Omnibus judiciary bill approved

Lawmakers passed a bill Aug. 3 that makes several changes to judicial procedure.

<a href='http://news.legislature.ne.gov/dist26' target='_blank' title='Link to the website of Sen. Matt Hansen'>Sen. Matt Hansen</a>
Sen. Matt Hansen

LB881, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Matt Hansen, eliminates the court’s authority to deduct fines automatically from otherwise encumbered portions of an offender’s bond.

The bill includes provisions of:
• LB213, sponsored by Omaha Sen. John McCollister, which allow a person sentenced to community service to apply to have their conviction set aside;
• LB282, sponsored by Hansen, which require the court to appoint counsel when setting bond for an indigent defendant;
• LB776, sponsored by Bennington Sen. Wendy DeBoer, which allow evidence from an expert witness regarding eyewitness testimony to be admitted under the Nebraska Evidence Rules;
• LB777, also sponsored by DeBoer, which replace references to infractions, misdemeanors and felonies and use the term “offense;”
• LB945, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Machaela Cavanaugh, which require cities of more than 100,000 people to prepare an annual report of untested sexual assault evidence collection kits;
• LB1007, also sponsored by Hansen, which reduce the time between court reviews of a person’s competency to stand trial to every 60 days;
• LB1041, sponsored by Lincoln Sen. Patty Pansing Brooks, which clarify the process for making a grand jury transcript publicly available when convened to investigate the death of a person in custody or detention;
• LB1180, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne, which increase to six the number of alternate jurors a court can impanel; and
• LB1181, also sponsored by Wayne, which provide that a person cannot be held in custody while awaiting trial on an offense for a period of time longer than the maximum sentence for that offense.

Additionally, LB881 creates the new offense of sexual abuse by a school employee. A person is guilty of such offense if that employee subjects a student to sexual penetration or contact or engages in a pattern or scheme to subject a student to such conduct, commonly referred to as grooming.

Sexual penetration of a student by a school employee is a Class IIA felony, punishable by up to 20 years in prison. A student’s consent to sexual activity will not be considered a valid defense.

Sexual contact with a student is a Class IIIA felony, subject to a penalty of up to three years imprisonment with 18 months post-release supervision, a $10,000 fine or both. A person found to have committed grooming behavior is guilty of a Class IV felony, punishable by a maximum of two years in prison with 12 months post-release supervision, a $10,000 fine or both.

A school employee found guilty of sexual abuse of a student is required to register as a sex offender.

Any report of alleged sexual abuse by a school employee must be forwarded to the state commissioner of education, including the status of an active law enforcement investigation into the allegations.

The bill also extends the statute of limitations for failure to report child abuse or neglect to 18 months after the commission of the crime or the date upon which the child reaches the age of majority, whichever is later.

Provisions of four bills pertaining to sexual assault offenses are included in LB881:
• LB766, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Brett Lindstrom, which prohibit sexual assault of a minor by an authority figure, change statute of limitations for failure to make a report of child abuse or neglect and change provisions relating to sexual offenses;
• LB991, sponsored by Hastings Sen. Steve Halloran, which create the offense of sexual assault of a student and prohibit related enticement conduct by school officials;
• LB1048, sponsored by Grand Island Sen. Dan Quick, which create the offense of sexual assault by a school employee and provide notification to the Commissioner of Education; and
• LB1210, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Tony Vargas, which create the offense of sexual exploitation of a student.

LB881 passed on a 30-8 vote.

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