Under the United States Constitution, the Second Amendment protects the right of individuals to keep and bear arms. As stated, “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This amendment, part of the Bill of Rights, has been a major part of American legal tradition since its ratification in 1791.

In Nebraska, gun rights are also defined and regulated by state laws. Federal gun laws as well as state-level gun laws in Nebraska and other states can sometimes be viewed as Unconstitutional or an infringement on the rights guaranteed by the Second Amendment, depending on its interpretation. However, unless a specific law is challenged on Constitutional grounds and overturned by the courts, citizens are still subject to it and can face steep penalties for breaking these laws.

Many federal gun laws apply universally to everyone in the United States. The state requires background checks for private gun sales. Nebraska does not, however, require registration of firearms and allows open carry without a permit in most locations. Additionally, Nebraska is a “shall issue” state for concealed carry permits, meaning that the state must issue a permit if the applicant meets certain legal requirements.

Nebraska’s permitless concealed carry law, sometimes referred to as “constitutional carry” was recently updated in 2023 so that Omaha is no longer exempt from allowing open carry. This means Omaha must allow for open carry the same as the rest of the state. Legislative Bill 77 went into effect on September 1, 2023. The bill will apply statewide and invalidate several local gun ordinances, allowing Nebraskans over the age of 21 to carry concealed weapons without a permit.

Omaha Gun Crimes Defense Attorneys

In Nebraska, gun-related offenses are approached with a deep sense of seriousness, reflecting the community’s commitment to safety and law. These offenses, which vary widely from unauthorized possession to employing firearms in criminal activities, attract the attention of both state and federal law enforcement agencies, known for their aggressive investigative and prosecutorial efforts. These crimes are either classified as misdemeanors or more serious felonies, with the latter facing notably stricter consequences. The following information aims to offer individuals a clear understanding of the different gun crimes recognized in Nebraska, including the penalties they carry and the potential for alternatives to incarceration. Moreover, it provides insights into the defense strategies that might be available for those accused of such crimes and the importance and benefits of seeking representation from a gun crime defense attorney.

At Liberty Law Group, our attorneys are firm believers in gun rights so we are especially passionate about advocating for our clients in these cases. Our firm proudly defends people charged with gun and weapon-related criminal offenses throughout Nebraska and Iowa. We serve the communities of Omaha in Douglas County, Lincoln in Lancaster County, Papillion in Sarpy County, and the surrounding counties of Dodge, Washington, and Saunders. We also represent people in Council Bluffs, Pattawattamie County, Iowa. If you or a loved one has been arrested or charged with a gun-related crime or other criminal offense, please contact our office at (402) 865-0501 to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case with one of our attorneys.

Information Center for Gun and Weapons Law in Nebraska

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Specific Gun-related Offenses in Nebraska

