Countdown to Cameras in Nebraska Courts – New Rule Starts March 2017

The countdown to cameras in Nebraska courts is on. If you’re in a Nebraska district or county court after March 1, 2017, you may see a new thing in our State – news cameras inside the courtroom doors.

Nebraska is joining many other states, including Iowa, that have had cameras in their trial courtrooms for years. States like Nebraska, however, have been hesitant to allow electronic recording in courtrooms.

What the new Nebraska rule says

The new Nebraska Supreme Court Rule allows electronic cameras in Nebraska courts, recording and social media posting from the courtroom. But don’t show up at your local courthouse with a video camera or your smartphone looking to become a YouTube correspondent.

Only approved news media outlet representatives with approved equipment are allowed to record or report electronically from the courtroom. Anyone looking to provide expanded coverage under the rule has to ask for permission in advance, using a specific written form.

Under the rule, a judge can approve someone outside the approved list of media outlets who asks to take part in providing coverage in the courtroom. However, everyone looking to report from court must follow the rule’s written request and approval requirements.

There are other restrictions to cameras in Nebraska courts as well:

 

The rule doesn’t require expanded media coverage, it only allows for it. Not every Nebraska judge will allow expanded coverage in their courtroom, and the decision is up to their discretion.

The case for and against cameras in the courtroom

Cameras in Nebraska courts and other electronic recording in the courtroom have long been a hot topic of discussion.

On one side of the issue, those opposed say that the expanded coverage brings with it a risk of making witnesses afraid to testify and jurors afraid to serve, making a mockery of the judicial system, or tainting potential jurors’ opinions of a case.

There’s also concern that it may change the way a judge communicates with attorneys and his or her staff during a proceeding, cause a distraction, or disrupt the courtroom.

While some of those arguments are compelling, state courts that have allowed cameras in the courtroom have kept their expanded coverage rules – maybe for very good reasons. Some believe expanded coverage is important to the public interest.

Those in favor of expanded courtroom coverage say it gives people who otherwise may not ever go into a courtroom as close to a first-hand court experience as possible. They believe that look inside the courts can be a teaching mechanism to give people a better understanding of how our judicial system works, and increase their confidence in the courts. There’s also an argument that cameras in the courtroom supports the public’s “right to know” what happens in our judicial system.

If you think cameras in Nebraska courts will be an issue for you

If you have a case coming up in a Nebraska court that isn’t in one of the excluded categories in the infographic above, the question of cameras in the courtroom may hit close to home.  You should talk with your attorney so you’re both prepared if you think your case might attract media attention.

Media making a request for coverage must do so via a special form. They have to send the form request to the Judge and all attorneys. If you don’t have a lawyer, they have to send a copy to you. The judge will decide whether to approve the request. Depending on the type of hearing the media wants to cover, you may be able to object if you choose.

If you want to object to a media request for expanded coverage in your hearing or trial, you or your lawyer has to file a written objection. Be aware, however, there’s a time limit to file your objection. Also, it must be sent to all parties, and to those requesting to cover the hearing.

 

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 


For details about the author, Susan Reff – a Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney practicing in criminal defense, DUI, and family law –  visit her profile page.

Find out more about how Susan and Hightower Reff can help with your criminal case. 

If you need help with a DUI, criminal defense, or family law case, contact Hightower Reff Law todayand come visit with Partner Attorney Susan Reff or one of our other experienced attorneys at the firm’s Omaha office

Illegal Search and Seizure – Know What to do if it Happens to You

officer with evidence bagOne of my clients recently “walked” after a special unit of the Nebraska State Patrol trained in drug enforcement caught him with about $40,000 worth of illegal drugs. Was it fancy lawyering that got him off? Well, I think it was good lawyering, but that’s not all.  My client went free from the felony drug charges against him because of laws that protect us all, and because of his smart moves during the police encounter leading to his arrest. It’s important to understand, however, that the laws that set my client free aren’t intended to protect the guilty. Rather, they are to protect the innocent – to protect us all. That’s why, when it comes to illegal search and seizure, you should know what to do if it happens to you.

Illegal Search and Seizure – It Could Happen to You

We’re all guaranteed Constitutional protections from government intrusion on our privacy — innocent and guilty alike. With few exceptions, the police can’t legally bother you with a stop, or search you, unless there’s a credible reason to believe you’re breaking the law (ie. probable cause). But can’t and won’t are two different things.

