Why Do You Need a Lawyer For Your First DUI Charge?

A first DUI charge can be a disconcerting and intimidating experience. Before you decide how to proceed, you should be certain that you fully understand all the criminal penalties and the other consequences of a guilty plea or conviction. The impact on your life can be substantial. Your best approach is to talk with an experienced DUI attorney who can explain the options for defending against the charge and the alternatives available for minimizing the immediate and longer-term effects of the arrest.

In the discussion that follows, Las Vegas DUI attorney Joseph Gersten explains the laws and processes that apply to a first DUI charge in Nevada. Attorney Gersten aggressively defends clients against Nevada charges for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Criminal Penalties For a First DUI Charge in Nevada

If you do not have a previous DUI conviction in Nevada or any other state, or if your last misdemeanor DUI charge was more than seven years ago, your arrest is treated as a first DUI charge in Nevada. Even though the first DUI arrest is usually charged as a misdemeanor, the criminal penalties for a misdemeanor DUI are significant. A DUI incident involving a death or substantial injury to another person results in a felony charge with even greater penalties.

Prosecutors and courts are strict in imposing penalties in DUI cases. In addition to the administrative suspension of your driver’s license for six months (185 days), criminal penalties for a misdemeanor first DUI charge include: 1) two days to six months in jail or a set number of hours of community service; 2) a fine between $400 and $1,000 plus court costs; 3) attendance at an approved alcohol awareness program at your own expense; 4) attendance at a victim impact panel; and 5) installation of an ignition interlock device for a specified period of time.

For a BAC over 0.18, the penalties include installation of an ignition interlock device for one to three years. If you are under 21 years of age or your BAC was 0.18 or more, the penalties include an alcohol or drug dependency evaluation and attendance at an abuse treatment program. In addition, if you had a child under age fifteen (15) in your vehicle, penalties may be more substantial.

The criminal and administrative penalties are not the only potential consequences of a DUI arrest. A misdemeanor DUI conviction remains on your criminal record and is not eligible for record sealing until seven (7) years after the conviction. The conviction record can negatively impact employment, housing, financing, and other important areas of your life.

Administrative License Suspension

In addition to the criminal penalties, a misdemeanor drunk or drugged driving charge results in a 185-day (six month) suspension of your driver’s license by the DMV (Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles). The administrative process relating to license revocation is separate from the criminal proceeding that follows your arrest.

You can request a hearing to challenge the suspension, but DMV suspensions for DUI are difficult to win. You may be able to apply for a restricted license by installing an ignition interlock device, which allows limited driving, such as to your place of work.

If you refuse to take a breath or blood test during the arrest, you face an additional period of license suspension. You can read more about implied consent to testing in our blog post about refusal to take DUI breath and blood tests in Nevada. The suspension for refusal of a test also is handled through the DMV administrative process.

Alternative Sentencing in Nevada DUI Cases

In some misdemeanor DUI cases, alternative sentencing may be available under Nevada law. Our previous blog post, Alternative Sentencing in Las Vegas Criminal Cases, provides additional details about these programs. Your attorney will be familiar with programs that may be available as an option in your case.

Defending Against a First Nevada DUI Charge

An experienced DUI attorney has several different strategies to utilize in defending against a drunk driving charge. To evaluate your case, your lawyer first analyzes the facts and circumstances of the arrest. Every case is unique, and available defenses depend on the facts in your case.

Police sometimes make mistakes or errors during a DUI arrest, either in the process used for the arrest or in administration of the tests. Undermining the evidence by exposing law enforcement errors is one approach your lawyer may use in defending you against a DUI charge.

Your attorney also leverages all the circumstances to your best advantage in negotiating with the prosecutor. In some cases, it may be possible to get a charge dismissed or at least negotiate a plea to a lesser offense, like reckless driving. A plea to a different charge can minimize some of the penalties and consequences of a DUI arrest and record.

In any DUI case — and especially in a first DUI offense — representation by a skillful DUI attorney who knows the local courts, prosecutors, and practices is essential. The processes and ramifications of a DUI charge are complex. Even beyond the criminal and administrative penalties, the other effects on your life can be substantial and long-lasting.

Representation by a DUI lawyer gives you the best chance of navigating through the legal process to a result that minimizes the negative impacts on your life to the extent possible. Before you take any steps after your arrest, you should consult with a DUI lawyer about what options and alternatives are available for proceeding.

Schedule a Free Consultation With an Experienced Las Vegas DUI Attorney

If you face a drugged driving or drunk driving charge in Las Vegas, including a first DUI offense, attorney Joseph Gersten is here to help. His investigative background, trial experience, and criminal defense focus significantly benefit anyone facing a DUI or DUID charge.

The Gersten Law Firm assists clients facing any state or federal criminal charge in Las Vegas, Henderson, and elsewhere in Clark County. There is no charge for your initial consultation. Call 702.857.8777 or complete our online form to schedule an appointment.