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Nebraska Crimes: Laws & Penalties

Nebraska Crimes: Laws & Penalties

Understanding Felonies vs. Misdemeanors

First things first, let’s talk about the difference between felonies and misdemeanors. In Nebraska, these are the two main classifications of crimes:

  • Felonies are more serious offenses that carry a potential sentence of one year or more in state prison. These include crimes like murder, robbery, and sexual assault.
  • Misdemeanors are less severe crimes that are typically punishable by up to one year in county jail. Examples include petty theft, simple assault, and first-offense DUIs.

Pretty straightforward, right? The main thing to remember is that felonies will land you in prison, while misdemeanors generally mean serving time in jail if convicted.

Nebraska’s Felony Classifications

Now, let’s break down the different classes of felonies in Nebraska. The state uses a lettered system, starting with the most serious offenses:

  • Class I Felony
    • Examples: First-degree murder
    • Penalty: Death penalty
  • Class IA Felony
    • Examples: Kidnapping, second-degree murder
    • Penalty: Life imprisonment
  • Class IB Felony
    • Examples: Sexual assault of a child, robbery
    • Penalty: 20 years to life imprisonment
  • Class IC Felony
    • Examples: Assault on an officer, possession of certain drugs
    • Penalty: 5-50 years imprisonment
  • Class ID Felony
    • Examples: Assault on an officer with a deadly weapon
    • Penalty: 3-50 years imprisonment
  • Class II Felony
    • Examples: First-degree assault, first-degree sexual assault
    • Penalty: 1-50 years imprisonment
  • Class IIA Felony
    • Examples: Second-degree assault, robbery
    • Penalty: 0-20 years imprisonment
  • Class III Felony
    • Examples: Possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person
    • Penalty: 0-4 years imprisonment and/or $25,000 fine
  • Class IIIA Felony
    • Examples: Possession of a controlled substance
    • Penalty: 0-3 years imprisonment and/or $10,000 fine
  • Class IV Felony
    • Examples: Theft of $1,500-$5,000
    • Penalty: 0-2 years imprisonment and/or $10,000 fine

As you can see, the penalties get progressively less severe as you move down the classes. But even a Class IV felony conviction can mean up to 2 years behind bars, so these are all serious matters.

Misdemeanor Classifications

Misdemeanors in Nebraska also follow a class system, but with numbers instead of letters. Check it out:

  • Class I Misdemeanor
    • Examples: Third-degree assault, second-offense DUI
    • Penalty: 0-1 year imprisonment and/or $1,000 fine
  • Class II Misdemeanor
    • Examples: First-offense DUI, resisting arrest
    • Penalty: 0-6 months imprisonment and/or $1,000 fine
  • Class III Misdemeanor
    • Examples: Disorderly conduct, minor in possession of alcohol
    • Penalty: 0-3 months imprisonment and/or $500 fine
  • Class IIIA Misdemeanor
    • Examples: Possession of marijuana (less than 1 ounce)
    • Penalty: 0-7 days imprisonment and/or $500 fine
  • Class IV Misdemeanor
    • Examples: Speeding 11-15 mph over the limit
    • Penalty: $100-$500 fine
  • Class V Misdemeanor
    • Examples: Speeding 6-10 mph over the limit
    • Penalty: $0-$100 fine

So while misdemeanors are less serious than felonies, they can still result in jail time and hefty fines. Plus, having any kind of criminal record can make it tougher to get a job, housing, or financial aid for school.

Sentencing Guidelines

Okay, so we‘ve covered the different types of crimes and their potential penalties. But how do judges actually decide on a sentence? In Nebraska, they use something called the Nebraska Sentencing Guidelines.

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These guidelines take into account factors like:

  • The severity of the crime
  • The offender’s criminal history
  • Whether the offender cooperated with law enforcement
  • Any mitigating or aggravating circumstances

Based on these factors, the guidelines recommend a sentencing range for the judge to consider. For example, let‘s say someone is convicted of a Class IIA felony like second-degree assault. If they have no prior criminal history and there were no aggravating factors, the guidelines might recommend a sentence of 2-4 years in prison.But here‘s the thing: judges don’t have to follow the guidelines. They’re allowed to deviate from the recommended range if they feel there’s a good reason to do so. Maybe the offender showed genuine remorse and has taken steps to turn their life around. Or maybe the crime was particularly heinous and the judge wants to send a strong message. At the end of the day, sentencing is a complex process that involves weighing a lot of different factors. The guidelines are there to promote consistency and fairness, but ultimately it‘s up to the judge to decide what‘s appropriate in each case.

Real-Life Examples

To help illustrate how all of this works in practice, let‘s look at a couple of real-life cases from Nebraska.

Case #1: First-Degree Murder

In 2019, a man named Aubrey Trail was convicted of first-degree murder for killing a young woman named Sydney Loofe. Trail and his girlfriend had lured Loofe to their apartment using a dating app, where they strangled her to death and dismembered her body.Because first-degree murder is a Class I felony, Trail was facing either life in prison or the death penalty. The jury chose to spare his life, so he was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole.This case demonstrates how serious Nebraska‘s penalties for violent crimes can be. Even though Trail avoided execution, he will still spend the rest of his life behind bars with no chance of ever getting out.

Case #2: Possession of a Controlled Substance

In 2015, a woman named Sarah was pulled over for speeding in Omaha. During the traffic stop, the officer noticed an open container of alcohol in the car and asked to search the vehicle. Sarah consented, and the officer found a small bag of methamphetamine in her purse.Sarah was charged with possession of a controlled substance, which is a Class IV felony in Nebraska. She had no prior criminal history and cooperated with law enforcement throughout the process. When it came time for sentencing, the judge decided to give her 2 years of probation instead of prison time. As part of her probation, Sarah had to complete drug treatment, maintain employment, and check in regularly with her probation officer. It wasn’t easy, but she managed to stay clean and out of trouble. After successfully completing probation, Sarah was able to move on with her life and put the whole ordeal behind her.This case shows how not every felony conviction necessarily means going to prison. For lower-level offenses, especially when it’s a first-time offense, judges have the discretion to order probation instead. This gives people a chance to get help and turn things around without the disruption of a prison sentence.

Frequently Asked Questions

Before we wrap up, let’s go over some common questions I hear about Nebraska criminal law.

What’s the statute of limitations for crimes in Nebraska?

The statute of limitations is the time limit for prosecutors to file charges against someone. In Nebraska, it varies depending on the type of crime:

  • Murder and manslaughter: No time limit
  • Other felonies: 3-7 years, depending on the specific offense
  • Misdemeanors: 18 months

So if you committed a burglary 10 years ago and were never caught, you’re in the clear. But if it was murder, watch out – the state can come after you at any time.

What happens if I violate my probation?

If you break the rules of your probation, like failing a drug test or getting arrested for a new crime, the court can revoke your probation and impose a jail or prison sentence. The judge will hold a hearing where you’ll have a chance to explain yourself, but if they decide you violated probation, you could be looking at some serious consequences.Bottom line: if you’re on probation, it‘s crucial to follow all the rules and stay out of trouble. It’s not worth risking your freedom over.

Can I get my criminal record expunged in Nebraska?

Unfortunately, Nebraska is one of the few states that does not allow expungement of criminal records. That means if you’re convicted of a crime, it will stay on your record forever, even if you‘ve completed your sentence and turned your life around. The only exception is for cases where you were arrested but never charged, or where the charges were dismissed. In those situations, you can petition the court to have the arrest record removed from public view. But for actual convictions, you‘re stuck with it on your record. That’s why it‘s so important to avoid getting convicted in the first place if at all possible.

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