  • Unlawful Possession of a Handgun – As defined by Nebraska Revised Statute §28-1204, the offense of unlawful possession of a handgun occurs when an individual owns, carries, or has a handgun under their control without legal authorization or fails to comply with legal requirements for possession. This offense is specifically classified as a Class I misdemeanor under the law. In addition to the potential fines and jail time, an individual’s handgun could be confiscated by law enforcement. According to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-1212, the presence of a firearm in a motor vehicle (other than a public vehicle) is considered evidence that the firearm is in the possession of and carried by all individuals occupying the vehicle at the time the firearm is found. This law does not apply if the firearm is found on one specific person in the vehicle.
  • Minor or Prohibited Person Carrying a Concealed Weapon – According to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-1202, it is illegal for an individual who is either under the age of eighteen or legally barred from carrying weapons (a prohibited person) to carry a weapon like a handgun, knife, or any other deadly weapon concealed on or around their body. The law classifies this act as a Class I misdemeanor when committed for the first time, escalating to a Class IV felony for any second or subsequent offense.
  • Carrying a Concealed Weapon Without a Permit – As defined by Nebraska Revised Statute §28-1202.01, carrying a concealed weapon refers to the act of an individual, other than a minor or a prohibited person, carrying a concealed handgun in Nebraska, either with or without a permit, in certain locations. The law categorizes the violation of these restrictions as a Class III misdemeanor for a first offense and a Class I misdemeanor for subsequent offenses.
  • Carrying a Concealed Weapon Under the Influence – Under Nebraska Revised Statute §28-1202.02, it is against the law for an individual to be carrying a concealed handgun while they are consuming alcohol or have alcohol or any controlled substance in their blood, urine, or breath. This law classifies this act as a Class III misdemeanor for a first offense and a Class I misdemeanor for any second or subsequent offense.
  • Carrying a Concealed Weapon Without ID – As per Nebraska Revised Statute §28-1202.03, carrying a concealed weapon without ID means an individual carrying a concealed handgun without also carrying a required identification document, such as a driver’s license or a passport. The law classifies the act of carrying a concealed handgun without the accompanying ID as a Class III misdemeanor for the first offense, increasing to a Class I misdemeanor for any subsequent offenses.
  • Failure to Inform an Officer About a Concealed Handgun – Nebraska Revised Statute §28-1202.04 makes it unlawful when a person carrying a concealed handgun does not immediately inform police or emergency services personnel of that fact during any official contact. The law specifies that not informing the officer is a Class III misdemeanor for a first offense, but it could be a Class I misdemeanor for a second offense, and a Class IV felony for a third or subsequent offense.
  • Possession or Transportation of Prohibited Weapons – As defined in Nebraska Revised Statute §28-1203, possession or transportation of prohibited weapons refers to transporting or possessing machine guns, short rifles, or short shotguns. This law classifies such possession or transportation as a Class IV felony. Nebraska law provides exceptions only for police officers, members of the armed services, and other individuals qualified under federal laws.
  • Unlawful Transfer of a Firearm to a Juvenile – According to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-1204.01, unlawful transfer of a firearm to a juvenile occurs when a person knowingly and intentionally sells, provides, loans, delivers, or otherwise transfers the possession of a firearm to a juvenile. This act is classified as a Class III felony. There are certain exceptions for familial transfers, sporting purposes, and supervised educational programs.
  • Unlawful Possession of a Firearm at a School – As outlined in Nebraska Revised Statute §28-1204.04, unlawful possession of a firearm at a school is defined as possessing a firearm in a school, on school grounds, in a school-owned vehicle, or at a school-sponsored activity or event. This offense is classified as a Class IV felony. Certain exceptions apply for authorized individuals.
  • Use of a Deadly Weapon to Commit a Felony – As defined in Nebraska Revised Statute §28-1205, use of a deadly weapon to commit a felony occurs when a person uses a knife, firearm, brass knuckles, or other deadly weapon for committing any felony in the state. The classification of this offense varies: using a deadly weapon other than a firearm to commit a felony is a Class II felony, while using a firearm in the commission of a felony is categorized as a Class IC felony.
  • Possession of a deadly weapon by a prohibited person – Under Nebraska Revised Statute §28-1206, firearm possession by a felon occurs when a person who is forbidden by law due to certain criteria—such as having a prior felony conviction, being a fugitive from justice, being subject to a valid protective order, or being on probation for a felony—possesses a firearm, knife, or brass or iron knuckles. The classification of this offense depends on the weapon involved: possession of a non-firearm deadly weapon by a prohibited person is a Class III felony, while possession of a firearm is a Class ID felony for a first offense and a Class IB felony for subsequent offenses.
  • Possession of a Defaced Firearm – According to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-1207, it is unlawful to be knowingly possessing, receiving, selling, or leasing a firearm whose manufacturer’s identification mark or serial number has been removed, defaced, altered, or destroyed, with the exception of delivery to law enforcement officials. This act is classified as a Class III felony.
  • Defacing a Firearm – As stated in Nebraska Revised Statute §28-1208, defacing is the deliberate act of removing, defacing, covering, altering, or destroying the manufacturer’s identification mark, serial number, or any other distinguishing numbers on a firearm. This offense is classified as a Class III felony.
  • Unlawful Discharge of a Firearm – As defined in Nebraska Revised Statute §28-1212.02, unlawful discharge is the intentional and illegal shooting of a firearm at an occupied building, inhabited house, occupied motor vehicle, or inhabited motor home. This act is classified as a Class ID felony, highlighting the severity of the offense. The law specifies that ‘inhabited’ refers to a place currently being used for dwelling purposes, and ‘occupied’ means that a person is physically present in the structure or vehicle.
  • Possession of a Stolen Firearm – Under Nebraska Revised Statute §28-1212.03, possession of a stolen firearm is defined as having, receiving, keeping, or disposing of a stolen firearm when the individual either knows or has reason to believe that the firearm was stolen. This offense is classified as a Class IIA felony. The law makes it clear that anyone who comes into contact with a stolen firearm under circumstances that should raise suspicion about its origins and chooses to possess, retain, or dispose of it, faces serious legal consequences, unless their intent is to return the firearm to its rightful owner.
  • Discharge of Firearm in Certain Cities and Counties – According to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-1212.04, discharge of firearm in certain cities and counties involves unlawfully, knowingly, intentionally, or recklessly shooting a firearm within the boundaries of certain cities and counties. This action includes discharging a firearm while in or near a motor vehicle, directed at or towards any person or occupied place like a dwelling, building, vehicle, or aircraft. Such conduct is classified as a Class IC felony.
  • Unlawful Possession of Explosive Materials – Unlawful possession of explosive materials (compounds, devices, mixtures), as outlined in Nebraska Revised Statutes §28-1215 and §28-1216, refers to possessing or storing explosive materials without a required permit from the Nebraska State Patrol. This is divided into two degrees based on eligibility for a permit. The first degree applies to individuals who are ineligible for a permit and is classified as a Class IV felony. The second degree applies to those eligible for a permit but lacking one and is classified as a Class I misdemeanor.

