Pastor, now living in Kansas, arrested on Jacksonville Sex Crimes charge from two decades ago

January 25, 2015

A pastor now living in Kansas is facing life in prison, following his arrest for sexual battery on a child that allegedly occurred more than 20 years ago. The man was arrested after he met with the victim at a Daytona Beach restaurant, according to a report on News4Jax. The defendant did not know police were recording the conversation and then arrested him shortly thereafter, the television station reported. The man, 52, is now charged with capital sexual battery on a victim between under the age of 12. The charge is a first-degree felony and only punishable by life in prison.

Police released very little information on the alleged victim, and have not disclosed whether the defendant was a pastor at the time of the alleged incident in Jacksonville, but said they believe there may be more than one alleged victim, the television station reported. It's unclear why the defendant went to meet with the alleged victim, but it appears he or she was working with Jacksonville police to get the defendant to say something on tape regarding the incident in this Jacksonville Sex Crimes Case. Despite the fact the crime allegedly occurred more than 20 years ago, the state can still pursue charges because of the type of crime. There is no statute of limitations on a capital sexual battery on a child. Prosecuting a case this old will have challenges, which is why the audio recording would be so important to the state. There will not be any physical evidence in this Jacksonville Sex Crimes Case, and it is shaping up to be the defendant's word against the alleged victim's. That can be the difficulty for the state in proving Jacksonville Sex Crimes, and a significant fear for the defendant. All it takes is an accusation to end up being charged with a crime - one that has no other punishment except for life in prison.

The recording appears to be the key to this Jacksonville Sex Crimes Case. Expect the defense to analyze everything on about the recording - including how it was recorded and how the meeting was set up - in an effort to have the recording discarded as evidence. Without it, there is likely very little for the state to go on. Our Jacksonville Sex Crimes Attorney has represented hundreds of people charged with sex crimes, and understands that people assume those charged are guilty once an accusation is levied. Our Jacksonville Sex Crimes Attorney is experienced in these cases, and will thoroughly investigate the cases against you or your loved one.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Sex Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville corrections officer arrested on theft charges

January 22, 2015

A longtime corrections officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office was arrested this month as part of a food stamp fraud investigation. The man is accused of buying food stamps at half price and then using them to buy food in Jacksonville, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. He is now charged with misappropriating food stamp funds, grand theft and participating in a scheme to defraud. All three Jacksonville Theft Charges are third-degree felonies that carry a maximum penalty of up to five years in state prison. The judge can choose to run the sentences concurrently (all at the same time) or consecutively, which stretches the maximum sentence to 15 years in prison.

The Sheriff's Office received a tip about the scheme over the summer and then began building its case, the newspaper reported. The man is accused of twice buying $80 worth of food stamps for $40 and also twice buying $100 of food stamps for $50, the newspaper reported. There is no indication of whom the man bought the food stamps from, but there's a strong chance that detectives and prosecutors will be looking to someone, perhaps the defendant, to share information about that person and agree to testify in court as to how it all went down. That is a common tactic in Jacksonville Felony Cases, arresting someone lower down the totem pole in the scheme and using the charges as leverage to persuade the person into testifying. Nothing like the threat of a felony charge to apply pressure - especially for someone in law enforcement who could lose his job and certification to be a police officer if convicted of a felony.

The man, a corrections officer since 2003 according to the newspaper report, has already been placed on leave without pay because of his arrest in this Jacksonville Theft Case. One key question that would need to be answered is if the officer used any of his influence as a corrections officer to start this transaction, or if connections were made through his role at the Sheriff's Office. That could not only affect his job status, but also any potential sentence or plea deal on the criminal side of this Jacksonville Theft Case. Law enforcement officers are held to a higher standard in the eyes of the public and the judiciary, and when officers use their position for personal gain, the sentencing repercussions can be severe.

Our Jacksonville Theft Attorney has represented thousands of people accused of theft, from misdemeanor charges on up to serious felonies. Charges and potential sentences in Jacksonville Theft Cases are based primarily on the value of the property that is taken, and our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney can outline the potential penalties and provide you or your loved on with information to make the best decision going forward.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Duval County Theft Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Clay County woman charged in 2014 crash that killed one passenger and another's unborn child

January 20, 2015

A Clay County woman was charged this month with two counts of DUI manslaughter for her role in a November crash that killed one passenger and the unborn child of another woman riding in her car. Police said she was going 66 mph on a Jacksonville road with a 40 mph speed limit and went over the median, hitting several trees, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. One passenger in the backseat was killed, the newspaper reported. The woman riding in the front seat was five-months pregnant and lost her unborn child as a result of the crash, according to the newspaper report.

