LAS VEGAS, NV (KTNV) – High-profile DUI cases raise many questions when the accused is a celebrity, a college or professional athlete, an off-duty police officer, or a very wealthy person. We have seen several tragic cases here in Las Vegas over the past few years.
Our district attorney is once again calling for tougher sentences and even defense lawyers are saying there must be changes.
âWhen you drive under the influence, you are a potential killer! Said Sandy Heverly of Stop DUI in 2018.
DA Steve Wolfson agrees and has advocated for tougher laws to hold drunk drivers accountable.
âWell, we tried months ago,â Wolfson said at a press briefing this week. “We have filed murder charges in a very similar case to this where there was excessive and reckless driving. But the Nevada Supreme Court said it was inappropriate and we accept it.”
Wolfson says his office receives dozens of DUI cases every week and five prosecutors who only do DUI cases. He hopes to impose tougher penalties in the next legislative session.
âA person makes the choice, minutes or hours before the crash, to drink alcohol and then drive recklessly,â says Wolfson. “This person incurs a lesser sentence than a person convicted of murder, who can decide to kill someone in a matter of moments.”
DUI defense attorney Chip Siegel disagrees.
âYou don’t see a lot of DUI deaths where the person only serves the minimum of two years,â says Siegel. âThese are generally reserved for cases of serious bodily harm. “
Siegel says 5 to 8 years is typical. And 10 to life imprisonment if the accused had already been convicted of dui.
Another element at play in the Ruggs case is where he came from and how much he drank before driving.
âThe evidence suggests he came from Top Golf,â says Wolfson. “And then I think there is some evidence to suggest after Topgolf, they went to a friend’s house.”
But in Nevada, none of that matters because we don’t have what is called a “Dram Shop Act” – which is designed to ensure that establishments that sell alcohol do so in a way that is. responsible.
Siegel says most states have some form of this law where, “You should have known you can’t serve him anymore, and because you kept serving him alcohol to a point where a person knew that he was too drunk, you bear the responsibility for what happened Next. “
This means that businesses and hosts could be sued for millions.
While this is not a DUI case, a Top Golf location in Texas is being sued by several customers who were allegedly injured while intoxicated.
Why is Nevada one of the few states that does not have such a law?
âI would say because we are such a big tourism state,â says Siegel. âAnd we have casinos, we have bars, people come to Vegas, I mean it’s adult Disneyland. And that’s part of the image that we have. So that’s probably the political reason for it. which we don’t have Dram Shop laws. “
In most situations, no matter how intoxicated a person is or how many drinks a bartender has served, a business cannot be held responsible for any injury or damage caused by such conduct. Nevada law allows social hosts who provide alcohol to minors to be held liable for damage caused by the minor’s intoxication.
“I’ve said this throughout my career that if we’re really going to take things seriously, we have to partner with the community to make it safer.” Siegel said.
Nevada is one of eight states that does not have soda store laws. The others are Delaware, Kansas, Louisiana, Maryland, Nebraska, South Dakota, and Virginia.
“And in that sense,” says Siegel, “the partnership means you go to their casinos, you go to the bars, you go to the Top Golfs and you say, ‘Look, you have an obligation to protect us all.’ .
These high profile DUI cases always raise questions about justice. Are cases dragging on, delaying justice for the families of the victims? Siegel says it’s very common for DUI cases involving a felony to take 2-3 years, regardless of who the accused is.