Nevada DUI Court Process: What to Expect at Each Stage of a DUI Case
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Driving under the influence (DUI) in Nevada can lead to serious consequences, including fines, license suspension, and potentially imprisonment.
This article aims to provide residents, tourists, and visitors in Nevada with an overview of the stages of a DUI case, detailing what to expect at each stage, and answering related questions.
If you are currently facing DUI charges, don’t hesitate to reach out to The Defenders to discus the details of your case. We are a criminal defense firm that specializes in DUI cases and have an experienced team of lawyers to help you navigate the criminal justice system.
Stages of a DUI Case
A DUI case in Nevada often begins with a police officer suspecting a driver of operating a vehicle under the influence. There are generally three ways that trigger a police investigation:
- The officer/s had reasonable suspicion and/or probable cause to pull you over/approach you: For example, the police was driving along the highway and noticed a car was swerving in and out of lanes or going slower than the general speed of the traffic.
- The officer/s were called into an accident: If you are involved in an accident, such as a car crash, the police may arrive to investigate the cause of the accident. If their investigation reveals that the driver was intoxicated, then you may be charged with DUI
- The officer/s were part of a DUI checkpoint: In Nevada, officers set up DUI checkpoints to detain and investigate drivers who are suspected of driving under the influence.
If there is probable cause, the arresting officer will proceed further with their investigation which involves performing different tests to determine intoxication. Field sobriety tests and preliminary breath tests are often the go-to method here.
Other evidence is also gathered, such as any video or surveillance footage available.
While drivers do have the right to refuse tests, there may be consequences such as license suspension.
If the officer is able to establish probable cause, they may arrest you for DUI and take you into custody. If you were injured, you’ll be taken to the hospital. But if you were not injured, you’d be taken to a detention center or local jail.
It’s at this stage where the officers or medical practitioners will administer further tests like the evidentiary breath test or blood/chemical tests.
Your experience at the station may vary depending on the situation.
For example, if you refuse to perform any breath or blood tests, the officers may get a warrant and use “reasonable force” to take your blood to be used for the tests—which would mean longer time spent for you in jail.
After you finish these tests (or refusal thereof), you’ll now proceed to the booking stage.
After the tests are completed, you will go through a booking process that includes photo and fingerprinting. Additionally, an inventory of your personal belongings will be taken.
In most case, especially if this was your first DUI offense and/or you didn’t have any criminal history, you will be released immediately after. This is called “released on your own recognizance.”
Another outcome could be that you are required to post bail before you are released. We wrote about posting bail for DUI here in more detail. Feel free to check that out to learn more.
If you were involved in a DUI car crash that led to severe injuries or death, you can expect a different process than the examples above. If you’re in this situation, you might have to stay in jail for a few days until the bail hearing—which is when a judge determines the amount of bail or if you are qualified to be released without it.
Once you have been released, the arresting officer will prepare a DUI report and submit it to the local prosecutor. The prosecutor will then review your case and can either decide not to press charges or formally charge you with DUI.
In the event of the latter, you will be given a citation and be required to appear in court on a specific date for your arraignment. Keep in mind that if you fail to appear in court, a bench warrant for yourarrest will be issued and any bail posted will be forfeited.
4. Hiring a DUI Lawyer
For every DUI case, you always have three options:
- Not hire a lawyer / defend yourself.
- Hire a public defender
- Hire a private defense lawyer
We strongly recommend hiring a lawyer—whether that’s a public defender or a private attorney—instead of representing yourself. This is because, with the help of a defense lawyer, you can fight the charges and potentially have them reduced or even dismissed altogether.
A DUI attorney will also may be able to negotiate for a favorable plea bargain on your behalf. They are an invaluable asset throughout the process who can offer insight and advice as well as being there when you need to appear in court.
No matter the outcome, having a DUI lawyer by your side will provide you with much needed peace of mind and confidence that your rights are being protected—both in an out of the courtroom.
5. Nevada DMV Administrative Hearing
In addition to the criminal trial, you’ll also be required to attend an administrative hearing with the Nevada DMV. This is separate from your criminal proceedings and will determine if your license will be suspended or revoked.
After being arrested for DUI, the police will typically give you a temporary license that is valid for 7 days. This allows you to ask the Nevada DMV for an administrative hearing to challenge the suspension of your license.
Remember, you need to request this hearing in writing within 7 days. Otherwise, the DMV will automatically remove your license.
At this hearing, you’ll need to present evidence that convinces the presiding officer of why your license should or shouldn’t be revoked. This evidence can include medical records, a clean driving record, and other documents that demonstrate your innocence or lack of fault.
