In Nebraska, drug crimes are taken very seriously, with both the state and federal government dedicating significant resources to investigate and prosecute these offenses. Drug crimes in the state are classified into two primary categories: misdemeanors and felonies, with felonies carrying more severe consequences, including longer prison sentences and larger fines. Below, Liberty Law Group covers drug crimes in Nebraska, including the specific nature of the offenses, the penalties that individuals may face if convicted, available alternatives to imprisonment, the defenses that can be raised, and the reasons for hiring a defense lawyer. When facing drug charges, it’s important to understand the distinction between being accused and being convicted. This difference opens significant opportunities for skilled drug crime defense attorneys to assist individuals. Their experience and knowledge can become a major factor in helping individuals avoid a conviction or otherwise face less severe consequences.

Omaha Drug Crimes Defense Attorney

At Liberty Law Group, our team is dedicated to defending those accused of drug-related offenses in Nebraska. Our firm proudly serves the communities of Omaha, Lincoln and surrounding areas of Douglas, Lancaster, Cass, Sarpy, Saunders, Dodge, Washington and neighboring counties. We also represent those charged with drug crimes in Iowa, including Council Bluffs and surrounding areas of Pottawattamie County. If you or a loved one has been charged, arrested or is under investigation for any drug-related crime, don’t hesitate to call us at (402) 865-0501 to request a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case. Our experienced drug crime attorneys defend those charged under state or federal law and work tirelessly to pursue the most favorable outcome possible for each and every case we handle.

Nebraska Drug Crimes Information Center

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Specific Types of Drug Offenses in Nebraska

