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Disclaimer: The material in this question and answer series is for your information only. It is not legal advice. It is not designed to be used in place of legal advice. You should consult your own attorney for legal advice. The Lincoln City Attorney's Office provides this series to provide a general summary of procedures concerning violations of city ordinances in the City of Lincoln, Lancaster County, Nebraska. It is issued to inform generally, not to advise of specific rights. As with any general information, the answers given here may not specifically apply to you. (Revised-01/08/2014 trs)
What are violations of city ordinances?

Violations of city ordinances include most traffic offenses charged in the City of Lincoln (Speeding, Accidents, Driving Under Suspension and First and Second Offense DUI ). It also may include shoplifting, MIP, trespass, vandalism, disturbing the peace and assaults not involving serious injury within the City of Lincoln.

What are more serious offenses?

More serious offenses include violent crimes, most drug related offenses, serious assaults, and repeat DUI offenses are handled by the County Attorney's Office. They also prosecute traffic and speeding tickets and other violations outside city limits.

Tickets

Who can I talk to about a ticket?

The City Prosecutors are part of the City Attorney's Office. They prosecute violations of city ordinances.

The Lancaster County Attorney's Office prosecutes more serious offenses charged under state law.

I would like to contest a parking ticket?

EFFECTIVE February 8, 2011, the Parking Services Division of the Urban Development Department for the City of Lincoln took on the responsibility for parking tickets. This division will accept payment for parking fines. You may mail your payment by check or money order DO NOT SEND CASH to the Parking Services Division, 850 Q St., Lincoln, NE 68508. The Parking Services Division will also accept on-line payments.

When do parking meters have to be plugged?

Parking meters have to be plugged Monday thru Saturday, 8:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. Meters do not have to be plugged Sundays, New Yearís Day, Memorial Day, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Thanksgiving Day, and Christmas Day. The maximum amount of time and the coins accepted are shown on each parking meter head.

Where can I find the city's parking ordinances?
You can view them in Title 10 (Vehicles and Traffic) of the Lincoln Municipal Code.


City Attorney's Office

Can I talk to someone about my ticket by phone?

No. However, the staff can tell you some very limited information about a ticket such as court dates and whether the ticket is prosecuted by the City or County over the phone. Contact the Clerk of the County Court for information about court dates. If you want to talk to a prosecutor about a ticket, that must be done in person.

Why can't I talk to a prosecutor about my ticket over the phone?

Citations are formal and official proceedings. They require serious attention and require face to face communication. This is a protection for you because it helps prevent persons unrelated to the case from inquiring about the details of the case. It also allows the prosecutor to better identify the person he or she talked to regarding a case.

What does the prosecutor do?

The prosecutor is the person who actually files the official complaint against you in court. Technically, the prosecutor will review the case and decide whether there is legal cause to believe you have committed a violation of the law. In some cases the prosecutor will file charges that are different from what the officer wrote on the ticket. This is part of the prosecutor's duty and is completely legal. The complaint filed by the prosecutor is the official document filed in court. Often there are different allegations about what happened. The prosecutor is not expected to resolve all of those issues. The facts of a case are finally decided by a judge at trial. This is part of the process, so that contested charges are decided fairly. The prosecutor does not dismiss cases unless there is a legal reason to do so.

Does it cost me extra to talk to a prosecutor about my ticket?

No. The prosecutor is prohibited, by law, from charging any fees to you or your attorney for discussing your case. You may come in person to the City Attorney's office during regular business hours to talk to a prosecutor about your case. There are no appointments and you may speak with any available prosecutor about your case. However, if you have your own attorney, you must let your attorney handle all communications with the City Attorney's office. It is unethical for any City Attorney to talk to a represented defendant without their attorney.

What if I hire an attorney to represent me?

If you hire an attorney to represent you in court or otherwise, you will be responsible for your own attorney's fees. Fees for your own attorney vary, but most attorneys charge fees based on the amount of time spent on a case or on a flat fee based on the type of case. If you hire your own attorney, you must let your attorney handle all communications with the City Attorney's office.

I don't have an attorney. How can I find one?

The Nebraska Bar Association has a lawyer referral service. The lawyers in this service have agreed to provide an initial visit at no cost. Contact the NSBA at (402)475-7091 for more information.

Can I get a court provided attorney if I can't afford to hire one?

