"Under the Influence of a Controlled Substance" in Nevada
(NRS 453.411)
Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Attorneys

It is a serious crime to not only possess or sell drugs but also to use or be under the influence of drugs in Nevada.  So if a cop finds you with no drugs on your person but you're allegedly "high," you can still face a felony conviction that will mar your criminal record and may hinder your employment prospects in the future.

Keep reading to learn about the Nevada crime of being under the influence of drugs.


It is illegal to take drugs or to be "under the influence" of drugs without a legal prescription.1 It does not matter whether you are in public or not . . . if you exhibit any behavior that is caused by drugs, you may be charged with the crime of "unlawful use of a controlled substance" in Las Vegas.

Note that this crime is separate and different from the Nevada offense of driving under the influence of drugs.  With DUIs, you can still be convicted even if you are not technically "under the influence" as long as your blood exceeds the minimal levels of certain types of drugs.

Also note that it is now legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to one (1) ounce of marijuana in private. Therefore, police probably will not arrest people for being under the influence of marijuana as long as they are:

  • not in public,
  • are 21 or older, and
  • and are not in possession of more than one ounce of marijuana.


Nothing is more frightening than being arrested for a drug crime in Nevada. But in many of these cases your attorney may be able to plea bargain with the prosecutor so that you submit to a much lesser crime or have your charges dismissed completely.  The following are just some defenses your defense team may consider using when negotiating your case:

  • No knowledge.  If someone slipped you a drug without your knowledge or you took a drug by accident, then you should not be convicted of using or being under the influence of a controlled substance in Nevada.
  • Prescription.  If a doctor issued you a legal prescription for the drug, then you may use it in accordance with the prescription without breaking Nevada law.
  • Legal drug.  If the drug is not classified in any of the five drug schedules, then you should not be found guilty of violating NRS 453.411.


The punishment for a violation of the Las Vegas offense of being under the influence of a controlled substance depends on the classification of the drugs involved, which range from Schedule I (the most potential for abuse, such as Ecstasy) to Schedule V (the least potential for abuse, such as Robitussin A-C)

Schedules I, II, III, IV

If the drug is categorized as either schedule I, schedule II, schedule III or schedule IV, then a conviction for using or being under the influence of the drug is a category E felony in Nevada, carrying 1 to 4 years in Nevada State Prison. However, this crime is often probationable.

Schedules V

If the drug is categorized as a schedule V, then a conviction for violating NRS 453.411 is a gross misdemeanor in Nevada carrying a sentence of up to 364 days in jail and maybe a $1,000 fine.

Arrested?  Call…

If you have been accused of being under the influence of drugs in Nevada (NRS 453.411), there is a chance we may be able to negotiate with prosecutors to have your charges reduced if not dismissed completely.  Call our Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free consultation to discuss your options.

1NRS 453.411 Unlawful use of controlled substance; penalties.

1. It is unlawful for a person knowingly to use or be under the influence of a controlled substance except in accordance with a lawfully issued prescription.

2. It is unlawful for a person knowingly to use or be under the influence of a controlled substance except when administered to the person at a rehabilitation clinic established or licensed by the Division of Public and Behavioral Health of the Department, or a hospital certified by the Department.

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