Las Vegas "Nightclub" Arrests
Explained by Nevada Criminal Defense Attorneys

Tourists from all over the world flock to Las Vegas for its infamous nightclubs. However arrests frequently occur at these nightlife hotspots that could result in lengthy sentences in Nevada State Prison. Five common crimes that nightclub patrons are busted for include:

  1. Nevada Drug offenses
  2. Nevada offense of Battery
  3. Nevada offense of Indecent Exposure
  4. Nevada offense of Open or Gross Lewdness
  5. Nevada offense of Breaching the Peace

Club-hoppers may become too drunk to make wise decisions. Or ravers can be law-abiding but still find themselves arrested by rash security personnel. Either way, the D.A. may have a difficult time proving guilt if there is no video surveillance of or witnesses to the alleged crime.

On this page our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys explain the definition, defenses, and penalties for Nevada nightclub offenses. For information about pool party arrests, go to our article on Nevada pool party crimes.

Nightclub Arrests in Las Vegas

Many Las Vegas casinos have nightclubs on the premises that feature DJs and dancing until the early morning hours. Nightclubs typically serve alcohol and present exotic dancers, so only patrons ages 21 and older are allowed beyond the velvet ropes. A few notable Las Vegas clubs include:

The loud music, dark spaces, dizzying lights, and flowing alcohol that define nightclubs sometimes go hand in hand with such illegal activities as using or selling drugs, getting into fist fights, undressing inappropriately, making unwanted sexual advances, and causing disturbances.

Note that it is not a crime to be drunk in public in Nevada nightclubs. Also note that nightclubs are not the same as strip clubs; for more information, go to our informational page on Las Vegas strip club crimes.

Drug arrests at Las Vegas nightclubs

Nightclub bouncers and security guards are constantly on the lookout for patrons who are using or selling controlled substances including methamphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, and pot.1 Depending on the case, typical defenses to Nevada charges involving narcotics are:

  1. The defendant had no knowledge of the drugs' whereabouts. Maybe the drugs belonged to another nightclub patron nearby, or perhaps someone else secretly planted the drugs in the defendant's pocket or bags.
  2. Law enforcement "entrapped" the defendant into selling drugs when the defendant had no predisposition to break the law. (Read more in our information page on Nevada entrapment laws.)
  3. The cops conducted an illegal search in Nevada to find the drugs, and consequently the defendant may be able to have any evidence discovered from the illegal search tossed out.

The punishment for Nevada drug crimes turns on whether the charge was for possession for personal use, possession with intent to sell the drugs, or selling:

Note that Nevada law imposes different penalties for using or selling marijuana. Read more in our articles on Nevada marijuana laws.

Battery arrests at Las Vegas nightclubs

As with bars, it is common for altercations to break out at Las Vegas nightclubs. Patrons whose fights turn physical can be prosecuted for battery, which is legally defined as deliberately touching another human being in an illegal or unwanted manner.2 North Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse provides an example.

Example: Tom is having drinks at the Blue Martini (Town Square) with his disabled brother, Dan. Tom notices another guy, John, making fun of Dan for being in a wheelchair. Enraged, Tom accosts John and throws punches at him. John defends himself, and it devolves into a fist-fight. Security thought John hit first, and the police book John at the Clark County Detention Center for battery.

In this example, John's criminal defense attorney would argue that John behaved in accordance with self-defense in Nevada. The criminal defense attorney would also attempt to find witnesses who saw Tom starting the brawl and would try to get surveillance video that documented the fight. If the criminal defense attorney convinces the prosecutor that John was lawfully defending himself, the prosecutor can throw out the battery charges against John and instead prosecute Tom for battery.

Three other potential defense strategies to fight battery charges in Nevada are:

  1. Any physical touching that occurred was purely accidental, and the defendant had no intention to make physical contact with the victim.
  2. The "victim" gave his/her consent to the battery, which then would make the physical contact legal.
  3. The "victim" falsely accused the defendant, maybe out of revenge or anger.

