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What are Nebraska Criminal Court Records?
Nebraska Criminal Court Records are official documents that provide a detailed account of the judicial processes of the state’s criminal courts. The information contained in the criminal court records features details of motions, briefs, orders, evidence, opinion dockets, sworn affidavit, witness testimonies, argument dockets, trial transcripts, dispositions, and other materials documented in physical or electronic form following criminal court proceedings. The Nebraska Revised Statutes § 84-712.01 expressly furnishes the public with the legal authority to view, inspect and copy criminal court records upon request, unless in exceptional cases defined by statute or court rule.
Understanding The Nebraska Criminal Court System
The Nebraska judicial body functions to adjudicate legal disputes between parties and to carry out the administration of justice in accordance with the rule of law. The various courts in the state have varying powers determined at all levels, each operating within their respective jurisdiction. The individual powers of the courts are dictated by the State Constitution states the hierarchy of judicial authority as follows:
- Nebraska Supreme Court
- Nebraska Court of Appeals
- Nebraska District Courts
- Nebraska County Courts
- Nebraska special courts including the juvenile courts, workers’ compensation court, and the various problem-solving courts.
Nebraska Supreme Court
The Nebraska Supreme Court is the highest court of final authority in the state. It bears the standard responsibility of reviewing cases appealed from the lower courts, delivers administrative duties, and also answers all questions of constitutional law in the state. Appeals challenging trial court ruling in capital punishment cases involving the death penalty and life imprisonment sentences are exclusively heard by the Supreme Court. In special instances, the court has original jurisdiction over primary cases that have not been heard at a lower court prior to the Supreme Court sitting.
Nebraska Court of Appeals
The Nebraska Court of Appeals is the intermediate appellate court tasked with providing legislative ruling over appeals challenging trial court decisions with the exception of appeals statutorily mandated to be heard by the supreme court.
The Nebraska District Courts are the trial courts of general jurisdiction over major criminal and civil matters. Each of the twelve district court judges presides over a specific geographical area organized to suit the legal needs of the 95 counties in the state.
Nebraska County Courts
The Nebraska County Courts are courts of limited jurisdiction, constituting the courts where most criminal cases originated. These are courts that most citizens are familiar with because they are located in each of the 95 counties and handle common cases such as misdemeanors, traffic infractions, as well as small claims civil cases and family law cases. The county court judges conduct preliminary hearings when presented with felony criminal cases to determine whether there is enough evidence to support the charges. In cases of established proof of probable cause, the defendant is further transferred to stand trial at the district court. The various problem-solving courts in Nebraska are individual-based, state-run programs channeled at curbing the grass-root menaces that may lead to future criminal offenses.
What’s Included in a Nebraska Criminal Court Record?
The information featured in a Nebraska Criminal Court Record is dependent on the nature of the offense and the proceedings of the case. Records may include:
- The personal and contact information of the defendant of the plaintiff and defendant
- Details of the criminal charge(s) as well as the nature of the offense
- Criminal history review for repeat and chronic offenders.
- The outcome of the mental/psychological evaluation of the defendant(if applicable)
- Method of defendant’s arrest and details of any issued warrant for arrest and property search
- Information pertaining to court summons, plea, motions, and court appearances, sworn affidavits, witness testimonies, and other actions following the case
- The presiding judge’s final verdict including details of acquittal or punishment disposed to the defendant
- Details of appellate court decision following review (if applicable)
How to Find Criminal Court Records in Nebraska
In compliance with the 2000 Nebraska Revised Statutes § 84-712, Interested persons may view, and obtain copies of criminal court records upon request except in cases where access is denied based on legal grounds. The available channels for accessing Nebraska criminal court records include:
- By making in-person requests to the court custodian
- By researching the online databases maintained in the different court websites or in third-party aggregate sites
- By sending written mail-in requests to the appropriate court
How to Find Nebraska Criminal Court Records Online?
