What Is Considered A DUI Under Nevada State Law?
In Nevada, a DUI is defined as having a blood alcohol limit greater than 0.08 at the time of testing, or otherwise being under the influence of a drug that renders a driver incapable of safely operating a vehicle.
What Happens After Someone Is Pulled Over On Suspicion Of DUI In Nevada?
In most cases, a DUI case begins when a person is pulled over for having committed a traffic infraction or having an equipment violation. For example, a police officer might observe a traffic infraction such as speeding or weaving between lanes, or will observe an equipment violation such as a missing headlight or license plate. In some cases, a citizen informant will alert the authorities to a driver who they believe is intoxicated. Under the law, there has to be justification for a traffic stop, which is what they call a seizure under Fourth Amendment law.
Once an officer pulls someone over, they will approach the vehicle and request their information. At that point, the officer will be looking for alcohol or drug indicators that will let them know that they might be under the influence of a substance. For example, the officer might detect the odor of alcohol or notice slurred speech or red eyes. Once they make an observation which indicates that the driver may be intoxicated, they will have legal justification to ask the person to step out of the car and participate in a DUI investigation.
DUI investigations normally consist of the administration of the standard field sobriety tests. One of the first tests they give is called the horizontal gaze nystagmus test. This test is also referred to as the eye test, which involves the officer moving a pen or a finger back and forth in front of the driver’s eyes to see if their eyes jerk as they move. Nystagmus is an indicator of impairment by alcohol and other CNS depressants. The next test is called the walk-and-turn test, which involves two phases: the instruction phase and the performance phase. During the instruction phase, the subject is supposed to listen to the instructions, and during the performance phase, they are supposed to perform the task as instructed. During the test, the officer will be looking for certain clues that will indicate intoxication. The third test is the one-leg-stand test, which requires the driver to raise one leg six inches off the ground, keep their hands to their side, and count out loud until they are told to stop. If they lose their balance, put their foot down, or raise their arms during the test, then it will be counted against them. One of the final tests is the portable breath test, which is administered right there on the side of the road. It’s not admissible in court as evidence, but an officer is allowed to use the portable breath test results as a way of identifying signs of impairment. For example, if the driver blows into the breath test machine and it shows that they are over the legal limit for alcohol, then the officer will have an idea that the driver is impaired by alcohol. If the driver blows zeroes, then the officer will consider whether or not a controlled substance or prescription drug could be the cause of impairment.
If a driver performs poorly on the field sobriety tests, then the police officer will be able to use that as probable cause, which is the legal standard to arrest someone. Probable cause is based on what’s called a totality of the circumstances, which includes the driving pattern, physical characteristics, speech, and performance on the field sobriety tests. If there is enough to go on, then the officer will make an arrest for suspicion of driving under the influence. From there, they will usually take the suspect to the jail or the police station and have them perform a chemical test, such as a breath or blood test. If the blood test comes back positive for an illegal substance, then the prosecution’s case will be supported by that finding. At that point, the suspect may be released from custody to a family member or friend, or else booked into the jail.
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