As we’ve seen in the news, despite laws against unreasonable search and seizure, it still happens. Whether or not you think you’re doing something illegal, this is stuff everyone should know. After all, it’s not only guilty people who are subjected to unlawful police searches. It could happen to you, too. While most of the law enforcement officers I know are good cops who don’t purposefully violate citizens’ rights, everyone makes mistakes sometimes.  Law enforcement officers are no different.

Why my client walked

In the recent Douglas County, Nebraska, felony drug case in which my client “walked” instead of serving what could have been a lengthy prison sentence, it happened because the court threw out the evidence against him. All of it.

I made a motion to the court and the judge agreed with me. He refused to allow into evidence the tens-of-thousands of dollars worth of drugs the State Patrol seized from my client’s suitcase, or anything else found during the search. The judge suppressed the evidence because he agreed that it came from an illegal police search. That meant the prosecutor had no choice but to drop the felony drug charges.

I won that Motion to Suppress for my client because law enforcement violated his Constitutional rights with an illegal search. They stopped him without a good reason and they searched his bags without a warrant when there was no exception allowing them to do it. That rendered the evidence they got during the search inadmissible.

I also won because, during the stop, while the Nebraska State Troopers were violating his rights with an unlawful search, my client made the right moves.

What my client did during the stop that was smart

Pay attention to this part. I’m going to tell you exactly what my client did that helped him walk out of the courthouse after being caught with tens of thousands of dollars worth of drugs.

  1. He didn’t run from police when they approached him
  2. He didn’t argue, resist or obstruct during the encounter

It’s pretty simple stuff, but it’s not always easy. Emotions can run high during a police encounter, especially if you feel like they’re violating your rights. In my client’s case, staying calm and cooperative and not arguing or telling the troopers how to do their jobs (like they’d listen anyway) paid off for him. Had my client done any of the above, his case could have ended much differently.

How you can be smart too

If law enforcement stops you, whether or not a search follows, the best things to do to help yourself and your lawyer down the road (should the need arise) are:

 

 

If the police perform an illegal search and find evidence, a good lawyer will try to have it suppressed so it can’t be used in court. If the search was without a warrant, there may be a chance your lawyer can find a legal argument to give you some leverage in court.

Don’t make it harder on your lawyer by doing something during the cop encounter that could end up making an exception to the warrant rule, clock more charges on your docket, or give the prosecution something to use against you in court.

Remember, you aren’t going to settle any disputes over your rights there on the scene. Those will all have to be hashed out in court later. All you are likely to accomplish by resisting police or arguing with them is to make more trouble for yourself.

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 


For details about the author, Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney and criminal defense lawyer Susan Reff, visit her profile page.

Find out more about how Susan and Hightower Reff can help with your criminal case. 

If you need help with a criminal defense case, contact Hightower Reff Law todayand come visit with Partner Attorney Susan Reff at the firm’s Omaha office

Using GPS to Track Your Spouse During Divorce – Forbidden or a Free-for-all?

cell phone tracking and gps trackingUsing GPS to track your spouse during divorce – or tracking them via their cell phone – is a relatively new thing. Beware however, digitally tracking your spouse is a legally dicy deed.

If you think your spouse is digitally sleuthing you, there are some things you can do.

Using GPS to track your spouse – forbidden, frowned upon, or a free-for-all? 

This month marks the five year anniversary of the first Supreme Court Case to address protection of our privacy rights against digital age government intrusion. In that case, the government used GPS without a warrant to track a suspected drug dealer. The Supreme Court decided government use of GPS tracking is a “search,” that triggers Constitutional protections of our privacy.

However, when two private citizens are involved (like using GPS to track your spouse), and there’s no government action at issue, the rules are different. Sometimes those rules aren’t so clear.

To track or not to track? 

In a Nebraska divorce case or other Nebraska family law case, (or in criminal court) the Judge is likely to view recording sound or images of people differently than only tracking whereabouts of a vehicle.

Not long ago, a Nebraska woman involved in a domestic relations case sewed a recording device into her four-year-old child’s teddy bear. As a result, the court ordered her to pay quite a bit of money in damages, plus attorney fees and costs, for violating her ex-husband’s privacy.

Clearly, if you’re considering using GPS to track your spouse, or tracking your spouse via their cell phone, you should consult with an attorney. Ideally, that attorney should have deep experience in both family and criminal law. Here at Hightower Reff, we practice in both areas of law – family law and criminal law. That means when a client’s question crosses practice area boundaries, we can give them a quick, knowledgeable answer.