In cases where the penalty is likely to include a jail sentence, the Court may appoint an attorney to represent you if you cannot afford an attorney. Frequently, the Lancaster County Public Defender's Office handles appointed defense work. You may request that the court appoint a public defender at arraignment. The Judge assigns court appointed attorneys. The City Attorney's office does not assign cases to the Public Defender or have any input into who the Court appoints.

When can I talk to a prosecutor about a case?

The paperwork for most cases requires a day or two to process by the Lincoln Police Department. We must have the paperwork and reports in our office in order for our prosecutor to discuss the citation with you. There may be things you can do before your scheduled court appearance that will save you time and money. Remember, the prosecutor is not your attorney. The prosecutor is responsible for proving the case against you in court. If you have hired an attorney, you must have your attorney handle communications between you and the prosecutor.

When I received my ticket, I didn't have my proof of insurance or registration with me.
If you had insurance on the day you were stopped you need to bring it in to our office and show it to one of our prosecutors. If you didn't have insurance on the date of the stop, you will need to appear in court at the scheduled courtdate on the citation.

For registration violations, you have ten days from the date on the ticket to bring your registration current. Bring your current registration (pink copy) along with the citation to the City Attorney's Office at 555 South 10th, Suite 300.

PLEASE wait two business days after you receive your citation before bringing your information to our office. A prosecutor must have the information from the Police Department before reviewing your insurance or registration.

I got a ticket for driving under suspension and Iím reinstated, what do I need to do?
You need to come into our office to discuss with a prosecutor. Bring your citation, your reinstatement papers from the Department of Motor Vehicles, and your new license.

I got a ticket for driving under the influence can I talk to an attorney?
If you plan to hire an attorney, we will need to discuss the case with your attorney. If you do NOT plan to hire an attorney, you can come in and talk to one of the prosecutors. Remember, we are not representing you in your case, we CANNOT give legal advice.

I didn't think I was speeding. Why did I still get a ticket?

You got a speeding ticket because a police officer had reasonable grounds to believe you were operating your motor vehicle in excess of the speed limit. Prosecutors will not dismiss speeding tickets for any of the following excuses: Your statement that you didn't mean to go that fast; Your statement that you were staying with the flow of traffic; or your belief that you were singled out while other speeding drivers got away without a speeding ticket.

What is a Radar or Laser enforced speeding ticket?

Most speeding tickets in Lincoln are given after an officer has registered your speed on a speed measurement device. Today, speed measurement technology has advanced and become accepted as a reliable, everyday tool of speed limit enforcement. Nebraska law recognizes speed registered by electronic devices as good evidence to prove a speeding violation. Lincoln police officers are trained to use the speed guns and the devices are periodically tested for accuracy as required by law. Generally, the speed measurements the Police take are more accurate and reliable than the speed measurements from the speedometer in your car.

The police officer didn't show me the speed registered for my car on the speed gun, or the wrong box is checked on the face of the ticket, is the ticket still valid?

Yes, the ticket is still valid. In Nebraska, a police officer is not required to do this and not all devices or measurement methods allow the officer to do so. The ticket is still valid because the prosecutor files the official complaint against you in court. Technical defects and omissions on the face of the ticket do not affect the official complaint the prosecutor files against you in court.

My ticket has a fine amount plus court cost amount printed on it and the box marked "Waiver allowed" is checked. What does that mean?

That means you may pay the fine and court costs at any time prior to the scheduled court date and avoid going to court. If you pay the fine and costs you cannot contest the ticket. You are pleading guilty to the violation charged. The court will treat your payment of the fine as your admission of guilt. It is called a "waiver" because by paying the fine you are giving up your right to contest the charges at trial.


Court Costs

What are Court Costs?

Court costs are set by the Nebraska State Legislature. The judge will assess court costs against you if you are found guilty of the violation. Court Costs are currently $48.00 for a filing fee plus other fees such as witness fees. You also pay court costs if you plead guilty or pay your fine by waiver. The $48.00 filing fee is the same for every case. The filing fee does not increase if you decide to have a trial, although you may have to pay additional fees for witnesses subpoenaed to testify at trial if you are found guilty. Police officers are not paid witness fees.

What costs do court costs pay for?

As the name implies, court costs go to the court system to help pay for the administrative costs such as docket fees, judges retirement fund, law enforcement improvement fund, legal services, court automation, and miscellaneous fees. Court costs are not part of the fine or penalty you pay. Court costs do not pay for the prosecutor's time or the police investigation. Court costs do not include costs you pay for hiring your own attorney.

Who gets the money from the fines and penalties paid in court?

