Nevada Alcohol Laws on Underage Drinking

age of consent in nevada

Underage drinking—we all have tried alcohol at one time or another before we turned 21, the legal age to purchase and use alcohol in Nevada. Maybe you had some wine at Christmas that was given to you by your family or your first beer was at your friend’s house taken from the fridge just because you were curious. Maybe you were at a high school party and tried hard alcohol for the first time and after a bad experience, told yourself you will never drink certain things again even as an adult.

Underage drinking is almost a rite of passage amongst teenagers and young people but even though some of these examples are memories we all have, it is still illegal to purchase and use alcohol for people under the age of 21.

Under the law NRS 202.020, it is a misdemeanor for anyone under the age of 21 to buy, possess, or drink alcohol. It’s also a crime for an adult to purchase it for someone underage. The consequences can range from fines, community service, suspension of driving license and even jail time.

If you are caught underage drinking, the penalties could be up to 6 months in jail and or up to a $1000 in fines. Also, if you are under the age of 18 there are additional penalties that are given out in juvenile court that can even include a loss of your license.

What Are the Typical Defenses for Underage Drinking

There are several defenses to an underage drinking charge:

  1. The alcohol did not belong to the underage person
  2. The search to find the evidence was illegal by the police
  3. The underage person had the alcohol in their possession as part of a job (for example store clerk)

A good defense team will investigate all strategies and decide the best defense for you. If you’re charged with underage drinking, call The Defenders today for a case review.

Anytime you are charged with a crime, even what seems to be a minor issue you should always hire a good lawyer. Misdemeanors can stay on your record for a long time and may cause you not to be employed by certain companies.

Is It a Crime for People Under 21 to Have Alcohol in Nevada

As previously stated, it is illegal to do the following:

  1. Purchase or consume alcohol in any place it is sold
  2. Possess alcohol in public

However, there are several exceptions where a minor or person under 21 can have possession or use of alcohol.

Religious Purposes

You are permitted to consume or possess alcoholic beverages for religious purposes, for example, Sunday Church service or for Passover Seder dinner where wine is typically served to represent religious practices

The Presence of a Parent or Guardian That Is Over 21

This is usually at home. Most establishments with liquor licenses will not allow anyone for any reason under the age of 21 to drink at all in their establishments.

Doctor’s Prescription

If a doctor prescribed it as medicine for a condition, just like other controlled substances

Private Club

Private clubs can allow a minor to drink but again it is unlikely because they have a liquor license that can be taken away if minors are served at the private establishment

Possession while employed by a licensed manufacturer, wholesaler or retailer of alcoholic beverages.

This usually means a store clerk or stock person. Young adults must be 21 in Nevada to serve alcohol as a bartender or wait staff. If you are unsure of whether or not a minor can serve alcohol in your area you should check the local laws in your area, Each county in Nevada can have different rules.

Each case may be different based on the circumstances, and this will determine whether or not the behavior is illegal or not.

Criminal versus Juvenile court

Young adults under the age of 18 are considered minors in Nevada. Since they are minors, they are prosecuted in juvenile court and not adult criminal court. Juvenile courts are for offenders 18 years or younger who have not committed felonies. The juvenile court system usually will have punishments that are more geared towards teaching a lesson and changing the behavior instead of locking them up like adult courts usually do.

What Are the Defenses Against Underage Alcohol Possession

There are basically three defenses against NRS 202.020 underage possession or consumption of alcoholic beverages:

The Alcohol Did Not Belong to the Defendant

The prosecutor must prove that the minor defendant had possession of the alcohol or had some part in buying the alcohol or was drinking the alcohol to be found guilty.

However, if the alcohol was someone else’s, or was mistaken to be the defendant’s just by being in the area. If a police officer thinks it’s the defendants but it actually is proven to be someone else’s then the underage party should not be held accountable.

Illegal search

Only in extreme cases where someone’s life is on the line or there is a perceived threat can the police enter and search someone’s house or car without a warrant under the 4th Amendment.

So if the police illegally search and find alcohol in an underage person’s house or car then the defense attorney can ask that any evidence from that search be thrown out and the court can’t consider it when assessing guilt or innocence.

Possessing Alcohol Was Part of the Defendant’s Job

In Nevada, people over the age of 16 can handle alcohol in work environments as store clerks. In this case, they are not guilty of illegal alcohol possession.

On a side note, it is not a defense in Nevada if the defendant is from a country where drinking alcohol is permitted under the age of 21. You must follow the laws of the country and state you are visiting.

What Are the Penalties of Underage Drinking

In Nevada it is a misdemeanor to possess, drink or buy alcohol under the age of 21.

The penalties include :

  1. Up to 6 months in jail and/or
  2. A $1000 fine

If you are under the age of 18 you will be prosecuted in juvenile court and penalties can include:

  • 6 months in juvenile detention and or a fine of up to $1000
  • Required to take an alcohol evaluation at a clinic to determine if you need further intervention
  • Sent to a rehab instead of detention if it is determined that the minor needs help
  • A driver’s license suspension anywhere from 9 months to 2 years

Can Your Record Be Sealed

If you are convicted of a misdemeanor in Nevada you must wait one year after the case is closed to request the record to be sealed. This must be done by an attorney. If the case was dismissed, then your case will be sealed immediately.

If you are under the age of 18 and your case was handled in Juvenile court then your case will automatically be sealed at the age of 21. A juvenile may request that the case be sealed earlier if the following are true:

  1. Three years have passed since the case has closed
  2. The defendant has not been convicted of any other crimes including misdemeanors and felonies.
  3. The court deems that the defendant has been rehabilitated

A juvenile defendant may want to have their records sealed earlier than the age of 21 to gain employment or to get into college.

What Are the Other Related Offenses

There are several other crimes that can be associated with a minor possession charge and in some cases, these charges can be added to the misdemeanor creating other charges and penalties. These are some of the other things that can be added to your charges:

  • Underage DUI
  • Using or possessing a false ID
  • Driving or possessing an open container in public
  • Loitering at an establishment where alcohol is served or sold
  • Using fake ID to purchase alcohol

Adults can also face charges if they are caught selling or giving alcohol to a minor under the age of 21. This does not apply to parents or guardians.

Why Hire a Defense Attorney

Even if you think underage alcohol possession is a minor offense and just pay the consequences, you should always hire an attorney. Even minor infractions can lead to loss of employment or not getting into the college of your choice. A good defense attorney can get the charges reduced or even dismissed if the investigation proves that you didn’t commit the offense. Most defense teams have a staff to investigate your case to determine the best course of action. We will help you navigate the court system and try to get the best outcome for our clients.

Call The Defenders if you have been charged with a crime in Nevada no matter how small you think it is.

Practice Areas