It’s important to note that if you fail to appear at the administrative hearing without providing advance notice and valid reasons for absence, your license may automatically be suspended or revoked.
At the arraignment, the driver (now referred to as the defendant) is formally charged with DUI. The judge will inform the defendant of their rights and ask them to enter a plea (guilty, not guilty, or no contest).
It is advisable to hire an attorney before or during the arraignment process if you haven’t already. An attorney can help you understand the charges against you and advise on an appropriate plea.
7. Negotiations and (Possible) Plea Bargains
The next step in the DUI process is negotiations and, potentially, plea bargains. Your attorney and the prosecutor will often try to negotiate a resolution to avoid trial.
If the evidence against you is weak, your lawyer may be able to have the charges dismissed or reduced. In some cases, prosecutors may agree to a plea bargain in which the defendant pleads guilty to lesser charges with lighter penalties attached, like reckless driving instead of DUI.
Negotiations can be lengthy and complex and it is best that you leave them in your attorney’s capable hands.
8. Pre-Trial Motions
If the defendant pleads not guilty or couldn’t agree on a resolution, the case moves to the pre-trial stage. During this stage, both the prosecution and the defense work on collecting evidence, obtaining statements, and preparing for the defense. For example, your attorney can file a motion to exclude certain evidence or challenge the arrest.
It’s important to remember that this stage can take months to finish as evidence is not always available right away. For example, it’s not uncommon for misdemeanor DUIs to last a few months and felony DUIs often take much longer.
At this stage, negotiations continue to happen. As evidence and the details of the case become clearer, your attorney may recommend you pursue a plea bargain or take the case to trial. Ultimately, the decision is up to you.
If the case doesn’t settle out of court, it goes to trial. During the trial, both sides present their evidence and arguments in front of a judge and/or jury and make their case for why the defendant should be found guilty or not guilty.
Here, your experience will also vary.
- If you are facing misdemeanor DUI, your guilt or innocence will be decided by a judge (i.e. bench trial).
- If you are facing felony DUI charges, you can choose either a bench trial or a jury trial.
If you watch enough TV shows, like Suits, this is what happens in the courtroom. Witnesses get cross-examined, objections are called and evidence is presented as the jury deliberates.
Ultimately, the outcome of your case will be determined in trial—guilty or not guilty.
If you are found guilty in court, the judge will impose a sentence that could include fines, probation, jail time, alcohol classes, and more.
Sometimes, sentencing occurs right after the verdict is given. Other times, a separate sentencing hearing is held on a different day (which can occur as late as a few weeks after).
Of course, if you are not found guilty, the charges will be dismissed and you will be free to go.
No matter the outcome, it is important to understand that DUI charges are serious and can have long-lasting legal consequences. Be sure to speak with your attorney and follow their guidance throughout the entire process.
Sentencing can make or break your future as a DUI conviction will remain on your record for many years to come. It is important that you have an experienced lawyer to argue for the most lenient sentence possible.
While a conviction may be the end of your case, it is possible to file an appeal. This process involves asking a higher court to review and overturn the original ruling. Your attorney will help you understand if this is an option for your situation.
If you choose to move forward with an appeal, this will require additional legal work and negotiations on top of the trial, so it’s important to have a good understanding of the process before you decide.
Appeals are complex and difficult to win, so be sure you discuss this option thoroughly with your attorney before deciding if it is right for you.
12. Sealing of Records
If you were convicted and served your sentence, in some cases, you may be able to have your record sealed. This means that the public will not easily see it but law enforcement agencies and employers may still have access.
In Nevada, the process of sealing your DUI records is lengthy and will likely require you to wait at least 7 years before the records can be sealed.
It’s also important to note that in some cases, a DUI charge cannot be sealed even after the waiting period. This is true for felony DUI convictions. Those stay in your record forever.
Again, it is important to speak with your attorney about this process and what options are available to you.
Facing DUI Charges? Hire The Defenders
DUI charges are serious and the process of defending yourself can be quite overwhelming. That’s why it is important to have experienced legal counsel by your side throughout each step.
At The Defenders, our team of experienced DUI defense attorneys has been providing skilled representation for people facing these charges in Nevada for many years. We understand the DUI process and are here to provide you with dedicated representation throughout your case.
Don’t let a DUI charge ruin your future. Call The Defenders today for a free consultation. We will review your case and help you understand all of your legal options going forward. Together, we can protect your rights and get you through this difficult time.