NRS 458.260 is the Nevada law which makes public intoxication legal in most circumstances. However, being drunk in public could cause people to commit other crimes, such as DUI, disorderly conduct, and public urination. The statute states:
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 Nevada laws for public intoxication under NRS 458.260 and how it can contribute to other offenses.
Definitions and Penalties for Nevada “Public Intoxication” crimes under NRS 258.260
Unlike California, Nevada does not make it a crime to be drunk in public. The legal definition of public intoxication in Nevada states that, “the use of alcohol, the status of drunkard and the fact of being found in an intoxicated condition are not public offenses and shall not be so treated in any ordinance or resolution of a county, city or town.”
However, public intoxication in Nevada can potentially make someone more vulnerable to being arrested for related offenses such as:
- disturbing the peace,
- drunk driving (DUI),
- open containers,
- urinating in public, or
Disturbing the peace
Like it sounds, the Nevada crime of disturbing the peace … which is also called “breach of peace” … occurs when someone behaves in a highly disruptive or hostile way in public. Jean Nevada criminal defense attorney Michael Becker gives an example of how disturbing the peace may comprise public intoxication:
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’ve ignored them. (Note that cops refer to people who fall asleep drunk in public as “sleepers.”) But Brandon’s rowdy behavior and Simon’s disruptive behavior legally “breached the peace.”
Also note that people who allegedly commit a breach of peace in Clark County may instead be prosecuted for the Clark County crime of disorderly conduct rather than the Nevada crime of disturbing the peace. It doesn’t make a difference either way because they’re essentially the same offense and carry the same penalties.
Disturbing the peace is a misdemeanor in Nevada. The penalties include:
- up to six months in jail, and/or
- up to $1,000 in fines.
For information on common defenses to breach of peace charges … such as insufficient evidence to sustain a conviction … see our article on the Clark County crime of disorderly conduct (NRS 203.010).
In some situations, prosecutors bring charges of the Nevada crime of trespass against people for allegedly being drunk in public. Overton Nevada criminal defense attorney Neil Shouse provides an illustration of how this may happen:
David is at a bar in the Mirage casino, where he gets intoxicated and is acting rowdy. A security guard then asks him to leave the premises for being too disruptive. If David refuses, 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 under Nevada law 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 fines.
For information on common defenses to trespass charges … such as consent to be on the premises … see our article on the Nevada crime of trespass (NRS 207.200).
People may be arrested for the Nevada crime of driving drunk for allegedly driving while drunk or with a blood alcohol content (BAC) of .08 or above. But note that a person may still be convicted of this crime even if the car isn’t running … simply being intoxicated behind the wheel with the engine off can still qualify as DUI in Nevada.
Nevada DUI penalties depend on the circumstances of the case. Driving drunk is charged as a felony in Nevada 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 in Nevada (NRS 0.606) is prosecuted as a misdemeanor in Nevada. 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 open
For information on common defenses to DUI charges … such as faulty breath-testing equipment … see our article on the Nevada crime of driving drunk.
It is a crime to drive with an open container of alcohol in Nevada. It is also a crime to have an open container of alcohol throughout much of Clark County, especially within 1,000 feet of a package store. Learn more about Nevada open container laws (NRS 484B.150).
Urinating in Public
It is a misdemeanor to relieve oneself in public. The judge typically imposes just a small fine. For more information about the Nevada crime of urinating in public, see our article on the Nevada crime of urinating in public.
The Nevada crime of 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.
Charged with Public Intoxication-related crimes? Call us for help…
Have you been arrested or charged with a crime related to “public intoxication” laws in Nevada? Then call our Las Vegas DUI defense attorneys for a free consultation to discuss how we can resolve your case.
We represent client throughout Nevada, including Las Vegas, Henderson, Washoe County, Reno, Carson City, Laughlin, Mesquite, Bunkerville, Moapa, Elko, Pahrump, Searchlight and Tonopah.
To learn about California drunk in public laws | Penal Code 647(f), read our article on California drunk in public laws | Penal Code 647(f).