Nevada Laws for "Obscene Shows or Performances"
(NRS 201.253)
Explained by Las Vegas Criminal Defense Lawyers

Most strip shows in Las Vegas enjoy First Amendment protection as "free expression."

It's rare for police to arrest someone for participating in an obscene show in Las Vegas.  Though when it does happen, defendants face high fines and even incarceration.  But a skilled Nevada criminal defense attorney may be able to get the case dismissed or changed to a more minor charge.

This article explains the Nevada offense of obscene shows or performances.  Keep reading to learn the definition, possible defenses, and potential punishments in Las Vegas.


Nevada makes it a crime for anyone to knowingly engage in the performance or exhibition of any obscene, indecent or immoral show, act or performance.  It's equally unlawful to knowingly cause such a show to be performed or exhibited whether or not that person performs in it.

The heart of this law centers on the legal definition of "obscene performance" in Las Vegas, Nevada.  An obscene performance meets the following three criteria:

    1. An average person applying contemporary community standards would find that the performance, taken as a whole, appeals to prurient interest; and
    2. The performance taken as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value; and
    3. The performance does at least one of the following:
a) Depicts or describes in a patently offensive way ultimate sexual acts, normal or perverted, actual or simulated.

b) Depicts or describes in a patently offensive way masturbation, excretory functions, sadism or masochism.

c) Lewdly exhibits the genitals.

What qualifies as an obscene performance in Nevada is largely open to interpretation.  Most of the strip shows in Las Vegas are not considered obscene enough to be illegal.  Therefore the standard for an unlawfully obscene performance is extremely high.

Note that stagehands and movie projectionists may not be found liable for exhibiting (or intending to exhibit) an obscene show as long as the following two conditions are true:

  1. The obscene segments are a part of the stage show for which he or she is employed as a stagehand; and
  2. The operator or stagehand has no financial interest, except wages, and no managerial responsibility in his or her place of employment.

Also note that the D.A. may ask a Nevada court for an injunction requiring that a specific obscene show be halted.  And if the show manager or owner defies the injunction, the court is entitled to all money made from continued exhibition of the obscene show.

Related crimes

Depending on the circumstances a person who is accused of participating in an obscene performance may be prosecuted for additional obscenity offenses as well.  Click on any of the following Nevada obscenity crimes to learn more:


The D.A. rarely brings actions under NRS 201.253 precisely because there're so many effective defenses to it.  Below are three of the more common defense strategies to allegations of producing or performing in an obscene show in Nevada:

  • The defendant did not act "knowingly":  Someone who participates in a show that takes an obscene turn without their knowledge or permission isn't liable under this law.  If the defense attorney can show that any obscenity was not sanctioned by the defendant, criminal charges shouldn't stand.
  • The show wasn't obscene:  Obscenity is a subjective concept and a matter of opinion.  Just because something is in poor taste or offensive does not necessarily mean it's obscene as well.  As long as the prosecutors can't prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the show rose to the level of obscene, the defendant committed no crime.
  • The show was protected by the First Amendment:  The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed that nude dancing shows may be protected as "free expression" under the First Amendment.  Unless the show involves live sex or children as participants or viewers, chances are good that the show is legal on constitutional grounds.

Putting on or performing an obscene show in violation of NRS 201.253 is a misdemeanor in Nevada.  The sentence includes:

Note that a person who's convicted of a misdemeanor in Nevada has to wait at least two (2) years before he/she may petition the court to seal the record.  But if the defense attorney succeeds in getting the charge dismissed, then the defendant is free to get the record sealed right away.  Learn more about sealing Nevada criminal records.

Accused?  Call . . . .

If you've been charged with putting on or performing an obscene show in Nevada under NRS 201.253, call Las Vegas criminal defense lawyers at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673).  They will try to negotiate or litigate a favorable resolution to help keep your record clean.  But if necessary they can go all the way to trial and argue your innocence to a jury.


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