But what is the three-strike law, and what does it mean?
A three-strike law is a criminal sentencing theory that imposes significantly harsher penalties—typically a life sentence—for the third violation of certain criminal offenses.
A three-strike crime law aims to address misconduct by individuals who frequently break the law and appear undeterred by the typical prison sentence.
Three-strike laws have faced scrutiny for violating the Eighth Amendment of the Constitution, which bars cruel and unusual punishments.
However, the Supreme Court has upheld three-strike laws based on the State’s interest in deterring and segregating habitual offenders.
Still, some criminal defendants try to challenge the penalties imposed by three-strike laws as grossly disproportionate to the crime they committed.
If you want to know whether a three-strike law applies to your case, our team can help.
Nebraska’s Three-Strike Law
Under Nebraska law, anyone who has two felony convictions that resulted in a prison sentence of at least one year should be considered a “habitual criminal” upon the conviction of a Nebraska felony.
As a habitual criminal, your potential sentence increases to a minimum 10-year sentence and a maximum 60-year sentence, subject to certain exceptions.
If the current and one of the prior convictions was for a violent felony, the minimum sentence increases to 25 years.
Violent felonies include:
- First-degree murder;
- Second-degree murder;
- First-degree assault;
- First-degree sexual assault;
- Sexual assault of a child;
- Assault on an officer, first responder, or health care professional; and
- Use of explosives to commit a felony.
Alternatively, if your third felony conviction imposes a more severe prison sentence, that sentence will apply instead of the three-strike law penalty.
How Can I Avoid a Three-Strike Law Penalty?
In most cases, judges do not have the discretion to depart from the sentencing guidelines if the defendant fits the definition of a habitual criminal.
However, if you can provide evidence that you received a pardon based on innocence for either of your two previous felony convictions, the judge can disregard that conviction.
Additionally, to qualify for three-strike law penalties, your third criminal conviction must be for a felony charge. If you are convicted of a misdemeanor, you do not fit the Nebraska definition of a habitual criminal.
Prosecutors may negotiate a plea agreement that drops the habitual criminal enhancement as well.
If you think you might qualify as a habitual criminal, you need to contact an experienced criminal attorney right away.
Our team at Petersen Criminal Defense Law has significant experience handling criminal defense cases. Contact us today so we can review your case.
Nebraska Three-Strike Law in Action
In February 2016, a 29-year-old Nebraska man was sentenced to life in prison following his conviction for committing two counts of bank robbery and one count of attempted bank robbery, all within the same day.
The defendant reportedly robbed a bank in Omaha, Nebraska, on February 4, 2014.
Approximately a month later, the defendant unsuccessfully attempted to rob the same bank a second time.
When the defendant fled the scene, he crashed his stolen vehicle into another car. Later that same day, the defendant entered and robbed a second bank in the area while using a firearm.
Because the defendant qualified as a habitual criminal, this conviction carried the potential of a life sentence.
Eventually, authorities located the defendant and learned that he was on parole for a prior robbery offense.
Police eventually located enough evidence to charge him with two counts of bank robbery and one count of attempted bank robbery.
The defendant received a life sentence for the bank robbery where he used a firearm and 17.5 years for the other two charges.
Still Confused About Nebraska’s Three-Strike Law? Contact Petersen Criminal Defense Law Today
The possibility of being labeled a habitual criminal in Nebraska can lead to serious consequences.
In fact, a conviction could automatically result in a minimum of 10 years in prison.
A knowledgeable and experienced criminal defense lawyer can fight to get your charge lowered to a misdemeanor so you don’t qualify as a habitual criminal.
Attorney Tom Petersen has the tools, knowledge, and resources necessary to help prepare an aggressive legal defense.
We have decades of legal experience, having handled over 6000 criminal defense matters throughout our firm’s lifetime.
We handle our cases with care and compassion while we aggressively fight to secure the outcome our clients deserve.