The Nebraska Constitution requires fines and penalties to be paid to the local schools. One reason for this is to prevent police departments and law enforcement officers from obtaining a direct benefit by charging crimes and getting convictions. Fines and penalties do not pay for the salary or expenses of the courts, the police department or the City or County Attorney's office.


S.T.O.P. Program

What is the S.T.O.P. Program?

The S.T.O.P. Program is the name of the official Lincoln/Lancaster County Safety Training Option Program. This program allows persons cited for minor traffic violations to avoid a fine, court appearance and points on your driver's record by completing an 8-hour defensive driving course. Only certain tickets are eligible.

What tickets are eligible for the S.T.O.P. Program?

Subject to some restrictions, you are eligible if your ticket was issued in Lancaster County for:
  • Failure to yield the right of way
  • Disregarding traffic signs and signals
  • Wrong way, wrong side, or improper passing
  • Negligent driving
  • Improper turns, backing or lane changes
  • Following too closely
  • Driving too fast for conditions
  • No valid driver's license - ELIGIBLE ONLY IF RENEWED
  • No valid registration - ELIGIBLE ONLY IF RENEWED

Citations that are NOT eligible
  • Leaving the scene of an accident
  • Driving Under the Influence of alcohol and/or drugs
  • Willful reckless or reckless driving
  • Speed contest
  • Flee to avoid arrest
  • Refuse breath or blood test
  • Driving While suspended
  • Injury accidents
  • Speeding (more than 19 m.p.h. over limit)
  • No insurance
  • Multiple violations (certain multiple offenses are eligible, call for more information)
  • CDL Operator's License Holder
  • School bus violation
  • Using handheld device (texting)

NOTE:An amendment of the charge from the list of citations not eligible will not make the ticket eligible for the S.T.O.P. program.

What are the eligibility restrictions for the S.T.O.P program?

You do not contest the violation. You can only use the S.T.O.P program once in any three-year period. You must satisfactorily complete the program after you sign up or the prosecutor may refile charges against you in court.

Can a prosecutor waive the restriction so I can enroll in the S.T.O.P. Program?

No, the Nebraska State Legislature has specified the restrictions. Prosecutors cannot waive those restrictions to allow someone who is not eligible to enroll in S.T.O.P.

How do I enroll in the S.T.O.P. Program?

Register for the S.T.O.P. Program within ten working days to avoid paying for Court Costs. You must register IN PERSON between the hours of 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday - Thursday OR 8:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Friday at one of the following locations: Community Corrections, 633 South 9th Street, Lincoln, NE 68508 OR the Nebraska Safety Council, Traffic Dept, 3242 Cornhusker Hwy, Ste A10, Lincoln, NE 68504-1592

When you register, bring the following with you: your citation (ticket), your valid Driver's License, your Social Security Number, and $85.00 (The cost of the class.) Payment can be made by money order or credit/debit card. Payment by credit/debit card will require an additional $2.12 processing fee. NO cash or checks accepted.

I missed my S.T.O.P. class, what do I need to do?
If you would still like to attend the S.T.O.P. class, you need to call the facility where you signed up for the class and reschedule. You may only reschedule the class once. If you don't want to attend the S.T.O.P. class you will receive a letter in the mail indicating the ticket will be filed.


Court Dates

I can't come to the court date set on the ticket. What can I do?

It depends on when you received your ticket. If your ticket is a traffic citation, we hold them in our office for ten working days before we file them in County Court. If it is within the ten days, you need to come into our office and speak with one of our prosecuting attorneys. If it is after the ten days (or your ticket is a criminal citation), contact the Lancaster County Court at 441-7291.
You must contact the Clerk of the County Court prior to the date set for your case and ask for a continuance. A continuance is a formal request for the judge to set a later date for your first hearing. You should not assume you can ask for a delay for any reason at all or that the judge will grant the request. The judge may ask you to provide a reason for the request. Court appearances are important, and even if you have to ask for time off from work, you should make every effort to make your scheduled court time. Remember, you can avoid going to court by paying the fine if the "Waiver Allowed" box is checked on your ticket, prior to your arraignment date. Failure to appear on your scheduled court date may result in a warrant being issued for your arrest.

I missed my court date. What should I do?
Contact the Lancaster County Court at 441-7291 to find out how to reschedule your courtdate.

What happens on the court date I am scheduled to appear at?

