Nebraska takes theft and property offenses seriously, and being found guilty can result in hefty fines and jail time. These offenses usually fall into two main categories: misdemeanors, which are less severe, and felonies, which have harsher penalties. Small differences in a person’s situation can determine whether they face misdemeanor or felony charges. It’s crucial for people to be aware of the different kinds of theft and property crimes in Nebraska, the consequences they may face, the possibility of non-jail alternatives, the defense strategies they can use, and the importance of seeking legal help from a lawyer focused on defending theft crimes.

Defense Attorneys for Theft and Property Crimes in Nebraska

At Liberty Law Group, our attorneys are skilled and dedicated to defending people charged with theft offenses and other property-related crimes throughout Nebraska. Our firm proudly serves the communities of Lincoln, Omaha, Papillion, Council Bluffs, and surrounding areas of Nebraska and West Iowa. This includes the Nebraska counties of Douglas, Lancaster, Sarpy, Washington, Dodge, Saunders, and Pattawattamie County, Iowa. If you or a loved one has been charged with a theft crime, please don’t hesitate to call our office at (402) 865-0501 to request a free and confidential consultation to discuss the facts of your case with one of our attorneys.

Nebraska Theft and Property Crime Information Center

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Specific Property-Related Crimes in Nebraska

  • Arson – According to Nebraska Revised Statutes §28-502 to §28-504, arson involves intentionally damaging a building or its contents by starting a fire or causing an explosion. This offense is classified into three degrees based on severity and circumstances. First-degree arson occurs when the act is done with the knowledge or reasonable probability of someone being present in the building, or in the course of committing a robbery, burglary, or felony criminal mischief. It is a Class II felony in that case. Second-degree arson is committed by intentionally damaging a building or the property within it through fire or explosion, or in the perpetration of certain felonies, but without the specific conditions of first-degree arson. It is a Class III felony. Third-degree arson involves intentionally setting fire to or damaging any property of another without consent, provided the property is not within a building or an occupied structure. This could be a Class II misdemeanor, Class I misdemeanor, or Class IV felony based on the damage amount.
  • Burning to Defraud Insurer – As defined by Nebraska Revised Statute §28-505, this offense is the act of intentionally setting fire to or burning any building or personal property, whether owned by the individual or another, with the intent to deceive or harm an insurer when the property is insured against fire damage. This includes attempts to burn, causing to be burned, or assisting in the burning of insured property. The law classifies burning to defraud an insurer as a Class IV felony.
  • Burglary – According to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-507, burglary is committed when a person intentionally, with malice, and by force breaks and enters into any real estate or its improvements with the intent to commit a felony or to steal property of any value. The law specifically classifies burglary as a Class IIA felony. For the person to be found guilty of this offense, it’s not required by the prosecution to show that anything was stolen.
  • Possession of Burglar’s Tools – Nebraska Revised Statute §28-508 makes it unlawful when a person knowingly has in their possession any explosive, tool, instrument, or other item that is designed or typically used for committing or aiding in the commission of crimes involving forced entry or physical theft. The law classifies the possession of burglar’s tools as a Class IV felony.
  • Robbery – Under Nebraska Revised Statute §28-324, robbery is defined as the act of forcibly taking money or personal property from another individual, using violence or by instilling fear, with the intention to steal. The law specifies that robbery is classified as a Class II felony.
  • Criminal Mischief – As described in Nebraska Revised Statute §28-519, criminal mischief involves intentionally or recklessly damaging someone else’s property, tampering with property in a manner that endangers people or property, or causing financial loss through deception or threat. The classification of criminal mischief depends on the extent of the loss or disruption caused. It is classified as a Class IV felony if the loss is $5,000 or more, or if there’s a significant interruption of public services. It’s a Class I misdemeanor for losses between $1,500 and $5,000, a Class II misdemeanor for losses between $500 and $1,500, and a Class III misdemeanor for losses less than $500 or when there’s no financial loss.
  • Criminal Trespass – Criminal trespass in Nebraska, under Revised Statutes §28-520 and §28-521, is the unlawful entry in a building or structure without permission. The law distinguishes between first and second-degree criminal trespass based on the circumstances of the trespass and the type of property involved. First-degree criminal trespass involves entering or remaining in any building, occupied structure, or public power facility without consent, and is classified as a Class I misdemeanor. Second-degree criminal trespass includes entering or remaining in any place against explicit notice or using an electronic device, such as a drone, to invade privacy without consent. This degree is classified as a Class III misdemeanor, escalating to a Class II misdemeanor if the trespasser ignores a direct order to leave.
  • Graffiti | Vandalism – According to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-524, it is unlawful to knowingly and intentionally apply any letter, word, symbol, drawing, or mark visible to the public on any property, without the express permission of the owner. This action includes graffiti on buildings, both public and private, and other tangible property. The law classifies graffiti as a Class III misdemeanor for a first offense. However, for a second or subsequent offense, it increases to a Class IV felony.


