Category Archives: Nevada DUI

When St. Patrick’s Day and March Madness Collide…Law Enforcement is on High Alert for DUI

Driver's License SuspensionMarch Madness, the NCAA college basketball tournament, starts this week. March Madness is the college equivalent to the NFL Super Bowl. Fans from all over the flock to the tournament, which is hosted in Houston, Texas, this year. Those fans, who are unable to attend the tournament in person, attend watch parties and other special events.

In Las Vegas several casinos and party venues, including Treasure Island, The Hard Rock Hotel, and the Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas will be hosting special March Madness events and offering luxury events with premium seating, open bar, and other festivities.

As a lone event, March Madness will bring out a large numbers of patrons looking to have a good time, but March Madness occurs the same week as St. Patrick’s Day.

St. Patrick’s Day is a holiday commemorating Christianity’s arrival in Ireland and widely celebrates Irish culture. Commonly, people celebrate the holiday by wearing green, yellow, and white and partaking in traditional Irish foods and beer.

Party venues throughout Las Vegas and surrounding areas will have drink specials to attract the March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day crowds. In light of the celebratory spirit, Las Vegas law enforcement will be on high alert for drunk and impaired drivers.

According to a press release from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department there will be a “Sobriety Saturation” event on St. Patrick’s Day on Thursday, March 17, 2016 from 7:00pm to 3:00am. During Sobriety Saturation events law enforcement focuses considerable effort on identifying drug and alcohol impaired drivers before they are involved in a collision.

With the increased effort by Las Vegas law enforcement, it is important to be aware of the following:

Las Vegas Law Enforcement can Force a Blood Draw with a Warrant

Assembly Bill 67 went into effect late last year.  Assembly Bill 67 requires law enforcement apply for a warrant or other court order directing for the use of reasonable force to obtain a blood sample.

This means if a driver is stopped under the suspicion of drunk or impaired driving, the driver cannot simply refuse to submit to a blood test. The law enforcement officer now has the power to apply for a warrant or court order authorizing the use of reasonable force to obtain a blood sample.

If the driver refuses the blood draw, requires the officer to obtain a warrant, and is later found to have a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or above, the driver will not only be charged with DUI but also have his or her driver’s license revoked for  fifteen months.

Assembly Bill 67 makes it pointless to refuse a blood sample. Once a driver refuses, the officer can request a warrant or court order from a judge. With such high profile events in the Las Vegas area, judges will likely be on call around the clock to sign a warrant.

Drunk or Impaired Driving in Nevada is Dangerous 

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC) 1,0125 people were killed in alcohol related automobile accidents. According to the CDC, the percentage of alcohol related fatalities is slightly lower than the national average, due to law enforcement’s aggressive efforts, including regular sobriety saturation events.

Predicting BAC is Impossible

For legal purposes, intoxication is determined by a driver’s BAC or Blood Alcohol Concentration. In Nevada, a driver age 21 or older can be charged with DUI if he or she has a BAC of 0.08 or higher.

A BAC of 0.08 indicates the driver has 0.8 parts alcohol in his or her blood per 1,000 parts of blood. An individual’s BAC is a result of several factors including the individual’s weight, fat content, metabolism, amount of alcohol consumed, frequency of alcohol consumed, food consumed, amount of time since the last alcohol beverage was consumed, and other factors.

It is impossible to precisely predict whether a beverage will make a person’s BAC reach or exceed 0.08.Many drivers will say they feel fine or do not feel intoxicated with a BAC of 0.08 or higher. It is important to air on the side of caution and not drive after consuming alcohol.

Nevada Imposes Severe Penalties for Drunk Driving

Even for a first-offense DUI, the state of Nevada imposes serious criminal penalties. A conviction for a first offense DUI is punishable by jail time between 48 hours to a maximum of 6 months, or, at least 96 hours of community service.

The court may also impose a fine between $340 and $1,175.00, a mandatory alcohol education course, license suspension,  and the installation of a breath interlock device. The breath interlock device tests BAC before the vehicle can start.