The penalties for battery depend on whether the defendant employed a deadly weapon and whether the victim experienced substantial bodily harm. Battery that does not involve a deadly weapon or serious injuries is a misdemeanor in Nevada, which carries a maximum of:

  • 6 months in jail, and/or
  • $1,000 in fines.

In the meantime, battery that does not involve a deadly weapon but does result in substantial bodily harm in Nevada is a category C felony, which carries:

  • 1 to 5 years in prison, and
  • maybe $10,000 in fines

In addition, battery that involves a deadly weapon but does not involve serious injuries is a category B felony in Nevada, which carries:

  • 2 to 10 years in prison, and
  • maybe $10,000 in fines

Finally, battery that involves a deadly weapon as well as substantial bodily harm in Nevada is a category B felony, which carries:

  • 2 to 15 years in prison, and
  • maybe $10,000 in fines

Read more in our informational article on Nevada penalties for battery. Note that for only a first-time charge of misdemeanor battery, the D.A. may be agreeable to lessening the charge to disorderly conduct or even dropping it in return for paying a fine and completing an anger management class.

Indecent Exposure arrests at Las Vegas nightclubs

Nevada outlaws anyone from making "any open and indecent or obscene exposure of his/her person, or of another person."3 North Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Michael Becker explains how indecent exposure may occur at a Las Vegas nightclub:

Example: Ellie goes to Drop Bar in Green Valley Ranch and drinks too much. When her favorite song comes on, she climbs on the bar table and takes off her top while belting out the lyrics. Security sees Ellie and detains her until the police arrive and can book her at the Henderson Detention Center for indecent exposure.

In the above example, it would not make a difference whether Ellie was the only patron there or she stripped for only a moment. Ellie could still be busted for indecent exposure in Nevada simply for exposing herself in a location where other people may be able to see her.

Other types of indecent exposure are flashing or tearing off someone else's clothes while in public. Note that nightclubs are not the same as strip clubs, which have special adult entertainment licenses that permit topless or nude performers.

The most effective defenses to Nevada charges of indecent exposure turn on the circumstances of the case. In some situations, the D.A. does not have enough evidence to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. As long as there is no video footage of the incident or credible witnesses who saw the alleged indecent exposure, the D.A. may have to drop the charge for lack of proof.

The penalties for an indecent exposure conviction turn on the defendant's criminal history. A first-time offense of indecent exposure is a gross misdemeanor in Nevada, which carries a maximum of:

  • 364 days in jail and/or
  • $2,000 in fines

A second-time or subsequent charge of indecent exposure is a category D felony in Nevada, which carries:

  • 1 to 4 years in prison, and
  • maybe up to $5,000 in fines

Note that defendants who are convicted of indecent exposure may additionally be required to register as sex offenders in Nevada.

Open or Gross Lewdness arrests at Las Vegas nightclubs

Open or gross lewdness is a broad offense in Nevada that encompasses either of the following illegal acts:

  • sexual activity that is nonconsensual but falls short of rape (no oral, vaginal, or anal penetration); or
  • sexual activity performed in public or in a private space where the public can see in (such as bathroom stall with an open door)

For example, three illustrations of open or gross lewdness at Las Vegas nightclubs are:

  1. Two people having sex on a bar couch, which other nightclub patrons can see.
  2. Groping a nightclub patron's rear end against the patron's will.
  3. One nightclub patron rubbing his/her groin area against another nightclub patron's body without consent.

Similar to indecent exposure, the most effective defenses to open or gross lewdness charges turn on the unique situation of the case. Unless the D.A. has clear surveillance video of the alleged lewdness, the prosecution may have insufficient evidence to prove the defendant guilty.

