Skip links

Las Vegas Underage DUI Attorney

Last Modified: December 18, 2023

Under 21 DUI In Las Vegas

Underage drinking is common in the United States. We often see high school and college students get a slap on the wrist after being caught underage drinking. However, those under the age of 21 who make the decision to drink and drive, can face harsh penalties for an underage DUI in Las Vegas. The state of Nevada takes DUIs of any kind very seriously, and underage DUIs are no exception. Anyone under the age of 21 with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of at least .02%, can be charged with an underage DUI in Nevada. If you or your child has recently been arrested for an under 21 DUI in Las Vegas, contact our skilled DUI defense attorney at the Spartacus Law Firm. With a calculated defense, your charges could get reduced to or dropped altogether. Call us today for a risk consultation.

Nevada’s Zero Tolerance Policy For Underage Drinkers

Nevada’s zero tolerance DUI laws prohibit minors from driving with a BAC of .02% or higher. The emphasis on zero tolerance is clear because It makes no difference whether the driver is actually drunk or not. If BAC is above .02%, you will be charged with an underage DUI in Nevada. In comparison, the BAC limit for those old enough to consume alcohol is 4 times higher (.08%) than the BAC limit for those under the age of 21. According to NRS 484C.350 and NRS 483.462, Nevada’s zero tolerance laws are designed to deter young drivers from getting behind the wheel of a car, even if they only had a few sips of alcohol. Although zero tolerance is emphasized in these laws, there is still some wiggle room when attempting to defend against underage DUIs in Nevada. If you or your child are facing these charges, your best bet is to work with an experienced criminal defense attorney who can help minimize penalties.

Underage DUI Laws and Penalties In Nevada

It’s important to understand that violating Nevada’s zero-tolerance law is not a criminal offense. In fact, minors caught with a BAC of .02% or more when operating a vehicle will only face administrative license-related penalties. Meaning, jail time is generally not considered as a punishment, unless an underage DUI car accident resulted in serious injury or wrongful death.

During a standard DUI stop in Nevada, the officer on the scene will usually request that the driver submits to a breath or blood test and field sobriety test. If testing reveals the underage driver has a BAC of .02% or more, the police officer is required to seize their driver’s license, issue a notice of license suspension, and provide a temporary permit. If the driver decides to appeal the suspension, the temporary permit will be valid until the appeal is resolved.

License Suspension

A driver that is under the age of 21 and has a BAC of .02% or more will have their driver’s license suspended for 90 days. However, restricted driving privileges may be available in certain instances with the use of an ignition interlock device (IID).

Nev. Rev. Stat. § 62.221 provides in part: Whenever any child is found to have committed a minor traffic offense, the judge, or his authorized representative, shall forward to the department of motor vehicles and public safety, in the form required by Nev. Rev. Stat. § 483.450, a record of the violation.

Nev. Rev. Stat. § 62.020 defines “minor traffic offense” as follows: “Minor traffic offense” means a violation of any state or local law, ordinance or resolution governing the operation of a motor vehicle upon any street, alley or highway within the State of Nevada other than: (a) Manslaughter; (b) Driving a motor vehicle while under the influence of intoxicating liquor, a controlled substance or a drug in violation of Nev. Rev. Stat. § 484.379; or (c) Any traffic offense declared to be a felony.

License Reinstatement

Nev. Rev. Stat. § 483.460 provides in part: Unless otherwise provided by statute, the department of motor vehicles and public safety shall revoke the license, permit or privilege of any driver upon receiving a record of his conviction of any of the following offenses, when that conviction has become final, and the driver is not eligible for a license, permit or privilege to drive for the period indicated: For a period of one year if the offense is a second violation within seven years of § 484.379 and the driver is not eligible for a restricted license during any of that time.

Nev. Rev. Stat. § 62.221 provides in part: Whenever any child is found to have committed a minor traffic offense, the judge, or his authorized representative, shall forward to the department of motor vehicles and public safety, in the form required by Nev. Rev. Stat. § 483.450, a record of the violation.