Penalties for second and subsequent DUI are more severe and result in longer jail time and steeper fines.

A conviction for DUI can seriously disrupt aspect of a driver’s professional and personal life. It is better to be safe than sorry this holiday. Designate a sober driving, hire a ride-sharing service like Uber or Lyft, and refrain from driving. The consequences for a DUI conviction are not worth it.

Conclusion

Joel Mann is an experienced DUI defense attorney located in Las Vegas, Nevada. He has nearly a decade of experienced defending individuals faced with all types of DUI charges, including First DUI, Repeat DUI, DUI and Marijuana, Out of State DUI, and Per Se DUI.

If you are arrested and face DUI charges during the March Madness and St. Patrick’s Day festivities, contact an experienced DUI defense attorney immediately. Joel Mann offers free consultations and will begin building your defense right away. Contact The Law Office of Joel Mann at (702) 474-6266 to schedule a free consultation.

Recent Changes to Nevada’s DUI Laws

Awesome-Whiskey-Keys

Under NRS 484C.160, Nevada’s implied consent law previously allowed a police officer to use “reasonable force” to obtain a warrantless sample of blood from the person who refused to consent.

After the most recent changes in the law, now an officer can only make the request that the driver submit to an evidentiary test if the officer had sufficient reason to believe that the person was driving or in actual physical control of a vehicle or vessel while under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance.  Should a person not provide their consent to an evidentiary test, the law requires the officer to obtain a warrant signed by a Judge.  However, there are dramatic consequences to your license, that you need to be aware of, should you request a warrant first.

The officer can request different types of evidentiary tests depending on the circumstances. Those evidentiary tests include a blood or breath test to determine the alcoholic content of the blood or breath. A blood or urine test can also be used to test to determine the presence of:

  1. a controlled substance;
  2. chemical;
  3. poison;
  4. organic solvent; or
  5. another prohibited substance.

Knowing that the law allowed warrantless and forced blood draws, officers started pushing the envelop by taking blood by force under circumstances that shocked the public. Officers across the country started conducting “No Refusal Weekends” and conducting forced blood draws during DUI checkpoints.

Since judges were not involved in signing warrants, officers continued to find new ways to take blood. The evening news started showing videos of ordinary citizens being strapped down so that officers could oversee forced blood draws. Public outrage over some of the practices started to mount.

Missouri v. McNeely

Despite the public outrage over forced blood draws, the law enforcement community in Nevada and throughout the county was shocked when the United States Supreme Court decided Missouri v. McNeely, 569 U.S. ––––, ––––, 133 S.Ct. 1552, 1568, 185 L.Ed.2d 696 (2013) (plurality opinion). In McNeely, the Court found that warrantless  forced blood draws violated the Fourth Amendment prohibition on unreasonable searches and seizures.

A warrantless search is reasonable only where it falls within a recognized exception such as consent or exigent circumstances. The McNeely court then rejected the proposition that exigent circumstances resulted merely from the fact that alcohol or drugs would dissipate in the driver’s blood after a DUI arrest.

Prior to the McNeely decision, many judges used the landmark decision in Schmerber v. California, 384 U.S. 757 (1966) to support the proposition that the rapid dissipation of alcohol in the bloodstream, by itself, creates an emergency that justifies a warrantless blood draw.

Under McNeely, the court held that the court must review of the totality of the circumstances, not just the rapid dissipation of alcohol, in determining whether any exigency existed.

The McNeely Court recognized that there is no justification for applying the exigent circumstances exception when “officers can reasonably obtain a warrant before a blood sample can be drawn without significantly undermining the efficacy of the search.” Id. at ––––, 133 S.Ct. at 1561.

Although the McNeely Court found that the decision should be made on a case-by-case basis considering the totality of the circumstances, the decision did not provide a list of factors to be considered. Because the totality of the circumstances was not litigated in the case, the Court found there were no exigent circumstances and that the warrantless blood draw was unconstitutional. Id.