The defendant in this Jacksonville DUI Case is charged with two counts of DUI Manslaughter. DUI Manslaughter is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. In DUI Manslaughter cases, an unborn child is treated the same as a person who is killed in the accident. From a sentencing standpoint, state law requires a four-year minimum mandatory sentence on each count, so the defendant in this Jacksonville DUI Case is likely to serve at least eight years in prison if she pleads guilty to or is convicted of both counts. She is also charged with DUI causing injury for the front-seat passenger, a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of up to five years in state prison.

The driver was also injured and taken to the hospital following the crash, the newspaper reported. At the hospital, her blood-alcohol level was .25 - more than three times the legal limit of .08. Because the crash involved injuries, the driver does not have to consent for her blood to be taken and tested for alcohol. This is different than in an ordinary Jacksonville DUI Case where a person is pulled over by a police officer and the DUI investigation begins. There are penalties for refusing to take a breath test, but the driver does have the legal right to refuse in those instances. In Jacksonville DUI Cases where there is a death or serious injury, charges typically come two to three months after the crash. That's due to the length of time it takes for the blood test results to come back from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

Penalties in Jacksonville DUI Cases increase significantly when the crash results in someone being injured or killed. For example, a typical DUI is a misdemeanor with the maximum penalty being six months in jail - though jail sentences are highly unusual in those types of Jacksonville DUI Cases. DUI Manslaughter Cases often involve people who don't have a criminal background. In this case, the 21-year-old driver does not have a criminal record, but is now facing up to 35 years in prison - likely with a minimum of eight years behind bars.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville DUI Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

One arrested after meth lab bust on Jacksonville's Westside

January 17, 2015

Detectives arrested one person on felony drug charges after police raided a meth lab in a Jacksonville apartment complex. Police received a tip about meth production at the apartment and served a warrant one morning last week, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Meth was not being made at the time police went to the apartment, but they did find materials used to make meth - including the ingredients and equipment, the newspaper reported. The exact charges were not specified in the newspaper report, but there are no misdemeanor crimes when it comes to meth. Every Jacksonville Drug Crimes Charge related to meth is a felony.

Felony degrees and sentences in Jacksonville Drug Crimes Cases are based on two factors: the type of drug and how much a person is accused of having in their possession. Charges related to methamphetamines are among the most serious of all Jacksonville Drug Crimes. For example, even possessing the materials used to manufacture meth is a second-degree felony that carries a maximum penalty of 15 years in state prison. Manufacturing meth is also a second-degree felony. While many people think drug trafficking charges are solely related to selling drugs, they are not. Trafficking is based on the amount of the drug and police do not have to prove the defendant had any intention of selling the narcotics. In meth cases, trafficking begins at just 14 grams and the trafficking charge is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in state prison - which various minimum mandatory sentences based on the amount of the drug the person is charged with having.

Another enhanced charge related to manufacturing meth relates to who is around when the drug is being produced. If a person is manufacturing meth in front of a minor, the charge becomes a first-degree felony, also with a maximum penalty of 30 years in state prison. When meth is produced, it emits dangerous chemicals and fumes that are toxic to anyone, but can be particularly harmful to children. Many meth lab busts are in apartment complexes or hotels and police often evacuate adjacent rooms or residences to fully decontaminate the scene and make sure no one is injured. The odor also makes it easier for people nearby to detect, which is likely why many meth lab busts begin from a tip to police. Our Jacksonville Drug Crimes Attorney represents people facing all types of drug charges, from misdemeanor marijuana possession on up to trafficking in meth. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate your case and provide you with the information needed to make an informed decision on how to proceed.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Drug Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Third arrest made in St. Johns County child sex case involving video posted on Facebook

January 14, 2015

A Jacksonville man was arrested on a warrant on three St. Johns County Sex Crimes, the last of three men to be arrested involving a Facebook post that included an underage person in a racy video. The man was arrested this month, two months after two St. Johns County men were charged in the case, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The investigation began after school officials called police about the video that was apparently being used to promote one of the three defendants' rap music songs, the newspaper reported.