Ownership is key

In general, in Nebraska, if you’re thinking of installing a GPS unit on a vehicle to track the vehicle’s movements, make sure your name is on the title. If you’re thinking of using an app for cell phone tracking, make sure it’s through a device on your account.

In Nebraska, you could also hire a private investigator to do spousal surveillance for you. Most PI’s in Nebraska use electronic surveillance after they’ve watched the subject enough to establish a pattern of behavior.

If there’s a protection order against you however, paying someone else to follow your ex for you isn’t likely to play well with a Judge (to say the least).

Foreseeable fails 

Beware – using GPS to track your spouse during a divorce (or otherwise) could put you in hot water. Depending upon the situation between you and your spouse, and how you go about monitoring his or her movements, you could run afoul of harassment or stalking laws.

Additionally, if there’s a protection order in place against you, tracking of any sort is an automatic no-go.

Also, emotions are often intense during a divorce. If your spouse finds out what you’ve been up to, your digital detective work may make bad feelings between you and your soon to be ex-spouse even worse.

Tracking cost-benefit analysis

Another thing to consider if you’re thinking of using GPS to track your spouse, or tracking them via their cell phone, is whether the value of information you may get is likely to be worth the risk. If you’re considering using the information in court during your divorce or other family law case, talk to your attorney about whether it’s likely to be admissible.

Consider also that, even if the Judge lets in the evidence, you could be the one who comes out looking the worst. It may appear that you have control issues, are unreasonable – or you’re just a jerk.

All states aren’t the same

Keep in mind that Nebraska law is different from laws of some other states, so this information may not apply elsewhere. Also, whether tracking or surveillance of a certain nature is legal can change depending on what, if anything, is recorded.

It’s always best to consult with a trusted attorney licensed in your jurisdiction before you do something that may get you in hot water. This is especially true when it comes to something that could have criminal penalties – like GPS or cell phone tracking or surveillance.

Protecting your own digital privacy during divorce – what you can do

While you’re considering going modern-day Inspector Gadget, your spouse may have already beat you to the electronics store (or website, or app store.. or to your phone). But there are some things you can do to protect your privacy from digital disruption during your divorce.

 

If you think you’ve been tracked (digitally or otherwise), tell your lawyer. She or he can ask written questions of opposing counsel to find out whether your spouse or anyone acting for them has used cell phone tracking or monitoring, GPS, or the services of an investigator.

If you find out your spouse or someone acting for them hired an investigator, your lawyer should subpoena the investigator and get every last bit of information they’ve dug up about you. If your spouse un-truthfully denies hiring an investigator, they can’t use any information from the investigator in court.

 

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 


For details about the author, Hightower Reff Attorney Scott Hahn, visit his profile page.

More information about Hightower Reff’s divorce practice is available here.

If you need help with a Nebraska divorce, contact Hightower Reff Law today and visit one of the attorneys at the Omaha office. 

Nebraska Misdemeanor Charges – 6 Things you Need to Know (Infographic)

nebraska-misdemeanorsIf you’re kicking off the new year with Nebraska misdemeanor charges hanging over your head, a bit of knowledge and clarity about the court process may help you feel more at ease.

There are seven classes of misdemeanors in Nebraska. They run the gamut in possible sentences – from only a relatively small fine to a rather hefty fine and jail time.

Regardless of the misdemeanor charge, the process you’ll go through is the same, except with a DUI. Although the court process is the same for a misdemeanor charge of driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, there’s also a Nebraska DMV process you’ll have to deal with.

 

Appeals

If you’re convicted of Nebraska misdemeanor charges, you may be able to appeal. However, you must have legal grounds for your appeal.

In an appeal, the higher court looks at the legal process that led to a conviction. The appeal can also address other issues like an excessive sentence.  However, an appeal isn’t a chance to present new evidence. That’s not allowed. The appellate court will only consider the trial court’s record and the parties’ appellate briefs.

Figuring out whether you have appealable issues can be complicated. You need the advice of a trusted attorney to guide you before you waste a lot of time and money. If the court sees your appeal as frivolous, it’ll be dismissed and you’ll be out of luck – and probably quite a bit of money.

It may surprise you to learn that even if you entered a plea, you may still have grounds for an appeal. Appellate practice can be complicated. As with your case, your best bet is to have a lawyer guide you in the appeals process.