Byars v. State

Shortly thereafter, the Nevada Supreme Court held that the consent implied by a person’s decision to drive in this State is not voluntary consent to an evidentiary blood test and, thus, existing laws that allow a police officer to obtain a blood sample from a person without a warrant and without voluntary consent are unconstitutional. Byars v. State, 130 Nev. Adv. Op. No. 85, 336 P.3d 939 (2014)).

Given the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in McNeely, the Byars Court concluded that the natural dissipation of alcohol or controlled substances did not, standing alone, create exigent circumstances justifying a warrantless blood draw.

The court further concluded that NRS 484C.160(7) was unconstitutional because it permits officers to use force to take a suspect’s blood without a warrant, valid consent, or another exception to the warrant requirement.

Nevada’s 2015 Assembly Bill 67

In response to the Byars decision, the Nevada Legislature passed 2015 Assembly Bill 67. The new law made several changes to Nevada’s implied consent scheme.

First, 2015 Assembly Bill 67 eliminated the constitutional defect identified by the Nevada Supreme Court by requiring that if a person refuses to submit to an evidentiary blood test at the request of a police officer:

  1. the officer may apply for a warrant or other court order directing the use of reasonable force to obtain the blood sample; and
  2. the person’s driver’s license must be revoked for a certain period.

NRS 484C.210 now provides that if the subject fails to submit to an evidentiary test as requested by a police officer pursuant to NRS 484C.160, the license, permit or privilege to drive of the person must be revoked as provided in NRS 484C.220, and the person is not eligible for a license, permit or privilege to drive for a period of:

  1. One year; or
  2. Three years, if the license, permit or privilege to drive of the person has been revoked during the immediately preceding 7 years for failure to submit to an evidentiary test.

Secondly, 2015 Assembly Bill 67 authorizes the revocation of a person’s license, permit or privilege to drive if an evidentiary test reveals the presence of a detectable amount of a controlled substance or prohibited substance in his or her blood or urine for which he or she did not have a valid prescription or hold a valid registry identification card.

In those cases, the permit or privilege of the person to drive must be revoked as provided in NRS 484C.220 and the person is not eligible for a license, permit or privilege for a period of 90 days.

A driver should be aware that a person whose license is revoked for refusing to submit to an evidentiary test and is found to have a blood alcohol concentration of .08 or more could be look at a loss of license for the one-year period plus the 90-day period, for a total of 15 months.  Under the current law there is no provision that allows a person to be able to drive for a recognized hardship during the one-year period.

Thirdly, the Nevada legislature corrected an issue that kept being litigated in DUI cases regarding a person asleep in a car when the car had not been driven.  AB 67 states that “a person shall be deemed not to be in actual physical control of a vehicle if:

  1. The person is asleep inside the vehicle;
  2. The person is not in the driver’s seat of the vehicle;
  3. The engine of the vehicle is not running;
  4. The vehicle is lawfully parked; and
  5. Under the facts presented, it is evident that the person could not have driven the vehicle to the location while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, a controlled substance or a prohibited substance.

This allows a person to do the right thing and realize before they drive home under the influence that they can fall asleep in the passenger’s seat and not be assumed to have driven or in actual physical control of the car.  The previous law punished a person who did not drive but fell asleep in the car.  The new law has fixed this issue.

Conclusion

The McNeely and Byars decisions have impacted thousands of DUI cases across the State of Nevada involving a warrantless and non-consensual blood draw.  Even felony DUI cases involving serious bodily injury or death were impacted. Lower courts are making totality of the circumstances decisions in a case by case basis with little guidance from the higher courts.

If your case involves a non-consensual warrantless blood draw, then find out more about how recent decisions will impact the admissibility of the evidentiary blood test in your case. Contact Joel Mann, an experienced criminal defense attorney focused on drunk driving defense. Contact Joel Mann’s office at (702) 474-6266 to schedule a free consultation to discuss the case either over the phone or in the office.

