your lawyer appear for you. If you were charged with a felony, you will probably need to be present for your arraignment.

What are the penalties for a DUI in Nevada?

The penalties for a DUI depend on your criminal history and specifically your DUI history.
For a first offense DUI, the penalties are:

  • 2 days to 180 days in jail or 48 to 96 hours of community service
  • Minimum fine of $400
  • Losing your driver’s license for a minimum of 185 days
  • You may also have to have an interlock device on your car (this is a device you blow into in order to start your vehicle)

For a second offense DUI in a seven year period:

  • 10 days to 180 days in jail
  • Minimum fine of $750
  • Losing your driver’s license for 1 year
  • You may also have to have an interlock device on your car (this is a device you blow into in order to start your vehicle)

For a third offense DUI in a seven year period:

  • 1 year to 6 years in prison
  • Minimum fine of $2000
  • Losing your driver’s license for 3 years
  • You may also have to have an interlock device on your car (this is a device you blow into in order to start your vehicle)

For more information about Nevada DUI law consequences (aside from the criminal penalties), check out our most recent article here:

What happens if I miss a court date?

You should expect that if you miss a court date a warrant will be issued for you. If you discover you inadvertently missed a court date, call a lawyer immediately!

Schedule A Free Consultation Call With Our DUI Legal Team

Hiring an attorney for your DUI charge is the single most important thing you can do.

Not only is your freedom at stake, but having a solid, experienced DUI defense attorney on your side can help preserve your job, your insurance rates and even your family.

Choosing the wrong attorney can result in thousands of dollars in fees and fines, can result in you being incarcerated, might cost you your job, will result in thousands of dollars in increased insurance premiums and could even cost you parenting time with your children if you are divorced or involved in a custody matter.

It is important to remember that a DUI charge is just an accusation.

There are winning defenses to a DUI arrest and that is why it is critical to hire an attorney that knows how to defend these allegations.

How To Find A Las Vegas DUI Lawyer

bigstock lawyer up

We live in Las Vegas and there are attorney advertisements everywhere!

We are not disparaging those that mass advertise for DUIs. In fact, you should talk to those lawyers too.

But in addition to considering the mass advertised Las Vegas DUI Lawyers, you should also consider finding a DUI Attorney in Las Vegas by doing the following:

Personal Recommendations: Ask friends, family and co-workers you trust for a referral to a DUI attorney.

Ask A Lawyer You Used For Another Matter: We get it. Not everyone wants their friends, family or colleagues to know they are facing a DUI.

Even if you ask your friends or family for recommendations, you should also ask a lawyer you have used for another legal issue. In Las Vegas, the legal community is small. Lawyers often refer clients to other lawyers and lawyers know who has a good reputation and who doesn’t.

State Bar Association: Another resource is the State Bar of Nevada or the State Bar in your area. Most lawyers accept State Bar referrals and for some practice areas are required to have experience in that area before the State Bar will make a referral.

Questions To Ask When Interviewing DUI Attorneys

Here’s a list of questions you should ask any lawyer you are considering hiring for your DUI:

How long have you been a licensed attorney?

How long have you been handling criminal cases?

How many DUI cases have you handled in a year?

How many DUI trials have you done?

How successful have you been in reaching deals with DUI cases?

How well do you know the prosecutors?

Have you taken DUI CLEs?

Will I actually be working with you or will someone else in the office be handling my DUI case?

How much is this going to cost?

What do you think the outcome of my case will be?

How Much Does A DUI Attorney Cost?

The cost to hire a DUI attorney will depend on lots of different factors.

First, the type of DUI charge you are facing will be a big consideration for any attorney agreeing to take on your case.

For example, if you are facing your offense DUI, you should expect to pay a lot less than if you are facing a felony DUI or a third offense DUI.

In addition to the type of DUI charge you are facing, the cost can also depend on the jurisdiction prosecuting your DUI.

Some attorneys might charge more for certain jurisdictions because they know the prosecutors in those areas don’t settle DUI cases and your case may need to go to trial.

Another factor in DUI fees can be whether or not you will need to hire an expert for your case.

For example if you want to challenge the breathalyzer test or the BAC results, you will probably need to hire an expert for your case.

This can cause the fees for a DUI to increase significantly as experts tend to cost at least $2,500 or more.

For the most part you should expect to spend at least $1,500 or more to hire a DUI attorney.

Again this cost depends on the nature of the DUI charge, the possible defenses and the jurisdiction prosecuting the charge, among other factors.

Why Hire Us For Your Las Vegas DUI

bigstock portrait of a female

We have over 20 years of combined experience practicing law.

Our attorneys have all handled DUI cases and we bring our experience and expertise in DUI to your case.

We know the ins and outs of the DUI process and the tricks and traps prosecutors use to obtain convictions. We have specialized DUI training. Specifically, we have undergone extensive training in all aspects of DUI law including field sobriety testing, BACs, forensic evidence and DUI defense. In addition, our team has over 31 years of combined experience Molly handling DUIs at every level including felony DUIs and first offense DUIs.

There are many attorneys who claim to handle DUIs but they don’t take cases to trial. Instead, they take your money and plead out your case.

Our biggest asset is that we are not afraid to take a case to trial. We are experienced trial attorneys with over 200 trials under our belt. We will fight for your rights!

If you have questions about the Nevada DUI law, call our office at (702) 433-2889 or fill out our on-line form to get more information.

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