The sentence for open or gross lewdness is identical to that of indecent exposure and depends on the defendant's previous convictions (if any). A first-time offense of open or gross lewdness is a gross misdemeanor in Nevada, which carries a maximum of:

  • 364 days in jail, and/or
  • $2,000 in fines

A second-time or subsequent offense of open or gross lewdness is a category D felony, which carries:

  • 1 to 4 years in prison, and
  • maybe $5,000 in fines

Note that an open or gross lewdness conviction may carry the additional penalty of registering as a sex offender.4

Disorderly Conduct arrests at Las Vegas nightclubs

Also called "breach of peace," disorderly conduct is a catch-all crime that is defined by any intentionally noisy or disruptive actions.5 Three examples of disorderly at a Las Vegas nightclub are:

  1. Challenging another nightclub patron to a fight for flirting with his/her girlfriend.
  2. Constantly yelling at the cocktail waitress for spilling a drink.
  3. Lying intoxicated in front of the nightclub bathroom door, precluding other patrons from going in and out of the restroom.

The most common defense strategy to Nevada disorderly conduct charges is that the defendant did not deliberately breach the peace. Genuine accidents that cause disruptive circumstances should not invite criminal prosecution.

Breaching the peace is a misdemeanor in Nevada, which carries a maximum of:

  • 6 months in jail, and/or
  • $1,000 in fines

Note that Nevada judges usually order only fines and no incarceration for disorderly conduct convictions. And for a first offenses, the D.A. might agree to drop the charge in exchange for a monetary fine.

Arrested? Call an attorney...

If you are being charged with a crime ensuing from a "nightclub arrest" in Nevada, call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a free meeting. We will do our best to negotiate and litigate a favorable result such as a charge reduction or dismissal.

Legal References:

1NRS 453.336 Unlawful possession not for purpose of sale: Prohibition; penalties; exception.

1. Except as otherwise provided in subsection 5, a person shall not knowingly or intentionally possess a controlled substance, unless the substance was obtained directly from, or pursuant to, a prescription or order of a physician, physician assistant licensed pursuant to chapter 630 or 633 of NRS, dentist, podiatric physician, optometrist, advanced practice registered nurse or veterinarian while acting in the course of his or her professional practice, or except as otherwise authorized by the provisions of NRS 453.005 to 453.552, inclusive.

2. Except as otherwise provided in subsections 3 and 4 and in NRS 453.3363, and unless a greater penalty is provided in NRS 212.160, 453.3385, 453.339 or 453.3395, a person who violates this section shall be punished:

(a) For the first or second offense, if the controlled substance is listed in schedule I, II, III or IV, for a category E felony as provided in NRS 193.130.

(b) For a third or subsequent offense, if the controlled substance is listed in schedule I, II, III or IV, or if the offender has previously been convicted two or more times in the aggregate of any violation of the law of the United States or of any state, territory or district relating to a controlled substance, for a category D felony as provided in NRS 193.130, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $20,000.

(c) For the first offense, if the controlled substance is listed in schedule V, for a category E felony as provided in NRS 193.130.

(d) For a second or subsequent offense, if the controlled substance is listed in schedule V, for a category D felony as provided in NRS 193.130.

3. Unless a greater penalty is provided in NRS 212.160, 453.337 or 453.3385, a person who is convicted of the possession of flunitrazepam or gamma-hydroxybutyrate, or any substance for which flunitrazepam or gamma-hydroxybutyrate is an immediate precursor, is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 6 years. 4. Unless a greater penalty is provided pursuant to NRS 212.160, a person who is convicted of the possession of 1 ounce or less of marijuana:

(a) For the first offense, is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be:

(1) Punished by a fine of not more than $600; or

(2) Examined by an approved facility for the treatment of abuse of drugs to determine whether the person is a drug addict and is likely to be rehabilitated through treatment and, if the examination reveals that the person is a drug addict and is likely to be rehabilitated through treatment, assigned to a program of treatment and rehabilitation pursuant to NRS 453.580.

