Just because Nevada is home to the Las Vegas Strip, one of the biggest party capitals in the world, doesn't mean the state lacks basic open container laws. In fact, when compared to laws in other states across the U.S., the Silver State's rules for open containers in vehicles aren't exactly full of surprises as they appear in Chapter 484B of the Nevada Revised Statutes. But some local laws, particularly in the city of Las Vegas, make significant exceptions for the consumption of alcohol by pedestrians.
Nevada Open Container Law for Vehicles
Regardless of where the containers in question are located – whether in a car or on a sidewalk – it's important to consider what Nevada state law defines as an open container.
According to the Draskovich Law Group of Las Vegas, an open container in the legal context is any alcoholic beverage receptacle with a broken seal. This includes everything from an open beer can to an unsealed flask or plastic cup. Further, an alcoholic beverage is defined as a fermented beer or fruit beverage with 0.5 percent or more alcohol by volume, or distilled spirits in any form.
Throughout the Sagebrush State, it is against the law for any driver of a motor vehicle to drink an alcoholic beverage while in direct control of a vehicle or to possess an open container of alcohol in passenger area of a motor vehicle. Passenger area means any area of the vehicle that's designed for seating for either the driver or passengers.
Exceptions and Penalties for Open Container Charges
As NOLO points out, the state of Nevada does allow for some exceptions to motor vehicle open container laws. These exceptions are similar to those found across the United States. As elsewhere, it's legal to have open containers of alcohol in the passenger area of a vehicle if that vehicle is primarily used for the commercial transportation of people, including a party bus.
Likewise, it's legal for that open container to exist in the living area of what the Nevada Revised Statutes call a "house trailer" or "house coach" (i.e. a vehicle designed and equipped as a living space, like an RV or motor home) on the road. In both of these cases, though, it's still illegal for the driver to possess or control these containers.
In cases where these exceptions don't apply, violation of open container laws in Nevada is classified as a misdemeanor. Penalties may include up to six months of jail time and up to $1,000 in fines, as well as up to 120 hours of community service.
Open Beverage Containers for Pedestrians
When it comes to walking with an open container in public and public drinking, laws in Nevada vary by local jurisdiction. In Reno, for instance, it's typically considered a misdemeanor to carry an open container in public spaces (with some exceptions for special events) just as it is in vehicles, and an open container violation can also result in up to six months in jail and as much as $1,000 in fines. Las Vegas' open container laws, though, are another matter.
In the City of Second Chances, it is legal to walk the strip with an open container. However, the laws are so granular that in downtown Las Vegas, it's legal to carry an open container in most public places, but illegal at bus stops or within 1,000 feet of hospitals, schools, places of worship or licensed liquor stores. Hill Firm Lawyers of Las Vegas adds that on Fremont Street, open containers are only allowed in public if purchased from a Fremont Street venue, and aluminum and glass containers are prohibited.
Given the wide range of variables, it pays for travelers and Nevadans alike to do their due diligence on each local jurisdiction's open container laws before drinking alcohol anywhere in public.
As a freelance writer and small business owner with a decade of experience, Dan has contributed legal- and finance-oriented content to diverse sources including Chron, Fortune, Zacks.com, Motley Fool and MSN Money, among others.