 

Las Vegas Arrests on New Year’s Eve 2015-16

iStock_000003177126SmallIf you are coming to Las Vegas to celebrate on New Year Eve you need to be aware of the dangers in your revelry.  The amount of tourist traveling to nightclubs and gentlemen’s club will substantially increase as many people come to Las Vegas to ring in the New Year. Many club-hoppers, who overindulge in drugs and alcohol, make bad decisions. The loud music, dancing, and crowds often influence people take chances they wouldn’t normally take.  Make sure you do not put yourself another statistic.

Law enforcement officers with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (“LVMPD”) use this opportunity to crack down on drug crimes and rack up arrests for a variety of related offenses, including DUI.

If you going to a nightclub in Las Vegas on the evening of December 31, 2015, or the early morning hours of January 1, 2016, you should expect local law enforcement officers to be out in full force.

In some cases, overly aggressive bouncers and security officers work with law enforcement to help them arrest a patron of the club. An arrest for using or selling any controlled substance comes with serious consequences under Nevada law.

It is important for you to recognize that the Las Vegas nightclubs have staff watching at every location, especially the bathrooms.  Joel Mann has had many drug cases originate from club staff waiting in the bathroom for any signs of drug use.  Once they suspect you of using drugs they will take you into custody and bring you down to the casino’s holding room, awaiting for Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department to arrive.

The most commonly used drugs in Las Vegas nightclubs include: marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, ecstasy, GHB and heroin.

Defenses to drug crimes after an arrest in a Las Vegas nightclub can include:

  1. The law enforcement officer conducted an illegal search in violation of the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution that should lead to the suppression of the evidence at trial;
  2. The law enforcement officer or someone acting in cooperation with the officer manufactured the crime and entrapped the defendant into using or selling drugs when the defendant was not otherwise predisposed to commit the crime; or
  3. The defendant did not actually or consecutively possess the drug because he didn’t know of its presence.

Knowledge often becomes in issue in drug cases in area nightclubs because another person could secretly plant the drugs on the defendant in order to avoid detection.

The penalties and punishments for drug possession in Las Vegas, Nevada, depend on a host of factors including the type of narcotics possessed, the quantity of the narcotics, and the surrounding circumstances.

Under Nevada law, a criminal charge of selling drugs is classified as either a Category C felony or a Category B felony depending on the type of drugs sold. The maximum sentence for these offenses includes a lengthy prison sentence and stiff fines.

For possession with intent to sale, the offense is classified as a Category D felony.

Simple possession of a controlled substance is a Category E felony in Nevada that carries with it one to four years in prison. For first time offenders charged with a possession charge, it is usually possible to avoid any incarceration by completing counseling and probation.

Drug crimes involving marijuana involve an entirely different set of penalties.

The top nightclubs in Las Vegas, Nevada, include:

  • Bellagio:
    • The Bank
    • Hyde
  • The Cromwell:
    • Drai’s
  • Delano:
    • FDR
  • Hard Rock Hotel:
    • Vanity
    • Body English
  • Luxor:
    • Savile Row
    • LAX
  • Mandalay Bay:
    • Foundation Room
    • LIGHT
  • Mirage:
    • 1OAK
  • Palms:
    • Rain
    • Moon
    • Ghostbar
  • Paris:
    • Chateau
  • Planet Hollywood:
    • Extra Lounge
  • SLS:
    • LiFE
  • The Sayers Club
    • Foxtail
  • Wynn:
    • XS
    • Tryst
    • Surrender
  • Venetian:
    • Tao

Additional Resources

Statistics on New Year’s Eve Arrests in Las Vegas – Each year the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) releases final statistics on the number of arrests made on New Year’s Eve. The 2014-2015 New Year’s Eve celebration stood out as one of the most orderly within recent history with 19 people being booked into the Clark County Detention Center on various felony and misdemeanor offenses. Two other people received Class II citations from within the Strip corridor. The Downtown Area Command, which covers the Fremont Street Experience, reported 3 arrests. Only 9 DUI arrests occurred within the Metro’s jurisdiction. By comparison, for the New Year’s Eve celebration four years earlier, 159 people were arrested including 68 arrests for DUI by the police department and another 48 arrests for DUI by the Nevada Highway Patrol.

