Juvenile offenses encompass a wide range of criminal activities committed by individuals under the age of 18. Below, Liberty Law Group provides important information about some common juvenile offenses in Nebraska, the varying penalties associated with these crimes, and how the juvenile justice system differs from the adult criminal justice system in the state. Additionally, individuals can learn about the major role a criminal defense attorney plays in handling juvenile cases.

Omaha Juvenile Defense Attorneys

At Liberty Law Group, our attorneys are dedicated to defending juveniles who have been accused of crimes and working closely with parents and guardians throughout the process. We make sure to protect the rights and liberties of the accused juvenile so their situation doesn’t destroy their future or negatively impact their educational and career endeavors. Our firm serves the communities of Omaha, Lincoln, Papillion, and Council Bluffs and the surrounding areas of Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy, Saunders, Dodge, Washington, and Cass counties in Nebraska. We are also licensed to practice law in Iowa and serve the communities of Council Bluffs, Pattawattamie County and the surrounding areas of Harrison and Mills counties. If you, your child or another loved one has been arrested or accused of a juvenile crime in Nebraska or Iowa, contact our firm immediately to request a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case with one of our juvenile defense attorneys.

Nebraska Juvenile Law Information Center

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Common Juvenile Offenses in Nebraska

  • Juvenile Alcohol Possession – Juvenile alcohol possession, as defined by Nebraska Revised Statute §53-180.02, involves a juvenile (under the age of 18) unlawfully possessing, selling, dispensing, or consuming alcohol in various locations, including public areas, state-owned properties, or inside vehicles. The law classifies this offense as a misdemeanor for individuals eighteen years of age or younger, according to Nebraska Revised Statute §53-181. Juvenile alcohol possession is classified as a Class III misdemeanor. For the first offense, the court may impound any driver’s licenses or permits for thirty days and require an alcohol education class. A second offense leads to a possible ninety-day impoundment of licenses or permits, 20 to 40 hours of community service, and an alcohol education class. A third or subsequent offense increases the severity with a twelve-month impoundment, a minimum of sixty hours of community service, an alcohol education class, and an alcohol assessment by a licensed counselor.
  • Identity Fraud | Fake ID – Under Nebraska Revised Statute §28-640, identity fraud occurs when a person unlawfully makes, alters, or uses any personal identification document with the intent to deceive, or willfully obtains, possesses, or provides such a document for deception. This crime is classified as a Class I misdemeanor for the first offense. However, any second or subsequent conviction escalates to a Class IV felony.
  • Misrepresentation of Age – Misrepresentation of age, as outlined in Nebraska Revised Statute §53-180.01, refers to the illegal act of a minor obtaining, or attempting to obtain, alcohol by falsifying their age or by any other means in locations where alcohol is sold. This law classifies misrepresentation of age by a minor as a Class III misdemeanor.
  • Juvenile Drug Crimes – According to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-416, drug crimes encompass illegal actions involving substances listed under the Controlled Substances Act. These include manufacturing, distributing, delivering, dispensing, or possessing with intent to do these things, as well as dealing with counterfeit drugs. Nebraska law classifies these crimes based on the type and quantity of the controlled substance involved, with varying degrees of felonies assigned. For example, handling substances classified in Schedules I or II results in more severe charges like Class II or Class IIA felonies. Additionally, possession of controlled substances without a valid medical order or authorization is also penalized, with the severity of the penalty depending on the amount and type of substance involved. The law also intensifies penalties for distribution near schools or playgrounds and imposes additional consequences for repeat offenses.
  • Juveniles Accused of Sex Crimes – When someone under the age of 18 is accused of a sex crime, the consequences can be devastating. Most commonly, boys between the ages of 13 and 17 sometimes face accusations that they have committed some form of sexual assault against a younger child. These accusations can range from simply curious behavior to downright disturbing or even sexually violent conduct. Even conduct involving text messages or other online transmissions of nude photos or video material of themselves or a peer, sometimes referred to as “sexting,” can result in criminal charges. Although courts do take into consideration the young age of the accused minor, the prosecution of juveniles can lead to serious jail time and may require the underage individual to register as a sex offender.
  • Juvenile Domestic Violence – Juveniles are sometimes accused of committing acts of domestic violence against a parent, sibling, another relative, or someone they are involved with in a dating relationship. These accusations can result in criminal domestic violence charges which can lead to serious consequences even when the defendant is a minor under the age of 18.
  • Juvenile Possession of MarijuanaMarijuana possession by a juvenile can lead to criminal charges whether the conduct occurs at school or as the result of a traffic stop or other police encounter. In other states like neighboring Colorado, marijuana has been legalized for adults over the age of 21 but it is still a crime for juveniles to possess any amount of cannabis. This includes products that originated from legal dispensaries in other states. Natural cannabis, vapes, edibles, delta-8 THC and other concentrated THC products can sometimes find their way into the hands of minors which can result in criminal charges.
  • Minor in Possession of a Concealed Weapon – According to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-1202, it is illegal for a minor to carry concealed weapons, including handguns, knives, brass knuckles, or any other deadly weapon. This offense is classified as a Class I misdemeanor for a first offense. For a second or subsequent offense, the classification escalates to a Class IV felony.
  • Unlawful Possession of a Firearm by a Prohibited Juvenile Offender – Under Nebraska Revised Statute §28-1204.05, unlawful possession of a firearm by a prohibited juvenile offender refers to a person under twenty-five years old, who has been previously adjudicated for a felony or a misdemeanor crime of domestic violence in juvenile court, knowingly possessing a firearm. This law classifies the offense as a Class IV felony for a first offense and elevates it to a Class IIIA felony for any subsequent offense.
  • Violent Juvenile Offenders Minors under the age of 18 who are charged with assault or other violent crimes in Nebraska can potentially be charged as adults or juveniles depending on the age of the accused and the severity of the conduct. This might arise from fights at school or elsewhere or any other sort of accusations of violent conduct, attacks or assaults against another juvenile or adult.
  • Juvenile Theft Crimes – Minors under the age of 18 who are accused of stealing can be charged with criminal offenses in juvenile court in Nebraska. This might arise from accusations of shoplifting or other forms of theft from a business or burglary of a vehicle or residence. Juveniles accused of theft crimes can face steep penalties including probation or jail time if convicted.

