Nebraska State Court Appearances Involving Inmates

Nebraska State Court Appearances Involving Inmates

In most cases, individuals accused of a crime are released from jail on bail as the case makes its way through the legal system. If, for whatever reason, the accused remains incarcerated, the inmate could appear in court in person or via telephone or video feed shown on a monitor in open court. There may also be cases when someone in jail may be party to a civil lawsuit being heard in court.

Under what circumstances does a defendant in custody appear in court either in person or via a video feed from jail or prison?

Criminal Cases

When a jailed person is accused or convicted of a crime, they will likely be in court for major events in court during the legal proceedings. The person will be transported and accompanied into court by law enforcement. The rules and procedures for Expanded Media Coverage of the courts apply in these cases.

How do I determine whether an inmate will be in court in person?

It is up to the presiding judge to determine whether an inmate should appear in person of if circumstances allow access to a hearing via a two-way video feed.

When appearing in person, the judge may issue a Transport Order to the agency responsible for secure transportation. (If the inmate is in the custody of the local jail, there is no transport order.) When there will not be an in-court appearance, the judge may issue an order for a video appearance so that the jail facility can make proper arrangements for the technology.

In either case, the order is available online as part of the case file, listing the date and time the inmate has been ordered to appear.

In pending criminal cases, must an inmate always appear in person?

An accused person has the right to be in court, in person, when their case goes to trial or during hearings when evidence is in dispute or being considered by the court prior to trial.

Typical examples of evidentiary proceedings would include preliminary hearings, hearings on motions to suppress, 404 hearings, trials, sentencing and hearings on enhancement or restitution.

During other parts of the legal process the presence of an inmate in person is not required. Allowing a closed-circuit video appearance is at the discretion of the judge.

Is expanded media coverage allowed during evidentiary proceedings?

Media coverage of evidentiary proceedings is allowed, however in some cases recording of audio and video in these cases is prohibited.

Pursuant to Neb. Ct. R. Article 20 §6-2003, expanded media coverage is prohibited at hearings from pre-trial criminal motions unless there is an agreement by the parties, so you would not be able to record during hearings on motions to suppress, 404 hearings, and similar hearings. With permission, you could record at trials, sentencing, and hearings on enhancement or restitution.

What if the Defendant has already been convicted and sentenced?

The Nebraska Supreme Court ruled in 1982 while in inmate has the right to testify in support of his/her motion for post-conviction relief, he/she does not have the right to be physically present in court.

When a defendant files a motion for post-conviction relief, they are generally claiming there was a mistake made during the trial. Hearings to review those issues usually start in the court where the case was heard. These are instances where the judge has discretion to agree or to deny the inmates request for an in-person appearances or being available via closed-circuit video.

Post-conviction relief cases also may rise to the Court of Appeals or be heard before the Nebraska Supreme Court. It is extremely rare those already jailed make appearances in those courtrooms. (see below)

Civil cases

In a civil case, in which an inmate is either suing an organization or another person, the jailed party generally does not have a right to appear in person, the likelihood of an appearance in person on a civil case is slim.

Supreme Court or Court of Appeals

Incarcerated individuals do not appear in appellate level proceedings. Appellate courts are courts of review; their primary obligation is review the trial court process. Even when inmates represent themselves, there is no right to appear in court. By Supreme Court rule, cases can be submitted without argument, and even when there is oral argument, the case is submitted by the inmate on the written brief.

September 20, 2018