Public intoxication is not treated as a distinct criminal offense in Las Vegas, Nevada. However, people found to be drunk in public may get arrested for certain related crimes, such as:
Specifically, the law in NRS 458.260 states that:
1. Except as otherwise provided in subsection 2, the use of alcohol, the status of drunkard and the fact of being found in an intoxicated condition are not:
(a) Public offenses and shall not be so treated in any ordinance or resolution of a county, city or town.
(b) Elements of an offense giving rise to a criminal penalty or civil sanction.
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss how public drunkenness can lead to charges for the following criminal offenses:
Like it sounds, disturbing the peace under NRS 203.010 – which is also called “breach of peace” – occurs when someone behaves in a highly disruptive or hostile way in a public place. 1
Example: Brandon and Simon go to a bachelor party at Green Valley Ranch casino and get drunk. Brandon then yells obscenities at patrons and does handstands on the barstool. Meanwhile, Simon slumps over and falls asleep on the floor. If caught, both Brandon and Simon could be booked at the Henderson Detention Center for breaching the peace by being drunk in public.
Had Brandon not shouted and threatened anyone’s safety by doing handstands – and had Simon not disrupted foot traffic by sleeping on the floor – the police probably would have ignored them. (Police officers refer to an intoxicated person who falls asleep as a “sleeper.”) But Brandon’s rowdy behavior and Simon’s disruptive behavior legally “breached the peace.”
Note that breach of peace suspects in Clark County may be prosecuted for disorderly conduct under county ordinance instead of state law. It does not make a difference either way because they are essentially the same offense and carry the same penalties in the state of Nevada.
Disturbing the peace is a misdemeanor in Nevada. The penalties include:
- up to six months of jail time, and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines2
Law enforcement officers may cite intoxicated people for trespass under NRS 207.200 if they refuse to leave a venue when asked to:
Example: David is at a bar on the Las Vegas Strip, where he gets intoxicated and is acting rowdy. A security guard then asks him to exit the premises for being too disruptive. If David resists, he could be booked at the Clark County Detention Center for trespass.
Note that David in the above example could still have been charged with trespass if he initially left the Mirage and then returned that same night sober. Leaving the premises and then coming back after hotel security orders the person to vacate is still considered trespass irrespective of the person’s state of intoxication.
Similar to disturbing the peace, trespass is a misdemeanor in Nevada. The punishment for trespass carries:
- up to six months in jail, and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines3
There are many ways a person can get arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs. These include operating a motor vehicle while:
- impaired by an alcoholic beverage,
- with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08% or above, even if the person is driving safely,
- under the influence of controlled substances, such as marijuana, and/or
- with a BAC of an illegal amount of drugs, even if the person is not impaired by them
Note that a person may be convicted of DUI even if the car is not running. Simply being under the influence of alcohol or narcotics while behind the wheel with the engine off can still qualify as DUI in Nevada.
Nevada DUI penalties depend on the circumstances of the case. Drunk driving is charged as a felony if someone gets seriously hurt or killed or if the accused already has two prior DUI convictions in the last seven years. Penalties include years in Nevada State Prison and possible fines.
Meanwhile a first-time or second-time DUI conviction with no fatalities or substantial bodily harm is prosecuted as a misdemeanor. The judge may order up to six months in jail, but the standard sentence typically includes:
- fines and/or community service,
- a victim impact panel,
- DUI school, and
- an order to pick up no further arrests or citations while the case is open4
It is a crime to drive with an open container of alcohol in Nevada. Local open container laws also make it a criminal act to walk with an uncorked or unsealed container of alcohol throughout much of Clark County, especially within 1,000 feet of a liquor store.
Unlawfully having an open container is a misdemeanor in Nevada. Penalties include up to $1,000 in fines and/or up to 6 months in jail. But the judge typically imposes just a fine. Learn more about open container of alcohol laws (NRS 484B.150).5
It is a misdemeanor to relieve oneself in public. Potential penalties vary by locality. The maximum sentence is 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines. But judges typically impose just a small fine.6
Jaywalking (NRS 484B.287) is when a person illegally crosses the road outside of a marked crosswalk. People who are intoxicated are at a higher risk of ignoring traffic laws.
Jaywalking is typically treated like a traffic ticket, with the defendant getting a citation rather than being arrested. As a misdemeanor, jaywalking’s maximum penalties are 6 months in jail and/or up to $1,000 in fines. But most defendants just get fined.7
We represent clients throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Reno, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight and Tonopah.
In California? Read our article on California drunk in public laws | Penal Code 647(f).
- NRS 458.260; Robinson v. State, 117 Nev. 97, 17 P.3d 420 (2001) (“The Nevada Legislature has made it clear that public intoxication shall no longer be recognized as a criminal offense.“).
- Nevada Revised Statute 203.010.
- NRS 207.200; see Tsao v. Desert Palace, Inc., 698 F.3d 1128 (9th Cir. Nev. 2012).
- NRS 484C.400.
- NRS 484B.150.
- See, e.g., Las Vegas Municipal Code 10.40.040.
- See, e.g., Las Vegas Municipal Code 11.30.070.