A case involving a well known professional surfer provides a good look into just how plea agreements and potential pretrial alternatives can work for the benefit of everyone involved. However, the case also shows just how easy it is for confusion to exist between parties in a criminal case.
According to The Florida Times-Union, Jacksonville.com, a top surfer of the Neptune Beach area and director of the Florida District of the Eastern Surfing Association faces felony theft charges for using a debit card belonging to the Association to pay his personal bills.
At one point, the defendant was said to have admitted to the Times-Union that he had in fact “fallen on hard times” and used about $2,600 in Association monies to pay for things like rent in the meantime. But when officials out of Virginia, where the Association is headquartered, caught wind of the stolen money, they filed a criminal complaint.
The Chief of police in Neptune Beach states they had no choice once the complaint was lodged to investigate the case as a felony theft. During initial investigation stages the surfer was said to have been cooperative and apologetic with police. According to the local prosecutor, charges are still “on the table”.
But, it’s not clear if the suspect understands that, telling the Times-Union “I’ve been cleared.”
He and his attorney are apparently speaking with the local prosecutor’s office and trying to make an argument for a pre-trial intervention program. This would allow him to avoid felony charges while working to pay restitution under supervision for anywhere from 6 months to a year.
A pre-trial diversion program like this works to benefit the defendant because he avoids prison time and the potential conviction on his record. Such arrangements are most often used when the crime is relatively minor in nature and the defendant has a very limited or nonexistent criminal history.
Local prosecutors state they haven’t officially agreed to the deal yet, though the defendant has indicated he believes the decision to have been settled.
Pretrial diversions are more unusual than a general plea agreement but not impossible. Usually criminal cases end in some sort of plea agreement, whether the prosecutor agrees to lower the charges or recommend a more lenient sentence in exchange for a guilty plea.
The options you have in your criminal case depend on a variety of factors including the facts of the case, your criminal history, and even the jurisdiction in which you live.
If you are facing criminal charges and are interested in getting a free consultation on your case, contact our offices today.