Sen. Valerie Wiener, D-Las Vegas, has introduced legislation that could keep some felony driving under the influence offenders out of state prison.
SB277 would authorize district judges to order an alcohol- or drug- treatment program for third-time DUI offenders if that person enters a guilty or no-contest plea.
She said some judges in Clark County were using alternative sentencing in some cases.
The practice was ended after the district attorney gave them the opinion they don't have that authority, she said.
SB277 is designed to reinstate the practice of alternative sentencing in third-offense DUI cases, allowing the offender to avoid prison if they strictly follow a treatment program for a minimum of three years. Under the bill, those who complete the program would have that conviction reduced to a second-offense violation, which is a misdemeanor instead of a felony.
"But if they blow it, they go straight to prison," Wiener said.
Under existing law, the third DUI is treated as a felony and the offender sentenced to one to six years in prison.
For those in the alternative program, the conviction would be listed as a misdemeanor for purposes of employment, civil rights and licensing. However, if the person received another DUI in the future, the conviction would be treated as a prior felony conviction.
And in Nevada, a new conviction for someone already convicted of felony DUI carries up to 15 years in prison.
She said allowing judges that discretion would also help reduce the number of DUI offenders in Nevada's prison system.
Prison officials say there are more than 400 in prison on DUI convictions but that most also have other convictions. Prison spokesman Greg Smith said there are currently 161 male inmates on DUI only convictions and 31 females who Wiener's proposed legislation could have applied to.
The bill was referred to the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee for review.
• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at firstname.lastname@example.org or 687-8750.