"Open Container" Laws in Las Vegas Nevada - NRS 484B.150



Definition

An open container is a bottle or can of alcohol that has been unsealed. Nevada state and local liquor laws dictate when and where people may carry open containers of alcohol:

Nevada Locations General Open Container Laws

The Strip

Pedestrians may walk in with plastic, paper, or aluminum open containers (though aluminum is banned during some special events). Glass is always illegal.

Downtown 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 illegal.

Moving vehicles and public transportation

It is unlawful for drivers or passengers to drink or possess open containers of alcohol in a vehicle. An exception is passengers in licensed limos and party buses.

It is also illegal to have an open container within 1,000 feet of the store from which alcohol was purchased in closed containers.

And in Las Vegas's incorporated city limits (which does not include the Strip), it is illegal to have an open alcohol container at a bus stop or within 1,000 feet of a church, synagogue, school, hospital, special care facility, withdrawal management facility, or homeless shelter.

Penalties

Violating Nevada's open container laws is a misdemeanor. The police officer typically issues a citation carrying a fine of a few hundred dollars. 

The Nevada DMV may add 2 demerit points to defendants' licenses if they are caught driving with an open container in their car. The penalty increases to 5 points if they are caught drinking while driving.

Defenses

Possible strategies to fight open container charges include arguing that:

  1. The location permitted open containers;
  2. The container was not open; and/or
  3. The container did not contain alcohol

In many cases, the D.A. is willing to plea bargain the case down to a lesser offense or a dismissal.

In this article our Las Vegas Nevada criminal defense attorneys discuss:

Beer
Las Vegas has very strict open container laws.

1. How does Nevada law define an open container?

The legal definition of an "open container" of alcohol is when the container has been opened or when the seal has been broken. Examples include:

An empty, open bottle of alcohol on its side with the bottle cap nearby.
Open containers are regulated by local ordinance rather than state law in Nevada.
  • a bottle of liquor where the cap has been popped or unscrewed,
  • a bottle of wine that has been corked, and
  • a can of beer where the tab has been opened

Note that an open container of alcohol can never be closed again: It is still considered "open" if the cap or cork was put back on the container. Even containers that no longer have any alcohol in them are still considered open.

Note that open containers do not include "beer-footballs" and plastic cups.1

2. Open container laws for pedestrians in Nevada.

There are no state laws regulating whether pedestrians may hold open containers of alcohol, so local municipal codes set out the rules. The rules, in turn, depend on the location and where the alcohol came from. 

2.1. Incorporated Las Vegas (including Downtown):

Incorporated Las Vegas is a small area of Las Vegas that includes the Downtown area but does not include the Las Vegas Strip. The Las Vegas Municipal Code governs its open container laws.  

It is illegal to have an open container of alcohol in the following four areas of incorporated Las Vegas:

  1. On the property or parking lot of a package store or other store licensed to sell alcohol; or
  2. Within 1,000 feet of a package store or other store licensed to sell alcohol (with the exception of on residential property); or
  3. Upon property (other than residential property or property licensed for a special event) located within 1,000 feet of a church, synagogue, public or private school, hospital, special care facility, withdrawal management facility, or homeless shelter; or
  4. At any bus stop bench, bus stop shelter, or at the Downtown Transportation Center.

Since it is unlawful to have an open container within 1,000 feet of a packaged liquor store in incorporated Las Vegas, virtually every sidewalk from the Fremont East District to Main Street is off limits for possessing an open container of packaged liquor.2 And it is now illegal on the Fremont Street Experience to carry liquor in an open glass or aluminum container at all.3

The Freemont Street Experience in downtown Las Vegas.
Aluminum and glass containers are banned in the Fremont Street Experience.

North Las Vegas criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse gives an example of how location is the determining factor of whether an open container law has been broken:

Example: Anna buys a bottle of beer from the Downtown Grand casino. She then begins walking home with the beer in hand. If she opens the can while still near Downtown, a cop could cite Anna for an open container because it is within 1,000 of a package store. But if she opens the can near her home, where there is nothing but other residential houses within 1,000 feet, she is breaking no law.

Many people have no idea what types of businesses are within a 1,000-foot radius of them; therefore, it is recommended that people do not have open containers on city streets in incorporated Las Vegas. They can avoid police citations by waiting until they get home or are inside a casino or tavern.

2.1.1. Drinking in public in Downtown Las Vegas

Carrying alcohol in a plastic or aluminum container in Downtown Las Vegas is legal if the drink was bought from one of the large casinos. (Remember that open aluminum containers are not allowed on Fremont Street.) These large casinos carry "tavern licenses," which permit its liquor to be taken off premises... 