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Penalties and Classification of Crimes in Nebraska

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 Fines 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

Felony charges are brought in district courts in Nebraska.

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Loss of Gun Rights for Felony Convictions

In Nebraska, individuals convicted of a felony face significant repercussions, one of which is the loss of gun rights. Under Nebraska Revised Statute §28-1206, anyone convicted of a felony in Nebraska or elsewhere is prohibited from possessing a firearm. This prohibition extends to the possession of any firearm, regardless of the nature of the felony committed. Reinstatement of these rights is not automatic and requires specific legal steps. Notably, the law also makes it clear that the prohibition applies from the date of conviction and continues indefinitely unless legally restored. Violating this law can lead to additional criminal charges.

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Probation for Weapons Charges in Nebraska

In Nebraska, probation is an alternative to imprisonment, allowing court-approved individuals to live in the community under specific conditions. It’s typically not available for habitual criminals or those with mandatory minimum sentences. Probation lengths are up to five years for felonies or second-offense misdemeanors, and two years for first-offense misdemeanors. Conditions include lawful behavior, employment, and potentially confinement, rehabilitation, or avoiding certain locations. Non-compliance can lead to revocation of probation and possible imprisonment, according to Nebraska Revised Statutes §29-2267.

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Problem-Solving Courts

In Nebraska, problem-solving courts address issues like substance abuse and mental health for those adjudicated guilty. Adult Drug Court and Veterans Treatment Court in Douglas and Lancaster counties offer alternatives to incarceration for non-violent offenders, focusing on rehabilitation. Young Adult Court in Douglas County serves 18-24 year-olds with non-violent felonies. Lancaster County’s pretrial diversion programs provide alternatives for various misdemeanors and felonies, excluding violent and gun-related charges. These programs include Treatment Diversion, Veterans Diversion, Intensive Supervision, Mental Health Diversion, and General Diversion, each with specific eligibility criteria. Successful completion often leads to charge dismissal.

