Knowingly selling or giving alcohol to people under age 21 is a crime in Nevada. It is a defense if the person had no knowledge that the minor was underage. Penalties for this offense include fines and possibly jail, but our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys may be able to negotiate a charge reduction or dismissal.
It is illegal in Nevada to sell or give alcohol to a minor (person under 21-years old). Also unlawful is leaving alcohol in a place with the intent that a minor will retrieve it. And giving money to a minor is illegal if the person knows that a minor will use that money to get alcohol.
Common arguments to fight charges of violating NRS 202.055 include:
- Defendant had no knowledge that the minor was under 21.
- The defendant was the minor's parent, physician, or guardian.
- The minor secretly took the alcohol.
It is not a defense if the minor had a fake ID as long as the defendant still knew that the minor was underage.
Violating NRS 202.055 is a misdemeanor in Nevada. The maximum punishment is a sentence of:
- 6 months in jail, and/or
- $1,000 in fines
For people who sell or otherwise distribute alcohol through the internet, failing to safeguard against minors obtaining the alcohol is also a misdemeanor in Nevada carrying $500.
Scroll down for more in-depth information about the definition, defenses, and penalties of the Nevada offense of selling alcohol to children or underage people.
Legal Definition of Furnishing Alcohol to a Minor in Nevada
Nevada makes it a crime for someone to knowingly sell or otherwise give any alcoholic beverage to a minor (under 21-years old). This law also prohibits indirect forms of giving, such as leaving alcohol in a place with the intent for a minor to take it. Additionally, NRS 202.055 prohibits giving money (or anything of value) to a minor with the knowledge that a minor will use the money to get alcohol.1
Note that a defendant is guilty of furnishing alcohol to a minor only if he/she knew the person was a minor. Liability does not attach if the defendant had no knowledge that the recipient was under 21. Henderson criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an example of the "knowledge" element:
Example: Ben is 25 and invites his friends over to his Las Vegas apartment for a party. He instructs his friends they can bring people who are only 21 and older because he will be supplying a keg of beer. One of his friends brings his 20-year old girlfriend Sharla anyway. She looks mature for her age, so Ben does not suspect anything. Sharla ends up getting drunk and going to Valley Hospital for alcohol poisoning. The authorities arrest and book Ben at the Clark County Detention Center for giving Sharla alcohol. But as long as the prosecutor cannot prove that Ben knew Sharla was underage, the charges should be dismissed.
Nevada also mandates that people who sell or otherwise distribute alcohol over the internet employ safeguards to help prevent minors from receiving it. These include:
- Requiring the signature of a 21-or-older recipient, and
- Clearly marking the packaging as containing alcohol
Furthermore, owners and managers of saloons in Nevada are required to keep minors from loitering on the premises. Note that "saloons" do not include restaurants, drug stores, or grocery stores.2
Depending on the circumstances of the case, defendants accused of furnishing children or underage people with alcohol may also face charges for Nevada crime of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.3 And any kid who illegally procures alcohol face their own charges, including for the Nevada crime of being a minor in possession of alcohol.
The best strategies for defending against Nevada charges of furnishing alcohol to a person under 21 turn on the specifics of the case. Depending on the circumstances, the following defenses may apply:
- The defendant did not know that the minor was under 21. A person should not be convicted of violating NRS 202.055 if he/she genuinely did not know that the person he/she gave the alcohol to was a minor. Perhaps the minor genuinely looked of-age and had a convincing fake ID. As long as the D.A. cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant had knowledge that the minor was underage, the charges should be dropped.
- The defendant was the underage person's parent, doctor, or guardian. Parents, physicians and guardians are permitted to furnish alcohol to underage people in a responsible way. For example, parents allowing their kids a sip of champagne on New Year's or during another special occasion is not criminal. But note that parents who allow their children to drink excessively could potentially face charges for the Nevada crime of child abuse, neglect and endangerment or the Nevada crime of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
- The minor took the alcohol without the defendant's knowledge. Prosecutors understand that some minors go to any lengths to obtain alcohol. As Henderson criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse illustrates, adults should not be held liable for minors who secretly and deviously obtain alcohol.
Example: 10-year-old Jasper sneaks into Lee's Liquor in North Las Vegas and steals a bottle of vodka. An undercover cop sees Jasper leave the parking lot with alcohol, so he arrests and books the cashier at the North Las Vegas Jail for selling alcohol to a minor. The cashier's defense attorney obtains surveillance video, which shows Jasper covertly leaving with the vodka. Because Jasper took the alcohol without the cashier's knowledge, the cashier should not suffer criminal liability.
Note that it is not a defense to NRS 202.055 charges that the minor in the case showed the defendant a convincing fake ID if the defendant already knew that the minor was under 21.
