Caught In State Park Without Permit Sticks To Your Record

It seems like a simple issue, but entering a state park without a permit is more serious than any of us might imagine.

Show a valid state park permit or you'll be cited for unlawful entry. “Didn't have a sticker and wrote me a ticket.” Three years ago, Steve Vanherpen of Papillion didn't have a park sticker and that’s now stuck to his record. “I know I needed one, but didn't realize it since I had a different car and didn't even think about it for that day and paid the price for it, a fine, a ticket, but don't think I deserve a misdemeanor on my record for the rest of my life.”

A ticket for no park permit is a low misdemeanor with a $25 fine. “The obvious thing, it’s cheaper to get your park permit up front,” says Greg Wagner of the Nebraska Game and Parks Commission. “This is not going to haunt you on your record.”

A simple misdemeanor can have major implications for someone like Steve, who thought he had no criminal record. If a potential employer does a background check and only sees misdemeanor, he might not get hired.

Steve isn’t looking for a job, but an apartment until the family house is built, and a landlord misinterpreted a background check. “Stephen has an unlawful entry felony on his record,” said the landlord.

“Yeah, it can definitely get confused,” says Steve.

Mahoney State Park visitors who have a park sticker didn’t realize it's a misdemeanor if they don't. “They need to let you know it's a misdemeanor. I assumed it was just a fine.”

“I'd be very upset because it would damage my record if I wanted to rent,” said another park visitor.

Steve hopes the Legislature will reduce the misdemeanor penalty for no permit because overcoming the lasting effects is no picnic. “A misdemeanor on your record, your whole life, I don't think that's right.”

A company that specializes in background checks says a misdemeanor for a no park permit can't be overlooked. If you're filling out a job or rental application, explain it up front. “There are 1,200-plus background check companies in the United States and they're all going to list things different and abbreviate differently and if it just says unlawful entry that sounds like a felony,” says Nick Jasa of One Source. “That sounds like you're burglarizing a residence.”

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