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Understanding Omaha’s Drug Diversion Programs

By Jason Bottlinger on March 17, 2021

The biggest concern on your mind after being arrested for drug possession is avoiding jail time. This may mean building an aggressive defense to win your case at trial, or negotiating a plea deal to receive a reduced sentence for a lesser charge. However, here in Omaha, you may have other options, such as entering a diversion program for substance abuse.

What Are Nebraska’s Drug Laws?

In general, most drug offenses in Nebraska are treated as Class IV felonies, according to Nebraska Revised Statute 28-416, but there have been exceptions made for marijuana. For first-time offenders, possession of less than an ounce of marijuana is an infraction, and anything less than one pound is treated as a misdemeanor, but you may still face jail time and court fines.

What Options Are Available in Omaha?

The state of Nebraska has specialized courts called Problem-Solving Courts. These courts are designed to help non-violent offenders learn how to avoid criminal behavior in the future and reform their lives. A major part of these courts is dealing with drug offenders, trying to find a balance between punishing criminal behavior and helping offenders treat their addictions.

There are three main options for drug offenders in Omaha looking to avoid jail time: the National Safety Council, the Douglas County’s Adult Drug Court, and Douglas County Young Adult Court.

Nebraska National Safety Council

The Nebraska branch of the National Safety Council offers both misdemeanor and felony diversion programs for certain eligible offenders. As for most diversion programs, candidates can only enter one of these programs once, but it allows them to avoid criminal charges and clear their record while also learning new skills. The National Safety Council requires a minimum amount of community service hours and typically lasts between six to twelve months. However, this program is not free and has a tiered fee system based on what level of offense a participant has been charged with.

For you to enter one of these programs, the Douglas County District Attorney’s Office must offer the option to you. There are a few factors that can disqualify a person from entering the program:

  • You have been in a diversion program before besides traffic classes.
  • You have been in a juvenile diversion program.
  • You have a misdemeanor charge on your criminal record.
  • You have other charges pending.

Adult Drug Court

Since 1997, the Douglas County Adult Drug Court has an alternative sentencing program for applicants charged with felony drug offenses to help reduce repeat offenses and counsel offenders to deal with addiction. This restrictive program lasts between 18 to 24 months, during which time the applicants will be guided through three phases of treatment. Each phase will focus on helping the applicant deal with a substance abuse or mental health issue, develop independent life skills, and better manage their addiction in the real world.

This program can include:

  • Substance abuse and mental health counseling
  • Meetings with a drug court supervisor and a case manager
  • Treatment for addiction, including detox
  • Frequent court hearings
  • Random urine tests
  • Community service
  • Support groups
  • Counseling to pursue an education or seek employment

Upon completion of the program, all members will be granted the opportunity to attend a commencement ceremony with friends and family. In addition, their criminal charges will be dismissed and records sealed, allowing them to move past their offense with a new lease on life.

This program is limited, however, with only 150 participants at a time. Other eligibility requirements include:

  • A participant must have been charged with a felony offense;
  • A participant’s lawyer must contact the Douglas County Drug Court within 10 weeks of an arrest; and
  • A participant must plead guilty before a Douglas County District Judge.

A participant may be disqualified from the program if the participant:

  • Was charged with a serious or violent crime, including homicide, robbery, felony assault, sexual assault, terrorist threats, or any gun charges.
  • Has a prior felony conviction.
  • Was involved with a gang.
  • Was charged with intent to sell drugs or possession of a large amount of narcotics.
  • Was charged with multiple misdemeanor convictions for crimes against a person, resisting arrest, assault of law enforcement officer, or fleeing an arrest or prosecution.
  • Owes restitution to a victim.
  • Has an active warrant.
  • Has multiple pending felony charges.
  • Has already participated in a diversion program.

Young Adult Court

The Douglas County Young Adult Court is very similar to the Adult Drug Court program, but it does not focus on addiction and it is only available for non-violent felony offenders between the ages of 18 and 24. Beyond that, the program follows the same phases and has the same requirements, with a few lighter restrictions. A participant cannot enter the Young Adult Court program if the participant:

  • Was charged with a serious or violent crime, including homicide, robbery, felony assault, sexual assault, terrorist threats, or any gun charges.
  • Has a prior felony conviction.
  • Was involved with a gang.
  • Has an active warrant.
  • Has multiple pending felony charges.
  • Does not have a social security number.

Discuss All Your Options With a Diligent Attorney

If you have been charged with a drug crime in Omaha, reach out to Bottlinger Law L.L.C. Our Omaha criminal defense attorney can sit down with you in a free consultation, and advise you of the best route you should take. We believe in reviewing every option with our clients and fighting for their best interests in and outside the courtroom. Call our office at (402) 505-8234 to learn how you can avoid prison time.

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