  • Drug Possession – According to the Nebraska Revised Statute §28-416(3), drug possession is defined as intentionally or knowingly possessing a drug (controlled substance listed in Uniform Controlled Substances Act), unless legally obtained through a medical order or authorized by law. The specific classification of drug possession under this law is a Class IV felony.
  • Possession with Intent to Distribute – As defined by Nebraska Revised Statute §28-416(1), Possession with intent to distribute is the illegal act of knowingly or intentionally manufacturing, distributing, delivering, dispensing, or possessing with the intent to perform these actions, a controlled substance, or creating, distributing, or possessing with the intent to distribute a counterfeit controlled substance. The specific classification of this offense varies based on the type and quantity of the controlled substance involved. Violations involving controlled substances classified in Schedules I, II, or III, which are exceptionally hazardous drugs, are classified as a Class II felony, while violations involving other substances from these schedules are Class IIA felonies. Substances in Schedules IV or V are classified as Class IIIA felonies. Additionally, specific quantities of cocaine, base cocaine (crack), heroin, amphetamine, and methamphetamine are subject to varying felony classifications ranging from Class IB to Class ID felonies, depending on the amount involved in the violation.
  • Drug Conspiracy – According to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-202, drug conspiracy occurs when a person, with the intention of promoting or facilitating the commission of a felony, agrees with one or more persons to engage in, solicit, or cause the conduct defined as the offense, and an overt act in pursuance of the conspiracy is committed by them. The specific classification of drug conspiracy is determined by the severity of the felony that is the object of the conspiracy, making the conspiracy a crime of the same class as the most serious offense planned, except in cases where the targeted felony is a Class I felony, in which case the conspiracy is classified as a Class II felony.
  • Drug Trafficking – According to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-416, drug trafficking is defined as the unlawful manufacture, distribution, delivery, dispensation, or possession with intent to manufacture, dispense, deliver, or distribute a controlled substance, or to create, possess with intent to distribute, or actually distribute a controlled substance. The law classifies drug trafficking offenses based on the type of controlled substance involved and the quantity in possession. Violations involving exceptionally hazardous drugs classified in Schedule I, II, or III are classified as a Class II felony; other controlled substances in these schedules as Class IIA felonies; and substances in Schedule IV or V as Class IIIA felonies. Additional felony classifications and penalties are specified for varying amounts of certain drugs like cocaine, fentanyl, heroin, and methamphetamine, with the most severe offenses categorized up to Class IB felonies.
  • Drug Manufacturing – According to the Nebraska Revised Statute §28-416(1), drug manufacturing refers to the illegal creation or production of controlled substances, without authorization under the Uniform Controlled Substances Act. The specific felony classification of drug manufacturing varies based on the type and quantity of the drug involved. Violations related to certain quantities of cocaine, base cocaine (crack), heroin, amphetamine, and methamphetamine are classified as Class IB, IC, or ID felonies. The classification escalates from Class ID for smaller quantities (at least ten grams but less than twenty-eight grams) to Class IB for larger quantities (one hundred forty grams or more).
  • Drug Paraphernalia – According to Nebraska Statute §28-439, drug paraphernalia encompasses all equipment, products, and materials utilized or intended for use in the manufacturing, injecting, ingesting, inhaling, or otherwise introducing controlled substances into the human body. It is considered an infraction in Nebraska to have items like diluents and adulterants for cutting controlled substances, hypodermic syringes and needles for injecting substances, and objects for ingesting or inhaling drugs such as pipes, bongs, and roach clips.
  • Felony Drug Charges – According to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-416, felony drug offenses include unlawful activities related to controlled substances without authorization. Felonies could result from manufacturing, distributing, delivering, dispensing, or possessing with intent to manufacture, distribute, dispense, or deal a drug. The specific classification of felony drug charges varies based on the type of controlled substance and the amount involved. Violations involving Schedule I, II, or III controlled substances that are exceptionally hazardous are classified as Class II felonies, while other substances in these schedules are Class IIA felonies. Schedule IV or V substances result in a Class IIIA felony. The law imposes stricter penalties for offenses involving distribution near schools or to minors, and it categorizes possession charges based on the quantity and type of the substance, with varying degrees of felony classifications.
  • Prescription Drug Charges – According to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-416(3), Prescription drug charges refer to the illegal possession of a prescribed controlled substance. Specifically, this law applies to an individual who knowingly or intentionally possesses a controlled substance (aside from marijuana) without having obtained it through a legal prescription or medical order. The law clarifies that possession is illegal unless the controlled substance was acquired directly from or prescribed by a licensed practitioner acting within their professional capacity. Under this law, the act of unlawful possession of prescribed drugs is classified as a Class IV felony.
  • Federal Drug Charges – 21 U.S.C. § 841 refers to the illegal acts of distributing manufacturing, dispensing, distributing, or possessing with intent to manufacture a controlled substance (this includes counterfeit substances). These charges are classified based on the type and amount of the controlled substance involved, and the penalties vary accordingly. The law specifies different categories for various drugs and quantities, such as heroin, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana, among others. The severity of the penalty is based upon factors such as the quantity of the drug involved, the presence of prior convictions, and whether the violation resulted in death or serious bodily injury. Penalties can range from less severe terms of imprisonment for smaller quantities to life imprisonment for larger quantities or more serious offenses, and fines of up to $10,000,000 for individuals.21 U.S.C. § 844 encompasses the illegal possession of controlled substances and certain chemicals without authorization, such as through a valid prescription or professional practice. These charges are classified based on the substance involved and the individual’s criminal history, with penalties escalating for repeated offenses or possession of specific substances like flunitrazepam. The severity of penalties is influenced by factors such as the type of substance possessed and the presence of previous convictions for drug-related offenses. Fines could range between $1,000 to $5,000, and jail sentences could range between 0-3 years.

