Additional Information: Felony Cases in Nebraska

Additional Information: Felony Cases in Nebraska

A felony is a serious criminal offense for which a conviction may result in imprisonment for a year or more, in addition to other penalties.  Crimes and punishment and much of our criminal process are established by the Nebraska Legislature.

For district court contact information click here.

Flowcharts

The flowchart below for Felony Cases may help you understand what happens in court.   

For additional information on less serious offenses, see Misdemeanor Cases in Nebraska.

Court Appearances

In most cases a felony begins with an arrest, and the defendant may be required to post a bond to ensure his/appearance at a future court date. 

The defendant is normally scheduled to appear first in county court, where the judge will determine if there is sufficient evidence to send the case on to the district court for arraignment, and determination of innocence or guilt. At that court appearance, the judge will give you your rights (Your Rights in Nebraska's County Courts) explain the charge(s) and possible penalties. If you plead not guilty, another date will be scheduled for your trial.

Because of the potential for jail time, an attorney is usually appointed in county court if the defendant cannot afford to hire an attorney. In order to make such request, a Financial Affidavit must be completed.

At your first appearance before a district court judge, you will have 3 options:

  • Plead “guilty” – admit that you did what you are charged with;
  • Plead “no contest” – you don’t admit anything but don’t want to contest the charges;

With either of the pleas above, the judge will usually find you guilty and determine an appropriate penalty under the law, or you may

  • Plead “not guilty”. 

If you plead “not guilty” the case will be set for another court date to allow you and your attorney to gather evidence and arrange for witnesses, if you wish, to help you present your case to the court.

Motions (requests for orders and clarification) may be filed.  Each motion will be scheduled for hearing and decided before the trial.    

Most trials are argued to a judge.  However, since a felony can result in jail time if you are convicted, a Jury Trial Request can be filed to request your case be heard by a jury. A jury is a group of people – 12 in district court – chosen from the community to hear the facts and decide the guilt or innocence of the defendant. 

If found guilty, the judge will determine a sentence following the guidelines set in the Nebraska Revised Statutes, Chapter 28. The sentence may include jail or prison time, a fine, payment of damages to a victim, or a period of supervision by a probation officer. Go to “About Probation in Nebraska” A presentence investigation may be ordered to ensure that the judge has information about the defendant and the situation to ensure that the sentence is appropriate to the crime.  The court can allow the defendant time to pay a fine or other moneys due. 

Court Costs

Anyone who has charges filed in court must pay court costs as required under Nebraska law and set out on the fee schedule, which can be viewed here. You can pay your fines and costs online on the Nebraska Judicial Branch Internet Payment System.

Problem-Solving Courts

In some areas, problem solving courts are available to allow defendants to work with support from a judge and local professionals to deal with issues and avoid conviction and possible jail time. Information on problem solving courts can be found here:  https://supremecourt.nebraska.gov/probation/adult/problem-solving-courts.     

Additional statutory background