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Specific Theft Offenses In Nebraska

According to Nebraska Revised Statutes §28-210, theft includes a range of actions such as larceny, embezzlement, false pretense, extortion, blackmail, fraudulent conversion, and receiving stolen property. These crimes can often be considered “white-collar” or financial crimes. It basically involves depriving someone of their property, whether by withholding it permanently, disposing of it in a way that risks loss, or obtaining it through deception or threat. Property, in this context, means real estate, personal property, contract rights, credit cards, and services. The classification of theft offenses is determined by the value of the property involved: a Class IIA felony for values of $5,000 or more, a Class IV felony for values between $1,500 and $5,000, a Class I misdemeanor for values between $500 and $1,500, and a Class II misdemeanor for values of $500 or less. Repeat offenses within ten years can lead to enhanced penalties, and in prosecutions for theft, the value of the stolen property must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt.

  • Theft by Unlawful Taking or Disposition – According to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-511, theft by unlawful taking or disposition involves a person either taking control of property belonging to another with the intent to deprive them of it, or transferring property or any interest in it with the intent to benefit themselves or someone else not entitled to it. This law also covers scenarios where a lessee fails to return leased or rented movable property after the lease or rental agreement has expired, Additionally, it includes instances where a person rents or leases a motor vehicle under false pretenses or does not return it.
  • Shoplifting / Retail Theft – Under Nebraska Revised Statute §28-511.01, shoplifting means intentionally taking or concealing goods or merchandise from a store or retail establishment without paying for them, or with the intent to deprive the owner of their possession or value. This includes altering price tags, transferring items between containers, tampering with labels or price tags, causing sales recording devices to reflect a lower price, or disabling security or alarm devices.
  • Theft by deception – As defined in Nebraska Revised Statute §28-512, theft by deception occurs when a person acquires another’s property through intentionally deceptive means. This includes creating or reinforcing false impressions about various aspects such as law, value, intention, or preventing someone from obtaining information that could influence their judgment in a transaction. It also covers failing to correct a false impression that the deceiver knows is influencing another person, particularly in a fiduciary or confidential relationship, and using stolen or unauthorized credit cards or similar instruments.
  • Extortion – Theft by extortion, according to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-513, occurs when a person obtains property, money, or any other item of value from another by threatening to inflict harm, accuse them of a crime, expose damaging secrets, influence political actions, manipulate legal testimony, or distribute private images without consent.
  • Theft of Lost Property – According to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-514, theft of lost property occurs when someone takes control of property they know to be lost or mistakenly delivered and intentionally fails to take reasonable steps to return it to the rightful owner. The classification of this offense depends on the value of the lost property.
  • Theft of services – As defined in Nebraska Revised Statute §28-515, theft of service occurs when a person obtains services by using deception, threat, or other means to avoid payment. These services can include labor, professional services, phone, electric and cable TV services, admission to events, and use of vehicles or other property. The law also notes that immediate non-payment in settings like hotels or restaurants presumes deceptive intent. Additionally, the law extends to those who control others’ services, classifying it as theft if they divert these services for personal gain or for someone else not entitled to them.
  • Receiving Stolen Property – Under Nebraska Revised Statute §28-517, theft by receiving stolen property is committed when a person knowingly receives, retains, or disposes of property (not real estate) that belongs to someone else, believing that it is stolen, unless their intention is to return it to the rightful owner. The classification of this crime depends on the value of the stolen property involved.
  • Forgery – According to Nebraska Revised Statute §28-602 and §28-603, forgery involves the act of falsely making, completing, endorsing, altering, or uttering a written instrument with the intent to deceive or harm. The law distinguishes between first and second-degree forgery based on the nature of the forged item and the value involved. First-degree forgery, which typically involves government-issued or financial instruments like money, securities, or corporate bonds, is classified as a Class III felony. Second-degree forgery covers a broader range of written instruments and varies in classification from a Class II misdemeanor to a Class IIA felony, depending on the value affected by the forgery.

