NRS 201.253 is the Nevada statute that makes it a misdemeanor to put on or participate in an obscene performance. However, most strip shows in Las Vegas are protected free expression under the First Amendment.
The statute’s text reads as follows:
NRS 201.253. Except under the circumstances described in NRS 200.710, every person who knowingly causes to be performed or exhibited, or engages in the performance or exhibition of, any obscene, indecent or immoral show, act or performance is guilty of a misdemeanor.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What does NRS 201.253 prohibit?
- 2. How severe is the punishment?
- 3. How can I fight the case?
- 4. When can the record be sealed?
- 5. Related offenses
1. What does NRS 201.253 prohibit?
Nevada makes it a crime for you to knowingly participate in an obscene performance or cause one to be performed.1 For a show to be obscene, it must meet the following three criteria:
- An average person applying contemporary community standards would find that the performance, taken as a whole, appeals to prurient interest; and
- The performance taken as a whole lacks serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value; and
- The performance does at least one of the following:
a) Depicts or describes in a patently offensive way ultimate sexual acts, normal or perverted, actual or simulated;
b) Depicts or describes in a patently offensive way masturbation, excretory functions, sadism or masochism; or
c) Lewdly exhibits the genitalia.2
What qualifies as an obscene performance in Nevada is largely open to interpretation.
Most of the strip shows in Las Vegas are not considered obscene enough to be illegal. Therefore the standard for an unlawfully obscene performance is extremely high.
Note that stagehands and movie projectionists may not be found liable for exhibiting (or intending to exhibit) an obscene show as long as the following two conditions are true:
- The obscene segments are a part of the stage show for which they are employed as a stagehand; and
- The operator or stagehand has no financial interest, except wages, and no managerial responsibility in their place of employment.3
2. How severe is the punishment?
Being involved in putting on an obscene performance is a misdemeanor in Nevada. Penalties include:
- up to 6 months in jail; and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines.4
You face the same penalty range whether the case is your first offense or a subsequent offense.
Note that if the performance involves children, then the state will bring far more serious child pornography charges.5
Also note that the district attorney may ask a Nevada court for an injunction requiring that a specific obscene show be halted. If the show manager or owner defies the injunction, the court is entitled to all money made from the continued exhibition of the obscene show.6
3. How can I fight the case?
In our experience, prosecutors rarely bring criminal charges under NRS 201.253 because there are so many effective defenses to it. These include:
- You did not act “knowingly”. If you participate in a show that takes an obscene turn without your knowledge or permission, you are not guilty under this law. As long as the D.A. cannot prove you knew, charges should not stand.
- The show was not obscene. Obscenity is a matter of opinion, and police departments are not the ultimate authority on good morals. We would argue that something that may be in poor taste does not necessarily rise to the level of obscenity.
- The show was protected by the First Amendment. The U.S. Supreme Court has affirmed that dancing shows with nudity may be protected as “free expression” under the First Amendment. Unless the show involves live sex or children as participants or viewers, chances are good that the show is legal under federal law.7
4. When can the record be sealed?
The waiting time to seal a conviction of putting on an obscene show is one year after the case ends. However there is no wait if the charges get dismissed.8
Learn more about sealing Nevada criminal records.
5. Related offenses
- Indecent exposure (NRS 201.220)
- Open or gross lewdness (NRS 201.210)
- Exhibition/sale of obscene materials to minors (NRS 201.265)
- Obscene phone calls (NRS 201.255)
- Obscene letters (NRS 207.180)
Arrested by law enforcement? Contact our Las Vegas, NV criminal law firm for legal advice.
Our criminal defense lawyers appear in courts throughout Clark County and the state of Nevada. We defend against all types of misdemeanor, gross misdemeanor, and felony charges, including DUI, solicitation, and pandering.
- Nevada Revised Statute 201.253. See also Shue v. State (; Glass v. Eighth Judicial Dist. Court (
- Miller v. California (1972) 413 U.S. 15.
- NRS 201.254.
- See note 1.
- NRS 200.710 – .730.
- NRS 201.241. NRS 201.247.
- See California v. LaRue, (1972) 409 U.S. 109; Doran v. Salem Inn (1975) 422 U.S. 922; Schad v. Mount Ephraim (1981) 452 U.S. 61; Barnes v. Glen Theatre, Inc. (1991) 501 U.S. 560. First Amendment.
- NRS 179.245 subsection (1)(g). NRS 179.255.