It’s probably pretty obvious for almost everyone that it is illegal to drink alcohol while operating a motor vehicle. This is commonly known as drinking under the influence (DUI). NRS 484B.150 is in regard to all open container laws in the state and also makes it against the law to have an open container of alcohol in a motor vehicle.
Alcohol pertains to a beverage and not an antiseptic solution. Much like most of the Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS), there are numerous exceptions that can be applied to the law. The exceptions pertain to some types of commercial transportation vehicles.
If one is in violation of NRS 484B.150 (Open Container Law), the ticket will most likely be for a misdemeanor. If the violation occurs in a safety zone for pedestrians or happens in a work zone, there would be additional penalties on top of the misdemeanor.
In the Party City of Las Vegas, Can There Be an Open Container of Alcoholic Beverages in a Vehicle?
Even in Las Vegas, it is unlawful to have an open container in an automobile. NRS 484B.150 is the open container law for the state and therefore encompasses the city of Las Vegas. So the law is also relevant for the southern part of the state and makes it illegal for there to be an open container of alcohol in a vehicle.
In Las Vegas, there is an exception and that pertains to the passenger section of an automobile that is being used for the purpose of transporting people. So, for people who are being chauffeured via taxi cab, limo, motorhome, or shuttle bus it might be acceptable to have an open container of alcohol in a specific type of vehicle.
Open Container of Alcoholic Beverages and Nevada Revised Statue #484B.150
Per the law, there are three specific parameters explaining what is unlawful:
- Drinking alcohol while in physical control of an automobile. Don’t make assumptions with this one because getting rolled up for this violation doesn’t only occur when the car is moving. This NRS makes it unlawful to have your open container of beer or hard liquor while you are behind the wheel with the engine on regardless of whether you are moving or not. So, if your car engine is on and you are parked by yourself in a lot listening to the radio while drinking a beer, you are still in violation of this law.
- Drinking alcohol while actively driving a vehicle.
- Alcoholic beverages are prohibited to be in possession in the passenger area of a vehicle (see exception in the section below).
Passenger Transportation Vehicles (ie: limousines and taxis) and Exceptions to the Open Container Laws in Nevada.
The Nevada Open Container Law pertains to all people in the automobile including the driver and all passengers. It is essential for you to be aware of the all-important exception to NRS 484B.150 and how it pertains to the other people in your vehicle.
As we previously touched on in this article, passengers in a vehicle are allowed to have an open container of alcohol if the said vehicle is primarily used for the shuttling of people. So, if you are planning a big party weekend in Las Vegas and fly into Harry Reid Airport and book a limousine to your favorite hotel, you are able to enjoy an alcoholic beverage while heading to the Strip in style.
As a matter of fact, it’s a great way to get the party started and get a head start to your weekend! If your buddy who lives in Las Vegas picks you up at the airport, then you are not allowed to drink and will have to hold off until you get to the property and dice table!
Does the Exception in the Open Container Law Also Pertain to Uber?
Unfortunately, you are not allowed to drink an alcoholic beverage while employing a Lyft driver, Uber driver, or any other rideshare service in the city of Las Vegas.
Remember from above that the exception only applies to cars and automobiles that are used for the primary purpose of transporting people. The key word is “primary”.
Because rideshare drivers use their automobiles for personal reasons, the primary purpose of the car is not for transporting people for money. I know we can all make a claim that someone drives for Uber more than they do for themselves but unfortunately the law isn’t buying it. If you are caught drinking in an Lyft, Uber or other rideshare, it would be a violation of the law under the current NRS.
So, if you want to get your party started early and are flying into Vegas then simply take a cab or rent a limo and crack a cold one on the way. If you rideshare then hold off or your party will end before it ever gets started.
Penalty for Driving With an Open Container of Alcoholic Beverages
If you are caught driving with an open container, the penalty under Nevada state law could be a fine of up to $1,000 and potentially six months in jail. If you are caught in this violation while driving in a work zone or a pedestrian safety zone, then you will likely be facing added penalties.
In addition to the dollar amount of fines and being jailed for multiple months, you for sure will also have a misdemeanor on your record.
What if I Have an Empty Beer Can in My Car?
Good news, an empty beer can is not considered an open container under NRS 484B.150. Because an “open container” must actually contain a liquid alcoholic beverage, an “empty” beer can would not fall under that parameter.
If the can is empty and all the beer is gone then it’s really the same designation as a used Kleenex, paper coffee cup, or any other piece of garbage found in most cars.
If you have an empty beer can and receive a violation of the open container law, then you should definitely fight that in court as you should win. Of course, our attorneys can always assist in this case or any other pertaining to the NRS. If this situation does occur, be sure to take pictures with your cell phone and document the scene as that will assist you or your attorney in fighting the case.
What if I Have a Red Solo Cup in My Car Filled With an Alcoholic Beverage?
Unlike the empty beer can, a solo cup is definitely considered an open container assuming that it is holding alcohol. As written in NRS 484B.150, an open container is “any container with a broken seal”. Even though the infamous red solo cup doesn’t have a seal it is still considered an open container. So it’s best not to have these in your vehicle because if you are caught you will be in violation of the law in NV.
Types of Vehicles That Fall Under the Exception to the Open Container Law
As a reminder, the exception applies to passengers with open containers while traveling in a vehicle that is primarily used for transporting people. Examples of these types of vehicles include the following:
- Tour Buses
- Shuttle Bus
- Motor Home
- Town Cars (if used for the primary purpose of transporting people for commercial use)
It should be obvious that if the driver of one of these vehicles is found drinking from an open container, they would be in violation. However, the passengers are free to do so. The operators of these vehicles may have a house rule that prohibits passengers from drinking but if not, it would not be against the law to do so.
What Is Considered an Alcoholic Beverage?
In order for a beverage to be considered an alcoholic one under the Nevada State law, it must have a minimum .5% of alcohol. Any distilled spirit would fall under the open container law.
For more specific information you can refer to NRS 484B.150 but pretty much if you have an alcoholic beverage in your car, it’s most likely going to fall under the umbrella of the law.
If I Get a Ticket for an Open Container, Is That Also Considered a DUI?
A DUI or Driving Under the Influence violation is not the same as an open container violation. The DUI law is in regards to how much alcohol you actually have in your system and also only pertains to the driver of the motor vehicle. The open container only applies to whether or not there is an alcoholic beverage in the car and if the seal is broken. It also pertains to the type of automobile being used (a typical auto or one used for commercial transportation).
Car Accidents and Open Container Laws
If a car accident occurs and there is an open container in the car it does not mean that the case is a DUI. With that said, it is always to investigate for that because a lawsuit could be filed. Our team can definitely assist you so if you’ve been in any type of car wreck or especially one involving an open container (whether you are the victim or the driver) please give us a call as we can help.