For Your Information: Criminal Cases in Nebraska

For Your Information: Criminal Cases in Nebraska

Criminal offenses in Nebraska are usually heard in the county courts. These may include violations of city ordinances, traffic infractions and misdemeanors. Crimes, punishment and criminal process are established by the Nebraska Legislature. For specific County Court contact information please click here.

Crimes and Punishments are set out in Nebraska Revised Statutes, Chapter 28.

Criminal Procedure is found in Nebraska Revised Statutes, Chapter 29.

Nebraska Supreme Court Rules and case law – decisions of the Nebraska Supreme Court and other courts – also impact criminal cases.   

Flow charts for Misdemeanor and Felony Cases may help you understand what happens in court.   

These flow charts can be found here.

In most cases, a court appearance begins with a citation issued to the defendant, but you may get notice by mail or personal service by a sheriff that you are charged with on offense and have a court date.

The Nebraska Supreme Court Rule § 6-1463 dictates requirements for citations filed in Nebraska Courts.  

For less serious offenses, you may have the option of waiving your rights (Your Right's in Nebraska's County Courts) and your court appearance and paying the fines and costs without going to court. 

The Nebraska Supreme Court Rule § 6-1455 establishes a statewide waiver schedule which sets the fines for many offenses.  Local judges may approve waiver amounts for offenses in their courts. 

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. 

If the offense with which you are charged does not qualify for a waiver of your court appearance, or if you go to court to contest or explain the charges, the citation will include a court date for your appearance.  At that court appearance, the judge will give you your rights (Your Right's in Nebraska's County Courts) explain the charge(s) and possible penalties.

If you are charged with an offense which may result in jail time, and cannot afford an attorney, you can request that an attorney be appointed to represent you at no cost to you. 

In order to make such request, a Financial Affidavit must be completed.


Felonies

If charged with a felony – that is an offense for which a conviction may result in imprisonment for a year or more -  the defendant will most often 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. (See flowchart for felony criminal case).

At your first appearance before a 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; or

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

  • Plead “not guilty”. 

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

Most trials are argued to a judge.  However, if you are charged with an offense which may result in jail time if you are convicted, you may submit a Jury Trial Request to request your case be heard by a jury. A jury is a group of people – 6 in county court and 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.  (link) the sentence may include a fine, jail, payment of damages to a victim, or a period of supervision by a probation officer (link to probation website)