However cops might not believe that the person bought the drink from a large casino and may cite him/her anyway; therefore, patrons should keep the receipt on their person as proof. (Some examples of these large casinos with tavern licenses include Binion's, the El Cortez, and the Golden Nugget.)

Most of the bars and restaurants in Downtown have "tavern-limited" licenses, which means that the patrons may not take the liquor off the premises onto the street. So cops who see pedestrians leave a bar with a drink may cite them for leaving the premises.4 (Some examples of these Downtown Las Vegas bars with tavern-limited licenses include Insert Coin(s) and Vanguard.)

2.1.2. Special Events in Incorporated Las Vegas

The City of Las Vegas imposes special rules during New Year's, July Fourth, or other special events where more than one thousand spectators are expected. It is unlawful to possess or consume alcohol in a glass or metal container during the following times:

  • from 6:00 P.M. on December 31st to 6:00 A.M. on January 1st of each year;
  • from 6:00 P.M. on July 4th to 6:00 A.M. on July 5th of each year; and
  • from two (2) hours before the start of the special event and ending two (2) hours after the special event is over (except if the event takes place on the Pedestrian Mall)5

2.2. Unincorporated Clark County (including the Las Vegas Strip):

The rest of Clark County has slightly laxer open container restrictions than incorporated Las Vegas. Unincorporated Clark County includes the Strip, which expands across the towns of Winchester and Paradise, Nevada. The Clark County Code governs its open container laws. 

In unincorporated Clark County, it is always illegal to have open containers of alcohol in the following three locations:

  1. Within 1,000 feet of the store from which liquor, beer, and wine was purchased in closed containers, except on residential property; or
  2. In any parking lot; or
  3. On the property or premises of the establishment from which the closed container of liquor, beer, or wine was purchased.

Therefore there is no prohibition in unincorporated Clark County against having an open container in close proximity to a school, house of worship, or hospital.6

With regard to public Clark County parks (such as Sunset Park), it is illegal to have an open container of alcohol in or on parking lots, playground areas, roadways, or swimming pools or at any youth athletic event. Otherwise, it may be legal to drink from non-glass open containers of alcohol in properly designated areas or when associated with county permitted events.7

Finally, operators of pedicabs in unincorporated Clark County may not permit open containers of alcohol in pedicabs.8

Three young men holding bottles of alcohol against a blue sky.
Glass containers are prohibited on the Strip.

2.2.1. Drinking in public on the Strip

Generally, it is lawful to walk the Las Vegas Strip carrying alcohol in open containers of either:

  • aluminum,
  • plastic, or
  • paper

But it is currently illegal to walk the Strip with a glass container irrespective of whether it holds an alcoholic beverage or not. The only time it is legal to carry a glass beverage is if the container is closed and in a paper or plastic bag with the receipt attached.9

2.2.2. Special Events in Unincorporated Clark County

Clark County law prohibits glass or aluminum containers on any public street temporarily closed to traffic -- including the Strip south of Sahara Avenue and north of Sunset Avenue --  during the following times:

  • from 6:00 P.M. on December 31st to 6:00 A.M. on January 1st of each year;
  • from 6:00 P.M. on July 4th to 6:00 A.M. on July 5th of each year; and
  • from two (2) hours before the start of a special event and ending two (2) hours after the special event is over 

Glass and aluminum containers are also banned in Laughlin on Casino Drive between State Route 163 and Needles Highway from:

  • 12:00 P.M. on the Thursday preceding the last Sunday in April to 6:00 A.M. of the last Sunday in April.10

2.3. City of Reno

Reno municipal law bans open containers on public streets with one exception. Certain outdoor special events such as Hot August Nights are temporarily considered "beer gardens." In a beer garden, drinking from open containers is legal.11

3. Open container laws for vehicles in Nevada under NRS 484B.150

Generally, it is unlawful throughout all of Nevada to have an open container of alcohol in a car while on a road or highway. It does not matter if the container is out of reach of the driver, or if a passenger is holding the container.12

In Las Vegas, it is legal to keep open containers of alcohol in a vehicle's trunk. And if there is no trunk, it is legal to keep open containers in a glove compartment or utility compartment.13 Henderson criminal defense attorney Michael Becker illustrates these laws with an example:

Example: Daniel and his three friends go out to Mirage one night. Daniel is the designated driver. After dropping off his friends, Daniel is pulled over for a broken tail light. The cop then notices an open beer can in the backseat that belonged to one of his friends. The cop then cites Daniel for having an open container in his car.

