Nebraska Misdemeanor Crimes by Class and Sentences

Learn what having a misdemeanor conviction means in Nebraska, what sentencing alternatives are available, and why speaking to a lawyer is important.

By , Attorney · Mitchell Hamline School of Law
Updated 11/16/2023

Like most states, Nebraska distinguishes misdemeanors from felonies based on the amount of time a person could spend behind bars. Misdemeanors carry a maximum possible sentence of a year in jail. Penalties of more than a year's incarceration and up to life behind bars are felonies. Check out Nebraska Felony Crimes by Class and Sentences to learn more.

This article will discuss classifications, penalties, and sentencing options for Nebraska misdemeanors.

Classification and Penalties for Nebraska Misdemeanors

Nebraska divides its misdemeanors into seven classes. Class I and W are the most serious misdemeanors, while Class IV and V are the least serious with no possibility of jail time.

Class I Misdemeanor Penalties

Class I misdemeanors carry a maximum sentence of one year in jail and a $1,000 fine. Examples include third-degree assault, stalking, and violating a sexual assault protection order.

Class W Misdemeanor Penalties

Class W misdemeanors apply to DUI offenses and carry maximum sentences ranging from 60 days to a year in jail (depending on an offender's past DUI convictions).

Class II Misdemeanor Penalties

Class II misdemeanors carry a maximum sentence of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Examples include hazing, petty theft, and public indecency.

Class III Misdemeanor Penalties

Class III misdemeanors carry a maximum sentence of three months in jail and a $500 fine. Examples include criminal mischief, unlawful graffiti, and disturbing the peace.

Class IIIA Misdemeanor Penalties

Class IIIA misdemeanors carry a maximum sentence of seven days in jail and a $500 fine. Examples include certain dangerous dog violations and illegal possession of a radar device.

Class IV Misdemeanor Penalties

Class IV misdemeanors carry a maximum fine of $500. Examples include certain violations relating to election and campaign laws, wildlife permits, and SNAP benefits.

Class V Misdemeanor Penalties

Class V misdemeanors carry a maximum fine of $100. Examples include vehicle equipment violations, ordinance violations, and underage smoking.

When Misdemeanors Become Felonies in Nebraska

Nebraska law provides enhanced penalties for certain misdemeanors, such as those motivated by bias or committed against vulnerable victims, as well as repeat offenses. Enhanced penalties increase the possible maximum sentence available for the offense.

For instance, a second domestic assault involving bodily injury bumps up from a class I misdemeanor to a class IIIA felony. The same increased penalty applies to a third-degree assault when committed against an on-duty emergency responder or health care provider. And certain crimes (including criminal mischief and trespass) increase to the next higher penalty classification when committed as a hate crime. These are just a few examples of Nebraska's sentencing enhancements.

(Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 28-106, 28-111, 28-323, 28-931 (2023).)

Sentencing Options and Alternatives for Nebraska Misdemeanors

Judges have several sentencing options and alternatives for misdemeanor offenses. While jail time is an option for some misdemeanors, it's not necessarily a given. A person with a relatively clean record could receive a deferred judgment or probation sentence and serve little or no jail time. A first-time offender might even be eligible for pretrial diversion, which can avoid a criminal record altogether.

A sentencing judge will be looking at the circumstances of the offense, the defendant's character and criminal record, and the likelihood that the defendant can remain law-abiding. A repeat offender who hasn't shown the ability to stay out of trouble could very well spend time behind bars.

Incarceration (Jail) and Fines for Misdemeanors

A judge may order a convicted misdemeanor offender to spend time in jail. Nebraska laws dictate the maximum sentence and, for certain DUIs, a minimum sentence for a misdemeanor conviction. (See above for classifications and penalties). The judge can impose any amount of jail time up to the maximum allowed. It's common for the judge to also impose fines, court costs, and restitution (payment to compensate a victim).

Misdemeanor Probation

Instead of jail time, a judge may choose to place the defendant on probation. Probation allows a defendant to serve their time in the community—but only as long as they comply with court conditions. Common probation conditions include remaining law-abiding, maintaining employment or attending school, attending counseling, paying restitution to victims, completing community service, not possessing firearms, and remaining in the state. In some cases, a judge can impose short jail sentences as part of probation.

For a first misdemeanor offense, the judge can order probation for up to two years. A second misdemeanor bumps up the time on probation to five years. If the probationer does well on probation, the court can discharge the probationer early. Successful completion of probation means the criminal sentence is complete. Violating probation can mean being brought back in front of the court to face administrative sanctions, custodial sanctions (short jail stays), or imposition of the original suspended jail sentence.

(Neb. Rev. Stat. §§ 29-2261, 29-2262, 29-2262.04, 29-2263 (2023).)

Deferred Entry of Judgment for Misdemeanors

Except in certain cases (like DUI and domestic abuse), a court may find a defendant guilty but hold off on entering the conviction and imposing the sentence. The court will consider several factors before deferring judgment, such as the seriousness of the offense, harm caused to victims, and the defendant's character and history. The prosecutor can also object to a deferral.

If granted, the judge places the defendant on probation subject to conditions. A defendant who successfully completes their probation can have the case dismissed and records sealed. (More on this below.) But upon a violation, the judge can impose any sentence that could have originally been set.

(Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-2292 (2023).)

Misdemeanor Pretrial Diversion

The law authorizes prosecutor officers to establish pretrial diversion programs. A defendant must generally apply to participate in the program, and the individual prosecutor's office determines eligibility requirements. A program might, for instance, only accept first-time, non-violent misdemeanor offenders. Some programs address only juvenile offenders or offenders with mental health issues, while others focus on restorative justice work between police and community members. Acceptance is not guaranteed even when the program is offered.

Generally in diversion programs, the prosecutor will hold off on filing charges and the participant must agree to complete all the program conditions, such as completing community service, remaining law-abiding, and paying a fee. The prosecutor may dismiss the case upon completing the program or refile charges for a violation. Successfully completing diversion comes with several advantages, including avoiding a criminal court record and having all charges dropped and sealed.

(Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-3603 (2023).)

Criminal Statute of Limitations in Nebraska

Like other states, Nebraska law requires prosecutors to file criminal charges within a certain amount of time after a crime is committed or believed to have been committed. This time limit is known as a criminal statute of limitations. For misdemeanors, this time limit ranges from 12 to 18 months. Find more information in Criminal Statute of Limitations in Nebraska. (Neb. Rev. Stat. § 29-110 (2023).)

Talk to a Lawyer

A conviction for a misdemeanor in Nebraska can become part of your permanent criminal record. If you are convicted later of another crime, the court can consider your prior conviction and impose a harsher sentence in the new case. And a conviction—even for a minor crime—can hurt you when you are applying for a job, housing, loan, or professional license.

If you've been arrested or charged with a misdemeanor, talk to a criminal defense attorney in your area. Your attorney can review your case, protect your rights, and work to achieve the best outcome in your case. A local attorney will know how the prosecutor's office typically handles a case like yours.

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