The defendant is charged with lewd and lascivious battery by promoting a sex act with a victim less than 16, and with promoting the sexual performance of a child. Both charges are second-degree felonies that carry a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison for each charge. The defendant is also facing a third charge of transmitting pornography by an electronic device. That charge is a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of five years in state prison.

The defendant was released shortly after his arrest, posting a $250,000 bond to be released, the newspaper reported. The first two men arrested are still in jail on St. Johns County Sex Crimes charges. One is being held on a $200,000 bond, the second on a $50,000 bond. In order to be released, a defendant will have to pay 10 percent of the bond. So for the $250,000 bond, the defendant would have to pay $25,000 to be released. For the defendant, the first two charges - lewd and lascivious battery by promoting a sex act with a victim less than 16 and promoting the sexual performance of a child - are the main charges to pay attention to. A guilty plea or conviction to either St. Johns County Sex Crimes charge could result in the defendant being classified as a registered sex offender. If a person is required to register as a sex offender, he or she must check in with police at least twice a year, and whenever the person moves residences. And, when that move occurs, neighbors are notified that a sex offender is now living nearby, which can in essence make a sex offense a life sentence. Our St. Johns County Sex Crimes Attorney knows the ramifications a guilty plea or conviction can have - for many years past a potential prison sentence. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney can explain those consequences so you or your loved one can make the best decision going forward.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our St. Johns County Sex Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Appeals court overturns concealed weapons conviction for former Wal-Mart employee

January 9, 2015

An appeals court struck down the concealed weapon conviction of a former Wal-Mart employee who pulled out a gun he had a permit for and shot a man while trying to break up a domestic argument. The employee was trying to come to the aid of a female co-worker who was arguing with her boyfriend outside the store, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The boyfriend then punched the man in the face and the employee pulled out a gun and shot several times, hitting the boyfriend once in the leg, the newspaper reported.

The employee was charged with, and convicted by a jury of, second-degree attempted murder and carrying a concealed firearm. He was convicted of both charges and sentenced to 25 years on the attempted murder charge and to five years on the concealed weapons charge. He was facing up to life in prison on the attempted murder charge under Florida's 10-20-Life law because he fired a gun and hit someone. The judge allowed the man to serve both sentences at the same time, so his total sentence is 25 years. The appellate court upheld the attempted murder conviction in this 2011 Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case and the man will remain in prison on that charge. So this appellate ruling does not change the sentence one bit in this Florida Gun Crimes Case, though it does clear up some of the ambiguity of an employee's rights to have a firearm while at work. Employees are legally allowed to carry firearms at their place of business, as long as they have the proper permit. That right includes parking lots and other areas surrounding a business, which is the piece of the law that applied in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case. In this case, the defendant kept the firearm in the glove compartment of his vehicle, the newspaper reported.

Appellate courts are an integral part of the criminal justice system. In many cases, these rulings are what can keep prosecutors from overstepping their bounds and charging people with crimes they shouldn't be charged with. In this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case, the concealed weapons charge should not have ever made it to a jury. Second Amendment rights to protect oneself are very important and must be respected by the court system. Our Jacksonville Gun Crimes Attorney knows the legal rights of people who own firearms, including if a person is forced to use a firearm when he or she feels threatened and fears for his or her life. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate any charges to ensure the state is not infringing on a person's Constitutional right by charging him or her with a crime.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Gun Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville police arrest man wanted for not registering as a sexual predator

January 5, 2015

Jacksonville police had asked the public's help in finding a sexual predator that was wanted for not registering with police as required by law. The police got the help they were looking for, as a tip led them to a Jacksonville hotel, where the man was arrested after he tried to run away and more police officers had to be called in as the man was fighting to get free, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union.

The man was charged with failure to register as a sexual predator and with resisting police with violence, the newspaper reported. Both charges are third-degree felonies with a maximum penalty of five years in state prison. The man was released from prison this summer after serving 16 years for lewd assault on a minor, the newspaper reported. Depending on the terms of his sentence, the man may also be on some sort of sexual offender probation. If so, he would be facing another charge for violating that probation. The difference in Jacksonville Sex Crimes Cases is that failure to register is its own separate felony charge - and it applies even if someone is no longer on probation.

