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

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. 

Male domestic violence survivors

Domestic violence brings can bring to mind an image of a woman with bruises and black eyes. While this is one face of domestic violence, there are others. Some of them – more than you may think – are male domestic violence survivors.

According to a Centers for Disease Control survey, more than 1 in 4 men will be victims of intimate partner abuse during their lifetimes.

Getting help in a domestic violence/intimate partner abuse situation can be frightening and humiliating. As an attorney who’s worked in this specialized field of law for nearly a decade, I’ve found that embarrassment can be especially intense for male survivors.

If you’re a man experiencing intimate partner abuse, know that there are attorneys who are sensitive to your circumstances and will listen to you. Also, the law is here to protect ALL survivors of domestic violence – male and female.

Nebraska Criminal Domestic Assault Statutes are Gender Neutral

Nebraska law recognizes domestic assault as a separate crime from other forms of assault. Additionally, the language of the statute does not require that there be an actual physical injury for a domestic assault to have happened. In certain situations, threats can be enough.

This law is drafted the way it is in recognition of the fact that domestic abuse takes many different forms – from threats and intimidation to physical assault with weapons or other things that cause injury.

Nebraska Family Law Statues Offer Protection for Male Domestic Violence Survivors 

Nebraska Family Law Statues include the Protection from Domestic Abuse Act. The Act protects all victims of domestic violence and is intended to provide services to help deal with its trauma.

As its name indicates, the Protection from Domestic Abuse Act also provides protection from domestic abuse in the form of protection orders and penalties for violating them.

Domestic abuse protection orders can prohibit an abuser from “threatening, restraining, assaulting, molesting, attacking or otherwise disturbing the peace” of his or her victim. The orders can also forbid phone calls and all forms of contact, remove an abuser from the place where the victim lives and provide for temporary custody of children, among other things.

Emergency Protection Orders 

A traditional protection order requires that the alleged perpetrator be given notice and the opportunity to appear at a hearing to defend themselves against the proposed order. However, the Protection from Domestic Abuse Act allows for emergency protection orders where the victim can show they are in immediate danger of abuse.

These emergency hearings, during which only the survivor is present, are called “ex-parte” hearings. If the court refuses to issue a temporary, ex-parte emergency protection order, it will schedule a hearing where both sides have the chance to present evidence. If the alleged abuser doesn’t show up for that hearing or shows up and fails to convince the court, the court will issue the protection order.

If the court agrees to enter a temporary protection order, the order will remain in effect while the court allows time for the accused to be served with the order and to appear and defend themselves against the protection order continuing.

Once the alleged abuser is served with the ex-parte protection order, it can go several ways:

  • If the alleged abuser is served with the protection order, but doesn’t contact the court to request a hearing within 5 days of being served, the temporary order becomes a final order for one year.
  • If the alleged abuser does request a hearing within 5 days of being served, but  doesn’t show up for the hearing, the order also becomes final for one year.
  • If the alleged abuser requests the hearing within the required time period, and then shows up for the hearing, the court will hear evidence from both sides and decide if the protection order should stand.

When Children are Exposed to Domestic Violence

Along with recognizing that men are sometimes the victims of domestic violence, Nebraska law also recognizes that children exposed to that domestic violence are affected – regardless of who is the victim and who is the abuser.

The law says that both parents are responsible for protecting children from the physical and psychological trauma of domestic violence. This means getting the children out of environments where they’re exposed to domestic violence.

Parents who fail to keep their children out of harm’s way when it comes to domestic violence may lose custody. This could mean the children are placed in foster care – with strangers or with a relative. Whether you’re mom or dad, if you’re a victim of domestic violence and your kids are exposed to it, you’re putting your children and your parental rights at risk.

Protecting Children When you Leave

Regardless of your gender, it’s crucial to take steps to protect your children when you leave a domestic violence situation. That means getting protective orders and custody orders in place. An attorney who knows the ins and outs of the legal and safety issues involved is an important support.

The Nebraska Parenting Act has special provisions for developing Parenting Plans in custody cases involving domestic violence. In all custody cases, specially trained mediators are required to screen for domestic violence. If they determine that domestic violence is an issue, they may find that mediation isn’t appropriate, or that another form of specialized dispute resolution is advisable during which a parenting plan with appropriate protections can be developed and agreed upon by both parties.

If mediation is not an option, or not successful, and the court has to develop a parenting plan in a domestic abuse case, the plan will include provisions to protect the child and/or the child’s parent from further harm.

Don’t Go It Alone

Hightower Reff has a team of attorneys experienced in the specialized issues and procedures that come with domestic abuse cases.

From the criminal end to protection orders and family law and custody issues, we can help. One of our lawyers would be glad to meet with you to talk about how we can help with your case.

Call the office at 402-932-9550, or contact us and make an appointment to come visit with us about your case at our downtown Omaha, Nebraska office.  Don’t go it alone.

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 protection orders is available here.