Under Nevada law, it is illegal for minors under the age of 21 to consume alcohol, and even to possess alcohol unless accompanied by a parent or guardian. Unlike other states, Nevada does not criminalize public intoxication or buying alcohol on Sundays. But it is a misdemeanor to drive with an open container, to furnish alcohol to a minor, to drink underage, or to drive under the influence.
Penalties include up to six months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines. There are additional punishments for DUIs, including a driver’s license suspension. And drunk driving becomes a category B felony if someone gets seriously injured.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys explain Nevada liquor laws, including:
- 1. What is the legal drinking age?
- 2. Is public intoxication a crime?
- 3. Is it illegal to drive with an open container?
- 4. Can you walk around with alcohol in Las Vegas?
- 5. What time can you buy alcohol?
- 6. What are the drinking and driving laws?
- 7. What happens if a minor tries to use a fake ID?
- 8. Can you drink under 21 with a parent?
- 9. Is there a minimum age for serving alcohol?
- 10. Do any cities in Nevada make alcohol illegal?
1. What is the legal drinking age?
Adults 21 and older may consume wine, beer, spirits, or liquor.1
2. Is public intoxication a crime?
No. Being drunk in public is not a crime in Nevada.2 However, intoxicated people risk being arrested for such offenses as:
- Breaching the peace (NRS 203.010);
- Public urination (LVMC 10.40.040);
- Trespass (NRS 207.200); and/or
- Jaywalking (NRS 484B.287)
These offenses are misdemeanors. They carry up to six months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
3. Is it illegal to drive with an open container?
Yes. People may not drive with unsealed cans or uncorked bottles of alcohol in Nevada. It makes no difference if the container is out of reach of the driver. Nor does it matter if a passenger is holding the container.
Driving with an open container is a misdemeanor. The penalty is up to six months in jail and/or $1,000 in fines.3
This punishment can double if it occurred in a work zone.4 If the driver was drinking, the DMV also adds five demerit points to his/her license.5
4. Can you walk around with alcohol in Las Vegas?
It depends on where in Las Vegas. 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 Las Vegas)||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 the judge will likely order just a fine.6
5. What time can you buy alcohol?
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.
6. What are laws on drinking and driving?
Nevada state law prohibits people from either:
- Driving while impaired by alcohol, or
- Driving with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08% or higher
A first-time or second-time DUI is a misdemeanor as long as no one gets hurt. The defendant also faces a driver’s license suspension.
All Nevada drivers arrested for DUI give implied consent to take a breath test or a blood test. If the driver refuses to be tested, the police can get a court order to draw the driver’s blood by force.7
As discussed in section 3, Nevada law prohibits driving with an open container of alcohol. There are limited exceptions such as party buses as long as the driver is not drinking.8
7. What happens if a minor tries to use a fake ID?
People under 21 face misdemeanor charges for buying or possessing alcohol. It is also a misdemeanor to have a fake ID to buy alcohol. The penalty carries up to six months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.
Defendants under 18 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.9 (Learn more about juvenile law.)
Drivers under age 21 can be convicted of DUI if their BAC is only .02%. Penalties for underage DUI (NRS 484C.350) are similar to the punishments for adults. In addition, defendants are required to undergo a medical evaluation for alcohol addiction.10
Adults face misdemeanor charges for giving alcohol to people under 21. The sentence is up to six months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines.11
8. Can you drink under 21 with a parent?
It depends on local laws. In Reno, minors may consume alcohol in their home in their parents’ presence.12 But Clark County allows minors only to possess — not consume — alcohol at home with their parents’ permission.13
Parents should check their local county and municipal codes before letting their children drink at home.
9. Is there a minimum age for serving alcohol?
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. The only conditions are:
- 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.14
10. Do any cities in Nevada make alcohol illegal?
No, but it is illegal to sell alcohol in the Lincoln County cities of:
- Alamo, except for businesses licensed to sell alcohol prior to November 25, 1985; and
- Panaca, except for businesses licensed to sell alcohol prior to December 12, 1986
But people can still possess and drink alcohol in these “dry cities.”15
Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney…
Arrested in Nevada? Phone our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys 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 related articles: Boating while under the influence (NRS 488.410); flying under the influence; cycling under the influence; and possessing a firearm under the influence (NRS 202.257).
- NRS 202.020.
- NRS 258.260.
- NRS 484B.150; Las Vegas Vehicle Codes 1113 (open alcoholic container in vehicle) and 1107 (drinking intoxicating liquor while driving).
- NRS 484B.130.
- Nevada DMV Vehicle Code 501.
- Las Vegas Municipal Codes 10.76.010 – .060; Clark County Codes 12.43.020 – .030.
- NRS 484C.110 – .440; NRS 484C.160; Missouri v. Mcneely, 569 U.S. 141, 133 S. Ct. 1552 (2013).
- NRS 484B.150.
- NRS 202.020; NRS 205.460.
- NRS 484C.350; NRS 483.462.
- NRS 202.055.
- Reno Municipal Code 8.16.020.
- Clark County Code 12.12.060.
- NRS 244.351; Las Vegas Municipal Code 6.50.490; Clark County Code 8.20.055.
- Lincoln County Code 4-1-9.