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Schedule of Drugs Under the Controlled Substances Act

According to Nevada Revised Statutes §28-405, controlled substances as they are referred to in the Uniform Controlled Substances Act (CSA), are categorized in five schedules. Schedule 1 substances are considered by the government to have a high potential for abuse and zero legitimate medical use and are therefore the most strictly prohibited. No matter how arbitrary or illogical drug scheduling may seem to be, the prosecution of drug crimes under state and federal law relies abides by this law. The following is a small sample of some of the more common drugs listed in each schedule:

  • Schedule I: Marijuana (Cannabis); Mescaline; Lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD); Peyote; Psilocybin (Psychedelic Mushrooms); Tetrahydrocannabinol (THC); Hashish (concentrated cannabis); Salvia divinorum; Methoxetamine (MXE); Ibogaine; Heroin; Acetorphine; Dimethyltryptamine (DMT); Gamma-Hydroxybutyric Acid (GHB); Methylenedioxymethamphetamine (MDMA)
  • Schedule II: Raw Opium; Codeine; Hydrocodone; Hydromorphone; Morphine; Oxycodone; Fentanyl; Methadone; Amphetamine; Methamphetamine; Dronabinol
  • Schedule III: Ketamine; Buprenorphine; Testosterone
  • Schedule IV: Diazepam; Alprazolam; Triazolam

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Penalties For Nebraska State Drug Crimes

Misdemeanor Fines and Jail Terms

According to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-106, the following penalties for misdemeanor offenses apply:

  • Class V Misdemeanor – up to a $100 fine.
  • Class IV Misdemeanor – up to a $500 fine.
  • Class IIIA Misdemeanor – up to 7 days in jail and/or up to a $500 fine.
  • Class III Misdemeanor – up to 90 days in jail and/or up to a $500 fine.
  • Class II Misdemeanor – up to 6 months in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine.
  • Class I Misdemeanor – up to 1 year in jail and/or up to a $1,000 fine.

Misdemeanor charges are normally brought in county courts in Nebraska. For example, in Omaha, individuals face misdemeanor charges in Douglas County Court. In Lincoln, individuals face misdemeanor charges in Lancaster County Court.

Felony Penalties and Jail Terms

According to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-105, the following penalties for felony offenses apply:

  • Class IV Felony – 0-2 years in prison followed by 9-12 months of post-release supervision and/or up to a $10,000 fine.
  • Class IIIA Felony – 0-3 years in prison followed by 9-18 months of post-release supervision and/or up to a $10,000 fine.
  • Class III Felony – 0-4 years in prison followed by 9-24 months of post-release supervision and/or up to a $25,000 fine.
  • Class IIA Felony – 0-20 years in prison
  • Class II Felony – 1-50 years in prison
  • Class ID Felony – 3-50 years in prison
  • Class IC Felony – 5-50 years in prison
  • Class IB Felony – 20 years to life in prison
  • Class IA Felony – life in prison
  • Class I Felony – death sentence

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Collateral Consequences of a Drug Crime Conviction in Nebraska

In Nebraska, individuals convicted of drug crimes face collateral consequences beyond the immediate legal penalties. This can significantly affect their future opportunities and social standing. For instance, a drug conviction can result in the loss of professional licenses, essential for careers in fields like healthcare, education, and law. Finding employment or staying employed could be more difficult, as many employers are hesitant to hire individuals with a criminal record, particularly for positions requiring trust and responsibility. Also, educational opportunities can be impacted, with some institutions denying admission or financial aid to those with drug convictions. Housing options may also be restricted, as public housing authorities and private landlords often disqualify applicants with certain criminal backgrounds. Additionally, those convicted may lose the right to vote or possess firearms, depending on the severity of the offense.

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Alternatives To Imprisonment For Drug Crimes In Nebraska


In Nebraska, probation serves as an alternative to imprisonment, allowing individuals to remain in the community under specified conditions rather than serving jail time. This option is typically offered based on the expectation that the person will live a law-abiding life outside of prison and is generally not available to habitual offenders or those convicted of a felony requiring a mandatory minimum sentence. Probation durations can extend up to five years for felonies or second-offense misdemeanors and two years for first-offense misdemeanors.

Under Nebraska Revised Statute §29-2262, probation conditions focus on rehabilitation and public safety. These conditions vary per case and may include maintaining lawful behavior, fulfilling family obligations, and sustaining employment or education. Restrictions can involve periodic jail time, mandatory attendance at rehabilitation or counseling sessions, and avoidance of certain locations or individuals. Probationers must stay within the court’s jurisdiction, report any changes in address or employment, regularly check in with the court or a probation officer, and may be subject to electronic monitoring. Financial responsibilities during probation can include paying fines, covering testing costs, and making restitution to victims. Community service and participation in correctional programs are also common conditions.