(b) For the second offense, is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be:

(1) Punished by a fine of not more than $1,000; or

(2) Assigned to a program of treatment and rehabilitation pursuant to NRS 453.580.

(c) For the third offense, is guilty of a gross misdemeanor and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.140.

(d) For a fourth or subsequent offense, is guilty of a category E felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.

5. It is not a violation of this section if a person possesses a trace amount of a controlled substance and that trace amount is in or on a hypodermic device obtained from a sterile hypodermic device program pursuant to NRS 439.985 to 439.994, inclusive.

NRS 453.337 Unlawful possession for sale of flunitrazepam, gamma-hydroxybutyrate and schedule I or II substances; penalties.

1. Except as otherwise authorized by the provisions of NRS 453.011 to 453.552, inclusive, it is unlawful for a person to possess for the purpose of sale flunitrazepam, gamma-hydroxybutyrate, any substance for which flunitrazepam or gamma-hydroxybutyrate is an immediate precursor or any controlled substance classified in schedule I or II.

2. Unless a greater penalty is provided in NRS 453.3385, 453.339 or 453.3395, a person who violates this section shall be punished:

(a) For the first offense, for a category D felony as provided in NRS 193.130.

(b) For a second offense, or if, in the case of a first conviction of violating this section, the offender has previously been convicted of a felony under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act or of an offense under the laws of the United States or any state, territory or district which, if committed in this State, would amount to a felony under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, for a category C felony as provided in NRS 193.130.

(c) For a third or subsequent offense, or if the offender has previously been convicted two or more times of a felony under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act or of any offense under the laws of the United States or any state, territory or district which, if committed in this State, would amount to a felony under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, for a category B felony by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 3 years and a maximum term of not more than 15 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $20,000 for each offense.

3. The court shall not grant probation to or suspend the sentence of a person convicted of violating this section and punishable pursuant to paragraph (b) or (c) of subsection 2.

NRS 453.338 Unlawful possession for sale of substances classified in schedule III, IV or V; penalties.

1. Except as authorized by the provisions of NRS 453.011 to 453.552, inclusive, it is unlawful for a person to possess for the purpose of sale any controlled substance classified in schedule III, IV or V.

2. A person who violates this section shall be punished:

(a) For the first and second offense, for a category D felony as provided in NRS 193.130, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $10,000.

(b) For a third or subsequent offense, or if the offender has been previously convicted two or more times of a felony under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act or of any offense under the laws of the United States or any state, territory or district which, if committed in this State, would amount to a felony under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act, for a category C felony as provided in NRS 193.130.

3. The court shall not grant probation to or suspend the sentence of a person convicted of violating this section and punishable under paragraph (b) of subsection 2.

6. As used in this section:

(a) “Controlled substance” includes flunitrazepam, gamma-hydroxybutyrate and each substance for which flunitrazepam or gamma-hydroxybutyrate is an immediate precursor.

(b) “Sterile hypodermic device program” has the meaning ascribed to it in NRS 439.943.

NRS 453.321 Offer, attempt or commission of unauthorized act relating to controlled or counterfeit substance unlawful; penalties; prohibition against probation or suspension of sentence for certain repeat offenders.

1. Except as authorized by the provisions of NRS 453.011 to 453.552, inclusive, it is unlawful for a person to:

(a) Import, transport, sell, exchange, barter, supply, prescribe, dispense, give away or administer a controlled or counterfeit substance;

(b) Manufacture or compound a counterfeit substance; or

(c) Offer or attempt to do any act set forth in paragraph (a) or (b).

2. Unless a greater penalty is provided in NRS 453.333 or 453.334, if a person violates subsection 1 and the controlled substance is classified in schedule I or II, the person is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished:

(a) For the first offense, by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 6 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $20,000.

(b) For a second offense, or if, in the case of a first conviction under this subsection, the offender has previously been convicted of an offense under this section or of any offense under the laws of the United States or any state, territory or district which, if committed in this State, would amount to an offense under this section, by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 2 years and a maximum term of not more than 10 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $20,000.

