The recent Coronavirus pandemic has forced several Las Vegas organizations to make significant changes, and the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) is no exception. Clark County DMV has had to adjust processes, including contesting a license revocation after a DUI arrest. Unfortunately, these changes can impede a defendant’s ability to comply with the DMV’s requirements and have left many Clark County residents feeling that they did not get the proper due process they are entitled under the law. While it is imperative for anyone arrested for a DUI to promptly hire an experienced DUI lawyer to protect their rights, there are still some prominent things anyone in this situation should know.
Here’s how the Clark County DMV was affected by COVID-19 and how it may apply to your situation.
In the Beginning: Clark County DMV Closes in March 2020
At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, all Nevada DMV locations were closed from March to June 2020 in an effort to help stop the spread of the virus. Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak issued a 90-day extension for drivers whose licenses or vehicle registrations would expire between March 16 to April 30, 2020, as outlined in the official DMV press release.
In addition to the extension on driver’s licenses, registrations, and other DMV documents, online services were expanded to try to avoid backlogs that would accumulate during the shutdown. Las Vegas drivers can renew vehicle registrations, renew licenses, verify insurance, cancel registrations and more by using the DMV online services. Although the Clark County DMV has since reopened, and even with these online services in place, a significant backlog is now taking its toll on Clark County drivers.
Clark County DMVs and License Revocation After a DUI Arrest
When a person is arrested for DUI, it opens both an administrative DMV case and a criminal court case. The DMV can revoke driving privileges after a DUI arrest, regardless of criminal charges. Even if the person is not criminally convicted, the DMV can still decide whether or not they are legally able to drive.
The DMV does allow people to request an administrative hearing to contest the revocation of their driver’s license. However, drivers must be eligible, and winning the challenge is extremely difficult. In fact, most people lose their hearing with the DMV. This is because the DMV does not have the same burden of proof as a criminal trial, which is beyond a reasonable doubt. An administrative hearing is considered civil in nature, so the DMV is only required to introduce “substantial evidence” a petitioner (for the purpose of the Administrative Process, the DMV identifies the defendant as a “petitioner”) was driving under the influence in order to win the hearing.
Unfortunately, COVID-19 has made the process of attempting to comply with the rules almost impossible.
Requesting an Administrative Hearing at the Clark County DMV
In-person hearings are only available in three locations throughout the state, with just one of them being in Clark County. However, NRS 484C.230 states that DMV hearings regarding license revocations “must be conducted as soon as is practicable at any location, if the hearing officer permits each party and witness to attend the hearing by telephone, videoconference or other electronic means.” This allows for administrative hearings to take place virtually rather than in person.
Once a driver receives the official notice of their license being revoked, they usually have only seven days from the time the notice was mailed to request a DMV administrative hearing to contest it. For drivers who elected to take a breath test, the officer will take your license at that time and your seven days to request a hearing starts at that point. If the driver elects for a blood test, results can take several months to confirm the driver’s blood alcohol content (BAC) was above the legal limit. The official results will be mailed to the driver by the DMV, including notice of the driver’s license revocation if the BAC was 0.08% or higher.
Generally, it used to take six to eight weeks for the DMV to schedule the hearing. Due to COVID-19 delays and backlogs, it now takes about 90 days (if not longer) to get a hearing scheduled. The petitioner is allowed to continue to drive using a temporary license until they get the official results of the hearing.
What Happens If a Driver Loses the DMV Administrative Hearing?
If a petitioner loses their hearing, their driver’s license is revoked. As stated in Nevada DMV’s License Suspensions & Revocation rules, driving privileges remain revoked until the driver is able to comply with all the DMV reinstatement requirements. Requirements can vary depending on whether it is the driver’s first, second, or third offense within a seven-year period.
The DMV will typically take about two to seven days to make a decision regarding a hearing. Once that decision is made, a letter is mailed to the petitioner notifying them of the hearing’s results and instructions on how that person may continue to drive. The Clark County DUI penalties range depending on the offense. In the case of a first-time DUI offense, drivers may be able to legally continue to drive right away if they install a breath ignition interlock device (BIID) in their vehicle, as defined in NRS 484C.450. However, they must do this within seven days of the notice being mailed to them, not seven days from when they received it.
With the pandemic closures, restrictions, and increased risks of COVID-19 complications for certain individuals, this seven-day period is unreasonable for most people. Unfortunately, if drivers are unable to comply with these requirements and are caught driver while their license is revoked, they could risk further incarceration, as well as potentially losing their license for an additional year.
Consequences for Driving with a Revoked License
If drivers are unable to install a BIID within the given amount of time, their driver’s license will be revoked. If they decide to drive anyway, it is considered a misdemeanor offense. In Nevada, the maximum sentence for a misdemeanor is up to six months in jail, $1,000 in fines or both. Additionally, the offense of driving while revoked can lead to an additional year added to the revocation.
Working with an Experienced DUI Attorney During COVID-19
If you are arrested for driving under the influence in Clark County, COVID-19 could make the process of a DMV hearing and getting your driver’s license reinstated much more challenging. Working with an experienced DUI attorney can help you understand your legal rights and ensure you complete everything that the DMV requires. If you find yourself faced with a DUI charge in Clark County, Nevada – contact our DUI attorney today so we can help fight for you.