If probation conditions are complied with, individuals are released from court-imposed obligations, effectively completing their sentence. They can then request the court to set aside their conviction, which nullifies it but does not erase it from all records or restore certain rights.

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Drug Courts in Nebraska

In Nebraska, specific statutes (Nebraska Revised Statutes §24-1301 – §24-1302) establish Problem Solving Courts, including the Adult Drug Court in Douglas and Lancaster Counties. These courts target issues such as substance abuse and mental health, aiming to reduce recidivism through tailored treatment and supervision. Participants who complete the Adult Drug Court program, which lasts 18 to 24 months and includes substance abuse treatment, frequent court hearings, and support group participation, may have their charges dismissed.

Eligibility for these courts varies. For Adult Drug Court, eligible offenses include certain non-violent felonies related to substance abuse, while violent charges, gun-related offenses, manslaughter, murder, felony assault, robbery, terroristic threats, sexual assault, and distribution of narcotics render individuals ineligible.

The Veterans Treatment Court (VTC) in Douglas and Lancaster Counties serves veterans charged with felony offenses and grappling with substance or mental health issues. Successful graduates can have their charges dismissed or reduced. Eligibility is based on felony offenses related to mental or physical health issues.

The Douglas County Young Adult Court (YAC) provides an alternative for 18-24-year-olds charged with non-violent felonies, focusing on rehabilitation. Eligible offenses are non-violent felony offenses.

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Pretrial Diversion Programs in Nebraska Drug Cases

Lancaster County offers Pretrial Diversion Programs for various misdemeanors and felonies. These programs aim to address underlying causes of criminal conduct, with successful completion leading to case dismissal and avoidance of a criminal record. Eligible offenses include possession, manufacturing, distribution, or delivery of a controlled substance.

Treatment Diversion Program, Veterans Diversion Program, Intensive Supervision Diversion, Mental Health Diversion, and General Diversion Program in Lancaster County cater to different groups and offenses, offering tailored approaches to rehabilitation. Eligibility varies across these programs, encompassing a range of non-violent felonies and misdemeanors, with specific exclusions based on the severity and nature of the offense.

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How Drug Crimes Are Investigated

In Nebraska, the investigation of drug crimes typically starts with the gathering of intelligence, which may include tips from informants, surveillance, or community reports. Law enforcement agencies, such as local police, the Nebraska State Patrol, and federal entities like the DEA, play major roles in these operations.

During an investigation, officers might use tactics such as undercover operations, controlled drug buys, or the monitoring of suspected traffickers. In most cases, Nebraska law requires the obtaining of search warrants, based on probable cause, to legally search properties where drugs are suspected to be stored or distributed. The evidence collected during these searches, which might include drugs, paraphernalia, or financial records, is important for building a case.

Arrests in Nebraska drug crime cases can occur with or without a warrant. With a warrant, a prosecutor presents a judge with a law enforcement officer’s sworn statement, detailing probable cause for suspecting the individual’s involvement in a crime. If the judge issues a warrant, it is filed with the county court clerk, and a formal complaint is made, leading to the arrest. For warrantless arrests, the arresting officer must submit a statement to the court within 48 hours, justifying the arrest. The court then reviews this to ascertain if there is sufficient evidence (probable cause). If probable cause is lacking, the individual is released. If established, bail is set, and a formal complaint is filed within 24 to 48 hours of this determination.

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How Drug Crimes Are Prosecuted In Nebraska

In Nebraska, misdemeanors related to drug crimes are processed through the county courts. Initially, law enforcement conducts an investigation following the alleged misdemeanor drug offense. This can lead to either an arrest or the issuance of a summons and complaint; for simpler misdemeanors, a citation might be issued. Upon arrest and booking, the individual faces a bond hearing, followed by an arraignment in the county court.

