Nevada alcohol laws permit adults age 21 and older to buy and drink alcohol at any time throughout the state (except in the "dry" town of Panaca). And unlike other states, there are no criminal penalties for public intoxication in Nevada (NRS 258.260).
However, it is a Nevada misdemeanor to misuse alcohol in any of the following ways:
- the Nevada crime of underage drinking (NRS 202.020)
- the Nevada crime of driving with an open container (NRS 484B.150)
- the Nevada crime of furnishing alcohol to a minor (NRS 202.055)
- the Nevada crime of driving under the influence (DUI becomes a category B felony in Nevada if someone gets seriously injured)
Penalties include up to six (6) months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines. And there are additional punishments for DUIs, including a driver's license suspension.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys explain Nevada liquor laws, including:
- 1. Legal drinking age
- 2. Where alcohol can be purchased
- 3. When alcohol can be purchased
- 4. Drinking and driving
- 5. Public intoxication laws
- 6. Open container laws
- 7. Underage drinking
- 8. Minimum age for serving alcohol
Nevada law prohibits people under age 21 from consuming wine, beer, spirits, or liquor.1 People age 21 and older may drink unless there is a court order prohibiting them to do so as part of a criminal case.
Alcohol is legal to purchase all throughout the state of Nevada except for the unincorporated town of Panaca, located in Lincoln County.2
There are no time restrictions for selling or buying alcohol in Nevada. Alcohol can be bought or sold seven days a week, 24 hours a day, including Sunday. State law implements no mandatory closing times for bars, taverns, or saloons.
Nevada state law prohibits people from either:
- driving while impaired by alcohol, or
- driving with a Nevada blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher even if the driver is not impaired
A first-time or second-time DUI is a misdemeanor as long as no one gets hurt. The defendant also faces a Nevada DUI driver's license suspension.
A third-time DUI in Nevada within seven (7) years of the first is a felony. And any DUI that causes substantial bodily harm in Nevada or death is also a felony even if the driver has no prior DUIs. (Learn more about Nevada DUI penalties.)
All Nevada drivers who get arrested for DUI give "implied consent" to submit to a Nevada DUI breath test or a Nevada DUI blood test. If the driver refuses to be tested, the police can get a court order to draw the driver's blood by force.3
Note that Nevada state law makes it a misdemeanor to drive with an open container of alcohol, even if the driver is not drunk. There are limited exceptions such as party buses as long as the driver is not drinking.4
Being drunk in public is not a crime in Nevada. However, severely intoxicated people run the risk of being arrested for such offenses as:
- the Nevada crime of breaching the peace (NRS 203.010);
- the Las Vegas crime of public urination (LVMC 10.40.040);
- the Nevada crime of trespass (NRS 207.200); and/or
- the Nevada crime of jaywalking (NRS 484B.287)
These offenses are misdemeanors, carrying up to six (6) months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
As discussed above in section 4, it is against state law to drive with unsealed cans or uncorked bottles of alcohol in Nevada.5
Individual Nevada cities and counties also have rules about where it is legal to carry open containers. For instance, it is illegal in the city of Las Vegas to carry an open container:
- within 1,000 feet of the store where it was purchased in a closed container;
- at a bus stop; and/or
- within 1,000 feet of a church, synagogue, school, hospital, special care facility, withdrawal management facility, or homeless shelter
The Strip and Downtown Las Vegas have specific open container rules:
|Las Vegas Location||General Open Container Laws|
The Strip (unincorporated Clark County)
Pedestrians may walk with plastic, paper, or aluminum open containers (however, aluminum is illegal during some special events). Glass is always unlawful.
Downtown Las Vegas (incorporated Las Vegas)
Pedestrians may walk with paper, plastic, or aluminum open containers, but they must have been purchased from venues with “tavern” licenses. On the Fremont Street Experience, open glass and aluminum containers are always unlawful.
Illegally carrying an open container is a misdemeanor. Jail is a potential penalty, but it more likely that the judge will order just a fine.6
People under 21 face misdemeanor charges for buying or possessing alcohol or for having a fake ID to buy alcohol. The penalty carries up to six (6) months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines. (Learn more about Nevada fake ID laws.)
But if the defendant is under 18, he/she will likely be prosecuted in Juvenile Court instead of criminal court. In Juvi Court, the child may have his/her driver's license suspended as well.7 (Learn more about Nevada juvenile law.)
Note that drivers under age 21 can be convicted of DUI if their BAC is only .02%, which is extremely low. Penalties for the Nevada crime of underage DUI (NRS 484C.350) are similar to the punishments imposed on adult defendants. In addition, defendants are required to undergo a medical evaluation to determine whether they are suffering from alcohol addiction.8
Also note adults face misdemeanor charges for giving alcohol to people under 21. The sentence is up to six (6) months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
Bartenders and waiters who serve open containers of alcohol must be 21 years old. But grocery stores and convenience marts that sell alcohol may employ minors as young as 16 as long as:
- the alcohol remains sealed;
- the employee is supervised by an adult (age 21 in Las Vegas, but 18 may be sufficient in other locales); and
- the supervisor is present whenever the minor is handling alcohol
The employees may also have to obtain an "alcohol education card" as a condition of working around alcohol.9
Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney...
If you have been arrested for a crime in Nevada, call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673) for a FREE consultation. We are available 24/7.
Our legal team may be able to get your charges reduced or dismissed without a trial. Our goal is to do everything to keep you out of jail and to keep your record clean.
Also see our articles for boating while under the influence in Nevada (NRS 488.410), flying under the influence in Nevada, cycling under the influence in Nevada, and possessing a firearm under the influence in Nevada (NRS 202.257).
- NRS 202.020.
- Lincoln County Code 4-1-9(E)("Town Of Panaca: It is unlawful for any licensee under the provisions of this chapter, to sell alcoholic beverages in the town limits of the town of Panaca, or within one-half (1/2) mile of the town limits of the town of Panaca; provided however, this restriction shall not apply to licensees or places of business selling alcoholic liquors in an approved location prior to December 12, 1986, or to licensees engaged in the business of selling alcoholic liquors in an approved location which would become a prohibited location by reason of the expansion of the town limits of Panaca."); NRS chapters 369 and 597 spell out the retail and wholesale licensing requirements for businesses to stock and sell alcohol as well as the requirements for operating breweries, wineries, and distilleries in Nevada; also see the Nevada Department of Taxation' FAQ on Liquor Taxes.
- NRS 484C.110 - .250; NRS 484C.160; Missouri v. Mcneely, 569 U.S. 141, 133 S. Ct. 1552 (2013).
- NRS 484B.150.
- Las Vegas Municipal Codes 10.76.010 - .060; Clark County Codes 12.43.020 - .030.
- NRS 202.020; NRS 205.460.
- NRS 484C.350; NRS 483.462.
- NRS 244.351; Las Vegas Municipal Code 6.50.490; Clark County Code 8.20.055.