Conclusion

Joel Mann is an experienced criminal defense attorney in Las Vegas, Nevada. He has extensive experience defending clients charged with drug and alcohol related offenses. He is experienced with the tactics used by officers with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department in drug cases in area nightclubs during New Year’s Eve celebrations.

Joel Mann also knows the importance of obtaining the surveillance video of the incident when it is likely to be helpful to the case. In many cases the surveillance video might help establish important defenses to the charges.

For your New Year’s Celebration, keep in mind that area police will be out in full force. If an arrest occurs, contact Joel Mann to discuss your case and important defense to protect your good name after a criminal charge is made against you. For charges related to drug crimes or DUI, Joel Mann has the experience to help you fight for the best result in your case.

Don’t End Your Summer with DUI Arrest: Las Vegas Police to Use Checkpoints, Saturation Patrols This Weekend

SobrietyCheck

Whereas Memorial Day is the first major holiday weekend of the year in the United States that is frequently considered the start of summer, Labor Day is generally viewed as the last holiday weekend of the season when the days are their longest. As a result, many people throughout the greater Las Vegas area will be looking forward to one last outdoor barbecue or one more late night out that probably involves more than one alcoholic beverage.

The inclination to relax and have additional drinks increases the likelihood of motorists driving under the influence (DUI). As a result, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) has already stated that it is planning sobriety checkpoints and saturation patrols throughout the Valley for two days of the holiday weekend.

While the number of total DUI arrests by the LVMPD has seen a steady decline since 2012, do not think that this means police officers are not still actively looking for drunk drivers. This past February, Lt. Todd Raybuck of the LVMPD told KNPR-FM that a large majority of DUI arrests are southern Nevada citizens, with officers frequently catching people driving drunk between the Vegas Strip and valley neighborhoods.

It is in your best interest to plan ahead before any activities that will involve alcohol consumption this weekend. Try to arrange a ride or cab if you will be drinking, but it can be even better if you are able to completely stay off the road. Even if you are not planning on drinking, you will still share the road with others who probably have.

The combined efforts of checkpoints and saturations patrols will increase police presence to help stop more alleged drunk drivers. DUI checkpoints are referred to in the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) as “administrative roadblocks.” Under NRS 484B.570, such roadblocks must satisfy the following requirements:

  • The roadblock must be established at a point on the highway clearly visible to approaching traffic at a distance of not less than 100 yards in either direction;
  • A sign must be placed near the centerline of the highway at the entrance to the roadblock displaying the word “Stop” in letters of sufficient size and luminosity to be readable at a distance of not less than 50 yards in the direction affected by the administrative roadblock, either in daytime or darkness;
  • At least one red flashing or intermittent light, on and burning, must be placed at the side of the highway at the entrance to the roadblock, clearly visible to the oncoming traffic at a distance of not less than 100 yards; and
  • Warning signs must be placed at the side of the highway, containing any wording of sufficient size and luminosity to warn the oncoming traffic that a “police stop” lies ahead, and a burning beam light, flare or lantern must be placed near the signs to attract the attention of the traffic to the signs (the signs must be placed at a distance of not less than one-quarter of a mile from the entrance to the roadblock if it is in a rural area or 700 feet from the entrance to the roadblock if it is in an urban area).

Saturation patrols, on the other hand, involve large numbers of officers being deployed to specific roadways. Between the obvious checkpoints and the visible increased police presence of saturation patrols, the hope is that many people are discouraged from even getting behind the wheel after consuming alcohol.

If you are planning on drinking this Labor Day weekend, the one surefire way that you can absolutely guarantee you will not be arrested for DUI is to simply not drive drunk. Should you have anything to drink, either stay where you are or arrange to have somebody pick you up.

In the event you have been arrested because you misjudged the amount of alcohol you consumed or you believe the breath test used by police officers produced a false positive, you should immediately contact an experienced Las Vegas DUI attorney. An arrest for drunk driving is not the same as a conviction, and a lawyer can fully investigate your case to determine whether a checkpoint was illegally set up or some other law enforcement error could result in your charges being dismissed.

