Updated February 17
NRS 202.055 is the Nevada law that prohibits furnishing alcohol to people under 21 years of age. This includes selling alcohol in person or online to minors, leaving alcohol somewhere for minors to retrieve, or providing minors with money to buy alcohol. The law does not apply to a minor’s parents, guardians or physicians.
NRS 202.055 states:
Every person who knowingly:
(a) Sells, gives or otherwise furnishes an alcoholic beverage to any person under 21 years of age;
(b) Leaves or deposits any alcoholic beverage in any place with the intent that it will be procured by any person under 21 years of age; or
(c) Furnishes, gives, or causes to be given any money or thing of value to any person under 21 years of age with the knowledge that the money or thing of value is to be used by the person under 21 years of age to purchase or procure any alcoholic beverage,
is guilty of a misdemeanor.
As a misdemeanor, violating NRS 202.055 carries:
- 6 months in jail, and/or
- $1,000 in fines
Merchants face a $500 fine for not safeguarding minors. Merchants could also lose their liquor and business licenses.
Common arguments to fight allegations include:
- The defendant did not know the minor was under 21;
- The defendant was the minor’s parent, physician, or guardian; or
- The minor secretly took the alcohol
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What is “furnishing alcohol to a minor” in Nevada?
- 2. What are the penalties under NRS 202.055?
- 3. Will sellers lose their liquor and business licenses?
- 4. What are the common defenses?
- 5. Are there immigration consequences?
- 6. Is the criminal record sealable?
Nevada prohibits knowingly selling or providing (“furnishing”) alcohol to a person under 21. NRS 202.055 also forbids:
- Leaving alcohol with the intent for a minor to take it, or
- Giving money (or anything of value) to minors. And knowing they will use it to get alcohol
Nevada law mandates that people who sell or distribute alcohol over the internet employ safeguards to help prevent minors from receiving it. These include:
- Requiring the signature of a 21-or-older recipient, and
- Clearly marking the packaging as containing alcohol1
People under 21 with alcohol risk being arrested themselves. Adults ages 18 to 20 face criminal charges. For being a minor in possession of alcohol (NRS 202.020). And children under 18 face juvenile delinquency charges.
Knowingly selling or giving alcohol to a minor in Nevada is a misdemeanor. The penalty includes:
- Up to 6 months in jail, and/or
- Up to $1,000 in fines
Merchants who adopt no safeguard keeping minors from obtaining alcohol online face a $500 fine.2
Possibly. A local board of commissioners hands down administrative penalties. It can revoke a merchant’s liquor and business licenses for selling to a minor.
Merchants have the right to a hearing to contest the revocation. And if they do lose their license, they may be able to get another one at a later time.3
There are various strategies for fighting Nevada charges of furnishing alcohol to a person under 21. The best defense turns on the specifics of the case. Three potential arguments are:
- The defendant did not know that the minor was under 21. Perhaps the minor had a fake ID. And the defendant genuinely believed the minor was at least 21. As long as the D.A. cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant knew that the minor was underage, the charges should be dropped.
- NRS 202.055 does not apply to the defendant. Parents, physicians, and guardians are permitted to furnish alcohol to underage people in a responsible way. For example, parents allowing their kids a sip of champagne on New Year’s or during another special occasion is not criminal. But adults who allow their children to drink excessively could potentially face charges for child abuse (NRS 200.508) or contributing to the delinquency of a minor (NRS 201.090 – .110).
- The minor took the alcohol without the defendant’s knowledge. Prosecutors understand that some minors go to any lengths to obtain alcohol. Adults should not be held liable for minors who secretly and deviously obtain alcohol:
Example: Teenage Jasper sneaks into Lee’s Liquor in North Las Vegas. He steals a bottle of vodka. An undercover officer witnesses Jasper leaving with the bottle. The offer arrests the cashier for furnishing alcohol to a minor. The cashier’s defense attorney obtains surveillance video. It shows Jasper covertly leaving with the vodka. Jasper took the alcohol without the cashier’s knowledge. Therefore, the cashier committed no crime.
A lot of minors have fake IDs. These fake IDs can be a defense to NRS 202.055 charges. But only if the defendant did not know it was fake.
Learn more about fake ID crimes (NRS 205.460-.465).
Some prosecutors are willing to reduce or dismiss charges. But getting an attorney may be necessary to win a favorable plea bargain.
Yes. People may seal their NRS 202.055 convictions in Nevada one (1) year after the case ends. Meanwhile, dismissals are sealable right away.5 Learn how to seal Nevada criminal records.
Call a Nevada criminal defense attorney…
Arrested in Nevada? Call our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys. Consultations are free. We may be able to get the charges dismissed or reduced.
See our related article on luring (NRS 201.560).
In California? See our article on furnishing alcohol to a minor. (California Business & Professions Code 25658.)
- NRS 202.055; Garcia v. Sixth Judicial Dist. Court, 117 Nev. 697, 30 P.3d 1110 (2001); Raggio v. Bryan, 76 Nev. 1, 348 P.2d 156 (1960).
- NRS 202.055; also see Yoscovitch v. Wasson, 98 Nev. 250, 645 P.2d 975 (1982).
- NRS 369.240-290; also see Clark County liquor license application, State business license requirements, Nevada Secretary of State, and Liquor Taxes & FAQ, Nevada Department of Taxation.
- INA § 237(a)(2)(B).
- NRS 179.245; NRS 179.255.