It will be handled in circuit court. If he has no priors and the charge is in Indian River County, a local lawyer will have to advise you if there is a diversion program. If there is a program and he is eligible then he would be eligible to get the charge dropped.
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Be proactive and definitely speak to competent counsel right away, as I believe Indian River County (in the same Circuit as I reside) has a program that he may be eligible for. And Vero Beach has several fine criminal defense counsel to choose from.
Your nephew's case will be handled in the Circuit Court for the county in which he was arrested. The maximum a person can receive for a third degree felony is 5 years in prison, 5 years of probation, $5000.00 fine, or a combination of the three. Based on your nephew having no prior criminal record, there is a good probability the State may offer him a diversion program which will results in a dismissal if he successfully completes the program. Based on the information you provided, your nephew will be eligible to have the arrest expunged from his record once the case is dismissed. If he has not already enlisted, then there is a possibility, they will not let him enlist until the felony charge is dismissed, but this would really be a question for the Coast Guard Recruiter.
In Florida, misdemeanor cases are handled in county court. Felony cases are handled in circuit court. If there is a mixture of charges in a single case, they will all be tried in circuit court (unless they are severed, which would require a motion).
There is no such charge in the State of Florida called “shoplifting.” Shoplifting is generally charged as either petit theft or grand theft. Florida Statute 812.013 governs. If the value of the property taken was $300 or more, it will generally be charged as grand theft (a felony). If it was less than $300, it will generally be charged as petit theft (a misdemeanor). If the State charges one with grand theft but fails to establish valuation at trial (but proves every other requirement element), one may be convicted of the lesser included offense of petit theft.
There is a realistic possibility, depending upon the circumstances, that he could avoid an adjudication, which would require that he acknowledge having been convicted of a felony on all future employment and school applications. Going for a withhold of adjudication is absolutely a possibility depending upon the circumstances.
I would strongly suggest that your nephew hire an attorney immediately. Indian River County has plenty of criminal defense attorneys who are exceptionally qualified. If, for any reason, he has difficulty locating an attorney he trusts in Indian River County, and he would like to set up a consultation with me, I am located in Melbourne, about 40 minutes north of you and would be happy to speak with him.
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His case will be disposed of in circuit court. There are options available to him as the other attorneys discussed that may result in his charges being dropped.
As good Florida lawyers have told you, this will be handled in Circuit Court. It may be possible to keep him from having a felony record, or even a criminal conviction out of this, but proactive steps are needed, beginning with hiring a good criminal defense lawyer there for him.
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