Reckless Driving vs. DUI in Nevada

The penalties for each conviction, and why plea bargaining down might be advantageous

By Super Lawyers staff | Reviewed by Canaan Suitt, J.D. | Last updated on February 23, 2023

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Nevada takes highway safety seriously. Drivers charged with reckless driving or intoxicated driving face significant criminal penalties and potentially a DUI conviction. Among other things, sanctions could include fines, the suspension or revocation of a driver’s license, and even time behind bars.

Below, you will find an overview of Nevada’s reckless driving statute, Nevada’s DUI statute and an explanation of why a plea bargain may be the best option for a driver facing charges.

The Comparison: Reckless Driving vs. Intoxicated Driving

Both reckless driving and intoxicated driving are typically charged as misdemeanor criminal offenses in the state of Nevada. Either offense can be upgraded to a felony if certain aggravating factors are present and both offenses are punishable by fines and jail time. Here is a more detailed review of the differences between reckless driving charges and DUI charges in Nevada:

  • Reckless Driving: Under Nevada law (NRS 484B.653), reckless driving is defined as operating a motor vehicle with “willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property.” It is a criminal offense, not merely a moving violation. A first-time reckless driving charge is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a $1,000 fine and a maximum sentence of six months in jail. Reckless driving can be charged as a felony if someone is seriously injured or killed as a result of the unlawful conduct.
  • Driving Under the Influence (DUI): Under Nevada law (NRS 484C.010), it is unlawful to operate a motor vehicle while under the influence of alcohol or drugs. For most drivers, the maximum blood alcohol limit is 0.08. Penalties for drunk driving depend on several different factors, including the level of intoxication and the driver’s prior history of DUIs or lack thereof. Though, even a first-time DUI is a serious offense that can carry a $1,000 fine, six months of jail time, or up to 96 hours of community service. Notably, prosecutors are often aggressive in pursuing drunk driving or drugged driving charges.

Why a Plea Bargain Might Be Your Best Option

Aggressively fighting a DUI case and a criminal charge is not the right approach in every case. If the prosecution has sufficient evidence to obtain a conviction, it is more sensible to focus on limiting the negative consequences. A plea bargain is an agreement between a prosecutor and a defendant that allows the defendant to plead guilty in exchange for a reduced charge or reduced sentence. Some of the potential advantages of a plea bargain include:

  • Reduced criminal charges.
  • Quicker resolution to the case.
  • Lesser penalties, potentially including avoiding jail time.
  • Opportunity to save your license or get back driving privileges sooner.

Of course, a plea bargain is not the right option in every case. Further, not every plea bargain is the same. If you are facing reckless driving charges or DUI charges, you need a deal that best protects your rights and your future. If you have any specific questions about DUI penalties and your legal rights, contact an experienced Nevada DUI attorney for legal advice. Many criminal defense attorneys provide free consultations, where you can ask questions such as:

  • What is your experience as a DUI defense lawyer?
  • What are your attorney’s fees and billing options?
  • How long will my driver’s license suspensions last?
  • Is it possible to expunge my criminal record of the driving offense?
  • How will subsequent offenses impact my driving record?

For more information, see our overview on traffic violations law.

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