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The Nebraska Juvenile Court System

The Nebraska Juvenile Court system, as outlined in the Nebraska Revised Statutes §43-246.01 and 43-247, has the authority to deal with delinquency cases, where individuals under age 18 commit acts that are considered felonies or misdemeanors under state law. In contrast to adult court, which primarily deals with criminal proceedings, juvenile court focuses on supporting a juvenile’s success rather than penalizing past actions. This approach involves collaborating with the individual and their family to identify any underlying issues and working together to improve these situations.

A case typically begins with law enforcement gathering facts and determining whether there is adequate proof of an individual violating the law. Under Nebraska Revised Statute §43-248, a police officer has the authority to take a juvenile into temporary custody in various situations. These situations include when a juvenile is believed to have violated a state law, is violating probation, or is under eleven years of age and has committed certain acts.

Upon taking a juvenile into custody, the officer must immediately attempt to notify the juvenile’s parent, guardian, custodian, or relative. The officer can either release the juvenile, require them to appear in court, or retain custody and transfer the juvenile to a probation officer for further action.

The police report for the alleged violation is sent to the county attorney. Upon examining the report, the county attorney has three options: they may choose not to initiate any legal charges, offer an opportunity to engage in a diversion program, or proceed with filing a petition for a juvenile court appearance.

The Petition

In Nebraska’s Juvenile Court System, the petition outlines the state’s allegations leading to juvenile court involvement. The juvenile and their parents or guardian are then notified of a court date.

A detention hearing occurs within 24 hours if the juvenile is detained. The judge decides whether continued detention or restrictions like electronic monitoring are necessary for safety or to prevent flight. If extended detention is required, it has to be in a juvenile facility, except for juveniles charged with felonies as adults, who may be held in adult jails. Juveniles not in detention can waive this hearing through their lawyer. Importantly, if no criminal complaint or juvenile petition is filed within 48 hours of detention, the court is required to release the juvenile.

The first apperance, known as an arraignment, is where the judge explains the petition’s charges. The juvenile can request a lawyer and respond to the petition, similar to pleading guilty or not guilty in adult court. When a juvenile or their parents enter a denial or do not respond to the petition, the court sets an adjudication hearing.

Alternatively, if the juvenile or their parents admit to or do not contest the allegations, the court schedules a dispositional hearing. At this stage, the judge may order a placement (e.g., returning them home, temporary out-of-home placement, detention in jail if charged with a felony), investigation, or evaluation before disposition, which can occur immediately following adjudication.


