Nevada Pushes for Harsher Penalties for Drunk Drivers

Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm report that officials in Nevada are urging lawmakers to heighten penalties for those arrested for DUI, particularly first- and second-time offenders. Others are concerned about the toll such measures would take on the state’s jails and budget.

Law enforcement officers and legal experts think that those arrested, even for the first time, should face mandatory jail time. Others believe further methods of prevention, such as interlock ignition devices, would substantially curb the amount of DUI arrests, deaths and injuries on Nevada roadways.

Still others think that the establishments that provide free-flowing alcohol should face harsher penalties. Surprisingly, in Nevada, casinos and clubs are shielded from liability if a patron leaves drunk, drives, and crashes or otherwise hurts someone. The state’s lack of dram shop laws protects bartenders and severs who are, legally, supposed to stop serving clearly intoxicated patrons in order to protect them and those around them.

One notable example of the toll this protection can take on families and communities is that of Fabien Santiago. Santiago was 17 when he and his two uncles were evicted from the hotel Primadonna for disorderly conduct. He and his uncles were obviously drunk, engaging in multiple physical altercations with hotel guests and ultimately thrown out by security officers.

The three intended to sleep in their car, however, security guards told them they had to leave hotel property completely. One of Santiago’s uncles drove, though he did not have a valid license, and after leaving hotel property, was traveling at about 80 MPH when he lost control and rolled his vehicle. Santiago suffered severe spinal cord injuries in the crash, and his guardian attempted to file suit against Primmadonna for negligently allowing a minor to be a passenger in a vehicle driven by an intoxicated driver.

The court ruled that Primmadonna was not liable for Santiago’s injuries, as it had the right to evict disruptive patrons and did not owe a duty to keep the minor on its property. If this incident had occurred in a state with even a low level of dram shop liability, the outcome would likely have been much different, and Santiago would have received compensation for the medical care he will require for the rest of his life.

Compounding the issue of drunken injuries in Las Vegas, a new government report shows that walking while intoxicated may be just as dangerous as drunken driving. The 2011 report compiled data from state highway departments and illuminated the fact that one-third of pedestrians killed, not only in Las Vegas but the U.S. as a whole, had blood alcohol levels above the legal limit. Anti-DUI advocates say this is a trend they have been seeing for quite some time – drunk pedestrians mistakenly stepping off the sidewalk or falling from the curb into oncoming traffic.

Pedestrians throughout the country need to be just as aware of environmental and personal dangers of being impaired, just as drivers must be. Families of pedestrians who are killed by drunk drivers, even if that pedestrian was drunk themselves, can often file wrongful death lawsuits against the parties responsible. If the state the incident occurred has dram shop laws, the suit can also extend to the establishment, house or party the driver was drinking at before the crash.

An example of such action occurred recently in Tennessee, when the family of a young man who died after being struck by an intoxicated driver filed a lawsuit against the driver, his passenger, and the company that hosted the holiday party the pair were drinking at earlier in the night. The driver struck two men as they crossed a street in the early hours of a mid-December morning. The driver’s girlfriend, who owned the car, was sitting in the passenger’s seat and was charged because she willingly gave her boyfriend her keys, knowing he was drunk.

The company that hosted the holiday party, Jive Printing, was also named as a defendant for providing free alcohol, yet only allocating one vehicle to give people rides to and from the party. There were apparently hundreds of people in attendance, and one vehicle was far less than adequate.

Auto accident attorneys at Pintas & Mullins Law Firm have decades of experience advocating on behalf of those seriously injured or killed by drunken or otherwise negligent drivers. Our attorneys provide free, no-obligation consultations to potential clients in every state.

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