Knowingly furnishing alcohol to a minor in Nevada is a misdemeanor. The penalty includes:
- up to 6 months in jail, and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines
It is also a misdemeanor in Nevada for people to adopt no safeguard preventing minors from obtaining any alcohol they sell or furnish online, but the penalty is only up to $500.
Finally, saloon-keepers face a maximum $500 fine for knowingly permitting underage people to stay on the premises.
Arrested in Nevada? Call an attorney...
Are you facing prosecution for giving alcohol to someone under 21-years old in Nevada? Call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys @ 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a FREE consultation. We may be able to get the charge dismissed so your record stays clean.
For more on California laws for furnishing alcohol to a minor, see our article on California laws for furnishing alcohol to a minor.
1 NRS 202.055 Sale or furnishing of alcoholic beverage to minor; aiding minor to purchase or procure alcoholic beverage; policy to prevent minor from obtaining alcoholic beverage through use of Internet.
1. Every person who knowingly:
(a) Sells, gives or otherwise furnishes an alcoholic beverage to any person under 21 years of age;
(b) Leaves or deposits any alcoholic beverage in any place with the intent that it will be procured by any person under 21 years of age; or
(c) Furnishes, gives, or causes to be given any money or thing of value to any person under 21 years of age with the knowledge that the money or thing of value is to be used by the person under 21 years of age to purchase or procure any alcoholic beverage,
--> is guilty of a misdemeanor.
2. Paragraph (a) of subsection 1 does not apply to a parent, guardian or physician of the person under 21 years of age.
3. Every person who sells, gives or otherwise furnishes alcoholic beverages through the use of the Internet shall adopt a policy to prevent a person under 21 years of age from obtaining an alcoholic beverage from the person through the use of the Internet. The policy must include, without limitation, a method for ensuring that the person who delivers the alcoholic beverages obtains the signature of a person who is over the age of 21 years when delivering the beverages and that the packaging or wrapping of the alcoholic beverages when they are shipped is clearly marked with words that describe the alcoholic beverages. A person who fails to adopt a policy pursuant to this subsection is guilty of a misdemeanor and shall be punished by a fine of not more than $500.
2 NRS 202.060 Saloonkeeper allowing minor to remain in establishment. Any proprietor, keeper or manager of a saloon or resort where spirituous, malt or fermented liquors or wines are sold, who shall, knowingly, allow or permit any person under the age of 21 years to remain therein shall be punished by a fine of not more than $500. Nothing in this section shall apply to:
1. Establishments wherein spirituous, malt or fermented liquors or wines are served only in conjunction with regular meals and where dining tables or booths are provided separate from the bar; or
2. Any grocery store or drugstore where spirituous, malt or fermented liquors or wines are not sold by the drink for consumption on the premises.
3 NRS 201.090 "Neglected child," delinquent child" and "child in need of supervision" defined.
1. Who is found begging, receiving or gathering alms, or who is found in any street, road or public place for the purpose of so doing, whether actually begging or doing so under the pretext of selling or offering for sale any article, or of singing or playing on any musical instrument, or of giving any public entertainment or accompanying or being used in aid of any person so doing.
2. Who has no parent or guardian, who has no parent or guardian willing to exercise or capable of exercising proper parental control, or who has no parent or guardian actually exercising such proper parental control, and who is in need of such control.
3. Who is destitute, or who is not provided with the necessities of life by his or her parents, and who has no other means of obtaining such necessities.
4. Whose home is an unfit place for the child, by reason of neglect, cruelty or depravity of either of his or her parents, or of his or her guardians or other person in whose custody or care the child is.
5. Who is found living in any house of ill fame, or with any disreputable person.
6. Who is found wandering and either has no home, no settled place of abode, no visible means of subsistence or no proper guardianship.
7. Who frequents the company of criminals, vagrants or prostitutes, or persons so reputed, or who is in any house of prostitution or assignation.
8. Who unlawfully visits a saloon where any spirituous, vinous or malt liquors are sold, bartered, exchanged or given away.
9. Who habitually uses intoxicating liquors or who uses opium, cocaine, morphine, or other similar drug without the direction of a competent physician.
10. Who persistently or habitually refuses to obey the reasonable and proper orders or directions of his or her parents, guardian or custodian, or who is beyond the control of such person.
11. Who is a habitual truant from school.
12. Who is leading, or from any cause is in danger of leading, an idle, dissolute, lewd or immoral life.
13. Who writes or uses vile, obscene, profane or indecent language, or is guilty of indecent, immoral or lascivious conduct.
14. Who violates any law of this State or any ordinance of any town, city or county of this State defining crime.
--> Any child who is a runaway, unmanageable or a habitual truant is a child in need of supervision as that term is used in title 5 of NRS, and is not a delinquent child.