Big Changes to Criminal Sentences in Nebraska

In 2015, much of the media focus on criminal justice in Nebraska surrounded the debate over the death penalty and good time calculations.  However the legislation with perhaps the broadest impact did not receive widespread media attention.  That legislation was LB 605 (see it at, written in response to a report that found Nebraska prison sentences needlessly long and Nebraska prisons overcrowded as a result.  With the new legislation, felony sentences were reduced and new, lighter felony classifications were instituted, particularly for non-violent offenses.  A new procedure of post-release supervision was put in place to get defendants out of the prison while ensuring the criminal justice system still has oversight over their actions.  Another big change in the law is that defendants convicted of Class IV felonies will presumptively receive probation instead of prison time.  Misdemeanor offenses, however, were mostly unaffected by LB 605.  This has created a situation where a defendant may be better off pleading to a Class IV felony, even if a plea deal for a Class I misdemeanor is offered.  It will take some time for this and other practical implications of the law to be worked out in courtrooms across Nebraska.  Of note, these changes only affect cases dealing with crimes committed after August 30th, 2015.