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What to Know About Teen Driving Citations in Las Vegas

teen driving citations in las vegas

Teen drivers in Nevada are subject to some additional rules and regulations designed to keep them, their passengers, and others on the roads safe. It’s important for teen drivers and their parents alike to familiarize themselves with Nevada’s driving laws to avoid receiving a citation—or worse. Below, we’ll explain more about Nevada’s laws and your options if you are cited for a violation.

Getting Your Driver’s License

Teens who are caught driving without a valid license can have their eligibility date moved back. But generally, six months after a teen’s 15th birthday, they’ll be eligible to get a supervised driver’s permit if their parent or guardian helps them apply. To apply for a permit before your 18th birthday, you’ll need to either be currently enrolled in high school or have already graduated.

Once a teen has documented at least 50 practice hours (including 10 practice hours at night), they’ll be able to apply for a driver’s license. However, this license is a provisional one subject to some restrictions. For the first six months after getting a driver’s license, those under 18 aren’t allowed to have any other non-family member passengers.

Teen drivers are also subject to Nevada’s curfew, which means they can’t be on the road between 10:00 p.m. and 5:00 a.m. unless they’re traveling to or from work or a school event and have written documentation to confirm this. Teen drivers also can’t be on the Strip or in downtown Las Vegas after 9:00 p.m. without an adult, although Las Vegas teens who live in the Valley have the normal 10:00 p.m. curfew from Sunday through Thursday and then a 12:00 a.m. curfew on Friday and Saturday.

If a teen is stopped and cited for a moving violation, their six-month passenger restriction will be extended for an extra six months.

Teens and Traffic Citations

Generally, teens are treated the same as adults when it comes to traffic citation penalties. But for teens with a graduated driver’s license (GDA)—that is, those who are under 18—there are some heightened penalties associated with receiving a traffic ticket.

Teens who are caught using a cell phone while driving may be fined anywhere from $50 to $250, or double if the violation happened in a work zone. After one traffic citation, a teen driver may be assessed four points on their driver’s license for any cell phone violation. Accrue enough points in a short period of time (12 in a year) and it can mean the temporary suspension of your driver’s license.

You can also receive demerit points on your driver’s license if you’re exceeding the speed limit by 10 miles per hour (for speed zones of 65 miles per hour or less) or five miles per hour (for speed zones of 70 miles per hour or more).

Teen Drivers Under the Influence

Because teen drivers can’t legally drink, there’s a near-zero tolerance policy for teens who are caught driving under the influence. Nevada’s “use it or lose it” law also means that teen drivers can lose their licenses for anywhere from nine months to two years by trying to purchase alcohol before the age of 20 or by publicly possessing alcohol.

Other situations in which those under age 18 can have their driver’s licenses suspended—when the same penalty isn’t imposed on those 18 and older—include the following:

  • Violations of federal or state firearms laws
  • Truancy, or excessive school absences
  • Drug-related juvenile delinquency adjudications

In addition, drivers who are too young to drink and who are stopped for suspected DUI may be arrested and charged with a crime if their blood alcohol concentration (BAC) is 0.02 or more—well below the 0.08 legal limit for those who are age 21 and older. In addition to losing their license for 90 days to three years, teens who are arrested for DUI may be fined between $400 and $1,000, required to participate in community service, or even sentenced to a period of jail time.

Finally, even in states where marijuana has been decriminalized or legalized, teens who are caught driving under the influence of marijuana (or other drugs) can be assessed the same fines and penalties as would be imposed if they were caught driving under the influence of alcohol.

Defending Against a Teen Traffic Citation

If you or a teen in your family has recently received a traffic citation, it can be tempting to simply pay the fine and move on—especially if this citation doesn’t appear to come with any penalties beyond the fine. However, there can be some collateral consequences associated with a traffic ticket, and if there’s a defense to be raised, it’s often worth pursuing.

Most notably, having a traffic citation on your record as a teen can significantly increase your auto insurance rates. Because teens often have higher-than-average rates simply due to their young age and relative driving inexperience, adding a citation on top of this can make auto insurance tougher to afford. And it may take a while for a traffic citation to “age off” your record, which can mean paying higher rates for several years or more.

Below, we’ll discuss some of the potential defenses that may be raised.

Officer Error or Failure to Appear

A traffic citation doesn’t create a foregone conclusion that the recipient has violated a traffic law. Instead, unless the recipient admits the violation and pays the fine before a court date, the officer who issued the ticket will be required to appear in court.

This means that someone who receives a citation and appears in court, and who also can rebut the officer’s observations or conclusions, may be able to persuade the judge to dismiss the ticket. And if the officer fails to appear, the citation may be dismissed without requiring the recipient to present any evidence in their defense.

Equipment Error

Police devices like radar guns aren’t foolproof—they need to be regularly calibrated to ensure they’re working correctly. This means that someone who receives a speeding citation may be able to challenge the accuracy of the radar gun used to gauge their speed. Unless the officer can show that the radar gun has been calibrated and tested recently, or provide other evidence (like dashcam video) that shows the subject was speeding, there may not be enough evidence to support a ticket.

Other types of police equipment used to generate traffic citations can also be subject to error. An experienced traffic attorney can investigate your claim and determine what defenses may be available, whether this means challenging the officer’s subjective observations or challenging more objective data like their equipment.

Mistaken Identity

In some cases, a citation may be issued to the wrong person. A couple of the most common examples of this include red light tickets or toll booth violations. When a citation is issued based on the identity of the vehicle, and not of the driver, it may be associated with the teen owner and not the person who was actually driving at the time.

By showing that a ticket was issued to the wrong person (and identifying the correct person, if possible), a teen can have this citation removed from their record and avoid paying any fine.

Mistake of Fact

Finally, a potential defense to a traffic citation may involve a mistake of fact—that is, a mistake the driver made that is reasonable under the circumstances. The “mistake of fact” defense can sometimes include necessity, such as speeding because of an emergency situation.

Some examples of mistakes of fact include:

  • Failing to stop or yield at a sign that was obscured
  • Failing to stay in your lane because the lane markers were blocked or not visible
  • Failing to notice a stop sign or stop light that was recently installed
  • Failing to abide by the speed limit because the signs were not posted according to state regulations

Although “mistake of fact” defenses may not always be enough to have a ticket dismissed, they may help a teen driver avoid fines or accruing points on their license.

In Closing

Although traffic citations can seem fairly low-stakes in the context of driving violations, for teen drivers, a traffic citation can carry steeper financial and logistical penalties. Having your driver’s license suspended can make working, attending school, and going to college more difficult.

If there’s a defense available, it’s worth pursuing—and if you’re not sure whether you can defend against a ticket, it’s worth talking to an experienced Nevada traffic attorney to determine what options might be available.