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DUI

You Deserve the Best DUI Defense Attorney in Your Nevada Case

DUI defense in NevadaYou may have seen billboards which state, “Buzzed driving is drunk driving.” This statement is actually true: a charge for driving under the influence does not require a person to act like they are drunk, such as slurring or being unable to walk correctly.

Instead, the law considers the blood alcohol concentration of the driver to determine whether they are driving under the influence. If your blood alcohol concentration is .08 percent or above, DUI charges can be brought against you. Your BAC creates the presumption you are too impaired to drive, even if you actually aren’t.  A prosecutor doesn’t have to prove you were impaired to convict if the prosecutor can prove your BAC was too high while behind the wheel.

Alcohol is not the only illegal substance that can result in a DUI charge-prescription drugs, illegal drugs, and marijuana – even medical marijuana– can also be the basis for a DUI conviction.

If you have been arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, hiring an experienced Las Vegas DUI defense lawyer as soon as possible is your best bet. Nick Wooldridge will work with the prosecutor to see what evidence the police have against you and what options are available for reducing your sentence through a plea agreement. A good criminal defense lawyer  from LV Criminal Defense can also take the case to trial if necessary, and may be able to show that the blood alcohol testing was done improperly or is somehow faulty.

Nick Wooldridge can help you not only in a criminal case, but also in a DMV hearing that may allow you to avoid the loss of driving privileges. As soon as you are arrested in Las Vegas, get legal help from a DUI attorney so you can begin aggressively fighting for your right to drive your vehicle and stay out of jail.

 What is the DUI process after arrest?

A DUI is not a traffic ticket– it’s a crime. This means when you are pulled over by the police and suspected of drunk driving, you’ll be thrown into the criminal justice system. You need to be prepared for the process, which generally involves the following in a typical DUI case:

  • The arresting officer will give you a citation, which has a court date on it.
  • You or your attorney will need to go to court. You will want an experienced defense lawyer to attend this hearing with you or on your behalf. If this is your first or second DUI, your case is probably a misdemeanor charge. This means that you do not need to be present at the first hearing in court, and instead your lawyer can appear on your behalf. In other cases, you will need to be present at this hearing. A third DUI  is a felony crime and requires your presence in court.
  • You’ll need to decide how to plead: guilty, or not guilty. Your attorney at LV Criminal Defense can advise you on what your options are. Be sure to talk to a lawyer before you decide. If you want to plead guilty, your lawyer may be able to help you negotiate a favorable plea agreement.
  • Your attorney will begin gathering evidence. This can include police reports lab reports and other items you may not know to request on your own, such as the maintenancehistory of the breathalyzer test machine used on you.Your lawyer will look at this evidence from the defense viewpoint, finding weaknesses in it that can be used to defend you at trial or to negotiate a reduced charges or a dismissal if the evidence is weak.
  • Your lawyer may make pre-trial motions, like a motion to dismiss the case or suppress evidence.
  • Your case will be resolved through a plea or will proceed to trial. Your lawyer will argue on your behalf to try to help you avoid being found guilty. If you are convicted, you’ll face a sentencing hearing. In some cases, you can appeal.

This process can be complicated, and there are strict rules of evidence applicable in DUI cases. You need to be prepared to follow court rules, line up expert witnesses, and put together the best case you can. A Las Vegas DUI lawyer knows the rules for how DUI cases are prosecuted and defended and will help you to make smart, strategic choices at every single step of handling your case.

 How does the state prove DUI?

The prosecutor must show that you were driving impaired in violation of Nevada laws. The prosecutor will attempt to prove that you were driving in an erratic fashion, unlike a sober driver, or that you smelled like alcohol, or that you walked or talked like a drunk person.

The prosecutor has to prove there was a reason for the officer to perform a blood or breath test, which showed a blood alcohol content over .08, or which showed that you were above-the-limit for drugs found in your system.  While you can be convicted of a DUI even if your BAC was below .08 or if you had a small amount of drugs in your system, it is harder for a prosecutor to prove impairment if your chemical tests don’t show that you had intoxicating substances in your body.