The failure to register charge is fairly common and is a Jacksonville Sex Crime that often keeps people convicted of sex crimes in the prison system. Once a person is released from prison after serving time for a Jacksonville Sex Crime, he or she must register with police. This entails giving the police the address where the person with be living and, in some cases, determining if the sex offender is even legally allowed to live there. There are requirements sex offenders must meet in terms of how close they live to a school, etc. Registered sex offenders must check in with police at least twice a year, depending on the severity of their crime. They are also required to notify police within 48 hours if they move or change addresses.

In this Jacksonville Sex Crimes Case, it's unclear whether the man moved or just didn't register in the first place after being released from prison in July. Jacksonville Sex Crimes have lifelong consequences if a person is convicted. Even though the man has served 16 years in prison, he still has legal obligations afterward. When a person registers as a sex offender, neighbors are notified with the person's name, address and the charge the person was either convicted of or pleaded guilty to. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney has represented hundreds of people accused of sex crimes and knows the lasting implications of a guilty plea. Our Jacksonville Sex Crimes Attorney will outline all of the requirements of registrations, along with the potential consequences of taking the case to trial, so you or your loved one can make an informed decision.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Sex Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Appeals Court throws sentence in attempted first-degree murder in Clay County shooting, says man should be sentenced again

January 2, 2015

A man sentenced to 45 years in prison on an attempted murder charge had his sentence thrown out this month. The court found the state did not present enough evidence to convict the defendant of first-degree attempted murder, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The key element of attempted first-degree murder is that the defendant planned and intended to kill the victim, the same premeditation standard that must be proven in a first-degree murder case in which a person is killed.

In terms of a sentencing, the charge is likely not going to change much for the defendant. On the surface, it seems important. He is now serving a 45-year sentence in state prison. Attempted second-degree murder is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison, unless a firearm is used, as it was in this Clay County Violent Crimes Case. Then, the charge becomes a first-degree felony and the maximum sentence stretches to 30 years in state prison, with a 20-year minimum mandatory sentence. But, the fact that a person was shot in the act of this crime makes it a life felony - so the sentence could legally be exactly the same in this Clay County Gun Crimes Case.

In this Clay County Violent Crimes Case, two men were arguing in a parking lot outside a nightclub, the newspaper reported. The defendant is accused of pulling out a gun a shooting four times, hitting the other man once in the stomach, the newspaper reported. But those facts alone are not enough for attempted second-degree murder, the court ruled. There was no evidence presented about the shooter's state of mind at the time of the crime (he likely did not testify at trial), and the court called the state's only showed "circumstantial" evidence of premeditation, the newspaper reported. In this case, the conviction was not reversed by the appellate court, it was simply sent back to the lower court for a new sentencing hearing on the reduced charge. In many cases, the entire trial is thrown out and the two sides must start from scratch, but this appeal only applies to the sentence. Appellate courts are a significant part of our judicial system and help ensure the state does not overcharge defendants and meets all of the legal requirements in proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Clay County Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Man killed during Jacksonville fight; defendant charged with manslaughter

December 29, 2014

A man who punched another man and ended up killing him was charged with manslaughter, several months after the incident. The defendant left a gun hidden in a book at the other man's house and, when the resident found the gun, he turned it over to police, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The defendant was upset and argued with the man about getting rid of the gun, the newspaper reported. The defendant left but then came back and punched the man, who fell back and hit his head on the ground. The man was taken to the hospital and died the next day, the newspaper reported.

The defendant is now charged with manslaughter in the August killing. Manslaughter is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. Manslaughter is legally defined in the state of Florida as "the killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, with lawful justification." Manslaughter is charged in Jacksonville Violent Crime Cases where the outcome ends up being far more severe than the intent. In this Jacksonville Manslaughter Case, the defendant was angry and threw a punch at the victim. Once he hit him, he left, according to the newspaper report. There was clearly not intent to kill the person in this case. Even if there is not a weapon involved, the state can still charge a person with murder - depending on the intent. For example, if the defendant in this case would have repeated punched the man while he was unconcscious and did not get up or stop until the man was dead, then a murder charge could apply. Manslaughter can also become a first-degree felony with a 30-year maximum sentence if the victim is a child, an elderly adult or disabled.

