The First Amendment gives everyone the right to freedom of religion. The Nevada Legislature has further determined that selling liquor near any camp or field meeting for religious purposes is detrimental to this freedom of religion. Convictions for selling alcohol near a religious camp can carry harsh fines and even possible jail time.

What is the legal definition of Selling Liquor at Camp Meetings?

NRS 201.280 defines Selling liquor at Camp Meetings.

NRS 201.280 – Selling liquor at camp meetings; penalty.

Every person who shall erect or keep a booth, tent, stall or other contrivance for the purpose of selling or otherwise disposing of any wine, or spirituous or fermented liquors, or any drink of which wine, spirituous or fermented liquors from a part, within 1 mile of any camp or field meeting for religious worship, during the time of holding such meeting, is guilty of a misdemeanor.

I don’t understand, why can’t I sell alcohol at a religious meeting?

Alcohol has a tendency to induce noisy and disruptive behavior. Selling alcohol, therefore, is likely to lead to disruption of the religious meeting. In order to allow people to exercise their rights to freedom of religion, the Nevada Legislature has outlawed the sale of alcohol at or near religious meetings.

So, what exactly does that mean?

Generally, this statute is in place for religious meetings that take place somewhere other than a church, such as at a camp or other outdoor place.

It is illegal to “set up shop” and sell alcohol. In other words, you cannot set up any kind of booth, tent, stall or other “contrivance” for the purpose of selling or distributing alcohol.

Moreover, no such booth, tent, or stall can be set up within 1 mile of the meeting. Generally, the organizers of the meeting itself would likely prohibit the sale of alcohol within the meeting, so this extra buffer-zone helps to keep alcohol from being brought into the meeting, and also helps to ensure that intoxicated people will not disturb the meeting. (for a discussion of disturbing religious meetings, click here.)

What are the possible penalties?

Selling alcohol at or within 1 mile of a camp meeting is a misdemeanor in Nevada, carrying possible penalties that include:

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

Are there any Defenses?

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

  • No Religious Meeting – The purpose of the statute is to restrict the sale of alcohol at or near religious meetings. Clearly, if you can show that the meeting was not religious in purpose, then there was no violation, and the charges should be dropped or dismissed.
  • Meeting was over – Again, the purpose of this statute is to restrict alcohol sales at religious meetings. Consequently, the statute specifically states “during the time of holding such a meeting.” If you can show that you did not set up your booth, tent, or stall after the meeting, then the charges against you should be dropped or dismissed. However, this is not a total defense, because the prosecutor may choose to alter the charges to “disturbing a religious meeting” (click here).
  • 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.

What should I do if I’ve been charged with Selling liquor at a camp meeting?

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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