The first court date set for your ticket is called an arraignment. You are expected to be in court on the date and time set for your case on the ticket. If you are not there, you may be charged with failure to appear, a separate crime. The Judge may also issue a warrant for your arrest. If you fail to appear for a traffic violation, the State Department of Motor Vehicles may also suspend your right to operate a motor vehicle.

What is an arraignment?

An arraignment is a court hearing to make certain you know the charges against you, and to find out how you plead. The arraignment allows you to enter a plea of guilty or not guilty. It is not a trial. The arraignment is usually the first contact you have with the court about a particular ticket.


Pleading

How should I plead?

This is your decision. The formal pleas are guilty or not guilty. You might also hear someone say "No contest."

What happens if I plead No Contest at Arraignment?

The plea of no contest is not a formally recognized plea in the state of Nebraska. However, some judges may accept the plea in some circumstances. Generally, no contest pleas operate the same as a guilty plea. Some use the plea where there is a private lawsuit related to the same incident. You need to consult your own attorney if you are concerned about what effect entering a plea in a case may have on related private lawsuits.


Arraignment

How do I enter a plea at arraignment?

At the arraignment the prosecutor or the judge will call your name. When called you will approach and stand before the judge. The prosecutor or judge will read the charge against you and the possible penalty if you are convicted. Then, the judge or the prosecutor will ask if you understand the charge against you and the possible penalty. This question is not asking you for your plea yet. The judge or prosecutor is simply asking you if you understand what the charges and penalty are, not whether you agree with them. First, the judge must establish that everyone has the basic details understood before you are asked to enter a plea. Then you will be asked, "How do you plead?"

What happens if I plead Guilty at arraignment?

First, the judge may ask you a series of questions to make certain that you want to plead guilty. When you plead guilty you are giving up several important rights. If the judge accepts your plea, you may be sentenced on the spot. If you are guilty of a moving traffic violation, the Nebraska Department of Motor vehicles will automatically assess points against your driver's record. In some cases you may plead guilty by Waiver without appearing in court.

What rights do I give up by pleading guilty?

You are giving up your right to a trial to contest the violation. You are giving up the right to make the prosecutor prove the violation in court "beyond a reasonable doubt." You are giving up the right to confront the police officer or other witnesses against you and ask them questions. You are also giving up your right to remain silent by admitting the charges against you. You are giving up your right to call witnesses to testify on your behalf and to have the court compel those witnesses to appear.

What happens if the judge accepts my plea?

The judge must then establish that there is a factual basis to find you guilty. In most city cases, after the judge accepts that your plea of guilty is made knowingly and voluntarily, the prosecutor will then tell the judge a summary of the facts. This summary is usually based on the police reports. The judge may then accept the factual summary and your guilty plea.

If I plead guilty, can I tell the judge "My side of the Story?"

Since you have agreed to the charge and entered a plea of guilty, you may make a statement to the judge if it is consistent with your plea of guilty. However, the judge will consider that only as a comment or suggestion to consider when he decides what to assess as a penalty. The judge will not consider your statement that you are truly innocent appropriate at this stage, because you have already pleaded guilty. If you do not agree with the facts summarized for the judge, then you may ask to withdraw your plea of guilty and set the matter for trial. A trial is usually required where you contest the facts of the case.


Contesting a Ticket

How do I contest my ticket?

In most cases, contesting a ticket involves appearing in court and pleading not guilty at the time of your arraignment. Contesting a ticket does not require that you hire your own attorney, but there are sometimes very good reasons to do so. If you have been cited for Driving Under Suspension and you are eligible to get your driver's license reinstated, you should make every effort to get reinstated as soon as possible. Contact the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles to see if you are eligible for reinstatement.

Does it cost me extra to contest my ticket?

No. If you contest a ticket, it does not automatically cost extra. If you decide to hire your own attorney you will pay for your attorney on your own. You may also have to pay witness fees for the witnesses subpoenaed to trial. Police officers are not paid witness fees.

What happens if I plead Not Guilty at arraignment?

The Court will then set a date for trial where the prosecutor will be required to prove the case against you, or the Court may set the matter for Docket Call, which is a status hearing to determine whetther you intend to have an attorney represent you and whether the matter can be resolved without a formal trial.

Do I have the right to a jury trial?
No, under Nebraska law you do not have the right to have a jury trial for cases involving alleged violation of a municipal ordinance.


Trial

What happens at trial?