Get Help with Nebraska Misdemeanor Charges Early

The best thing you can do if you’re accused of a Nebraska misdemeanor (or any crime) is to get experienced legal help fast. You can hurt my power to help you as a criminal defense lawyer if you do something to damage your case before I get onboard.

It’s best to consult with your lawyer before speaking with law enforcement or making a move of any sort.

 

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 


For details about the author, Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney and criminal defense lawyer Susan Reff, visit her profile page.

Find out more about how Susan and Hightower Reff can help with your criminal case. 

If you need help with a criminal defense case, contact Hightower Reff Law todayand come visit with Partner Attorney Susan Reff at the firm’s Omaha office

Nebraska DUI and the DMV – 7 Things You Should Know (Infographic) (DUI Process Series Part II)

girl-dui-dmvThe holidays are a time to celebrate, and a favorite time for law enforcement to look for drunk drivers. Of course, drunk or drugged driving can be deadly and you shouldn’t do it – during the holidays or any other time. It also carries legal consequences, including court issues, as well as issues with Nebraska DUI and the DMV.

If you’re ticketed or arrested for driving under the influence in Nebraska, DUI and the DMV process is something you’ll need to know about.

The DMV process doesn’t impact the court proceedings regarding your DUI, but it does affect your ability to drive legally. (For more information about the court end of the Nebraska DUI process, see the first part of this series, Nebraska DUI Court Process – Ten Things You Should Know.)

This information is meant to make things more clear, but it’s not a substitute for hiring an experienced DUI Lawyer. When you do sit down with your DUI defense team, these seven things about the Nebraska DUI DMV process may help you feel less anxiety during what can be a scary time.

 

 

More on ignition interlock

The ignition interlock device attaches to your car’s ignition system. It requires you to pass a breathalyzer test before your car will start. If you qualify for the ignition interlock permit, you’ll be allowed limited driving privileges.

But wait, there’s more…

Your Nebraska DUI DMV plight isn’t finished after you go through all of the things in the infographic, however. There’s even more to do.

After all of the stuff in the infographic is finished successfully, you have to start the process to reinstate your driver’s license with the DMV. To accomplish that, you’ll have to do even more things. Depending on your DUI offense, you may have to pass a driver’s test, pay a reinstatement fee, and complete a chemical dependency evaluation, treatment and education.

Nebraska DUI and the DMV – Don’t go it alone

I’ve been representing clients in cases involving Nebraska DUI and the DMV in the Omaha area for many years. I know the ins and outs of both the DUI court process and the DUI DMV processes. Both can be complicated, and it’s easy to make a mis-step if you don’t have good legal support.

 

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 


For details about the author, Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney Susan Reff, visit her profile page.

Find out more about how Hightower Reff can help with your DUI case

If you need help with a DUI, contact Hightower Reff Law today at the downtown Omaha office, and arrange a time to talk with Partner Attorney Susan Reff

 

Nebraska DUI Court Process – Ten Things You Should Know (Infographic) (DUI Process Series Part I)

nebraska-dui-10-things-you-should-knowThe Nebraska DUI court process can be confusing, and it’s the last thing you want to worry about during the holidays. The best thing to do is not to drink and drive – of course. Good people make bad mistakes, however.

Clarity is key

I’ve been a practicing Nebraska DUI attorney in the Omaha area for many years, and I’ve met quite a few good people who’ve made bad mistakes. I understand. I do my best to help my clients through a very hard time in their lives by giving them the best representation possible, as well as clarity about their case. Clarity can be especially important when you’re going through a Nebraska DUI.

Two separate processes

To make going through a Nebraska DUI cases even more difficult, in addition to the court process – which addresses the legal penalties of a DUI offense – there’s also a Department of Motor Vehicles hearing process. That process will determine what happens with your license.

This infographic focuses on the court end of a DUI. Stay tuned for the next part in Hightower Reff’s DUI process series to find out about DUI DMV procedure ins and outs.

 

 

Plan Ahead

Again, it’s never okay to drink and drive. Before you head out for holiday parties, have a plan for a designated driver, a friend who will pick you up, or have your Uber app or the number of a cab company handy. On busy holidays, it may be best to be sure you have a designated driver or a sober friend or relative on standby incase cabs and Uber drivers are backed up.

The Nebraska State Patrol posts a calendar of selected enforcement locations throughout Nebraska on their website.