Nebraska's Revised Statutes made provisions for extensive online resources from which the public can access criminal court information remotely. These online databases are maintained in a unified database as well as in county-managed repositories. Given the restrictions on criminal court records, only publicly available information is accessible while sealed or confidential records are excluded. The Nebraska online tools/e-services include:
- The Nebraska Trial Court Case Search Portal
- The Nebraska Trial Court Calendars
- The Appellate Court Case portal
- The Nebraska Appellate Court online library
- The Appellate court Oral Argument Schedule
The Nebraska Trial Court Case Search Portal is an e-feature of the state’s online resource that provides state-wide information on the criminal cases heard in the various county trial courts. This unified case management system is otherwise known as JUSTICE and may be searched by party name using the One-Time Case Search Feature of the website. This portal provides general case information and may turn up many results containing different records of persons with similar names. Users are charged $15 per record search conducted. Furthermore, frequent users researching multiple records or persons in need of case-specific information may opt to a subscription plan maintained by the Nebraska government. Each account is billed $50 per annum and users can research general case information free of charge via the login portal. The searching requirements include the party names, court type, case type/subtype, name of the county where the case was heard, year of case filing, as well as the names of the judge and attorney assigned to the case. If case-specific information is also requested, a $1 search fee is paid. Subscribers may also conduct searches by utilizing the judgment date and court case number for $1 per search. The trial court calendars are available online for courts using the JUSTICE case scheduling system. Interested persons are required to search the database by date or last name of any party involved in the case.
The appellate level courts provide e-services via a case management system known as SCCALES. Searches can be made by case number, using the appellate case number or the original trial court case number. However, before access is granted, a subscription plan of $50 per annum is required. General case information is accessible free of charge and case-specific details may be viewed for $1. Interested parties may inspect appellate court opinions free of charge by utilizing the Nebraska Appellate Court online library which serves as a state-wide repository of officially published online opinions. The appellate court calendars and oral arguments may be viewed by date or month of publication by using the Appellate court Oral Argument Schedule.
Similarly, publicly available records are accessible from some third-party websites. These websites offer the benefit of not being limited by geographical record availability and can often serve as a starting point when researching a specific or multiple records. To find a record using the search engines on these sites, interested parties must provide:
- The name of someone involved providing it is a not a juvenile
- The assumed location of the record in question such as a city, county, or state name
Third-party sites are not government-sponsored websites, and record availability may differ from official channels
How to Access Nebraska Criminal Court Records in Person?
Criminal court records in the state of Nebraska may also be accessed via in-person courthouse visits by interested persons. Per state statutes, the court custodians set some limitations on the online dissemination of court records. Hence, confidential and sealed records are strictly available by in-person physical requests only. To successfully render a criminal record request, the following steps are recommended:
Step 1: Find the Record Custodian
It is the primary responsibility of various court clerks to generate, manage, and disseminate criminal court records. As a rule of thumb in looking up criminal court records in person, the requesting party is required to locate the custodian of the specific court in which the case was handled. Other contributing factors that may affect the location of a record is the status of the case, how long ago the case was closed, and local court storage guidelines. Most misdemeanors are handled in the county courts while felony criminal case records are typically housed in the judicial district courts. On the other hand, old criminal court records may be stored in off-site locations for which the requester may be asked to return. Records of cases reviewed by the appellate-level courts may be accessed in the Supreme Court, Court of Appeal, as well as from the particular district court where the case was originally heard. Querying parties are required to consult the District Court or County Court contact directories.
Step 2: Gather All Relevant Information
After ascertaining the location of the record of interest, the requesters may then proceed to gather case-specific information unique to the case. This relevant information limits the case search thereby saving time and resources. The court clerks may have court records retrieval guidelines unique to the court. Primarily, the general case information required for inspecting these records includes the case number, names of the parties involved in the case, the approximate filing date, the date the case was closed, the appellate case number (if applicable), and the name of the presiding judge. Additionally, interested persons with average internet knowledge may download and print the relevant record request form to promote efficiency.
