Las Vegas "Nightclub" Arrests

Tourists from all over the world flock to Las Vegas for its infamous nightclubs.1 But police see nightclubs as hotbeds for such illegal activities as:

These charges could result in lengthy sentences in Nevada State Prison. But the D.A. may have a difficult time proving guilt if there is no video surveillance of or witnesses to the alleged crime. And considering how dark and disorienting nightclubs are, security personnel are bound to misread situations and mistakenly apprehend law-abiding patrons.

On this page our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys explain the definition, ways to fight charges, and possible penalties for Nevada nightclub offenses. Click on a crime to jump to that section:

Also see our related articles on Las Vegas pool party crimes, strip club crimes, and Electric Daisy Carnival crimes.

Party
Many arrests occur in Las Vegas nightclubs for battery, drugs, and other offenses.

1. Drug arrests in Las Vegas nightclubs

Nightclub bouncers and security guards are on high alert for patrons using or selling controlled substances such methamphetamine, cocaine, ecstasy, heroin, and pot. Depending on the case, typical defenses to Nevada narcotics charges 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.
  3. The cops conducted an illegal search to find the drugs; consequently, the defendant may be able to have any evidence discovered from the illegal search tossed out.

Penalties

Nightclub 20drug

The judge may grant probation instead of incarceration for a first-time drug offense. And in some cases, the judge may agree to let the defendant do a court-supervised rehabilitation program (Drug Court) instead of jail. But the maximum 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:

  • Possession: A first-time offense of simple possession is a category E felony, which carries one to four (1 - 4) years in prison.
  • Possession for sale: A first-time offense of drug possession for sale is a category D felony. The court has discretion to impose one to four (1 - 4) years in prison, and perhaps a $5,000 fine.
  • Selling: A first-time offense of selling narcotics can be prosecuted as either a category C felony or a category B felony depending on the drugs. The maximum sentence is up to ten (10) years in prison and a $20,000 fine.

Note that Nevada law imposes different penalties for using or selling marijuana. Also note that it is still illegal to possess or use pot in public. Read more in our articles on Nevada marijuana laws.2

2. Battery arrests in Las Vegas nightclubs

As with bars, it is common for altercations to break out at Las Vegas nightlife hotspots. 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. North Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse provides an example.

Fight

Example: Tom is having drinks at the Blue Martini (Town Square) with his girlfriend. Tom notices another guy, John, making eyes at her. 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 Nevada self-defense law. 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.

Penalties

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:

  • six (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 is a category C felony, which carries:

  • one to five (1 - 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, which carries:

  • two to ten (2 - 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:

  • two to fifteen (2 - 15) years in prison, and
  • maybe $10,000 in fines

Note that a D.A. may agree to lessen a first-time battery charge to disorderly conduct or even drop it. In exchange, the defendant would pay a fine, perform community service and/or complete an anger management class.3

3. Indecent exposure arrests in Las Vegas nightclubs

Nevada outlaws anyone from making "any open and indecent or obscene exposure of his/her person, or of another person." A nightclub's loud music, dark spaces, dizzying lights, and flowing alcohol may lead club-hoppers and ravers to lower their inhibitions. North Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Michael Becker explains how indecent exposure may occur at a Las Vegas nightclub:

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.

Penalties

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:

  • one to four (1 - 4) years in prison, and
  • maybe up to $5,000 in fines

Note that defendants who are convicted of indecent exposure will also be required to register as sex offenders in Nevada.4

4. Open or gross lewdness arrests in 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:

Open 20gross
  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.

Penalties

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:

  • one to four (1 - 4) years in prison, and
  • maybe $5,000 in fines

Note that an open or gross lewdness conviction carries the additional penalty of registering as a sex offender.5

5. Disorderly conduct crimes in 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. 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.

Note that it is not a crime to be drunk in public in Nevada nightclubs. But being inebriated may cause that person to act out in criminally disorderly ways.

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.

Penalties

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

  • six (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.6

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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:

  1. 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:

    1OAK (Mirage)
    The Bank (Bellagio)
    Body English (Hard Rock Hotel)
    Chateau (Paris)
    Drai's (The Cromwell)
    Extra Lounge (Planet Holllywood)
    FDR (Delano)
    Foundation Room (Mandalay Bay)
    Foxtail (SLS)
    Ghostbar (Palms)
    Gilley's (Treasure Island)
    GOLD Boutique (ARIA)
    Gold Diggers (Golden Nugget)
    Hakkasan (MGM)
    Hyde (Bellagio)
    Intrigue (Wynn)
    Lavo (Palazzo)
    Liaison (Bally's)
    LIGHT (Mandalay Bay)
    Marquee (The Cosmopolitan)
    Moon (Palms)
    Omnia (Caesars Palace)
    Rain (Palms)
    The Sayers Club (SLS)
    Surrender (Wynn)
    Tao (Venetian)
    Vanity (Hard Rock Hotel)
    VooDoo Lounge (Rio)
    XS (Wynn)
  2. NRS 453.336; NRS 453.337; NRS 453.338; NRS 453.321.
  3. NRS 200.400.
  4. NRS 201.220.
  5. NRS 201.210.
  6. NRS 203.010.

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