You’ve heard on KMTV that the most prevalent criminal offenses in the Midwest are those related to drug use, manufacturing, distribution, and trafficking. You just didn’t think your nephew Felix, a.k.a. The Cat, was part of it. “The Cat” is facing a criminal case in Omaha after being arrested for selling dope in the Old Market area. He’s locked up at the Douglas County Corrections Center and you are thinking about bailing him out. But first, you have a lot of questions. Should you hire him a lawyer? Is he going be charged with a misdemeanor or felony? Is he going to prison?
Here is some general information about what to expect in most cases if you or a loved one is facing an Omaha criminal case.
Getting Arrested in Omaha
Getting arrested in Douglas County is the start of a criminal case. You’ll likely have been arrested by one of these law enforcement members: the Omaha Police Department, the Douglas County Sheriff's Department, or the Nebraska State Patrol.
The ladies and gentlemen in uniform have to follow a certain set of rules and procedures during the investigation and subsequent arrest. You should be read your Miranda rights. You probably know those famous words from TV or the movies, beginning with “You have the right to remain silent...” Then, the police have two options: take you to jail for booking or release you with a promise to appear at a later date.
Posting a Bond in Omaha
There’s two ways to leave jail at that point -- you may either be released on your own recognizance or have to post a bond. A bond is money that you have to pay to the courts in order to be released from jail pending trial. You usually have to put up 10% of the total amount of bail the judge sets in your case in order to get out.
To post a bond, go to the Douglas County Department of Corrections on 710 South 17th Street. They accept cash or money orders 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. If you want to visit an inmate, click here.
Time Limit to File Charges
After you are arrested, the police will submit your case to the Douglas County prosecutor for review. The prosecutor will decide what the charges against you will be.
The State must file their case within a certain time limit or they will be barred from ever filing charges.
However, the prosecutor doesn’t have a time limit to charge a person with some felonies such as treason, murder, arson, forgery, sexual assault in 1st or 2nd, sexual assault of child in 1st, 2nd or 3rd degree, incest, sexual assault in 3rd degree with a victim under the age of 16. For most other felonies, the time limit is three years from the date of the offense.
For most misdemeanors, the time limit is either 18 months or one year.
Your first court appearance is called an arraignment. This will happen at the Omaha courthouse. Yes, it’s somewhat like you see on television. A judge or magistrate is typically in a black robe, staring down at you. It’s perfectly normal to feel intimidated. Courtrooms are not the most inviting, warm or fuzzy places.
However, this is when the judge typically advises you of your rights, gives you a copy of the charges against you, and asks if you wish to be referred to the Omaha County public defender. You can also hire your own Omaha criminal defense attorney. At this point, you typically will also enter a plea of guilty, no contest, or not guilty. The court will then set future court dates.
The court may impose other conditions of release. For instance, in most domestic violence cases the court will issue a no-contact order between the defendant and the alleged victim.
Let’s talk about misdemeanors. They are less serious than felonies, but remember, a conviction or guilty plea can have repercussions beyond the courtroom including immigration and future employment consequences.
There are seven types of classes of misdemeanors. The first one, a Class I misdemeanor, is the most severe. Penalties range from jail time and fines, to mandatory probation, community service, or substance abuse treatment.
Here’s some examples:
• Up to One Year in Jail
• Up to $1,000 Fine
• Up to Three Months in Jail
• Up to $500 Fine
• Up to $100 Fine
Another form of misdemeanor in the State of Nebraska is a Class W misdemeanor. That class of crime is reserved for driving under the influence convictions.
Common Omaha misdemeanors include assault, passing a bad check, littering, disorderly conduct, driving under the influence, theft, and a variety of other criminal offenses.
Omaha Felony Charges
Getting arrested and charged with an Omaha felony is bad news. A conviction can lead to the loss or limitation of certain constitutional rights, including the right to vote, and the right to own or possess a firearm.
There are several classes (I-IV) of felony crimes, with punishment ranging from the death penalty to one year in prison.
Omaha felonies include murder, manslaughter, arson, drug possession, drug sales, robbery and forgery, just to name a few.
If you go to trial, the prosecution must prove to a jury that you are guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. Remember, you can’t be compelled to testify. If the jury finds you guilty, the judge will then proceed to sentence you.
The information above has all been general in nature. For information that is specific to a case, a qualified criminal defense attorney may be one of the best resources.