In Department of Motor Vehicles v. Hafen, 108 Nev. 1011, 842 P.2d 725 (1992), the Nevada Supreme Court dealt with a case where the driver was found guilty in a juvenile court of driving under the influence (DUI). As an adult, he was convicted of DUI. The motor vehicle department revoked his driver’s license for one year pursuant to Nev. Rev. Stat. § 493.460(1)(b)(5). The driver sought review of the suspension, claiming the department improperly considered his juvenile conviction. The trial court reversed the license revocation. The court held that for the department to have applied the one-year revocation under § 493.460(1)(b)(5), there had to be proof of a prior conviction of DUI. The court ruled that under Nev. Rev. Stat. § 483.450, a conviction meant a final conviction or a finding by a juvenile court pursuant to Nev. Rev. Stat. § 62.221, that under Nev. Rev. Stat. § 62.216 a juvenile adjudication was not a conviction, and that Nev. Rev. Stat. § 62.221 did not apply to a juvenile conviction for DUI. The court found that the department’s consideration of the juvenile conviction for DUI was improper, but also held that under Nev. Rev. Stat. § 483.460 the driver’s license should have been revoked for 90 days. The court affirmed the trial court’s order and remanded for the imposition of a 90-day revocation.

Before a driver’s license can be reinstated, the driver is required to pay a reinstatement fee, attend driving improvement classes, or obtain a court-ordered drug and alcohol assessment. An alcohol-related violation will also delay the graduated license process for teen drivers.

Field Sobriety Test Refusal

Under Nevada’s implied consent law, all drivers are generally deemed to have given consent to chemical testing to determine the presence of alcohol or drugs, most commonly in the form of field sobriety tests. A driver that refuses a field sobriety test will face consequences. Similarly, underage drivers who refuse testing can also face penalties. For example, an additional one to three years of license revocation is a very real possibility.

Other DUI-Related Charges

There are many other charges that can stem from an under 21 DUI in Las Vegas. Underage drinking in general typically is accompanied by other synonymous charges that can easily be tacked on to an existing charge if not handled correctly. One of the biggest reasons to retain an experienced Las Vegas underage DUI lawyer for an underage DUI is to help mitigate penalties brought against you or your child. Some additional charges that could potentially be added on to an underage DUI in Nevada are:

  • Minor in possession of alcohol
  • Solicitation of alcohol
  • Distribution of alcohol to other minors
  • Child endangerment
  • Possession of a fake ID

Non-Legal Penalties For An Underage DUI In Nevada

A DUI can cause consequences outside of the legal system. For example, some schools and universities impose their own penalties for students and prospective students who are convicted of an underage DUI in Nevada. In fact, these consequences are often stricter than what Nevada courts will call for. Some of these harsh consequences include expulsion, suspension or disqualification from applying in the first place.

Car insurance companies also tend to be ruthless on underage drivers who pick up DUIs. Those convicted of an underage DUI in las Vegas may face an increase in their premium rates or even have their policy canceled altogether.

That’s why it’s recommended for those charged with an under 21 DUI in Las Vegas to retain experienced criminal defense representation. Your underage DUI defense attorney can help you work toward getting the charges against you mitigated or dropped. If there is any chance to reduce DUI penalties, it’s highly advised that you attempt to do so. Otherwise, additional non-legal consequences could include:

  • Limiting scholarship opportunities
  • Removal from extracurricular activities
  • Suspension from school sports
  • Required disclosure on job applications
  • Affecting your ability to obtain a professional license

Juvenile Court vs Criminal Court For Underage DUIs

One of the biggest questions surrounding an underage DUI offense in Las Vegas is if the defendant will be charged in juvenile court or criminal court. If the arrested motorist is under the age of 18 years old, they will likely face charges in the Nevada juvenile court system. However, any motorist over the age of 18 charged with an underage DUI in Las Vegas will be prosecuted in a Nevada criminal court. The biggest difference between these two courts is that there are harsher penalties for those found guilty in criminal court as an adult. Additional differences between juvenile court penalties and criminal court penalties can be found below.

Juvenile Court

If a driver gets adjudicated delinquent in juvenile court on a first-time DUI, the sentence includes the following:

  • Educational classes on the dangers of DUI
  • Community service and/or fines
  • A court order to avoid any further arrests or citations other than minor traffic offenses
  • A potential suspended juvenile hall sentence that will not be imposed as long as the defendant completes the other sentencing terms

Criminal Court

Underage DUI defendants in Nevada that are prosecuted in criminal court face the same penalties as adults do. The standard “mandatory minimum” consequences for a misdemeanor DUI conviction include the following:
  • $400 – $1,000 in fines
  • DUI School
  • Victim impact panel
  • A court order to avoid any further arrests or citations other than minor traffic offenses
  • The court will order the defendant to install ignition interlock devices in his/her vehicles for 6 months
  • A 6 month suspended jail sentence, which means the defendant will do no more jail time as long as he/she completes the above sentencing terms
Second-time DUI charges in Las Vegas carry stricter consequences, one of which includes mandatory jail time for those convicted. A third DUI offense in Las Vegas is an automatic felony carrying a lengthy prison sentence. Needless to say, drinking and driving is taken very seriously by the state of Nevada, and in an attempt to reduce the amount of DUIs in the state, harsh penalties are handed down to those who are charged with driving under the influence.