You must be present at trial, even if you hire your own attorney. At trial the prosecutor goes first and will call witnesses to present the case against you. The prosecutor presents the case by asking the police officers and other witnesses questions. Their answers in court help the judge decide whether you committed the violation. At trial, you or your attorney may ask questions of the police officer and other witnesses the prosecutor calls to prove the case. You or your attorney may also call witnesses and present evidence in your own defense. You may also testify on your own behalf, if you wish. If you testify, the prosecutor may ask you questions about the case. The case you or your attorney present also helps the judge decide whether you committed the violation.

What happens after the trial?

After the trial the judge will either find you guilty or not guilty. The judge's decision after trial is called the verdict.

What happens after the judge enters the verdict

If you are guilty the judge will sentence you. If you are not guilty, the case is over. If you are guilty of a moving traffic violation, the Nebraska Department of Motor vehicles will automatically assess points against your driver's record. Other administrative consequences may also occur.

Can I appeal the judge's verdict?

Both guilty and not guilty verdicts are subject to appeal to the District Court.


Sentencing

What happens when I am "sentenced?"

The "sentence" is the penalty the judge determines is appropriate for the violation committed. The sentence is the last part of the case before the judge. You are sentenced only after you are found guilty. The judge will sentence you in person at a court hearing. The judge will set a fine that you must pay in US dollars and, where applicable, the number of days in jail you must serve and the number of days or months that your driver's license is suspended. In most cases, suspensions ordered by a judge are in addition to suspensions or revocations administratively imposed by law. In most cases, you may request time to make payments on the fine if you do not have enough cash to pay your fine. All fines must be paid to the Lancaster County Court. If you need to extend your time for payment, please contact the Court directly. The City Attorney's Office is not responsible for collecting any fines or restitution.

What if I am a victim and restitution has been granted to me, but I haven't received it yet?
We don't record restitution payments in our office. Contact the Lancaster County Court at 441-7291 and ask for a bookkeeper.

What if I am a victim and I want to know the case status?
It is most helpful if you have the name of the defendant or a Lincoln Police Department case identification number. We can answer questions regarding the specific case.


Point System

Note: This section only discusses regular Nebraska Motor Vehicle Operator's Licenses. Special rules exist for Provisional Operator's Licenses for persons under 18, Commerical Driver's Licenses, and other restricted licenses. Contact the State Department of Motor Vehicles if you have any questions regarding points and other restrictions which are applicable to these licenses.

What is the Nebraska point system?

Like many states, Nebraska has a system to keep track of driving records. Nebraska uses a point system to track violations. This system counts points against your driving record for each driving violation. The points vary depending on how serious the violation is. The points are tracked for a 2 year period, even though your driving record is permanent. So, an older violation may not count against you in the point system, but it is still a part of your permanent driver's record.

When you are convicted of a driving violation, points are counted against you as of the date of the violation, not when you were convicted. If the violation counts points against you so that you have 12 points or more against your record in a 2 year period from the date of that violation, the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles will automatically suspend your driver's license for 6 months. Once suspended under the point system, you must also attend an 8 hour training course at your own cost.

If you are under 21 and accumulate six (6) or more points in any 12 month period, your license will be suspended unless you satisfactorily complete an eight hour driver improvement course within three months or until you turn 21.

If you have been suspended under the point system before, the suspension could be for up to 3 years. Only the State Department of Motor Vehicles keeps your driver's record and related points. The City Attorney's Office and the Court System DO NOT keep track of your points.

I am close to 12 points on my record. Is there anything I can do to avoid an automatic revocation for points?

You can take the approved driver training course at your own cost before you commit the violation assessing the 12th point. You can only do this once in a five year period. The course must be completed prior to the date of violation, regardless of when you are actually convicted. In other words, it is too late if you have already been cited for the violation that will assess your 12th point.

Is a parking ticket on my driving record?

No. Parking tickets have fines and are handled by the City's Violations Bureau. In this FAQ, when a question or answer refers to cases, tickets, complaints or violations, that reference generally does not include parking tickets. Parking tickets do not usually involve any court proceedings.

How can I find out how many points I have.

You may obtain a driver's record from the Nebraska Department of Motor Vehicles. 301 Centennial Mall South Lincoln, Nebraska 68509 Phone Number: (402) 471-2281


Miscellaneous Information

Can I talk to someone about my child support?
Child support is handled by the County Attorney's Office.

Where can I get a protection order or restraining order?
Protection orders and restraining orders are handled in the Clerk of the District Court (441-7328).

If I want a judge to perform a marriage ceremony, who do I call?
To schedule marriages, contact the Lancaster County Court at 441-7480.

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