People come to Las Vegas for a good time. No doubt there are certain behaviors which are allowed in Las Vegas that are not allowed in your hometown. And we welcome those who wish to come and have a good time. Drink, party and gamble. We encourage it. Tourism is huge for our economy here and we appreciate your business. But, many people fall for misconceptions about our laws in Las Vegas.
If you are reading this article, you probably know that gaming is legal in Nevada. Of course, gaming is heavily regulated by the Nevada Gaming Control Board. Employees in gaming need to have a special license. Every dealer and most bartenders you encounter in Las Vegas have this license.
It is common for casinos to give away “comps” as you are gambling. Depending on how much you gamble, you can get free drinks, meals, or even hotel rooms.
Cheating at gaming or possession of a cheating device can be a serious crime in Nevada. This does not include the practice of counting cards. Counting cards while playing blackjack has become an alluring possibility for the ambitious gambler. The vast majority of people cannot properly count cards, so casinos are ok with gamblers trying. If you succeed and start winning, you will be asked to leave the casino floor.
DUI is very illegal in Las Vegas, just like any other place in the United States. The law surrounding DUI functions very similar in Las Vegas to other areas of the United States. If you are not from the United States, it is important to understand that driving under the influence of alcohol or a controlled substance is strictly prohibited. Our Nation has very tough laws regarding DUI and Las Vegas is no exception.
As a tourist, transportation costs can be high to get around the Las Vegas Strip or other tourist corridors. You might be tempted to rent a car, which is a reasonable way to save money getting from point A to point B. If you do this, make sure to plan carefully to avoid driving after drinking. You will end up in jail, and you will have to face criminal charges.
Feel free to see our other articles on DUI. First and second DUIs in Las Vegas are misdemeanors. Third and above are felonies. Also, any DUI which involves substantial bodily harm or death is a felony. Felony DUI comes with mandatory prison time in Nevada. The legal limit for DUI is very low for alcohol or other controlled substances. You can be charged with DUI after having only a couple drinks or consuming a very small amount of cannabis.
Las Vegas has a very well-developed rideshare system. Uber and Lyft are readily available. Use them.
In most US jurisdictions, there is some law against public intoxication. In Nevada, we have NRS 458.260. This statute explicitly states that it is not a public offense to be intoxicated on alcohol. Being drunk in public is not, by itself, a crime. That being said, drunkenness can be an element of other crimes, such as DUI.
If you are approached by a police officer, the situation can get more complicated. As lawyers, we are always educating people about exercising your rights. But, there is another crime which tourists are often charged with called Obstructing a Public Officer. This crime arises from NRS 197.190 and NRS 199.520. In the City of Las Vegas, it is a crime to delay the legal duties of a peace officer. Also, obstructing a legal investigation or giving false information to a police officer can be a misdemeanor. Often, drunken shenanigans turn quickly into obstruction, especially when combined with minor offenses like jaywalking.
Be aware of your surroundings. Know your Constitutional rights, but do not be needlessly belligerent to police officers.
The Las Vegas Strip is not in the City of Las Vegas. The Strip is actually in the unincorporated township of Paradise, Nevada. The City of Las Vegas starts at Sahara Ave and goes North. Fremont Street Experience and the surrounding tourist area is within the City of Las Vegas. This can be very important if you are charged with a crime. Las Vegas has its own set of ordinances and its own City Jail. Las Vegas has its own Municipal Court, as well. Las Vegas Municipal Court has jurisdiction over misdemeanors committed within its borders. Clark County Detention Center is the facility which holds most people accused of a felony in Clark County and any misdemeanor committed outside of an incorporated city.
Here is an example: If someone calls me and tells me her husband was just arrested for misdemeanor DUI, I will ask where he was arrested. In the City of Las Vegas, he will be in the City Jail. If we was arrested on the strip, he will be in Clark County Detention Center.
If the same person calls me and tells me her husband was just arrested for felony possession of a controlled substance, we would automatically know he is in Clark County Detention Center, because it is a felony charge.
There are also separate municipal courts in Henderson and North Las Vegas. Tourists generally spend less time in those jurisdictions. Green Valley Ranch Hotel and Casino is located within the City of Henderson. But most resorts and hotels are located in Clark County jurisdiction or the City of Las Vegas.
Marijuana is legal to consume for recreational or medicinal purposes in Nevada. For medicinal marijuana, you must have a card from the Nevada Division of Public and Behavioral Health. Tourists are unlikely to have Nevada approval to buy medicinal marijuana, and you cannot buy it with your out of state license. The only advantage to this designation is access to stronger marijuana products and legal consumption of marijuana at age 18.
Recreational marijuana is legal in Nevada. If you are in a tourist corridor, you will likely see advertisements for dispensaries. Anyone over the age of 21 can buy recreational marijuana and possess up to an ounce, without criminal penalty. Marijuana must be consumed on private property. Therefore, you cannot consume marijuana on the street like you can with alcohol. Laws about public and private consumption do not currently differentiate between marijuana you smoke and edible marijuana. There is no law against consuming edibles in a hotel room in Nevada. Most hotels have a rule against it, but it would be difficult to enforce rules about edibles in private hotel rooms.
In Nevada, anyone with a gaming license is expected to abide by all Federal and State laws. Therefore, most casino hotels are not marijuana friendly. This may change as Federal laws relax.
