The Judiciary Committee heard testimony Feb. 24 on LB104, sponsored by Henderson Sen. Curt Friesen. The bill would allow the aggregation of pecuniary losses suffered by one or more individuals from a singular scheme or course of conduct in criminal mischief cases.
There are many instances where the property of multiple citizens is damaged as part of one continued act or course of conduct, Friesen said, but these instances currently cannot be charged in one single count.
“By adding the aggregation of pecuniary losses in the criminal mischief statute, prosecutors and courts will be able to work more effectively and offenders will be held accountable,” he said.
Sarah Carstensen, speaking on behalf of the Nebraska County Attorneys Association, supported LB104. Aggregation of pecuniary losses already is authorized for theft offenses, she said, but not for criminal mischief offenses.
An individual who steals several phones could face one single charge, she said, but if they instead only damage those phones, each instance must be brought as a separate charge.
“This statute will allow prosecutors to more efficiently do their work, allow the courts to process cases more efficiently, hold offenders accountable for more large-scale damages that occur in a series of crimes [with] numerous victims … and provide better access to the justice system for victims of a crime,” Carstensen said.
Opposing LB104 was Spike Eickholt, representing the Nebraska Criminal Defense Attorneys Association. The bill would allow prosecutors to stack charges, he said, which could turn a misdemeanor offense into a felony.
Eickholt said a felony conviction can have long-lasting ramifications for an individual, including having their right to vote revoked temporarily.
“The only thing this bill does is allow the prosecutors of the state to increase their charging power,” he said.
The committee took no immediate action on the bill.