Nevada Revised Statute § 453.411 makes it a crime to consume illegal drugs or to be under the influence of a controlled substance. The offense is a misdemeanor punishable by up to 6 months in jail and up to $1000.00 in fines.
The only exceptions are taking lawfully prescribed medications or using 1 ounce or less of marijuana (by adults age 21 and over). You can be prosecuted for under the influence charges even if there are no narcotics in your possession at the time of the arrest.
The language of the code section reads as follows:
It is unlawful for a person knowingly to use or be under the influence of a controlled substance except in accordance with a lawfully issued prescription … [or] when administered to the person at a rehabilitation clinic established or licensed by the Division of Public and Behavioral Health of the Department, or a hospital certified by the Department.
Three common strategies to fight NRS 453.411 charges are to argue that:
- You did not act knowingly (you were drugged),
- You had not been using, or
- The blood test was contaminated
In this article, our Las Vegas criminal defense attorneys discuss:
- 1. What is “unlawful use of controlled substances” in Nevada?
- 2. What are the penalties under NRS 453.411?
- 3. What are common defenses?
- 4. Are there immigration consequences?
- 5. Is the criminal record sealable?
It is illegal to take drugs or to be under the influence of drugs without a legal prescription. It makes no difference whether the drug use or intoxication occurs in public or private.1
However, it is now legal for adults 21 and older to possess up to 1 ounce of marijuana in a private residence. Though if you smoke marijuana at home, you could still be cited for NRS 453.411 if you go out in public high.2
NRS 453.411 is an entirely separate crime from driving under the influence of drugs (DUID). Plus you can be convicted of both DUID and unlawful drug use without violating double jeopardy laws.3
Violating NRS 453.411 is only a misdemeanor. The punishment is:
- Up to 6 months in jail, and/or
- Up to $1,000 in fines4
The following three arguments may get an NRS 453.411 charge reduced or dismissed.
- No knowledge. Only knowing drug use and intoxication is illegal in Nevada. If you were slipped a drug or had a spiked drink without your knowledge, you committed no crime.
- No use or intoxication. Perhaps the police mistook a legal substance for a drug. Or perhaps the police wrongly believed you were high. Forensic analysis and blood tests can show that you did not consume any controlled substances.
- Contaminated blood test. Sometimes blood tests get contaminated in the lab and return false positives. A defense attorney may be able to show that the lab procedures used were problematic.
Prosecutors have the burden to prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In many NRS 453.411 cases, there is no physical evidence: No drugs and no blood tests. If the defense attorney can show prosecutors they have insufficient evidence, the charge could be dropped.
Yes. Nearly all drug crime convictions are deportable.5 Therefore, non-citizens charged with violating NRS 453.411 should consult with an attorney right away. An attorney may be able to persuade the D.A. the dismiss the charge. Or else change it to a non-deportable offense such as disturbing the peace (NRS 203.010).
Yes. NRS 453.411 convictions can be sealed 1 year after the case ends. Or if the charge gets dismissed, you can pursue a record seal immediately.6
You should seal your criminal records as soon as possible. A drug charge can jeopardize future employment, licensing, and housing prospects. Learn how to seal Nevada criminal records.
In California? See our article on Health & Safety Code 11550 HS).