The issue of marijuana lounges is being discussed in the City of Las Vegas government as I write this article. Here is a list of cannabis friendly hotels:
It is very much illegal to drive under the influence of cannabis. The blood content limit is also very low for DUI laws in Nevada. If you have 2 nanograms per milliliter of marijuana or 5 nanograms per milliliter of marijuana metabolite in your blood, you are considered intoxicated for purposes of driving. This is a very low limit, and you might not even feel intoxicated.
Most other recreational drugs are considered “felony” drugs. Cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, etc. are all strictly illegal to possess in Nevada, in any quantity. In fact, it is a felony to possess those types of drugs in Nevada.
Contrary to what many have heard or read, Nevada has very strict drug laws. If you possess four grams or above of a felony drug, you can be charged with trafficking a controlled substance, which is a B felony and carries mandatory prison time. (There is a possible change in law coming which will raise that amount to 14g, but today it is still 4g).
A common “8 ball” of cocaine that you would buy on the street weighs 3.68g. So slightly over one ball puts you in the trafficking category.
Sale of a controlled substance can be any amount, and value does not have to be given. Imagine if you procure some drugs for yourself and your friends to party in Las Vegas. Because you intended to distribute drugs to your friends, you could be guilty of sale of a controlled substance, which is a B Felony.
Despite all the laws, drugs are still very common in tourist areas of Las Vegas. Drugs are dangerous and illegal. People who sell drugs can be dangerous as well. You can get into serious trouble on many levels if you do drugs in Las Vegas.
Gun laws are very complicated and involve many layers of issues. This is aimed at addressing the concerns of tourists, who rarely carry guns. Nevada has no law aimed at open carry, so that is generally considered legal. That being said, the vast majority of gaming establishments do not allow firearms on the gaming floor. So you can’t walk up the strip while open carrying if you plan on entering a casino.
You cannot possess a firearm with a blood alcohol content of 0.10% or higher. You cannot bring a firearm into a public building. And you cannot fully or partially conceal a firearm without a proper permit. Nevada honors conceal carry permits from other States, but I have intentionally left a list of those states out of this article because it changes so rapidly. While the issue of concealed carry with no permit is often in the news, Nevada has made no moves to remove the permit requirement.
Nevada gun sales are remarkably high, especially for a relatively low population. This is likely because buyers do not have to register firearms, and there are few restrictions on gun sales. It is now a popular tourist activity to go to Nevada shooting ranges to fire fully automatic and more advanced weapons. Most ranges of this type also sell guns and ammo.
You can consume alcohol at gun shows in Nevada. Just be very careful not be become intoxicated. Intoxication and guns do not mix. Remember the blood alcohol limit of 0.10%.
In contrast to strict drug laws, Nevada has relatively relaxed liquor laws. Las Vegas is one of the only cities in the US where you can consume liquor in public. But, it is important to know the limits. Most everywhere in Clark County, you can legally consume alcohol in public. You cannot consume alcohol within 1,000 feet of churches, schools, hospitals, homeless shelters, or withdrawal management facilities. It is also illegal to consume alcohol on the premises of an establishment who sells liquor, but does not have the license to serve liquor. For example, you can’t buy a 40 oz Old English at the 7/11 and drink it in the parking lot.
In the two major tourist corridors, there are some limits. On the Las Vegas Strip, you can no longer consume alcohol from glass containers. As a result, you will often see stacks of plastic cups near the doors of casinos, providing the opportunity to pour your drink into a compliant container.
On Fremont Street, you may only legally drink alcohol from a container served to you by a bartender. There are several liquor stores which sell sealed containers of beer and liquor. If you buy one of those, you must not consume it on Fremont Street.
Violation of any of the liquor laws in Nevada can result in a misdemeanor criminal charge.
Prostitution is legal in Nevada, with several very important exceptions. Prostitution is strictly illegal in any county with a population of over 700,000. This renders prostitution illegal in Clark County, where Las Vegas sits. Also, Washoe county has a specific ordinance rendering prostitution illegal. Washoe county is where the City of Reno sits.
Soliciting prostitution in Las Vegas is a misdemeanor. To be convicted of this crime, you do not need to complete a sexual act or even come to an agreement about a arrangement. The crime is actually the bargaining which could lead to a prostitution arrangement. The only way to avoid potential criminal charges is to strictly say “no” to any advances which suggest prostitution.
Prostitution can involve some other crimes which are much more serious. If you profit from prostitution activities, you can be charged with pimping and pandering. And of course, sex trafficking is a major felony. Or, anything to do with prostitution and minors.
The only legal path to hiring a prostitute in Nevada is to travel outside of Las Vegas to a licensed brothel. For example, Nye County is a common destination for this type of behavior. Sex workers at a licensed brothel must undergo periodic health screening, including blood tests for sexually transmitted diseases. To date, there have been no reported cases of HIV from a legal Nevada brothel.
Many people believe that prostitution is legal in Nevada because of massive advertising campaigns by escort agencies. It is legal in Las Vegas to pay a person for companionship. But that line can get blurry, and often can cross the line into prostitution. Las Vegas Metro Police routinely conduct stings to catch tourists who attempt to hire prostitutes and also to catch prostitutes who attempt to pick up tourists.
There are many misconceptions about the laws in Las Vegas. While some things are allowed which are not allowed in other cities, many laws are stricter than people anticipate. Follow my advice above to keep yourself out of trouble. And, of course, enjoy Las Vegas responsibly.