Nicholas Wooldridge and his team of drunk driving lawyers will respond to each of the facts  presented by a prosecutor with your defenses, which can range from the officer’s failure to complete the BAC test properly to contamination of a blood sample after it was taken. You don’t have to prove you were innocent to avoid being found guilty because the U.S. justice system puts the burden of proof on the prosecutor, not the defendant.

Evidence in DUI cases

Nevada is an “implied consent state” This means that by accepting a Nevada driver’s license from the DMV, you agree to abide by traffic rules and safety laws while driving. If you do not abide by these rules, which require you to avoid the use of alcohol and drugs while driving, you consent to be tested for those illegal substances or alcohol in your system.

If you are stopped by the police on suspicion of drunk driving,  you cannot refuse a breath or blood sample. The police can use force to draw blood as evidence in a DUI case. The evidence of your refusal can also be used against you in court. The law in this area is changing, so if you have been arrested for DUI in Las Vegas and submitted to a test against your will, contact an experienced DUI defense attorney as soon as possible.

The implied consent rules may still apply to drivers who are stopped in Nevada on suspicion of DUI, but who do not have a Nevada driver’s license. Many other states also have implied consent laws that are stricter than Nevada’s laws. In many locations, in the U.S. you can actually have your license suspended just for refusal to take a BAC test.

Implied consent laws do not mean that police can just conduct a search without reasonable cause. If you were stopped without justification or if there was no reason for an officer to suspect you were impaired, a forced BAC test may be a violation of your Constitutional rights. This could mean that your attorney is able to ensure the evidence collected is not used against you in a court of law.

Blood test or breath test?

If you agree to take a test, which one should you take? If you take a blood test, the results can take between three and six months to come back. If your test results eventually show that you were above the .08 legal limit, a license revocation or suspension notice will be mailed to you and the criminal case will proceed against you. You license will be suspended within 7 days of test results showing a BAC of .08 or higher, unless you prevail at a DMV administrative license hearing.

Blood tests are more accurate than breathalyzer tests, and there are fewer ways to challenge the results of a blood test.  This means there is a reduced chance you’ll be falsely arrested when you weren’t really drunk if you take a blood test- but you’ll have a harder time challenging evidence in court. If you take a breath test, there are plenty of opportunities to try to introduce reasonable doubt when the evidence is presented to a jury- which means you can potentially avoid conviction.

Many people do not realize how error-prone a breath test machine is.  There are numerous examples of DWI breath test evidence proving faulty. In Middlesex County, in San Francisco, in Boston, in Worcester County, and in countless other cities and towns throughout the U.S., problems have been found with breathalyzer evidence and DUI verdicts have been called into question.

You can, and should, challenge the accuracy of the breath test in your case. Your lawyer will request the maintenance records for the machine and the training history of the person who administered the test using the machine to see if the machine was calibrated correctly and the test performed accurately. Your attorney may also be able to show the court that a “close call” blown on the machine can have a large enough margin of error that you may have actually been under the legal limit for blood alcohol concentration at the time of arrest.

For a second DUI, the police get to choose which test to give you- blood, breath, or urine- so this is really only a concern for first-time offenders. Just remember that whichever test you end up taking, a skilled DUI defense lawyer will understand what questions to ask and how to present a defense based on challenging the accuracy of the test.

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Nick Wooldridge has a long track record of representing clients accused of serious federal and state crimes in Nevada.

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What is the sentence for a Nevada DUI?

For a first offense misdemeanor DUI, you may be subject to jail time of between two days and six months. Participation in a Victim Impact Panel or drug and alcohol counseling course may be required. Your driving privileges may be revoked for up to a year. You may face a fine between $400 and $1,000, as well as court costs.  You may be required to pay a chemical test fee of $60.00.  Your vehicle may be impounded and when you get it back, you’ll need to pay costs and fees associated with its return. You’ll need costly SR-22 liability insurance when you get back your right to drive.

