Stopped for DUI in Nebraska: 6 Things to Know
In Nebraska, the law is tough on repeat offenders. First, Nebraska has a 15-year look-back period. That means that a second drunken driving offense within 15 years of the first will trigger enhanced penalties – some states have look-back periods of 5 years. Second, Nebraska has increasingly strict penalties for repeat offenders. By the third offense, a Nebraska driver faces a minimum of 90 days in jail, a fine of up to $10,000 and a driver’s license suspension of 2 to 15 years. Drinking and driving becomes a felony on a fourth conviction within 15 years, with a minimum of 6 months in prison and a maximum of 5 years. In addition, the penalties for a fourth DWI offense include a fine of up to $25,000 and a 15-year license suspension.
If you are stopped for DWI in Nebraska for the first time, here are 6 more things you should know.
1. Implied consent and sobriety testing
What is Implied Consent? This is a law in Nebraska that says that all drivers consent in advance to a chemical test if requested by a police officer with probable cause to suspect impaired driving. The test – blood, urine or breath – is usually taken at the police station after a driver has been arrested for suspicion of DUI. The chemical test is one of two tests police officers commonly request. The second is a field sobriety test. This test involves following instructions to walk a straight line and perform other simple physical tasks that can help an officer determine if a driver should be arrested for suspicion of impaired driving. Nebraska lawyers say drivers do not have to consent to the sobriety field test; and in fact, many lawyers believe the test is flawed and unfair.
2. Refusing the chemical test
Is there a good reason to refuse to submit to the chemical test? Most criminal attorneys believe the best way to fight a DWI arrest is to go over all aspects of the stop after the fact. Refusing the test is punishable by a 1-year driver’s license suspension and criminal attorneys say the driver still can be convicted of DWI without the blood alcohol concentration (BAC) results from the chemical test. The fact that a driver refused a test will be introduced as evidence of guilt in the trial, and it is common for drivers to be convicted after refusing the chemical test.
3. Assume there’s a video camera
The video of your DWI stop, if one is taken, will be the single biggest piece of evidence in your DWI trial. In Nebraska and elsewhere, more and more DWI stops are being recorded. DWI defense attorneys recommend that drivers assume that is the case and say and do as little as possible. The goal is to not seem impaired in that video. If you are chatty, fumble to find your proof of insurance or take a misstep outside the vehicle – all these things can be argued as signs of impairment by a prosecutor. Attorneys say the best bet is to be polite and courteous but decline to get into a conversation and decline any request to search the vehicle – that’s only possible if the driver says OK or the officer has probable cause. If the officer asks to step out of the car, however, you should comply.
4. More than .08 to worry about
Young drivers in Nebraska should be aware that the legal BAC limit for them is much lower than other drivers. If a driver under the age of 21 registers .02 BAC or above, he or she can be arrested. The limit isn’t much higher for commercial drivers – those behind the wheel of big rigs, buses and 18-wheelers – with a cutoff at .04 BAC. The limit for other adult drivers in the state is .08 BAC, though a driver who registers between .05 and .08 can also be arrested with additional evidence of impairment – such as an accident or reckless driving.
5. DUI penalties in Nebraska
A driver in Nebraska who receives a first DWI conviction faces a minimum of 7 days in jail, up to a maximum of 2 months as well as a fine of up to $500 and a driver’s license suspension of up to 60 days. All drivers convicted of DUI must go through alcohol assessment and those results could trigger an alcohol treatment program. For a second offense, the minimum jail time is 30 days with a maximum of up to a year in jail. In addition, a driver convicted of a second offense can be fined up to $1,000 and have his or her license suspended for up to 1 year. A third offense, still a misdemeanor, includes a license suspension of 2 to 15 years, a fine of up to $10,000 and up to 1 year in jail with a minimum of 90 days.
6. Total cost of a DUI in Nebraska
Some of the costs to expect after a first DWI conviction include $125 to get a new license, a fine of $400 and up to $3,000 if mandatory alcohol assessment leads to an order to enter an alcohol treatment program. The two most significant costs are for legal fees and car insurance. The cost for a criminal defense attorney can vary widely, depending on the attorney’s experience and the circumstances of your case – perhaps between $1,500 and $15,000. Nebraska requires an SR-22 form from your insurer verifying you have at least the minimum coverage required in the state. That will be very costly after a DWI conviction – perhaps double to triple what you had been paying previously – and remaining at that level for at least 3 years.
This article is for informational purposes only. If you need legal advice you should consult an attorney.