(c) For a third or subsequent offense, or if the offender has previously been convicted two or more times under this section or of any offense under the laws of the United States or any state, territory or district which, if committed in this State, would amount to an offense under this section, by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 3 years and a maximum term of not more than 15 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $20,000 for each offense.

3. The court shall not grant probation to or suspend the sentence of a person convicted under subsection 2 and punishable pursuant to paragraph (b) or (c) of subsection 2.

4. Unless a greater penalty is provided in NRS 453.333 or 453.334, if a person violates subsection 1, and the controlled substance is classified in schedule III, IV or V, the person shall be punished:

(a) For the first offense, for a category C felony as provided in NRS 193.130.

(b) For a second offense, or if, in the case of a first conviction of violating this subsection, the offender has previously been convicted of violating this section or of any offense under the laws of the United States or any state, territory or district which, if committed in this State, would amount to a violation of this section, for a category B felony by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 2 years and a maximum term of not more than 10 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $15,000.

(c) For a third or subsequent offense, or if the offender has previously been convicted two or more times of violating this section or of any offense under the laws of the United States or any state, territory or district which, if committed in this State, would amount to a violation of this section, for a category B felony by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 3 years and a maximum term of not more than 15 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $20,000 for each offense.

5. The court shall not grant probation to or suspend the sentence of a person convicted under subsection 4 and punishable pursuant to paragraph (b) or (c) of subsection 4.

2NRS 200.400 Definition; penalties.

1. As used in this section:

(a) “Battery” means any willful and unlawful use of force or violence upon the person of another.

(b) “Strangulation” has the meaning ascribed to it in NRS 200.481.

2. A person who is convicted of battery with the intent to commit mayhem, robbery or grand larceny is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 2 years and a maximum term of not more than 10 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $10,000.

3. A person who is convicted of battery with the intent to kill is guilty of a category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 2 years and a maximum term of not more than 20 years.

4. A person who is convicted of battery with the intent to commit sexual assault shall be punished:

(a) If the crime results in substantial bodily harm to the victim or is committed by strangulation, for a category A felony by imprisonment in the state prison:

(1) For life without the possibility of parole; or

(2) For life with the possibility of parole, with eligibility for parole beginning when a minimum of 10 years has been served,

-> as determined by the verdict of the jury, or the judgment of the court if there is no jury.

(b) If the crime does not result in substantial bodily harm to the victim and the victim is 16 years of age or older, for a category A felony by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 2 years and a maximum term of life with the possibility of parole.

(c) If the crime does not result in substantial bodily harm to the victim and the victim is a child under the age of 16, for a category A felony by imprisonment in the state prison for a minimum term of not less than 5 years and a maximum term of life with the possibility of parole.

-> In addition to any other penalty, a person convicted pursuant to this subsection may be punished by a fine of not more than $10,000.

3NRS 201.220 Indecent or obscene exposure; penalty.

1. A person who makes any open and indecent or obscene exposure of his or her person, or of the person of another, is guilty:

(a) For the first offense, of a gross misdemeanor.

(b) For any subsequent offense, of a category D felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.

2. For the purposes of this section, the breast feeding of a child by the mother of the child does not constitute an act of open and indecent or obscene exposure of her body.

4NRS 201.210 Open or gross lewdness; penalty.

1. A person who commits any act of open or gross lewdness is guilty:

(a) For the first offense, of a gross misdemeanor.

(b) For any subsequent offense, of a category D felony and shall be punished as provided in NRS 193.130.

2. For the purposes of this section, the breast feeding of a child by the mother of the child does not constitute an act of open or gross lewdness.

5NRS 203.010 Breach of peace.

Every person who shall maliciously and willfully disturb the peace or quiet of any neighborhood or person or family by loud or unusual noises, or by tumultuous and offensive conduct, threatening, traducing, quarreling, challenging to fight, or fighting, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

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