The man who was killed in this Jacksonville Manslaughter Case was 45 years old and there is nothing in the newspaper report to suggest he was disabled. Manslaughter is a charge that has infinitely more to do with the outcome in a case than it does the intent of the act. Had the man not fallen backward, the defendant would have likely been charged with a battery charge - a first-degree misdemeanor punishable only by time in the county jail - or at worst a felony battery with a maximum sentence of five years in state prison. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney represents people accused of all levels of violent crimes - including cases like this whether the results are far worse than intended. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate the facts of the case and lay out all of the consequences and potential outcomes so you or your loved one can make the best decision going forward.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Clay County Sheriff's Office pays settlement to another innocent person wrongly jailed, accused of serious felony

December 26, 2014

For the second time this year, the Clay County Sheriff's Office has paid tens of thousands of dollars to a person who had the same name as a suspect, but was still held in jail for a crime he or she did not commit. The second settlement was announced this month, as police paid $50,000 after a teen sued following a month in jail accused of sexual battery on a child younger than 12, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police were looking for another teen with the same name at the same high school, but did not show the alleged victim a photo of the person they arrested before they locked him up, the newspaper reported. Earlier this year, the sheriff's office settled another suit, paying $67,000 to a woman who was extradited from Louisiana on a charge and was falsely arrested twice, the newspaper reported. She, too, had the same name of a person who was wanted on various felony charges.

The two incidents were several months apart and led to suspensions for five officers and new policies that verify the identity of suspects that are arrested, the newspaper reported. The incidents underscore the importance of the multiple layers and balances in our criminal justice system. Although there is a constant rush to judgment once a person is arrested, mistakes happen. Unfortunately, as was the case here, once a person is arrested, it almost becomes up to the defendant and his or her Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney to prove innocence in order to be set free. The foundation of our system is that a person is innocent until proven guilty. But so often, that is applied at trial and the months that lead up to it are not taken into consideration.

In the Clay County Sex Crime Case involving the teen, the sheriff requested that that teen's record be immediately expunged so there is no sign of an arrest on his criminal record. That can be the most difficult piece of a wrongful arrest - getting potential employers or others who do a background check to look past the arrest. Whenever you or a loved one is being questioned by police about a crime, it is important to speak with a Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney. It's human nature to want to talk to the police and explain yourself - especially if you are wrongly accused. But an experienced Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney can help you navigate the system and potentially limit jail time and even avoid charges when police have the wrong person.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Clay County Felony Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Man charged with killing his parents agrees to plea deal, state takes death penalty off the table

December 23, 2014

A man accused of shooting and killing his parents will not face the death penalty on the two murder charges. The state and the man's attorneys reached a deal this month where he will plead guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, receive to life sentences for both crimes and the state will withdraw its initial intent to seek the death penalty, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. In this Jacksonville Murder Case, both sides avoid a lengthy, expensive trial and the sentence is locked in.

Because he was charged with first-degree murder, there were only two possible sentences: life in prison or the death penalty. One interesting piece of this plea deal is the state did not come down at all on the charge. In many recent Jacksonville Murder Cases, the state would charge first-degree murder, file a notice to seek the death penalty, then agree to let the defendant plead guilty to second-degree murder. Because second-degree murder does not carry a mandatory life sentence, those pleas left the door open for some chance of a sentence that would allow the defendant to eventually be released. That was not done in this Jacksonville Murder Case, likely because the defendant pleaded guilty to killing two people and, according to the newspaper report, has a criminal record with other aggressive crimes that include an assault he did jail time for. It also would not help in the eyes of the jury that the defendant is accused of killing his parents after he was kicked out of the home for repeated drug use, according to the newspaper report.

The overwhelming majority of criminal cases are resolved in a plea before they go to trial. Part of the reason many Jacksonville Murder Cases go to trial is the state is not seeking the death penalty, but will not come off the first-degree murder charge. So the defendant could plead guilty and get a life sentence or take the case to trial and the worst thing that can happen is a life sentence. There's no reason not to go to trial. In most Jacksonville Felony Cases, sentences are more severe following a trial than they are as a result of a plea agreement, so there is an inherent cost to taking a case to trial. In this Jacksonville Murder Case, there was the possibility of the death penalty, which ended up being enough for the man to agree to spend the rest of his life in prison. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney has worked on thousands of cases through the years, thoroughly investigates the charges and consults with the client before working on a resolution with the state. Any decisions on taking the case to trial or working out a deal with a better sentence are up to the client, with our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney laying out the options so you or your loved one can make an informed decision.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville fire department official on desk duty following DUI arrest

