Blanton v. City of No. Las Vegas
489 U.S. 538 (1989)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Blanton v. City of No. Las Vegas, 489 U.S. 538 (1989)

Blanton v. City of North Las Vegas, Nevada

No. 87-1437

Argued January 9, 1989

Decided March 6, 1989

489 U.S. 538

Syllabus

Under Nevada law, a first-time offender convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol (DUI) faces up to six months of incarceration or, in the alternative, 48 hours of community work while identifiably dressed as a DUI offender. In addition, the offender must pay a fine of up to $1,000, attend an alcohol abuse education course, and lose his license for 90 days. Penalties increase for repeat offenders. Petitioners, first-time offenders, were charged with DUI in separate incidents. The Municipal Court denied each petitioner's demand for a jury trial. On appeal, the Judicial District Court again denied petitioner Blanton's request, but granted petitioner Fraley's. The Nevada Supreme Court remanded both cases, concluding that the Federal Constitution does not guarantee a right to a jury trial for a DUI offense.

Held: There is no Sixth Amendment right to a trial by jury for persons charged under Nevada law with DUI. This Court has long held that petty crimes or offenses are not subject to the Sixth Amendment jury trial provision. The most relevant criterion for determining the seriousness of an offense is the severity of the maximum authorized penalty fixed by the legislature. Under this approach, when an offense carries a maximum prison term of six months or less, as DUI does under Nevada law, it is presumed to be petty unless the defendant can show that any additional statutory penalties, viewed in conjunction with the maximum authorized period of incarceration, are so severe that they clearly reflect a legislative determination that the offense is a "serious" one. Under this test, it is clear that the Nevada legislature does not view DUI as a serious offense. It is immaterial that a first-time DUI offender may face a minimum prison term or that some offenders may receive the maximum prison sentence, because even the maximum prison term does not exceed the constitutional demarcation point of six months. Likewise, the 90-day license suspension is irrelevant if it runs concurrently with the prison term. The 48 hours of community service in the specified clothing, while a source of embarrassment, is less embarrassing and less onerous than six months in jail. Also, the $1,000 fine is well below the $5,000 level set by Congress in its most recent definition of a petty

Page 489 U. S. 539

offense, while increased penalties for recidivists are commonplace, and are not faced by petitioners. Pp. 489 U. S. 541-545.

___ Nev. ___, 748 P.2d 494, affirmed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion for a unanimous Court.

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