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Penalties for Theft and Property 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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Consequences of Property Crimes Convictions

Individuals found guilty of theft face a range of repercussions that can significantly impact their future. One primary consequence is the creation of a criminal record, which can hinder employment opportunities, as many employers conduct background checks. Because theft crimes are considered “crimes of dishonesty,” this barrier often leads to challenges in securing jobs, especially in positions of trust or finance. Additionally, a theft conviction can affect housing prospects, with many landlords conducting criminal background checks, potentially leading to difficulty in renting properties. Educational opportunities and professional licensure may also be affected, as some colleges have eligibility criteria that exclude individuals with specific theft offenses on their criminal records. Moreover, theft convictions can impact the ability to hold public office, depending on the severity of the crime.


In Nebraska, probation is an alternative to imprisonment for theft or property crimes, allowing individuals to remain in the community under court-imposed conditions. These conditions include lawful behavior, family and employment obligations, periodic confinement, rehabilitation, and reporting to authorities. Probation can last up to five years for felonies and two years for misdemeanors. Successful completion may lead to the setting aside of the conviction, though this doesn’t erase the record completely. Violating probation terms can result in administrative sanctions, court proceedings, or even imprisonment, and may preclude the setting aside of the conviction.

Pre-Plea and Post-Plea Alternative Sentencing Programs

In Nebraska, Problem-Solving Courts are post-plea programs addressing issues like substance abuse and mental health to reduce recidivism. These courts, including Adult Drug Court and Veterans Treatment Court in Douglas and Lancaster Counties, provide structured, judicially supervised programs for eligible non-violent felony offenders. Programs focus on treatment, monitoring, and support, potentially leading to dismissed charges. Lancaster County’s Pretrial Diversion Programs offer pre-plea alternatives for certain misdemeanors and felonies, aiming to address underlying criminal conduct causes. Successful completion can result in case dismissal and no criminal record. Eligibility varies based on the specific program and offense type.

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How Theft and Property Crimes Are Prosecuted In Nebraska

In Nebraska, misdemeanor property crimes are processed in county courts, starting with a law enforcement investigation. This can lead to an arrest, summons and complaint, or citation. After an arrest, a bond hearing and arraignment occur. If issued a summons and complaint, the individual directly attends the arraignment. Here, they plead guilty, not guilty, or no contest. A guilty or no contest plea results in sentencing; a not guilty plea leads to a trial. If convicted, sentencing follows. If the individual is found not guilty, they are acquitted. Felony property crimes begin similarly but are transferred from county to district courts after a preliminary hearing. The case proceeds through bond hearing, arraignment, and possible trial, with sentencing upon conviction.

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Possible Defenses In Theft and Property Cases

    • Mistake of Fact – In cases involving arson, burglary, and similar property crimes in Nebraska, a defendant can assert a “mistake of fact” defense if they genuinely and reasonably believed circumstances to be different than they were, negating criminal intent. For instance, in arson, if the accused believed the property was theirs or they started a fire by accident, this could negate the intent element. Similarly, in burglary, if the defendant genuinely believed they had a right to enter the property, this could challenge the prosecution’s claim of intentional, malicious entry.
    • Duress can be a defense in certain criminal cases in Nebraska. This defense applies if the defendant committed the crime under immediate threat of harm or coercion that a reasonable person would be unable to resist. For example, if someone were forced under threat to commit robbery due to a threat against themselves or a family member, this could be a viable defense.
    • Lack of Intent – For crimes like theft by deception, a key element is the intent to deceive or defraud. If the defendant can demonstrate that they lacked this intent or that their actions were based on a misunderstanding or mistake, this could negate a crucial component of the crime. For instance, if someone unintentionally used a forged document, believing it to be genuine, or if they were unaware that their actions constituted deception, these could be defenses.
    • Absence of Knowledge – In cases involving theft by receiving stolen property or possession of burglar’s tools, the defendant must know, or have reason to believe, that the items were stolen or are used for criminal purposes. Demonstrating that the accused was unaware of the stolen property or the intended use of the tools can be a defense. For example, if they received property or tools without knowledge of their origins or intended use, this could challenge the prosecution’s case.
    • Alibi – An alibi defense involves proving that the defendant was elsewhere when the crime was committed, making it impossible for them to have been involved. This defense can be applied to any property or theft crime in Nebraska, such as arson, burglary, or robbery. Providing evidence such as witness testimony, receipts, or video footage showing the defendant at a different location at the time of the crime can support this defense.
    • Consent – In cases like criminal mischief, graffiti, or criminal trespass, if the defendant had the property owner’s consent for their actions, this can be a defense. For instance, if they had permission to be on the property, to use it in a certain way, or to apply their own style of artwork, this consent can negate the unlawful element of the alleged crime.