December 19, 2014

A high-ranking official with the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue department has been reassigned following his arrest on a DUI charge. Police found the man behind the wheel of a car in a ditch in Clay County, according to a report from First Coast News. The crash came after reports of a man weaving in and out of traffic and, when police arrived, they found an open bottle of vodka on the seat, the television station reported. Police said the man's eyes were "glassy and bloodshot" and that he struggled with field sobriety exercises. The man's blood-alcohol levels from two separate tests were .313 and .339 - well above the legal limit of .08. As is the case with most public officials, he has been put on desk duty until the case resolves.

The man was charged with DUI, a misdemeanor typically punishable by up to six months in jail. However, there is a clause in state law for Clay County DUI Cases such as this where the blood-alcohol level is more than .15. In this case, the maximum penalty rises to nine months in jail and the fines jumps from between $500 and $1,000 to between $1,000 and $2,000. While every case is different, DUI cases can really be looked at it in two categories: DUIs that begin with a traffic stop and those that start with a traffic accident. In this Clay County DUI Case, police are already investigating the accident and come across a driver that appears to be intoxicated. There aren't many choices or decisions to be made at that point from a drivers' perspective. The driver did agree to perform field sobriety exercises, the television station reported, and the results at least partially led to his arrest.

In Clay County DUI Cases with a traffic stop, there are even more procedures that must be followed precisely for the arrest to be legal. First, an officer must have a reason to pull a driver over - typically it is for speeding, not staying in a lane, having a burned out taillight, etc. Once the stop is made, the officer must then have probable cause to believe the driver is impaired. The "glassy and bloodshot" eyes from this DUI case are common reason, as are the smell of alcohol and the driver slurring his or her words. From there, the driver will be asked to preform field sobriety exercises, a series of tests that measure balance, speech and the ability to comprehend and follow directions. If the driver does not pass, he or she is arrested and taken to jail for a breath test. Drivers can refuse the field sobriety exercises and the breath test, though they will almost certainly be jailed overnight. Not taking the tests can limit the evidence in a Clay County DUI Case, but there are short-term consequences. Our Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney knows each and every detail of the procedures that must be followed in Clay County DUI Cases and will thoroughly investigate your case to determine if all of them were followed correctly in the DUI case against you or your loved one.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Clay County DUI Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Former St. Johns County office manager charged with theft, accused of stealing from company

December 15, 2014

A former St. Johns County office manager is now facing decades in prison, charged with two felonies after being accused of stealing more than $100,000 from her employer. The woman worked for a real estate management company and is accused of keeping more than $100,000 in rent that was supposed to be deposited into the company bank account, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. In this St. Johns County Theft Case, the woman is also accused of forging business checks that she made payable to herself and her family, along with using business credit cards for personal use and illegally establishing credit accounts the business did not authorize, the newspaper reported.

She is now charged with two serious felonies in this St. Johns County Theft Case - grand theft with a value of more than $100,000, and an organized scheme to defraud over $50,000. Both are first-degree felonies punishable by up to 30 years in state prison, so she is facing a combined total of 60 years behind bars. The defendant was fired from her job after she was accused of falsifying documents and a four-month investigation led to the eventual charges, the newspaper reported. The defendant has not spoken to investigators in this case and has been released on bail as the case progresses.

The punishment scale in St. Johns County Theft Cases is relatively simple. The more someone is accused of stealing, the more serious the charges. St. Johns County Theft Charges start as second-degree misdemeanors with a maximum sentence of up to 60 days in jail if someone is accused of taking something with a value less than $100. The charges escalate from there, with anything with a value between $100 and $300 remaining a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a year in the county jail. The key threshold in most St. Johns County Theft Cases is $300. Anything higher becomes a felony. Felony degrees increase with value, but cap at $100,000. Anything more than $100,000 is a first-degree felony. In this St. Johns County Theft Case, the woman is accused of stealing more than $141,000 from her employer.

