When Is DUI a Felony in Las Vegas?

Under Nevada law, a Las Vegas DUI can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, depending on the circumstances. Generally, the first or second DUI offense is a misdemeanor — but there are exceptions. Every drunk driving charge is a serious matter. You should never enter a plea to any DUI charge before you talk with an experienced DUI lawyer. That’s especially true if the charge is a felony. 

DUI in Nevada

Nevada statutes provide that a first or second DUI arrest is typically a misdemeanor charge. However, in certain situations, a first or second charge can be a felony. Both types of charges have significant potential penalties and consequences, but the prison time and fine for a felony charge are much more than for a misdemeanor. The administrative sanctions on your ability to drive can also be greater for a felony.

Beyond the penalties and administrative sanctions, any DUI guilty plea or conviction on your record, whether a misdemeanor or a felony, can adversely impact your life in major ways. It can affect your ability to get a job or housing, and even negatively affect getting a loan. Felony pleas and convictions usually result in much more serious ramifications than misdemeanors.

Regardless of what type of DUI charge you face — and even if it’s your first DUI arrest — you should get help from an experienced DUI lawyer as soon as possible. You should never agree to a plea without talking to a lawyer. Since a guilty plea to a misdemeanor can affect the level of subsequent offenses, you should always defend vigorously against any DUI charge — and that means retaining a knowledgeable lawyer.

Felony DUI

Nevada law includes specific provisions relating to the classification of a DUI charge as a misdemeanor or a felony. The classification distinction is significant for legal reasons beyond increased potential penalties. Felony DUI defendants are not eligible for probation, and the court does not have authority to suspend charges or reduce the statutory mandatory minimums. In addition, the prosecutor’s ability to plea bargain is restricted in certain situations.

In Nevada, DUI is charged as a felony in four situations:

DUI Third: Any driver who has two prior DUI convictions within the last seven (7) years, including misdemeanors, faces a felony DUI charge on a subsequent arrest.

Prior Felony DUI: After a person has one felony DUI conviction, subsequent arrests will be charged as a felony, regardless of the number of convictions. 

DUI with Injury or Death: Nevada law also provides that a DUI driver who causes bodily injury or death to another person automatically faces a felony charge, under NRS 484C.430. Potential penalties for the offense are two to twenty (20) years in prison and a fine of $2,000 to $5,000. Probation is not permitted for this offense, regardless of the driver’s prior record or the circumstances.

Vehicular Homicide: The most serious drunk or drugged driving offense is vehicular homicide. If a driver has three prior DUI convictions and causes another person’s death while driving under the influence, the driver will be charged with vehicular homicide. The offense is a Class A felony with a potential penalty of 25 years or life in prison. For this offense, parole is possible after ten (10) years.

These situations illustrate one important reason that it is essential to defend against every DUI charge: Any DUI conviction on a driver’s record is significant, because it can affect the level of a subsequent DUI charge.

Defending Against a Las Vegas DUI Charge

No matter what the circumstances of your Las Vegas DUI charge, an experienced DUI attorney has solid strategies to use in defending you. Determining the best options depends substantially on the facts of the case, including the actions of law enforcement during the stop and arrest. Your lawyer analyzes the facts of your case to ascertain the best legal and procedural approaches to defending against the charge.

The consequences of any guilty plea or conviction are substantial, whether a DUI charge is a misdemeanor or a felony. Potential penalties include jail or prison time and a fine, as well as administrative actions for license suspension and other restrictions. Depending on your personal situation, a conviction on your record may also significantly affect your employment, housing, and other aspects of your life. Getting assistance from a lawyer immediately can help to mitigate the negative effects.

The State of Nevada takes drunk driving (DUI) and drugged driving (DUID) very seriously. If you face a charge for either offense, you need to take the charge seriously too.

Schedule a Free Consultation With an Experienced Las Vegas DUI Attorney

If you face a felony or misdemeanor drugged driving or drunk driving charge in Las Vegas 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.