Each of these defenses depends on the specific facts of the case, and the effectiveness of a defense will vary based on the evidence and circumstances.

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Role of a Criminal Defense Lawyer Representing Defendants in Theft Cases

Breaking Down the Law

A criminal defense attorney helps clients understand the particular crimes that clients are charged with in Nebraska. They clarify the classification of the offenses, potential penalties, legal rights, and anything else that concerns the law.

Developing Effective Defense Strategies

Defense lawyers create and use defense strategies for their clients. They analyze the individual’s situation to identify defenses such as lack of intent, mistake of fact, duress, or alibi, tailored to the specifics of the individual’s case. For example, in theft by deception or forgery cases, proving a lack of intent to deceive can be important. In burglary charges, a mistake of fact defense may be relevant if the accused believed they had permission or rights related to the property.

Filing Motions to Dismiss

Criminal defense attorneys represent clients in Nebraska court proceedings, from pretrial hearings to trials. They advocate effectively, presenting evidence, challenging witnesses, and arguing legal points.

A critical function of defense lawyers is filing motions to dismiss charges when appropriate. These motions are based on legal grounds such as insufficient evidence, procedural errors, or violations of constitutional rights. In cases where the prosecution’s evidence is weak or gathered unlawfully, a motion to dismiss can result in the charges being dropped before trial.

Negotiating Plea Deals

Defense attorneys negotiate plea deals, engaging in discussions with prosecutors to potentially reduce charges or penalties in exchange for a guilty plea. This can be beneficial in cases with strong evidence against the accused, as a plea deal might lead to reduced charges or alternative sentencing.

Exploring Alternative Sentencing Options

Lawyers also explore alternative sentencing options like probation, pre-plea, and post-plea programs. In Nebraska, these options offer rehabilitation-focused alternatives to incarceration, and an attorney can help clients access these programs, leading to dismissed charges or a cleaner record upon successful completion.

Protecting Constitutional Rights

Defense attorneys ensure their client’s constitutional rights are upheld, including the right to a fair trial and protection against unlawful searches and seizures as well as self-incrimination.

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Additional Resources

Nebraska Revised Statutes: Contains all theft and property crimes on the books in the state of Nebraska, with explanations of the offenses and corresponding penalties. The Nebraska Legislature also contains information on current bills and laws that have been introduced and passed recently.

Nebraska State Fire Marshall: Discusses the agency’s investigatory assistance to local fire departments on origins and causes of fires and explosions, with seven investigation divisions. Provides a link to a chart on the questions to ask after a fire to determine whether to request an investigation and resources after a fire.

FBI’s detailed information and statistics about burglary: Contains an overview of national data on burglary and links to detailed data collected using the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting program.

Crime in Nebraska: Provides data and information about many crimes including robbery, with statistics for the state compared with national averages. Also discusses cities in the state with the highest crime rates and historical trends for crime rates in the state.

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Hiring a Lawyer to Defend a Theft Case in Nebraska | Liberty Law Group

The attorneys at Liberty Law Group are skilled and experienced in representing people charged with theft crimes or other property-related criminal offenses in Nebraska. Our firm proudly serves the communities of Omaha in Douglas County, Lincoln in Lancaster County, Papillion in Sarpy County, Nebraska, and Council Bluffs in Pattawattamie County, Iowa. If you have been accused, charged, or are under investigation for a theft crime or financial crime in Nebraska or Iowa, don’t hesitate to call our office at (402) 865-0501 to request a free and confidential consultation to discuss your case with one of our attorneys.

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