Las Vegas is well known as the “city of sin” where you can get or do almost anything you want. However, even in a city that prides itself on allowing people to indulge in their vices, Federal Laws cannot be overridden. Consequently, even in Nevada, the minimum drinking age is 21, and anyone caught misrepresenting themselves and/or their age in an attempt to obtain liquor is subject to harsh penalties.

What is the legal definition of a False Representation for obtaining liquor?

False representation of a minor for obtaining liquor is governed by NRS 202.015, and 202.040.

NRS 202.015 – “Alcoholic beverage” defined.

For the purposes of NRS 202.015 to 202.065, inclusive, “alcoholic beverage” means:

  1. Beer, ale, porter, stout and other similar fermented beverages, including sake and similar products, of any name or description containing one-half of 1 percent or more alcohol by volume, brewed or produced from malt, wholly or in part, or from any substitute therefor;
  2. Any beverage obtained by the fermentation o the natural content of fruits or other agricultural products containing sugar, of not less than one-half of 1 percent of alcohol by volume;
  3. Any distilled spirits commonly referred to as ethyl alcohol, ethanol or spirits of wine in any form, including all dilutions and mixtures thereof from whatever process produced.

NRS 202.040 – False representation by minor to obtain intoxicating liquor.

Every minor who shall falsely represent himself or herself to be 21 years of age in order to obtain any intoxicating liquor shall be guilty of a misdemeanor.

Isn’t a minor anyone under 18? Why does the statute say under 16?

The legal drinking age in the United States is 21. Consequently, any time the word “minor” is used in relation to a law about drinking, the ‘age of minority’ is 21, not 18.

So, this is basically this is a False ID law?

Essentially, yes. However, it does not require the use of an actual “false ID” to violate NRS 202.040. A minor need only represent him/herself as being at least 21 in an effort to obtain alcohol to violate the law. This means that the minor could:

  • Use a fake ID that states that the minor is at least 21 years of age;
  • Use a real ID belonging to someone who is at least 21 years of age in an attempt to fool people as to the minor’s age;
  • Use the minor’s real ID and try to trick the person checking the ID into not looking closely at the birthdate;
  • Not use any ID and simply try to convince the other person that he/she is at least 21 years of age.

Any of these means of representing oneself as at least 21 years-of-age would be a violation because the language of NRS 202.040 simply states that any minor “representing” themselves to be at least 21 years of age in order to obtain an alcoholic beverage is in violation of the statute.

What are the possible penalties?

Any minor who violates NRS 202.040 can be charged with a misdemeanor which carries with it a possible penalty of:

  • Up to 6 months in jail; and/or
  • Possible fines up to $1,000.

Are there any Defenses?

Yes, of course there are. Some of the possible defenses include:

  • Honest Mistake/Over 21 – State issued IDs are often damaged in the course of everyday life. There are also many people who look much younger than they are. Consequently, even the most diligent of people checking IDs may mistake a legitimate ID as a fake, or may decide that even if the ID is real, the age is not. If you are able to show that you were, in fact, at least 21 years of age at the time you attempted to purchase the alcohol, the charges against you will be dropped or dismissed.
  • Lack of Evidence – As with any crime, the prosecution bears the burden of proving every element of the crime “beyond a reasonable doubt.” If there is not enough evidence to uphold this high level of proof, then the charges should be dropped or dismissed.
  • Malicious Persecution – While most shopkeepers and restaurant managers will not bother themselves with turning in a minor attempting to purchase alcohol, they do have the option to try. However, if you can show that you were singled out as the only person that the shopkeeper or restaurant attempted to prosecute, you may receive some leniency by the Court. This is what is known as an incomplete defense in that it does not negate your commission of the crime, but may still aid in your defense and possible sentence.

What should I do if I’ve been charged with False Representation for Liquor?

As with any crime, it is very important that you speak with an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible so that you can discuss the specific circumstances as well as any defenses that may apply to your case.

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