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How Gun Crimes Are Prosecuted in Nebraska

In Nebraska, gun crimes, whether misdemeanors or felonies, initiate with a law enforcement investigation. This is important for collecting ballistic evidence, such as bullet casings, which can be matched to specific firearms. Nebraska’s law enforcement officers also gather witness statements and surveillance footage, if available, to piece together the events leading to the crime. Forensic analysis plays a vital role, where experts examine fingerprints, DNA, and other forensic evidence linked to the crime scene and the weapon.

For misdemeanors, this can lead to an arrest, summons, complaint, or citation. The accused then undergoes a bond hearing and arraignment in county court. For felonies, after the investigation, an arrest or felony complaint ensues, followed by a bond hearing and preliminary hearing in county court. Successful cases are bound over to district court, where an arraignment occurs, and pleas are entered.

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Potential Defenses In Nebraska Gun Crime Cases

  • Self-Defense – Self-defense is a major defense in Nebraska for gun crimes, particularly when the defendant used the firearm under the belief that force was necessary to protect against an immediate threat of harm. This defense requires demonstrating that the threat was imminent and that the response was reasonable under the circumstances. For instance, if an individual uses a firearm in response to a direct and immediate threat to their personal safety, they could argue self-defense. However, the defense is less likely to succeed if there was a safe and reasonable opportunity to retreat or avoid using the firearm but the firearm was used anyway, especially if someone was shot.
  • Defense of Property – In Nebraska, the defense of property can be applicable in gun crime cases where the use of a firearm was perceived as necessary to prevent an imminent and unlawful infringement on one’s property. This defense is particularly relevant when there is also a concurrent threat to personal safety. For example, using a firearm to prevent a home invasion could fall under this defense. However, employing deadly force merely to protect property is generally not justified under Nebraska law.
  • Lack of Evidence – This defense argues that there is insufficient proof to establish that the firearm in question was actually possessed or used by the defendant. In cases where ownership or possession of the gun is a central issue, proving that the defendant was not the owner or did not have control over the firearm can be a key defense strategy.
  • Duress – Duress involves situations where the defendant committed a gun crime under immediate threat of harm or coercion by another individual, making them act against their will. This defense requires showing that the threat was real, immediate and left no safe avenue for refusal or escape. For example, if someone were forced at gunpoint to carry or use a firearm, this could constitute duress.
  • Unlawful Search and Seizure – This defense is based on the Fourth Amendment and applies when evidence, such as a firearm, is obtained through a search or seizure that violates constitutional rights. If law enforcement conducted a search or seizure without a warrant or probable cause, and the gun was discovered during this unlawful search, the defense can argue for the exclusion of this evidence from the trial.
  • Lack of Intent – Lack of intent is important in Nebraska gun crime cases where specific intent is an element of the crime. This defense contends that the defendant did not have the requisite intent to commit the alleged offense. For example, if a defendant is accused of unlawfully transferring a firearm to a juvenile, demonstrating that there was no intent to provide the gun to a minor can be a significant defense.

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Role of a Gun Crime Criminal Defense Attorney

Making Sense of the Gun Crime

A criminal defense attorney can help by analyzing the specific gun crime an individual is charged within Nebraska. For instance, the difference between a misdemeanor and a felony charge can significantly alter the legal strategy and process. An attorney experienced in Nebraska gun laws can help a client have a clear understanding of the charges, potential penalties, and the implications for the client’s future.

Challenging Evidence and Procedural Errors

A defense attorney’s role includes developing a defense strategy based on the special circumstances of the gun crime charge. They can also scrutinize the evidence presented by the prosecution for any inconsistencies or violations of constitutional rights, such as unlawful search and seizure under the Fourth Amendment. Pre-trial motions can be filed and litigated, potentially giving you advantages or resolving the case. This is important in gun crime cases, where evidence such as the possession of a firearm, its location, or ballistic analysis plays a significant role. For instance, if a firearm was found during an unlawful search, the attorney might try to have this evidence excluded, which can significantly impact the case’s outcome.