Plea Bargains for Zero Tolerance in Nevada

A Las Vegas underage DUI attorney can help with a plea bargain for zero tolerance in Nevada. A plea bargain can include substituting a DUI charge with reckless driving and other traffic offenses. For example, a reckless driving charge will result in 8 license points instead of an automatic license suspension. Not to mention, the time period before record sealing is only one year compared to seven years for an underage DUI charge in Nevada. Depending on the specific evidence in your case, your DUI defense lawyer may be able to persuade the prosecutor to reduce the DUI down to reckless driving. A reckless driving charge instead of a DUI charge would be beneficial for four primary reasons:
  • Reckless driving carries less of a stigma than drunk driving
  • A future DUI will only be charged as a first DUI instead of a second DUI because of the previous reduced reckless driving ruling
  • An underage DUI in Las Vegas carries a mandatory driver’s license revocation, whereas a reckless driving charge results in 8 license points
  • There is only a 1 year waiting period to seal a reckless driving criminal record after the case closes. You must wait 7 years to seal an underage DUI in Nevada.

Defenses To Underage DUI In Las Vegas

Due to Nevada’s zero tolerance stance when it comes to underage drinking and driving, there are often scenarios that are defensible for minors who have been charged with an underage DUI. These are some of the most common defenses that are relevant in an underage DUI in Las Vegas.
  • The driver is not under 21
  • An error in the testing instrument created a false reading
  • The law enforcement officer interpreted the testing instrument incorrectly
  • Police violated constitutional rights when conducting the investigation
  • Police didn’t calibrate the testing instruments properly
  • The police didn’t properly maintain the testing instruments before use
  • Too much time passed between the driving and the test to give an accurate reading
  • Use of gum, mouthwash, or a health issue produced an invalid reading
Las Vegas Criminal Defense ATTORNEY

Frequently Asked Questions

What Happens If You Get A DUI Under 21 In Nevada?

According to NRS 484c 350, it is a crime for a person below the age of 21 to drive after consuming alcohol. If a minor is pulled over with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .02% or higher, they will be charged with an underage DUI in Nevada. This law is part of Nevada’s zero tolerance policy and is much stricter than the DUI laws for drivers above the age of 21 (.08%). However, if you are caught drinking and driving while underage, you will face similar consequences as adult drivers who are legally old enough to drink. The potential penalties for an underage DUI in Las Vegas include hefty fines, DUI School, and jail time. If you or your child are facing under 21 DUI charges in Nevada, we recommend that you contact an experienced Las Vegas underage DUI attorney right away. The Spartacus Law Firm can help you create a compelling defense with the goal of getting the charges reduced or dropped completely.

What Happens If An Underage Driver’s BAC is Above .08%?

If you are under the age of 21 and arrested with a BAC above .08%, you will face similar consequences to a standard DUI. An underage DUI in Las Vegas is much less severe if BAC is below .08%. In many cases, an under 21 DUI jail sentence is suspended on the first offense, and the courts may substitute it for community service instead. However, if BAC is found to be in excess, you may be looking at the following penalties:

  • Anywhere from 2 days to 6 months in a Nevada jail or juvenile detention center
  • Fines that total between $400 – $1000
  • Court-ordered DUI school and DUI victim impact panel
  • Mandatory license suspension
  • Potential installation of an ignition interlock device

How Long Does An Underage DUI Stay On Your Record?

The good news is, a juvenile DUI in Nevada is automatically sealed when the defendant turns 21. However, if you were over 18 at the time of your arrest, there are only specific types of DUI charges that can be sealed. For example, first-time and second-time DUI convictions are eligible to be sealed seven years after the case has concluded. On the other hand, a DUI that results in catastrophic injury or death is deemed a felony in Nevada and cannot be sealed.

Contact A Las Vegas Underage DUI Attorney Today

If you or your child has been arrested for an underage DUI in Las Vegas, help is available. The Spartacus Law Firm has been recognized as a top-ranked DUI law firm and we promise to fight to make sure that your rights are protected. An underage DUI charge in Nevada can spell trouble for a young person’s future if not handled correctly. Contact us today for a consultation and to begin planning your defense.
(702) 660-1234