Step 3: Provide Identification & Fee Requirements
Generally, requesters are required to provide the estimated costs of search and/or copies before a record request is processed by the court custodian. Nebraska Freedom of Information Act allows the public the right to requests without stating the purpose of the request. However, the provision of a valid government-issued photo ID is necessary to make copies of records. This is especially important for persons who are requesting restricted records/or information. Most sealed records are only accessible after a reasonable motion to unseal petition is addressed to the court and a court order is authorized.
Step 4: Make the Request
During normal business days and hours, requesters are required to visit the office of the record custodians with the information detailed in the first three steps. An appointment schedule is recommended to avoid fruitless journeys. Most courthouses provide self-help terminals where the record of interest may be viewed and inspected. If the record of interest is not available on the terminal, chances are that the record is confidential, the case is old, or that the requester is looking at the wrong courthouse. The information featured in the public terminals is general case information and if specific details and/or copies are needed, a manual record request form should be filed and necessary fees paid.
How to Obtain Nebraska Criminal Court Records via Mail?
To obtain criminal court records by mail, residents must first establish that the court offers this service. Interested parties can confirm this by contacting the clerk of court or visiting the court’s official webpage. Mailing details, as well as the cost for coping official court records, can be found on most court websites. While the rules vary with different clerks, most courts require a physical address for mailing records. Payment for records may be made by credit card or check. Interested parties are advised to include a self-addressed stamped return envelope. Obtaining records by mail may take 3 days to 2 weeks determining on the court and the difficulty in finding the record.
Are all Nebraska Criminal Court Records Public?
The state of Nebraska features a forward public record law, dictating that all criminal court records be made available to the public. The state’s public record law is distinct in that the public can access these records without stating the purpose of the request thereby allowing free-way use of records without restrictions. Criminal court records and court case information which are available online are considered public record. These are sometimes maintained in case search information portals, minutes, published opinions calendars, and trial transcripts which details the general case information as well as case action summaries. In contrast, some criminal court records may be deemed confidential or sealed by statute or court order hence restricting public access to such records. To access such records, the requester is required to meet the eligibility criteria. Sealed records typically yield a “Records Sealed” result detailing the reason why the record was sealed as well as the sealing judge. It is important to note that payments made in search of sealed records are non-refundable.
What Records are Automatically Sealed by Nebraska State Statutes?
Individuals who meet the sealing and expungement criteria may render their criminal court records confidential. However, specific records are automatically sealed by the court pursuant to the Nebraska revised statutes and they include:
- The identifying information of victims, selected witnesses, jurors, and juveniles involved in a case
- Medical treatment records and psychological evaluation reports
- The financial information and personal identifying numbers of selected individuals in the case
- Some criminal investigation records and preliminary drafts.
- With the exemption of sexual offense cases, all records pertaining to the lifestyle of some individuals mentioned in the case including the sexual lifestyle and sex change are protected.
Can I Access Nebraska Sealed Criminal Court Records?
Sealed or confidential criminal court records are available to persons who meet specific eligibility requirements according to the provisions of Nebraska state law. Generally, the person who sealed the record can view the record and has the ability to sign on another person’s behalf to inspect sealed criminal records. To access the records, a confidential record request form must be filled by the specific individual who sealed the record. Copying costs, mailing costs, and additional payments for certified copies may be made as obtainable in public record request criteria. Access to restricted criminal court records may also be obtained by persons who challenge the confidentiality status of the record with reasonable arguments. To explore this route, the requesting party is required to petition the court for a court order authorizing access to the record of interest.
Are Nebraska Juvenile Criminal Records Open to the Public?
In the state of Nebraska, juvenile court records are confidential and are not accessible to members of the public. However, in cases where a juvenile is tried as an adult in some felony crimes, the records of the proceedings become public records. In some instances, some juvenile criminal court records may be sealed or expunged if the juvenile meets the sealing/expungement criteria. Expunged records are destroyed and may not be accessible to any member of the public, notwithstanding the legal authority. Sealed records, on the other hand, can be viewed by authorized designated parties such as the members of the law enforcement agencies, the parents, legal guardian, or representing attorney of the juvenile and victims, as well as some child protection service agencies and authorized educational personnel.