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What to Expect During Sentencing

Greg Nelson Attorney at Law  July 3, 2024

Whether you're a Nebraska resident seeking legal advice or supporting someone going through the legal system, understanding the sentencing process can provide crucial peace of mind.

We at Greg Nelson Attorney at Law are here to walk you through the various stages of sentencing, from pre-sentencing to post-sentencing, and offer practical tips on navigating this challenging time. 

Nebraska Sentencing Guidelines

Nebraska, like every state, has its own set of sentencing guidelines that judges follow when determining the appropriate sentence for a convicted individual. Understanding these guidelines is essential as they provide a framework for what one might expect during the sentencing process. 

Factors Influencing Sentencing 

In Nebraska, several factors can influence the severity of the sentence. These include the nature and severity of the crime, the defendant's criminal history, and any mitigating or aggravating circumstances. For example, a non-violent first-time offender might receive a lighter sentence compared to a repeat offender with a history of violent crimes. 

Sentencing Ranges 

Nebraska uses a sentencing range system where each crime has a minimum and maximum sentencing range. This allows judges some flexibility while ensuring consistency in sentencing. For instance, a Class IV felony may have a different range than a Class I misdemeanor, reflecting the varying levels of severity. 

Role of Discretion 

Judges in Nebraska have considerable discretion within the established guidelines. This means that while the guidelines provide a framework, the final decision rests with the judge. This discretion allows for sentences to be tailored to the specifics of each case, taking into account unique circumstances that may not be fully captured by the guidelines. 

Pre-Sentencing Stage

Before the actual sentencing hearing, several steps take place. This pre-sentencing stage is crucial as it sets the stage for what will happen during the hearing. 

  1. Pre-Sentence Investigation Report (PSI). One of the first steps is the preparation of a Pre-Sentence Investigation Report (PSI). This report is usually compiled by a probation officer and includes detailed information about the defendant's background, criminal history, and any mitigating factors that might influence sentencing. The PSI aims to provide the judge with a comprehensive understanding of the defendant's life and circumstances. 

  1. Victim impact statements. Victims of the crime have the opportunity to submit Victim Impact Statements. These statements allow victims to express how the crime has affected their lives emotionally, physically, and financially. While these statements can be incredibly impactful, they are just one of many factors the judge will consider during sentencing. 

  1. Legal arguments and recommendations. Both the defense and prosecution have the opportunity to present legal arguments and recommendations regarding sentencing. The defense might argue for a lighter sentence based on mitigating circumstances, while the prosecution may push for a harsher sentence due to aggravating factors. 

Sentencing Hearing

The sentencing hearing is the climax of the sentencing process. This is when the judge will announce the sentence after considering all the information presented. 

  1. Courtroom procedure. The sentencing hearing follows a formal courtroom procedure. Both the defense and prosecution will have the opportunity to make final statements. The defendant may also be given the chance to speak directly to the judge, often referred to as making an allocation. 

  1. Factors considered by the judge. During the hearing, the judge will consider multiple factors before deciding on the sentence. These include the PSI report, victim impact statements, legal arguments from both sides, and any other relevant information. The judge aims to balance justice and fairness while adhering to Nebraska's sentencing guidelines. 

  1. Announcement of sentence. Once all considerations have been made, the judge will announce the sentence. This includes specifying the type of sentence, its length, and any additional conditions such as probation or community service. The announcement marks the end of the sentencing hearing but not necessarily the end of the legal process. 

Types of Sentences

Nebraska law provides for various types of sentences, each with its own set of implications. 

  1. Incarceration. Incarceration is one of the most severe types of sentences and involves serving time in a jail or prison. The length of incarceration can vary widely depending on the severity of the crime and other factors considered during sentencing. 

  1. Probation. Probation allows the defendant to remain in the community under supervision instead of serving time in prison. This type of sentence often comes with specific conditions such as regular check-ins with a probation officer, community service, or attending counseling sessions. 

  1. Fines and restitution. In some cases, the judge may impose fines or order restitution payments. Fines are monetary penalties paid to the state, while restitution involves compensating the victims for their losses. Both aim to hold the defendant financially accountable for their actions. 


After the sentence is announced, the post-sentencing phase begins. This stage involves several steps that are crucial for both the defendant and their family. 

  1. Serving the sentence. If the sentence involves incarceration, the defendant will be taken into custody to begin serving their time. It's essential to understand the rules and regulations of the facility where the sentence will be served, including visitation rights and communication options. 

  1. Appeals and modifications. Defendants have the right to appeal their sentence if they believe there has been a legal error. Additionally, under certain circumstances, sentences can be modified. For example, good behavior in jail might lead to reduced time or eligibility for parole. 

  1. Support systems. It's vital for defendants and their families to establish support systems to cope with the emotional and logistical challenges of post-sentencing life. This can include seeking counseling, joining support groups, and staying informed about legal rights and options. 

Understand Your Next Steps

Understanding the sentencing process in Nebraska can significantly alleviate the stress and uncertainty associated with it. From the pre-sentencing stage to post-sentencing, each step is designed to ensure justice while considering the unique circumstances of each case.

If you're navigating this complex process, remember that you're not alone. At Greg Nelson Attorney at Law, based in Omaha, Nebraska, our attorney is here to provide the guidance and support you need. Feel free to reach out to discuss your case and explore your options further.