Those not arrested but issued a summons and complaint directly proceed to the arraignment. At this stage, the accused can plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. A guilty or no contest plea results in sentencing, potentially involving fines, jail time, or probation. A not guilty plea leads to a bench trial or jury trial, after which the individual is either sentenced if found guilty or acquitted if not guilty.

Felonies related to drug crimes in Nebraska begin in county courts and progress to district courts. The process starts with a law enforcement investigation. This may result in an arrest or a felony complaint filed in county court. The subsequent steps include a bond hearing/rights advisement and a preliminary hearing. Post-preliminary hearing, the case is either dismissed or bound over to the district court. In the district court, an “Information” document is filed, followed by an arraignment. Here, the accused can plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. Guilty or no contest pleas lead to a presentence investigation before sentencing, which can include fines, jail, or probation. A not guilty plea usually results in a bench or jury trial, followed by sentencing if found guilty or acquittal if not guilty.

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Potential Defenses to Drug Charges in Nebraska

  • Lack of Knowledge or Intent – In Nebraska drug crime cases, a viable defense is the lack of knowledge or intent. This defense contends that the accused was unaware of the presence of the controlled substance or did not intend to possess it. For instance, if drugs were found in a place accessible to multiple individuals, and there is no clear evidence linking the defendant to the drugs, this defense could challenge the prosecution’s assertion that the defendant knowingly possessed the substance.
  • Lack of Possession – This defense argues that the defendant did not have actual (direct physical control) or constructive (the ability and intention to exercise control) possession of the drugs. In scenarios where drugs are found in a shared environment, such as a vehicle or house, but there is no concrete evidence to prove that the defendant had control over the drugs, this defense can be especially useful.
  • Entrapment – Entrapment occurs when a law enforcement officer or their agent induces a person to commit a crime that they would not have otherwise committed. In drug crime cases, this defense may be applicable if it can be shown that the law enforcement’s actions actually persuaded or coerced the defendant into committing the crime. This defense is particularly relevant in controlled drug buys or undercover operations.
  • Unlawful Search and Seizure – Under the Fourth Amendment, individuals are protected against unreasonable searches and seizures. This defense is raised when law enforcement officers conduct a search without a warrant or probable cause, and evidence crucial to the drug charges is obtained during this search. If proven, this defense can lead to the exclusion of the unlawfully obtained evidence, which can significantly weaken or even collapse the prosecution’s case.
  • Insufficient Evidence – The defense of insufficient evidence is based on the principle that the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. In drug cases, if the evidence presented is inadequate to fulfill this burden, the defense can argue for a not guilty verdict. This defense involves scrutinizing the reliability of the prosecution’s evidence.
  • Mistake of Fact – Mistake of fact is a defense where the defendant argues that they misunderstood a crucial fact, which negates an element of the crime. In drug crimes, this could involve situations where the defendant believed that the drug they possessed was not illegal or was a different drug than it actually was.
  • Chain of Custody Issues – Chain of custody refers to the documentation and handling of evidence from the time it is collected until it is presented in court. In drug crime cases, if there are irregularities or gaps in the chain of custody, it can be argued that the evidence may have been tampered with or mishandled. This defense can potentially lead to the exclusion of this evidence, which can damage the prosecution’s case.

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How A Drug Criminal Defense Attorney Can Help Someone In A Nebraska Drug Crime Case

Defense Strategy Development

In Nebraska, drug crimes can range from misdemeanors to felonies, each with varying consequences. A criminal defense attorney assists in developing defense strategies based on the specific details of the case. They evaluate the evidence, identify potential weaknesses in the prosecution’s case, and formulate defenses such as challenging the legality of a search and seizure, questioning the evidence’s chain of custody, or arguing for a lack of intent or knowledge.

Pre-trial motions

Smart criminal defense attorneys can win or at least gain a more advantageous position in a criminal case by filing and litigating pre-trial motions. These include motions to suppress evidence that was obtained unlawfully, motions to exclude evidence that is irrelevant or prejudicial, and motions to dismiss the case entirely due to insufficient evidence.