The scheme to defraud charge is a little different. Charges are more serious with lower amounts, likely because of the intent and organized nature of such a crime. In this case, though, the maximum threshold of $50,000 was met by almost threefold, based on how the case has been charged. Our St. Johns County Theft Attorney represents people facing all levels of theft charges, from misdemeanors on up to first-degree felonies seen in this case. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney will investigate your case and help you make an informed decision going forward.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our St. Johns County Theft Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Sentences issued for all men charged in 2013 Clay County sex sting involving minors

December 12, 2014

All of the men involved in a 2013 Clay County Sex Crimes sting involving minors have now been sentenced after they either pleaded guilty or were found guilty at trial. Sentences range from three years in state prison on up to 10 years, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. As a part of the sting, people the men thought were teens were actually undercover detectives and posted ads on Craiglist and in other areas to arrange meetings, the newspaper reported. The main charge for all of the men involved was traveling to meet a minor for the purpose of engaging in an illegal sex act. The charge is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in state prison.

Several of the men were also facing other charges. For example, at least one of the men brought drugs to the encounter he thought was with a teen, so he also pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance and possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana, the newspaper reported. But in all cases, the most serious was the Clay County Sex Crimes Case. Police agencies conduct similar stings fairly regularly and a media report such as this will surface a couple times a year. These stings were popularized by the Dateline NBC series "To Catch a Predator," where the men were caught on camera coming to a home to meet what they thought was a teen. Despite the popularity of the series and the inherent risk involved, police continue to catch people when they conduct the stings.

When there are multiple arrests in Clay County Sex Crimes Cases such as these, the sentencing scale is set early in the proceeding. This is not like a Clay County Drug Crimes sweep where prosecutors may be using testimony from one person against another to try to get information on the source of the drugs. All of these men were caught independent of one another, so their testimony is not important to cases other than their own. The result of each case was not published in the newspaper report, but typically in these cases, defendants who enter a plea and accept guilt in a case receive a lighter sentence than those who take a case to trial.

Regardless of the prison sentence, all of the men will have to register as sex offenders following their release from prison. As registered sex offenders, they will be required to check in with police at least twice a year and within 48 hours of moving residences. Once they move, surrounding neighbors will be notified with the sex offender's name, address and charge he pleaded guilty to or was convicted of. Clay County Sex Crimes have lasting implications, and our Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney will make sure you or your loved one understands all of the implications and can make a decision about whether or not to take the case to trial.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Clay County Sex Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Three arrested in St. Johns County, accused of making meth with children in the home

December 8, 2014

St. Johns County police raided a St. Johns County home this month after the residents were accused of manufacturing methamphetamines in the home. Detectives found meth, many materials used to make the drug, and venting system used to route the toxic fumes from making the drug outside of the home, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police also removed two small children from the home because of the dangerous fumes that are emitted when producing the drug, the newspaper reported. Two of the people charged live in the home, the newspaper reported. They are facing a several felonies, including child neglect, manufacturing methamphetamines, possession of methamphetamines and manufacturing methamphetamines in the presence of a minor. The final listed charge, manufacturing methamphetamine in a structure where a minor is present, is by far the most serious. It is a first-degree felony with a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. The charge also carries a minimum mandatory sentence of five years in prison.

Among the other charges in this St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case, child neglect and possession of methamphetamines are both third-degree felonies with a penalty of up to five years in state prison and manufacturing methamphetamines is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. A third person who did not live in the home is also facing charges, but not for child neglect or the first-degree felony regarding children in the home. Charges and potential penalties in St. Johns County Drug Crimes Cases vary dramatically based on the type of drug involved. Methamphetamines charges carry serious penalties, based primarily on the harm that can be done to people near where the drug is being produced. For example, meth labs are often found in apartment complexes or hotels - places where there are several other people or families separated only by a wall. In those St. Johns County Drug Crimes Cases, authorities will evacuate nearby rooms or apartments until the areas can be decontaminated. The toxic element and the two small children will be difficult to overcome in this St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case.

Even without the manufacturing element, charges involving methamphetamines carry far more severe penalties than those for a drug such as marijuana. There are various thresholds for charges based on the amount of a drug a person has in his or her possession. Just 14 grams of methamphetamine can be a first-degree felony for drug trafficking, while the same amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor. Our St. Johns County Drug Crimes Attorney is well-versed in the penalties and charges that vary based on the type of drug charge you or your loved one is facing. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney will fully investigate your case and explain the consequences and charges so you or your loved one can make the best decision going forward.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our St. Johns County Drug Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.