When a juvenile is in custody, they must be presented for an adjudication hearing promptly, but always within six months of the petition filing. If this period lapses without a hearing, the juvenile is released from custody.

In juvenile court, there are no jury trials; all cases are heard by a judge. Unlike adult court, an adjudication in juvenile court is not considered a criminal conviction and does not impose the usual civil restrictions that come from a criminal record.

Also, any admissions, confessions, or statements made by the juvenile during the proceedings are inadmissible in subsequent criminal or civil cases. This ensures that statements made by juveniles in the context of juvenile court proceedings do not unfairly prejudice them in later life.

Post-adjudication, the court has the authority to place juveniles with the Department of Health and Human Services or other locations. This placement makes the juvenile a ward of the state, with the department responsible for their care, placement, and services. The court may also require the Department to prepare a care and placement plan for the juvenile.

Finally, after adjudication, the court can authorize evaluations for the juvenile, conducted by the Office of Probation Administration. These evaluations must be completed within specific times, depending on whether the juvenile is in detention.


In Nebraska, the disposition is the court’s decision on what actions to take following a juvenile’s adjudication. Options include probation, home placement, community service, or institutional care. Decisions are tailored to each juvenile’s needs, focusing on rehabilitation and reformation. Juveniles remain under court jurisdiction until they reach adulthood or are discharged by the court. Notably, the court may order the juvenile to pay restitution or participate in community service, and in certain cases, a juvenile may be committed to the Department of Health and Human Services or the Office of Juvenile Services.

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Juvenile Diversion in Nebraska

Juvenile Pretrial Diversion in Nebraska, as outlined in Nebraska Revised Statute 43-274, provides an alternative to traditional court proceedings for certain juveniles. The program allows for pretrial diversion or mediation instead of filing a juvenile court petition. Juveniles, particularly those involved in nonviolent acts, can be offered mediation, involving the juvenile, their guardians, and the victim. Mediation agreements, which might include community service or restitution, must be complied with, otherwise the juvenile may face traditional legal actions. If a juvenile successfully fulfills the terms of the mediation agreement, no criminal charges or juvenile petitions are filed.

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Sealing a Juvenile Record

Sealing a juvenile record in Nebraska is a process governed by specific statutes, particularly Nebraska Revised Statutes §43-2,108.01 to §43-2,108.05. This process is applicable to individuals who were under 18 at the time of the offense and involves various scenarios such as the decline of filing a juvenile petition by the county or city attorney, involvement in diversion programs, or cases dismissed or satisfactorily completed. The law provides for automatic sealing in certain situations, while in others, the juvenile or their guardian may need to file a motion. The effect of sealing is significant: it allows the individual to act as if the offense never occurred, with certain restrictions on who can access these records.

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Juvenile Rights

Under Nebraska law, juveniles who are involved in court proceedings due to allegations of wrongdoing have specific rights. Key rights include:

  1. Right to Information: Juveniles have the right to understand why they are in juvenile court, including the specific law they are accused of violating. They also have the right to comprehend how the juvenile court process functions and what outcomes the judge might order.
  2. Right to Legal Representation: Juveniles are entitled to have a lawyer represent them. This attorney works solely for the juvenile’s interest. The lawyer’s role is to protect the juvenile’s rights, assist in communicating their perspective, and handle the court process. This includes advising on whether to opt for a trial or admit to the charges.
  3. Right to a Trial (Adjudication): In Nebraska, juveniles are not obligated to confess to any charges or testify in court. The burden of proof lies with the county attorney, who must present evidence to support the claims made in the petition against the juvenile.
  4. Right to Present a Defense: Juveniles and their attorneys can present evidence and witnesses to challenge the allegations in the petition. This right also encompasses cross-examining witnesses brought by the county attorney.
  5. Right to a Speedy Trial: The court must conduct the adjudication within six months of the filing of the original petition by the county attorney, although there can be exceptions to this timeframe.
  6. Right to Appeal: If a juvenile disagrees with the court’s decision, they have the option to request a review by a higher court. This appeal must be filed within 30 days following the court hearing, and the attorney can guide through this process.

These rights ensure that juveniles in Nebraska’s justice system are afforded due process and fair representation in legal proceedings.

