Exception to electronic device ban proposed

The Judiciary Committee heard testimony Feb. 11 on a bill that would allow certain visitors to bring electronic communication devices into the state’s correctional facilities.

Sen. Justin Wayne
Sen. Justin Wayne

LB333, sponsored by Omaha Sen. Justin Wayne, would allow an attorney, the public counsel or any member of the Legislature to bring a device — without prior approval — into correctional facilities when visiting incarcerated offenders.

Attorneys already can bring an electronic device into a correctional facility with prior approval, Wayne said, and that exception has not been problematic.

“It’s used as an investigatory tool,” he said. “It’s easier to record conversations when you’re talking to your client and take notes.”

Jerall Moreland, deputy ombudsman for institutions with the Office of the Public Counsel, spoke in support of LB333. The public counsel has the authority to investigate administrative agencies, he said, and electronic communication devices are an essential tool.

“[They] allow for the collection and relaying of relevant information to [investigations],” Moreland said. “It also supports observations that could aid report writing.”

Also testifying in support was Spike Eickholt, speaking on behalf of the Nebraska Criminal Defense Attorneys Association. He said much of the information in the discovery process, including police reports, are in digital format.

“You need to be able to show your client [that information] so that they can make an informed decision regarding that case and this bill would allow that,” Eickholt said.

No one testified in opposition to LB333 and the committee took no immediate action on it.

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