Guests at National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas Should Be Wary of DUI Charges and Know Their Rights

AlcoholKeys

The National Finals Rodeo, called the “super bowl” of rodeo, kicks off Thursday, December 5, and continues until December 14. Held at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, the event brings in participants, rodeo enthusiasts and spectators from around the world. While in Las Vegas, though, many of these visitors may find themselves the subject of criminal accusations, especially drunk driving.

Under Nevada law, it is illegal for a person to be in actual physical control of a vehicle under the influence of an intoxicating liquor or have a blood-alcohol concentration (BAC) of more than .08. If found with a BAC of .08 or higher within two hours of having actual physical control of a vehicle, you may also be charged with a DUI.

A first DUI in Nevada is a misdemeanor. It carries a presumptive sentence of at least two days in jail, with a maximum of six months. There may be a fee of $400 to $1,200, and your license could be suspended for 90 days. The Nevada DMV will report your conviction to the appropriate governmental body in your state, and your state may take action against you, like suspending your license.

Like in any other state, you have the right to refuse a DUI test in Nevada, unless police obtain a warrant. Denying a DUI test deprives the prosecution critical evidence against you. However, there may be consequences in your state if Nevada reports the matter.

If you are an out-of-state visitor who is arrested for DUI during the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, it is important not to assume that you can go home and forget about it. If you ignore the charges, a warrant will be issued for your arrest. The open warrant may turn up in background searches, and it’s even possible for Nevada to seek for you to be extradited back to Las Vegas, a difficult, time-consuming and expensive procedure.

You can hire a Las Vegas DUI lawyer to handle your case. Your attorney can represent you in courts in Clark County. It’s possible that you will not have to travel back to Las Vegas. He can seek to have your charges reduced or dismissed, challenging your arrest and calling into question any DUI tests or other evidence against you. While there are no guarantees, your lawyer will work diligently to fight for your rights and seek the best possible result.

If you are attending the National Finals Rodeo this week, enjoy Las Vegas. Call a cab if you are drinking, or have a designated driver. But if you are accused of drunk driving, know your rights, especially the right to have qualified counsel on your side.

Post-Las Vegas Spring Break FAQ

Many, many students across the country decide that Spring Break is a time for getting a little wild, and decide that Las Vegas is the best place to do it. Most have a good time, but many find themselves in trouble with the law in Nevada as the result of Spring Break partying. A Las Vegas criminal defense attorney can help reduce the repercussions as much as possible.

The following questions are hypothetical — do not take my words as legal advice, even if your situation sounds exactly the same. Contact a lawyer and discuss your situation.

Q: I got pulled over while driving back to the hotel after a few drinks and got charged with a DUI. Can I go home and ignore it?

A: If you go home and ignore the charges, they’re very likely to come back to haunt you in the form of a suspended license. Nevada shares information, including information about DUI convictions and arrests, with other states via the National Driver Registry and the Problem Driver Pointer System. After a DUI arrest in Nevada, you have seven days to request an administrative license suspension hearing. If you do not, your license is suspended in Nevada. Nevada will share that information with other states, though, and your license is likely to be suspended there, as well.

When you do not appear for court hearings, the judge will issue a bench warrant for your arrest. The warrant will not expire, and any time you are in Nevada you could be arrested. It’s even possible for Nevada to attempt to extradite you from your home state. You’d be well-advised to hire a Las Vegas DUI lawyer to handle the matter here.

Q: I was arrested and charged with solicitation of prostitution while on Spring Break in Vegas. Am I going to have to stay in Nevada to deal with this?

A: If you hire a Las Vegas prostitution lawyer, you may not have to return at all. Your attorney can seek to get your charges reduced or dismissed. He can appear on your behalf in required hearings, and make arrangements so you will not have to return until your offense is set for trial.

Q: I thought medical marijuana was legal in Nevada, so we bought a half ounce. Police found it on me and now I face possession charges. What gives?