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Potential Defenses to Juvenile Charges

  • Lack of Criminal Intent – Juvenile offenders may lack the mature understanding of their actions necessary to form criminal intent. This defense is grounded in the recognition that children and adolescents often do not fully comprehend the consequences of their actions or the legal implications. In these cases, the defense would argue that the juvenile, due to their age and immaturity, did not possess the requisite mens rea, or "guilty mind," to commit a crime intentionally.
  • Mistake of Fact – This defense applies when a juvenile mistakenly believes a situation to be different than it is, leading to unintentional illegal actions. For example, a juvenile might take someone else’s property believing it to be theirs. In these cases, the defense argues that the juvenile’s actions, while unlawful, were not criminal due to a genuine misunderstanding or misinterpretation.
  • Insufficient Evidence – In any criminal case, including juvenile cases, the prosecution must prove the defendant’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. If the evidence is lacking, the defense can argue for the dismissal of charges or acquittal. This argument stresses that the evidence presented does not meet the standards required for a conviction.

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Role of a Juvenile Defense Lawyer

Legal Representation and Advice

A juvenile defense lawyer provides legal representation and advice to individuals under 18 charged with crimes in Nebraska. They explain the charges, potential penalties, and legal options available to the juvenile. This representation is vital in ensuring that the juvenile’s rights are protected and that they fully understand the implications of their charges and the legal proceedings.

Developing Defense Strategies

Juvenile defense attorneys in Nebraska are skilled in developing defense strategies specific to juvenile cases. They evaluate the evidence, identify any procedural errors, and argue for the exclusion of improperly obtained evidence. Their knowledge in juvenile law allows them to tailor defenses that reflect the unique circumstances and needs of their clients.

Negotiating with Prosecutors

In Nebraska, juvenile defense lawyers often negotiate with prosecutors to reduce charges or penalties, or to arrange for alternative resolutions like diversion programs. These negotiations are crucial in achieving outcomes that focus on rehabilitation rather than punishment, considering the best interests of the juvenile.

Representation in Court

Juvenile defense attorneys represent their clients in court, presenting evidence and arguments on their behalf. They ensure that the juvenile’s case is presented effectively and fairly, advocating for their client’s rights and interests throughout the court proceedings.

Protecting Juvenile Rights

Juvenile defense attorneys are dedicated to safeguarding the rights of their clients. They ensure that juveniles are treated fairly, have access to legal counsel, and are not subjected to harsh or unjust punishment. They also advocate for the confidentiality and sealing of juvenile records when appropriate to protect the young person’s future prospects.

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Nebraska Juvenile Law Resources

Nebraska Legislature: This site contains the laws and procedures that fall under Nebraska’s juvenile justice system, including the process of investigating and bringing charges against a juvenile and the consequences that a juvenile faces post-adjudication.

National Institutes of Health on underage alcohol laws and facts in Nebraska: Includes categories on Nebraska’s alcohol laws related to underage possession of alcohol in categories including purchase and possession of alcohol. Also covers issues related to sales of alcohol and driving in the state related to minors.

The Daily Nebraskan: This article from the student publication at University of Nebraska-Lincoln (2015) talks about how easy it is for some underage students to get fake IDs to purchase alcohol or access bars and other adult only establishments. Discusses some of the legal risks and interviews students who have had experience with getting and using fake IDs.

Connections between “Alcohol, Drugs, and Crime”: Considering juvenile (and adult) drug and alcohol use in relation to other criminal issues, studies show that eight out of ten minors in state juvenile justice systems show connections between criminal offenses and drug or alcohol use. Connections can be direct, in crimes committed in seeking drugs or alcohol, or implicit, in youth who were under the influence at the time of the offense.

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Hiring a Juvenile Defense Attorney in Nebraska | Liberty Law Group

Juvenile defense in Nebraska has some unique issues compared to adult criminal cases. At Liberty Law Group, our team is experienced practicing in the juvenile court system and providing guidance to parents of troubled teens and minors who have been accused of a crime. Our firm proudly serves the communities of Omaha in Douglas County, Lincoln in Lancaster County, Papillion in Sarpy County and the surrounding Nebraska counties of Dodge, Washington, Saunders and Cass. We also practice in Iowa juvenile courts in Council Bluffs, Pattawattamie County and the surrounding areas of Harrison and Mills counties. If you, your child, or another loved one has been charged with juvenile crime, contact our firm immediately at (402) 865-0501 to request a free consultation to discuss the facts of your case with an experienced juvenile defense attorney.

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