Sealing and Expunging Criminal Records in Nebraska
Arrested or convicted persons can have their rights restored to a time preceding a criminal charge or conviction by sealing or expunging their criminal records. Usually, when a criminal record is sealed or expunged, it removes or destroys the record. However, Nebraska does not have any true expungement laws for criminal convictions. Instead, adults with criminal records may have their convictions “set-aside” or pardoned but not erased. As a result, these convictions are still available in criminal records and can be viewed, along with the set-aside orders, by prospective employers and other interested parties. Records that can be sealed by the courts are juvenile records or adult criminal records where charges were dismissed. Set-asides, pardons or sealing are granted only to persons who meet the state’s criteria, as provided in §§ 29–2264 and 29–3523 of Nebraska Revised Statutes.
The Difference Between Sealing and Expunging Criminal Records
When a record is sealed, it is inaccessible to the public. Although juvenile criminal records and certain adult records can be sealed in Nebraska, adult criminal convictions cannot be sealed or expunged in Nebraska. The law permits only a set-aside or pardons for the criminal conviction of an adult. A “set-aside” voids a criminal conviction while a “pardon” is official forgiveness of a crime. Set-asides are granted by the courts and pardons by the Board of Pardons.
How to Seal a Criminal Record in Nebraska
Criminal records that can be sealed in Nebraska include juvenile records and the following adult records:
- Victims of sex trafficking (§ 29–3523(4))
- Pardoned convictions (§ 29–3523(5))
- Acquitted or dismissed cases (§ 29–3523(7))
Anyone who wants to seal any of the above-named adult records may petition the sentencing court for an order to seal the record.
In Nebraska, a juvenile record is automatically sealed by the courts when the juvenile turns 17, provided that the crime was committed after July 15, 2010, and the juvenile has completed all legal programs/sentences ordered by the court. However, the court, by its own initiative, may decide not to seal the record automatically. This can also happen if:
- The individual is under 17 years of age
- The crimes occurred before July 15, 2010
Juvenile records that are eligible for sealing include:
- Misdemeanor offenses or infractions, excluding traffic offenses where a court appearance is not required and are settled by a fine
- Cases where juvenile pretrial diversions or mediation were offered
- Juveniles who had charges for misdemeanors, felonies, traffic, or status offenses filed against them in a County Court (Felony charges filed in District Courts are ineligible for sealing)
As stated previously, the process for sealing a juvenile criminal record begins automatically when the convicted individual turns 17 years old. The court notifies the county or city attorney that prosecuted the case of the sealing. If no objection is filed by the prosecutor, the court seals the record without further ceremony. If an objection is filed, the court sets a hearing date to consider the case. If the court seals the record, the person has the right to respond to an inquiry as if the record does not exist, and the offense never occurred.
An individual below or above 17 years of age may petition for sealing, provided all court-ordered programs or sentences have been completed. When a juvenile record is not sealed, it remains accessible to the public. However, a petition can be re-filed after one year has passed from the denial.
What Crimes Can Be Expunged in Nebraska?
Criminal convictions cannot be expunged in Nebraska. Felony and misdemeanor convictions can be set aside, but Nebraska statutes do not name the specific crimes that can be set aside. Petitioners who are eligible for a set-aside include:
- Individuals who completed probation or paid the complete fine for a sentence (if the penalty was fine).
In Nebraska, the only crime eligible for expungement is an erroneous arrest made by a law enforcement agency. ( 29–3523(9))
How to Expunge Criminal Records in Nebraska
An individual can petition a District Court or County Court to set aside a conviction. It is possible to set aside more than one conviction, but each conviction must be requested separately. It is important to view the local rules on a set aside of the applicable court because these rules differ by the court. Generally, an individual may request this set aside from the sentencing court. Below are the steps:
- File the form: The CC–6–11 form may be used to file in the County Courts. The form for the District Courts may be obtained from the courthouses. Petitioners are required to have a copy of their court record or criminal history record (obtainable from the Nebraska State Patrol). Court records can be obtained from public access terminals located in the courts or using Justice Search. However, the record obtained from Justice Search is not the complete court record. The reason for obtaining these records is to get the information necessary to complete the petition form, including the date of offense, criminal charge, case disposition, sentence, and if the sentence was completed. The original form may be filed in person or by mail to the District or County Court clerk. It is advisable for a petitioner to keep personal copies of filed documents.
- Serve the city prosecutor/county attorney: After filing the petition in the court, the petitioner must serve the prosecuting attorney with a copy of the petition. This service can be delivered by mail or in person at the prosecutor’s office.
- Attend the hearing: A hearing date will be set for the petition by the clerk, who then notifies the petitioner of the date and time of the hearing. At the hearing, consideration is given to whether the petitioner has any recent criminal conviction, if there is a possibility that the petitioner will abide by laws in the future and the time frame between the petitioner’s last offense and the set-aside petition. When the hearing is concluded, the judge will grant or deny the set-aside. Most times, a copy of this order will be sent to the petitioner by mail.
Individuals who qualify for expungement due to an erroneous arrest may petition the District Court in the county of arrest, provided the petitioner can present clear and convincing evidence that the arrest was made in error.
Do Sealed Records Show up In Nebraska Background Checks?
No, sealed records do not show up in Nebraska background checks. When a criminal record is sealed, only a few people have access to the record. Usually, a juvenile record is considered a public record in the state unless it is sealed. Records that have been set-aside are still available on background checks, as a set-aside order does not remove criminal information; it only nullifies a conviction. Anyone who conducts a search will see the conviction and the set-aside order on the criminal record.
Who Can See Sealed Criminal Records in Nebraska?
In Nebraska, sealed juvenile criminal records can be seen by the following parties:
- Law enforcement officers and agencies
- Prosecuting attorneys
- Probation, corrections, Office of Juvenile Services, Juvenile Assessment Center, or detention facilities
- Department of Health and Human Services
- The subject of records or other authorized persons
- Individuals in a lawsuit concerning a case with a sealed record
- Researchers (provided the research does not violate the record’s confidentiality)
- Any person with a legitimate reason to view the record
Nebraska statutes do not specify who can see sealed adult criminal records such as victims of sex trafficking, pardoned convictions, and acquitted or dismissed cases.
How to Obtain Sealed Records in Nebraska
Individuals may file Form DC 1:12 to obtain their sealed records in Nebraska or grant someone else access to their records. This form may be filed with the clerk of the District Court, County Court, or Juvenile Court, where the case was filed. The costs of such requests may be obtained from the clerk.