Nevada Open Container Laws: What You Need to Know

Nevada is home to a thriving nightlife scene, as well as numerous events and gatherings where celebratory drinks are the norm. While having an open container or an alcoholic beverage in public may be legal in certain circumstances, the state of Nevada does enforce laws that prohibit individuals from having alcoholic drinks in certain places and when they are performing certain activities – as well as serious penalties for those convicted. Whether

Under Nevada law, it is always illegal to drive with an open container of alcohol. Depending on the circumstances, it may also be illegal to walk with an open container. Keep in mind, however, that there are many different laws when it comes to alcohol and open containers, and those laws can vary depending on the county and city you are in.

What is an Open Container?

As defined by state statutes, an “open container” includes any alcoholic container that has been opened, or has a broken seal. That means they can never be fully closed or sealed again (a bottle is still considered “open” even if the top is placed back on). In Reno – per § 8.12.033 of the Reno Municipal Code – open containers also include cups, flasks, glasses, and any other vessel that contains alcohol.

Common examples of an open container include:

  • A can of beer with a tab that has been opened
  • An uncorked bottle of wine
  • A liquor bottle with a broken seal / popped or unscrewed cap
  • A plastic cub filled with alcohol (under Reno Municipal Code)

Driving With an Open Container

Driving with an open container is a crime throughout the state of Nevada. However, there are some exceptions where open containers may be permitted:

  • Living compartments of RVs or travel trailers
  • Taxis, limos, shuttles and some other fare-based transportation (passengers only)
  • Trunks (or glove compartments in vehicle’s without trunks) in Las Vegas

State open container laws are strict when it comes to driving. That means drivers do not have a viable defense if they claim to have not known about an open container in their vehicle, or if the open container was in the back seat out of reach. The presence of an open container in a vehicle alone is a criminal offense, and drivers can be charged with misdemeanors punishable by fines and up to 6 months in jail. Fines and penalties may also be elevated if there are prior convictions.

It is important to note that driving with an open container is a separate crime from driving under the influence (DUI). A law enforcement officer would still need probable cause to arrest a driver whose BAC is over the legal limit (.08), or who they believe are intoxicated to the point that they present a danger to others.

Walking With an Open Container / Drinking in Public

Whether or not you are able to drink or walk in public with an open container of alcohol depends entirely on where you are and the circumstances. Because there are no state laws against walking with open containers, rules are set by local ordinances. For example:

  • Las Vegas – Pedestrians are generally allowed to have open containers in Las Vegas, including the Las Vegas Strip. However in the Downtown area of Las Vegas, excluding the strip, it is against the law to have an open container at a bus stop, within 1,000 feet of a hospital, school, place of worship, and within 1,000 feet of a store licensed to sell alcohol (in corked or sealed container for drinking off premises).
  • Reno – Reno has tougher open container laws when it comes to carrying an open container or drinking in public. Generally, it is illegal to walk with an open container or drink alcohol in any public place or street. However, a person is allowed to have an open container / drink in public when attending special events that have obtained permits. These can include annual events like outdoor concerts and Hot August Nights, among other special events.

Violating an open container law in public is a misdemeanor offense punishable by fines and up to 6 months imprisonment. Just as driving with an open container is a separate crime from DUI, walking with an open container is also a distinctly separate offense. Because open container laws can vary depending on local laws and special events, you should always do your due diligence to learn what’s legal and what’s not prior to drinking or carrying an alcoholic beverage.

Protect Your Rights

If you or someone you love has been arrested for driving with an open container or cited for walking with an open container, you have the right to defend yourself and have legal representation when doing so. At Joey Gilbert Law, our Reno criminal defense attorneys have extensive experience representing clients throughout the region when they face criminal charges and penalties. Learn how we can help you when you call (775) 574-4774 for a FREE consultation.


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