Plea Bargaining and Negotiations

Attorneys are skilled in negotiating with prosecutors to reach plea agreements that may reduce charges or penalties. In drug crime cases, they can negotiate alternatives to imprisonment, such as probation or entry into treatment programs. These negotiations are important for lessening the severity of the consequences and can be significant in getting more favorable outcomes for clients.

Representation in Court Proceedings and/or Trial

A criminal defense attorney represents clients in court, ensuring their rights are protected throughout the trial process. They present evidence, cross-examine witnesses, and advocate on behalf of the client. Effective representation from a drug crime lawyer is crucial, especially in jury trials, where the attorney’s ability to communicate and persuade can potentially make a difference in the outcome.

Mitigation of Consequences

Experienced attorneys understand the range of penalties associated with drug crimes in Nebraska and work to mitigate these consequences. This includes arguing for dismissal of charges, or reduced sentences, or alternative sentencing options like drug treatment programs. Defense lawyers aid clients in minimizing the impact of a drug crime charge on their lives.

Advice on Legal Rights and Options

Finally, criminal defense attorneys inform clients of their legal rights and the options available to them. This includes explaining the rights to a fair trial, to remain silent, to be represented by counsel, and the potential outcomes of different legal routes. This guidance is important for clients to make educated decisions about their case and future.

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Drug Crime and Drug Policy Reform Resources

Nebraska Drug Possession Laws – An online version of the Nebraska Legislature’s statute surrounding illegal drug possession. Penalties, grading, and detailed description of drug possession laws are also included.

Nebraska Drug Abuse Hotline – Developed by the National Rehab Hotline Organization, this site connects individuals with substance abuse issues with a network of care throughout the state.

Drug Policy Alliance – The Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) is a leading U.S. organization advocating for the end of the war on drugs, aiming to repair its damages and establish a fair, health-based approach to drug regulation. It envisions a world where people are recognized and supported regardless of their relationship to drugs, advocating for policies rooted in evidence, health, harm reduction, and human rights. The DPA highlights the oppressive nature of punitive drug laws, especially their impact on communities of color and those in poverty, and works to change laws, advance justice, and save lives. As a 501c3 non-profit, the DPA relies on private donations to fund its mission to transform drug policies and build a future free from the harms of the drug war.

NACDL Drug Law Reform – The National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) advocates for the end of the war on drugs, urging governments to treat drug use as a health issue rather than a criminal one and to repeal laws criminalizing drug possession, use, and distribution. The organization highlights the discriminatory enforcement of drug laws and their disproportionate impact on marginalized communities, noting the significant increase in the U.S. prison population due to drug-related offenses. The NACDL supports recent shifts toward legalizing and decriminalizing drugs and endorses legislative reforms aimed at reducing racial disparities and excessive sentences in drug convictions. In 2000, the organization passed a resolution formally calling for an end to the war on drugs, aligning with its broader mission to advocate for fair and rational drug policies in the United States.

Nebraska Drug Overdose Prevention – Created by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services, the online guide answers questions on how to spot prescription drug abuse along with basic information on opioid abuse. Audio and video files on various drug abuse topics are also available on the Department’s site.

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Hiring a Drug Crime Defense Attorney in Nebraska | Liberty Law Group

At Liberty Law Group, our team of experienced drug crime defense attorneys are ready to help those who have been arrested and charged with a drug-related offense in Nebraska. We understand the seriousness of the potential penalties and strive to mitigate the consequences every step of the way. Our attorneys work tirelessly to protect and defend our clients’ rights. We proudly serve the communities of Omaha, Lincoln and surrounding areas of Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy, Saunders, Cass, Washington, Dodge and neighboring counties. This includes Council Bluffs in Pattawattamie County and the surrounding areas of West Iowa. If you or a loved one has been charged with a drug crime, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (402) 865-0501 to request a free consultation to discuss your case.

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