A: Medical marijuana was legalized in Nevada, but you must have a prescription to be able to legally carry it. So, unless you have a prescription properly made out to you, you can be charged with possession of marijuana, a crime that carries up to a $600 fine and a punishment of up to six months in jail.

Q: I’m a student at UNLV, but I went to South Padre over Spring Break and got arrested for assault. Can I hire a Las Vegas attorney to represent me on that case?

A: Only if that Las Vegas attorney is licensed to practice in Texas — which few are. For a lawyer who can handle the charge itself, you need someone who is licensed in the jurisdiction in which you are charged. However, if the state you are charged in seeks to extradite you from Las Vegas, a Las Vegas criminal defense attorney can represent you in extradition hearings. Extradition is the process by which a state requests that a suspect in another state be brought back to the charging state to face criminal proceedings.

St. Patrick’s Day DUI in Las Vegas, 2013

Drinking and DrivingThis year, St. Patrick’s Day falls on Sunday, March 17, and major festivities will last through the weekend at many popular Las Vegas destinations, including Mandalay Place, Monte Carlo, New York-New York, Treasure Island, the MGM Grand, and other locations across the city.  When the green beer is flowing, alcohol-related incidents always experience an uptick during these celebrations, especially in an entertainment-rich city like Las Vegas where open containers are allowed on the Strip, but not in a vehicle.

There are many reasons to be cautious during this year’s celebration. Statistics from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration indicate that over 700 people were killed nationwide due to accidents involving drunk drivers on St. Patrick’s Day from 2006 to 2010. This figure makes up 2/5 of all deaths from automobile crashes during the same period.  It is important to remember, if you plan on going out drinking or celebrating for St. Patrick’s Day that you take the appropriate precautions to avoid being another statistic.  Get a designated driver.  Take a cab.  Stay at one of the fabulous resorts Las Vegas has to offer.

You can expect to see an increased presence of law enforcement officers during the St. Patrick’s Day weekend throughout Clark County, NV, in an effort to minimize accidents. This includes patrols from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, North Las Vegas Police Department, Henderson Police Department, and the Nevada Highway Patrol. Law enforcement officials will be on the watch for a number of signals that supposedly indicate a driver’s state of sobriety, such as erratic driving and failure to obey traffic signals.  If you drink and drive, the likelihood that you will be arrested is significant.

It’s important to keep in mind that law enforcement officers must have a reason to pull a driver over in the first place, search the vehicle, or make an arrest. This is known as probable cause and is a standard set forth by the Fourth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. A Las Vegas defense attorney can use any lack of probable cause in defending clients who have been charged with DUI.

Once a police officer pulls the suspected drunk driver over, he or she will be on the lookout for more signs of intoxication. This includes the:

  • Presence of open containers in the vehicle
  • Smell of alcohol on the driver’s breath
  • Slurred speech
  • Pupil enlargement or constriction
  • Inability to follow specific directions
  • Direct admission of guilt by the driver

If the law enforcement officer has confirmed suspicions of the driver’s intoxication, they may ask the driver to complete a field sobriety test. The accuracy of these tests is, at best, highly questionable, especially considering the police officer’s final, subjective decision of pass or fail. Should the driver refuse to take the field sobriety test or fail the test altogether, the officer may request additional chemical testing for alcohol content level. This is most commonly done through a breath, blood, or urine test.

If you or a loved one has been arrested for allegedly driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, it’s important to remember the important rights laid out in the Miranda Warning that officers are required to read to suspects prior being questioned.  Courts have determined that questioning in a routine traffic stop does not necessarily trigger the requirement that Miranda be read.  Whether Miranda is read to you or not you still have the ability to exercise your constitutional rights:  the right to remain silent, the right not to be compelled to be a witness against yourself, and the right to due process.

  • You do have the right to remain silent. In high stress situations, it is entirely possible to inadvertently provide inaccurate or conflicting information in response to an officer’s questions. When anything you say can be used against you later in court, it’s important to remember this at all times.
  • You have the right to consult with an attorney. However, in DUI arrests the Courts have determined that the Officers do not need to allow you to speak with an attorney before arrest or blood alcohol testing.  This is where knowing your right to remain silent is your best option.  Do not give officers any information that will be used against you.  Be cordial and nice, follow their directions, but do not say anything.