In the above example, it does not matter that Daniel never drank out of the beer can. Nor does it matter that the alcohol is in the back seat out of reach of Daniel, or that Daniel did not realize the beer was in his car. Merely having an open container of alcohol in a car is a criminal offense in Nevada. Had the friend put the beer can in the trunk, then Daniel could have escaped prosecution.

A hand holding a bottle of alcohol while the other hand is on the wheel of a car driving.
Nevada law prohibits driving from having "open containers" of alcohol in the car (except trunks).

3.1. Open container laws for cabs, ride-sharing, trailers, and public transportation

Nevada law does not prohibit open containers of alcohol in the following types of vehicles:

  1. the living quarters of a house coach or house trailer;
  2. taxis -- ride-sharing vehicles like Uber or Lyft are not considered taxis; therefore, their occupants may not have open containers;
  3. limos -- in incorporated Las Vegas, limos must have a partition between the driver's seat and the passenger area of the car in order for passengers to lawfully have an open container; and
  4. shuttles or buses used primarily for the transportation of people for a fare (including "party buses")

Private transportation companies may impose their own rules prohibiting their clients from having alcohol in their vehicles. 14 And it is always illegal for the drivers of trailers, house coaches, cabs, shuttles, or buses to be drinking or to be in possession or control of an open container of alcohol. 15

Note that the Las Vegas Monorail and Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) buses have a no open container policy.16

4. What are the penalties for Nevada open container offenses under NRS 484B.150?

Police usually issue citations with fines -- similar to Nevada speeding tickets (NRS 484B.600) -- for open container violations. It is very rare for defendants to face jail time unless they have a lengthy criminal history.

Open Container of Alcohol offenses in Nevada Penalties

Unlawfully possessing an open containers in incorporated Las Vegas (including Downtown)

Misdemeanor:

  • $64017

Unlawfully possessing an open containers in unincorporated Las Vegas (including the Strip)

Misdemeanor:

  • $250, and/or
  • 30 days in jail18

Unlawfully drinking from or possessing an open container in a vehicle in incorporated Las Vegas (including Downtown)

Misdemeanor:

  • $640, and
  • driver's license demerit points (2 points for possessing, or 5 points for drinking)

Penalties may be as much as doubled if the incident occurred in a work zone.19

The defendant's automobile insurance company may also increase the premium payments.

Unlawfully drinking from or possessing an open container in a vehicle in unincorporated Las Vegas (including the Strip)

Misdemeanor:

  • up to $1,000, and/or up to 6 months in jail, and
  • driver's license demerit points (2 points for possessing, or 5 points for drinking)

Penalties may be as much as doubled if the incident occurred in a work zone.20

The defendant's automobile insurance company may also increase the premium payments. 

Note that if a police officer pulls over a car and sees an open alcohol container, in practice the officer will typically cite either the driver or the person closest to it.

4.1. Penalties for related offenses

Depending on the situation, people cited for violating Nevada's open container laws may also face charges for the following:

Nevada Alcohol offenses Penalties

Nevada DUI crime (driving while impaired or with a blood alcohol level of 0.08% or higher)

Misdemeanor (for a first-time offense with no injuries):

Underage drinking in Nevada (NRS 202.020) (ages 18 to 20)

Misdemeanor:

  • up to $1,000 in fines, and/or
  • up to 6 months in jail22

Underage drinking (under age 18)

Delinquency judgment:

  • Up to $1,000, and/or up to 6 months in juvenile detention
  • a medical evaluation of whether the child is an addict, and
  • rehab (if the child is deemed an addict), and
  • a 90-day to 2-year driver's license suspension

The judge typically orders community service instead of incarceration.23

Disorderly conduct in Nevada (CCO 12.33.010)

Misdemeanor:

  • up to $1,000 in fines, and/or
  • up to 6 months in jail24

Note that underage people may not carry an open container even if they are not drinking from it.

Also, note that public intoxication in Nevada (NRs 258.260) is not a crime.

Finally, note that licensed merchants may sell -- and patrons may purchase -- alcohol seven days a week, twenty-four hours a day in Las Vegas.

5. What are the defenses to Nevada open container charges?

Three women holding drinks in front of a casino awning.
Having an open container of alcohol in Nevada usually carries a criminal fine.

The most common defense to "open container" charges is that the police was mistaken about the location or type of container involved. Therefore the case should be dropped if the prosecutor cannot prove that:

  1. The alcohol was in a prohibited location;
  2. The container was open; and/or
  3. The container contained alcohol

It is not a defense that the defendant was not personally drinking from the container. Las Vegas's open container laws pertain both to drinking from open containers as well as to possessing open containers.