In felony DUI cases or cases involving death or serious injury of another person, penalties can vastly increase. Consequences of conviction may include years in Nevada prison, the required installation and use of a Breath Interlock Device which tests your blood alcohol content every time you drive, and required rehab.

There is a misconception that the punishment for DUI depends on how drunk or high you were at the time of arrest, meaning a person who was a little “tipsy” will be punished less harshly than someone who was in a “blackout” state. That is not the way DUIs are punished. In reality, the sentence for driving under the influence will depend on how many prior DUI cases you have had in the last seven years.

There are two important things to know about the seven year rule:

  • A conviction includes no contest, a guilty plea, or a guilty verdict at trial.
  • Seven years is calculated from last arrest date to the current arrest date. The prosecutor will argue that the court should begin counting seven years from the date your last case closed… after you completed all requirements of probation, community service and the like. This is usually a long period of time after the actual date of conviction.

Essentially, the prosecutor will attempt to use every bit of evidence that you have had a prior case in the last seven years to show that this is not your first DUI during that time. Your attorney can try to argue that more than seven years have passed if the dates are close.  If you are found to have had past convictions, you can expect a longer jail term, a lengthier license suspension, and other more serious penalties for repeat convictions.

What are the available defenses in a DUI case in Nevada?

There are a variety of different defenses you can use to try to avoid being convicted.

Because the prosecutor has the burden of proving guilt in a DUI case, one approach to take is to undermine their case against you.  If the prosecutor can’t convince the court that you’re guilty beyond a reasonable doubt, you shouldn’t be found guilty of drunk driving.

The result of a BAC test is usually the most important evidence against you, so being able to show that the test is not reliable for some reason can create reasonable doubt. The Intoxilyzer 5000EN machine is used in Nevada and the test is not infallible.  Aside from the myriad instances described above in which breath tests have proved problematic, there are also medical conditions that can influence the result even when a test is performed properly.

The condition of the machine and inexperience of the user may result in a test result that artificially inflates your blood alcohol concentration beyond the legal limit, so be sure your lawyer is ready to help you present your own expert witnesses who can testify about problems with the evidence.

Keeping evidence from being used against you is also an option to avoid conviction. If police stopped you in Las Vegas without justification or searched you without probable cause in violation of the Fourth Amendment, your criminal attorney can argue that evidence should be suppressed. If the judge believes police acted improperly and grants the motion to suppress the evidence, the prosecutor will be unable to present ANY evidence obtained as a part of the unlawful search (it is all considered fruit of the poisoned tree).

Without evidence, a prosecutor may be forced to drop the charges before your case even gets to trial, or a judge could dismiss the charges after your Las Vegas DUI attorney makes a pre-trial motion. If the case does somehow proceed to court, the prosecutor’s going to have a hard time meeting the burden of proof without evidence obtained from the traffic stop.

Other defenses are going to vary depending upon the circumstances of your case. If your BAC was close to the legal limit and there was a time gap between the time you were behind the wheel and the time of test administration, a rising BAC defense may be an option. Your BAC goes up for a period of time after you stop consuming alcohol, so it could actually be higher when you’re tested than it was when driving. Unless the prosecutor can show you were above the limit when actually behind the wheel, you shouldn’t be convicted.

In some cases, defendants have even been able to avoid a DUI conviction by arguing they were “sleep-driving” under the influence of Ambien sleeping pills. Because every case is different, you need a personalized approach to raising defenses. Let a Nevada DUI lawyer help you to explore your options for fighting conviction.

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More Information

A DUI case may seem routine or simple, but in reality, there are lots of ways the police mess up, the prosecutor asks for too strong a penalty, and that representing yourself can go wrong. The penalties are serious for DUI, and they increase as the number of convictions increases, too. Therefore, you want a strong and aggressive defense from the very first arrest.

Do not be like people who plead guilty all the time to driving under the influence and accept harsh penalties that disrupt their lives. A good lawyer will examine every aspect of the case to see what can be thrown out, such as whether there was probable cause to make the traffic stop in the first place. Speeding is not good enough it is not a symptom of being drunk. Call LV Criminal Defense today to begin your defense.

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