The consequences for a DUI conviction in Nevada can be severe. Not only will drunk drivers face severe jail time and / or fines, they also will have to deal with other real world consequences. A criminal record can place a roadblock on many future opportunities in employment as well. This is why it’s critical to enjoy the St. Patrick’s Day festivities safely and always remember your rights.

Federal government threatens to withhold funds over Nevada DUI law

US Supreme Court

USA Today reports that Nevada is among 33 states that the federal government may attempt to withhold federal highway funds from in an effort to coerce the state into tougher laws against drunk driving. The national newspaper reports that the Federal Highway Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Transportation, has informed the state that it is in not in compliance, and the agency is holding funds in reserve until it completes a review.

It’s unclear whether the tactic will work. The amount being held is only $7.3 million of the funds the state would use for highway construction, which is really just a drop in the bucket when it comes to state and federal spending. The state of Montana, for example, responded that the $8.8 million the feds were attempting to withhold wasn’t enough to warrant the state changing its laws. However, during these lean times, it’s difficult to predict what state government officials will do for a little bit of revenue.

The federal government cites its authority to engage in this tactic from the 1987 U.S. Supreme Court case South Dakota v. Dole. Congress had passed a law stating that the national drinking age was 21 years old. If the state did not enforce the law, the federal government would withhold 10 percent of federal transportation funds. South Dakota had a drinking age of 19, and disputed the law. The Court ruled that if the amount being withheld is insufficient to be coercive, the ability to create such laws is under Congress’s spending power.

The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, which sets drunk driving policy, has held up Virginia as a recent model for DUI penalties. The state passed laws last year requiring all first-time DUI offenders to installed ignition interlock devices on their vehicles. This is tougher than Nevada law. If convicted for a first DUI offense in Las Vegas, you may be required to have an interlock device installed, but it’s up to the discretion of the court.

As a Las Vegas drunk driving lawyer, I do not believe that one-size-fits-all penalties are conducive to justice. Each case has nuances that warrant a different approach. Also, if you take away my ability to negotiation a sentence with prosecutors by handing down mandatory sentences, it takes away any incentive to not take every case to trial. There will be far fewer plea bargains if you take away prosecutors’ bargaining power.

Nevada should carefully consider whether it’s worth it to give away state autonomy over a relatively low amount of money.

DUI Checkpoints Scheduled for this Labor Day Weekend.

LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3) – Law enforcement agencies in the valley plan DUI checkpoints for the Labor Day Weekend.

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s checkpoints are planned from 7 p.m. Friday to 3 a.m. Saturday in the southwest parts of the valley.

The Henderson Police Department’s Traffic Unit will be joined by other area law enforcement agencies operating the checkpoint from about 8 p.m. Friday until about 2 a.m. Saturday on St. Rose Parkway west of Eastern Avenue.

There were 390 deaths in traffic accidents nationwide in 2010 over the Labor Day holiday (three-day weekend), second only to Thanksgiving (four-day period) with 417 traffic-related deaths. New Year’s Day (three-day period) had 286 traffic-related deaths nationwide in 2010.

In Clark County, there was one fatal accident during the Labor Day weekend in 2011 and a total of six accident-related deaths statewide over the holiday weekend last year.

In 2011, 246 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes on Nevada roadways. Alcohol was a contributing factor in 74 of those deaths, according to the Nevada Department of Public Safety – Office of Traffic Safety. So far this year, 167 people have died on the state’s roadways with alcohol being a factor in 25 of those deaths.

Henderson Police will be assisted by officers from Las Vegas Metropolitan Police, Boulder City Police, Mesquite Police, Nye County Sheriff’s Office and Nevada Highway Patrol.

It is a requirement of Nevada law that the location of a DUI checkpoint be released before the date of the event, according to a release from the Henderson Police Department. 

Officers cracking down on DUI offenders

Officers cracking down on DUI offenders.

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