Even though open container citations are minor, defendants are encouraged to fight the case. This is especially true in cases for driving with an open container, which is a moving violation that carries demerit points... 

Defendants usually do not have to appear in court as long as they hire an attorney. And in many cases, a defense attorney can persuade the prosecutor to drop the charges to a non-moving violation carrying no demerit points or insurance consequences.  

6. Can I get an open container case sealed in Nevada?

An open container conviction may be sealed one (1) year after the case ends. If the case ends in dismissal, the record may be sealed right away. Learn more about Nevada record seals.25

7. Is having an open container deportable?

No. An open container violation is not a deportable offense in Nevada for legal aliens. Note that undocumented immigrants can be deported at any time, whether they allegedly committed a crime or not.

No matter the offense, any non-citizen facing criminal charges is encouraged to consult with an experienced attorney. Learn more about the criminal defense of immigrants in Nevada

8. Marijuana open container laws in Nevada.

The Nevada Legislature recently legalized the possession of recreational marijuana in Nevada (NRS 453D.400) of up to one ounce (1 oz.), but only in private residences. Therefore, a person who smokes or otherwise consumes marijuana in a public place, in a retail marijuana store, or in a moving vehicle faces a misdemeanor citation carrying a $600.26

Drivers are advised to store their marijuana in a sealed bag locked away in the trunk or glove compartment.

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Call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys at 702-DEFENSE for a FREE consultation.

Cited for "open containers"? Call an attorney...

Have you been arrested for "driving with an open container" or cited for "walking with an open container" in Nevada? Then call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys for a free consultation at 702-DEFENSE (702-333-3673). We may be able to get the charge dismissed and keep your record clean.

Arrested in California? Go to our article on California open container laws | Vehicle Code Sections 23221 - 23229 VC.

Arrested in Colorado? Go to our article on Colorado open container laws.


Legal References:

  1. NRS 484B.150 ("'Open container' means a container which has been opened or the seal of which has been broken.").
  2. LVMC 10.76.010 Prohibited—Where.

  3. Jane Ann Morrison, Las Vegas council bans glass, aluminum liquor containers at Fremont Street Experience, Las Vegas Review-Journal (June 18, 2014).
  4. See Alcohol Licenses General Information, City of Las Vegas; Joe Schoenmann, A guide to downtown Las Vegas' open container laws, Las Vegas Sun (March 30, 2014).
  5. See LVMC 10.76.020 Special events.

  6. CCC 12.35.010 Unlawful—Where.

  7. CCC 19.04.030 Prohibited conduct generally.

  8. CCC 7.50.200 Prohibited acts.

  9. Shine, Conor, "Glass bottles no longer allowed on Las Vegas Strip," Las Vegas Review-Journal (Sept. 16, 2014).

  10. CCC 12.43.020 Possession—Unlawful where and when.

  11. RMC Sec. 8.12.033 - Drinking or possessing an open container in a public place prohibited.

  12. NRS 484B.150 Drinking alcoholic beverage while driving motor vehicle unlawful; open container of alcoholic beverage; additional penalty for violation committed in work zone.

  13. LVMC 11.14.060 Open containers—Storage.

  14. CCC 12.35.020 Open containers unlawful in motor vehicles.

  15. Passenger Code of Conduct Policy, RTC.
  16. See Las Vegas Vehicle Codes 5738 (open containers at bus shelters), 9568 (open containers at playgrounds), 5499 (glass beverages at parks), 5504 (violating park alcohol rules), and 5741 (glass or metal containers at the Pedestrian Mall).

  17. CCC 12.43.030 Violation—Penalty.

    A violation of this chapter shall be punished by a fine not exceeding two hundred fifty dollars or imprisonment for a term not exceeding thirty days, or by any combination of such fine and imprisonment.

  18. Las Vegas Vehicle Codes 1113 (open alcoholic container in vehicle) and 1107 (drinking intoxicating liquor while driving).

  19. NRS 484B.150; NRS 484B.130 ("The additional penalty imposed ... must not exceed a total of $1,000, 6 months of imprisonment or 120 hours of community service; Nevada DMV Vehicle Code for drinking alcohol while operating a vehicle: Vehicle Code 501, ACD Code A26.

  20. NRS 484C.110.
  21. NRS 202.020.
  22. NRS 62E.620.
  23. CCO 12.33.010; NRS 203.010.
  24. NRS 179.145; NRS 179.155.
  25. NRS 453D.400.

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