Don’t go it alone

Getting a DUI in Nebraska can be a very big deal. It can turn your life upside down – for a long time. Having an experienced DUI attorney who will fight for you and help you make the best decisions during both the court process and the DMV process is crucial.

 

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 


For details about the author, Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney Susan Reff, visit her profile page.

Find out more about how Hightower Reff can help with your DUI case

If you need help with a DUI case, contact Hightower Reff Law today at the downtown Omaha office, and arrange a time to talk with Partner Attorney Susan Reff

What Happens if You’re Charged with a Felony in Nebraska (Infographic)

felony-hightower-reff-law-omahaIt can be a scary not knowing what happens when you’re charged with a felony in Nebraska, if you end up on the wrong end of the law.

A felony is the highest stake criminal charge you can face. If you’re convicted, you lose many of your basic rights. You can’t vote, legally have a gun, serve in the military, be issued a passport, hold certain licenses, or get public housing… and the list goes on.

Clarity = peace of mind

When you know what happens when you’re charged with a felony, you’re more clear about things, and that can bring with it peace of mind – and an easier time assisting in your own representation.

Take a look at this Nebraska Felony Roadmap. It lays out the Nebraska felony criminal court process from start to finish, with several different scenarios.

You may be surprised to learn that, for some cases, in some areas of Nebraska, there’s an option that could keep the charge off your record – drug court or diversion.

 

The entire process from citation or arrest to sentencing can take a year or more. If you’re convicted, you have a limited time after sentencing to file an appeal.

Good support is key

The Hightower Reff Law criminal defense team in Omaha helps good people in bad situations. We have for many years. Getting a good criminal defense lawyer onboard who has a good team behind them is crucial when you’re charged with a felony, because there’s a lot on the line. Along with the peace of mind that comes with understanding the process, you also need the peace of mind that comes with good legal support.

 

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 


For details about the author, Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney Susan Reff, visit her profile page.

Find out more about how Hightower Reff can help with your criminal case. 

If you need help with a criminal defense case, contact Hightower Reff Law todayand come visit with Partner Attorney Susan Reff at the Omaha office. 

Nebraska Domestic Violence Charges – What You Need To Know (Infographic)

As a criminal law attorney who defends clients against Nebraska domestic violence charges and represents clients on both sides of domestic violence protection orders, I’ve helped both survivors and those accused of domestic violence for years.

Whether you’re a domestic violence survivor needing a domestic abuse protection order or someone facing Nebraska domestic violence charges, it can be a frightening time. At Hightower Reff, we believe making the legal part of the case more clear helps make it less scary.


Hightower Reff Law is a team of confident, clear, committed attorneys representing clients in the Omaha metro and surrounding areas in family law and criminal defense/dui.


No matter which side of the case you’re on, there are some basics about the law and Nebraska domestic violence charges that you should know:

 

When you’re facing Nebraska domestic violence charges, a protection order will be filed against you separately. You can use the same lawyer for both.

Get a lawyer on board as soon as you know about the intimate partner abuse allegations. You’ll want to be sure that lawyer knows Nebraska domestic violence law and has experience.

If you’re a survivor, have a lawyer on your side who can support you in getting, and enforcing, a protection order.

Choosing the right lawyer for your domestic violence charges – “Confident. Clear. Committed” can be your guide

At Hightower Reff, “Confident. Clear. Committed” isn’t just a tagline. It’s a guidepost for everything we do. It can also be a guidepost to help you evaluate a lawyer you’re thinking of hiring.

After you meet with the lawyer, and before you make the hiring decision, ask yourself:

  1. Did the lawyer give me information to help make the legal process in my case more CLEAR?
  2. Do I believe the lawyer is COMMITTED to helping me with my case?
  3. Am I CONFIDENT that the lawyer has the experience and skill it takes to make the process in my case as smooth as possible?

A final word of warning – Miranda style 

Of course, it’s almost always a bad idea to talk to police without a lawyer. Remember, anything you say can be used against you… and it’s a good bet that it will be.

 

This article should not be construed as legal advice. Situations are different and it’s impossible to provide legal advice for every situation without knowing the individual facts. 


For details about the author, Hightower Reff  Partner Attorney Susan Reff, visit her profile page.

More information about Hightower Reff’s practice for domestic violence criminal charges is available here.

If you need information about our practice for domestic abuse protection orders, you can find it here.

If you need help with a domestic violence related case – whether it’s in criminal court or a family law related case, contact us today and schedule a time to meet with Susan by phone, or at our Omaha office.