Negotiating Plea Deals or Sentence Reductions

In some instances, the best course of action might be negotiating a plea deal or sentence reduction. This is particularly relevant when the evidence against the defendant is strong, or when a conviction seems likely. An attorney can negotiate with prosecutors to reduce charges or secure a more lenient sentence, such as probation or enrollment in problem-solving courts for non-violent offenders.

Representing the Defendant in Court

Criminal defense attorneys play an important role in representing defendants in court proceedings. This includes arguing motions, cross-examining witnesses, and presenting a compelling case to the judge or jury at trial. Their experience is very important when it comes to handling complex cases involving multiple charges or difficult legal issues.

Advising on Post-Conviction Consequences

Finally, a gun crime criminal defense attorney can advise an individual on the post-conviction consequences, including the potential loss of gun rights, the impact on future employment opportunities, and most importantly, the possibility of imprisonment. They can guide clients through the process of appealing convictions, seeking expungement, or restoring rights, providing important support even after the trial has concluded.

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Nebraska’s View on Guns and School Violence

In Nebraska, there is a strong concern about the presence of firearms in schools and their impact on safety and education. The state recognizes that school violence, especially involving firearms, is a serious problem not only in Nebraska but also across the nation. This violence negatively affects the learning environment, causing fear and concern among students, teachers, and the community. Schools are seen as having a responsibility to keep their students safe and to provide a peaceful, threat-free place for learning. The state is also aware of the dangers of accidental firearm discharge in schools, which can harm students and staff. Overall, Nebraska views firearms as a major threat to the safety and well-being of schools. Therefore, the state supports actions like quickly removing firearms from school premises to ensure the safety of students and maintain a positive educational environment.

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Additional Resources for Gun Owners in Nebraska

Firearm Prohibitions: Nebraska – Visit the official website for the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence to learn more about firearm prohibitions in Nebraska. Learn about who is and is not allowed to possess a firearm in the state. Find more information on background check procedures in Nebraska as well.

City Laws at a Glance – Visit the official website for Nebraska Open Carry to learn more about unique carry laws in Lincoln, Omaha, and Gretna. The site also provides handy links to a number of relevant gun-carry laws. Note that responsible gun owners and aspiring gun owners should use this resource as a convenient way to start researching their gun rights.

Background Check Requirements – Visit the official website of the Nebraska State Patrol to learn more about background checks that must be conducted to limit weapons access to those who cannot lawfully possess them. Learn about the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS). Find more information on Nebraska-specific approaches too.

Nebraska Firearms Owners Association – The Nebraska Firearms Owners Association (NFOA) serves as the “Voice of Nebraska Firearms Owners,” dedicated to preserving the natural rights to keep and bear arms as enshrined in the Nebraska State and U.S. Constitutions. With a mission centered around firearms freedom, NFOA engages in educational campaigns, lobbying, and special events to inform citizens and influence legislation in favor of law-abiding gun owners. Members gain a voice in the Unicameral, ensuring their concerns are heard and officials are held accountable, while also joining a large community of over 10,000 firearms owners for networking, resources, and education. The NFOA offers free basic membership to ensure inclusivity, with additional benefits available at other levels to support the organization’s volunteer-driven, local efforts.

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Hiring a Defense Attorney for Gun-Related Criminal Charges in Nebraska | Liberty Law Group

The rights of individuals across Nebraska and beyond to keep and bear arms are vital to the basic liberties and freedoms guaranteed by the Constitution. At Liberty Law Group, we provide full-service, compassionate, and aggressive representation to those who have been accused of a gun crime. Our attorneys are fierce advocates for the rights of gun owners in Nebraska. Our firm proudly serves the communities of Omaha, Lincoln, Council Bluffs and surrounding areas of Douglas County, Lancaster County, Nebraska, Pattawattamie County, Iowa, and surrounding areas. If you or a loved one has been arrested, charged, or is under investigation by a law enforcement agency, please contact our firm at (402) 865-0501 to request a free and confidential consultation to discuss the specific facts and details of your case with one of our attorneys. We are ready to help immediately.

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