Release from Jail & Alternatives to Prosecution
Updated: Dec 9, 2020
The State of Nebraska and its individual counties have made available several alternatives to the traditional model of prosecution and incarceration. These help those who are accused of a crime to undergo minimal disruption during the process, and allows the states to divert a number of cases away from the typical court and jail system which is typically crowded and expensive.
How Does Posting Bond Work?
Posting bond (or “bail”) is one of the most common ways to be released from custody before the conclusion of a criminal case. The court holds a certain sum of money until the case is resolved in exchange for allowing the defendant to go free in the meantime. If the defendant fails to return for their court appearance or violates some other condition of the bond, they will likely forfeit the money that was posted and an arrest warrant will be issued. Bonding out is helpful because, in addition to not having to spend extra time in jail, it can improve your chances to successfully defend against the criminal charges.
Not all defendants are given the option to post bond, and not all bonds are the same. In determining whether a bond should be available or not, and how much it should cost, the court is primarily concerned with two things: 1) how much of a danger the defendant poses to the community; and 2) how likely it is that the defendant will not honor their obligation to appear at their next court date. The amount of the required bond will vary based on the offense and the specifics of the case. More serious charges typically have higher bond requirements. Bonds may also carry other restrictions, such as not traveling beyond a certain distance or not contacting someone involved in the alleged crime.
If a bond is allowed, the court will accept the required payment and release the defendant until the next court appearance. If the charges are later dismissed or the defendant is acquitted, the bond money will typically be refunded to the defendant. The defendant also has the option of assigning the bond money so that when it is released, the money is paid out to someone other than the defendant. This can be a good way to help assure the person paying the bond that they will see their money again, or bond assignment can be used as a sort of down payment for attorney fees. Bond requirements may also be changed throughout the course of a case. If a defendant is unable to pay their required bond amount, for example, they may ask the court to reconsider the bond amount in the hope that it will be reduced to some amount that is more realistic for the defendant. On the other side of the coin, if new facts come to light that reflect poorly on the defendant, the state may ask that the bond be raised or withdrawn altogether. A skilled criminal law attorney can help maximize your chances of obtaining a favorable bond.
What is House Arrest?
House arrest is a common way for lower-risk offenders to serve their sentence, or a portion of it, outside of the confines of the actual jail. This helps avoid overcrowding the jails and allows defendants to carry on with certain aspects of their life, such as work and school, when approved to do so. Each county has its own criteria for when a defendant is eligible for house arrest, but the requirements commonly include: a) having a stable residence within a certain distance; b) having a phone through which you can reliably be reached while under house arrest; c) not be convicted of a crime falling within certain classes of offenses that are ineligible for house arrest, such as violent crimes. See Neb. Rev. Stat. 47-401 for more information.
You are responsible for paying all of the costs associated with house arrest. If this enables employment to continue relatively uninterrupted, the cost should be more than worth the benefit. Time might also be spent attending counseling, classes, community service, or some other productive activity that helps demonstrate rehabilitation to the court, and may even allow you to get a jump-start on fulfilling court requirements that were set out at sentencing.
What are Diversion Programs?
Diversion programs offer an alternative to the traditional court system where a person accused of a crime may choose to complete a number of requirements designed for rehabilitation in exchange for dismissal of their pending charges. Many first-time offenders can avoid the consequences of a conviction if they successfully complete the program requirements. Depending on the specifics of a case, the original charges may even be later sealed to prevent them being a part of the public record.
Typically only less serious charges are eligible for diversion, though each charge and circumstance may be evaluated on its own. It is also typically required that a diversion participant not have any previous criminal history, including other charges dealt with through diversion. Some exceptions may exist for juvenile charges, juvenile diversion, or charges prosecuted in other jurisdictions. It is also mandatory that a participant not have any new charges filed against them while completing diversion, or else they will almost certainly be dismissed from the program and the charges prosecuted in regular court.
In order to determine whether you qualify for enrollment in a diversion program, you should check with the program administrator and inquire about applying. In most cases, however, the prosecuting office will perform a screening check to determine eligibility and, if you are eligible, will cause you to be notified by mail some time prior to your court appearance.
Diversion programs are typically offered through the city or county and so specific eligibility requirements and other details of the programs differ between jurisdictions. Unfortunately, many jurisdictions also do not offer any type of diversion program, meaning that identical charges may have very different final results based on the county it was filed in and the programs available there.
Once a defendant successfully completes all of their diversion program requirements, the program notifies the court and the charges should then be dismissed. If the program requirements are not completed within the required time (usually six to twelve months), then diversion is failed and the charges are prosecuted in court. Programs similar to diversion exist, again depending on the jurisdiction. Juvenile Diversion, Drug Court, and Young Adult Court are a few examples.