Clay County police say not enough evidence to charge in pushing incident with husband of School Board member

September 16, 2014

Criminal charges will not be a part of a long-running feud between a Clay County School Board Member and a longtime critic. Police were investigating an incident where the opponent was videotaping people coming out of a Clay County Commission meeting, when the opponent alleges the Board Member's husband shoved the camera into his face, knocking him into a row of chairs and breaking his camera, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police investigators talked to both parties and witnesses, and also reviewed the video as part of their decision not to charge the husband in this case, the newspaper reported.

In making decisions on whether to file criminal charges in Clay County Battery Cases, police and prosecutors must look at all of the facts and how the case would be presented to a jury. As the police spokeswoman says in the Times-Union article, "Just the fact that there is a video, isn't necessarily proof of an assault." That statement rings particularly true in Clay County Criminal Cases where there is an ongoing dispute, such as this one. Detectives and prosecutors aren't typically looking to get involved in disputes such as this - and are oftentimes used to elevate the profile of one of the parties and make the other look bad, as appears to be the case here.

If charges would have been filed, they likely would have been misdemeanor battery charges. While the victim said he injured his back, those injuries would not likely rise to the level of a felony charge. In fact, in some Clay County Battery allegations such as this, the victim is planning on filing a civil suit to get some money out of the alleged attacker and the criminal suit would be used as part of the case. It's important to know that just because criminal charges are not filed, it does not mean there won't be some sort of fault found in a civil case. The standard of proof needed in a criminal case - beyond a reasonable doubt - is far higher than what is needed in a civil case to find someone liable for injuries and costs. If you know police are investigating you or a loved one for an alleged crime, the first thing to do is contact a Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney. An attorney can be with you during any interviews with police and help advise you of your rights during the investigation.

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 Criminal Defense Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Two arrested in St. Johns County on meth charges following lengthy investigation

September 12, 2014

A man and a woman living together in St. John County were arrested on felony drug charges this month, accused of making and selling methamphetamines. Police investigated the couple for three months and obtained a search warrant that was served last week, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. When police searched the property, they said they found an inactive meth lab, chemicals used to make meth, methamphetamine oil and drug paraphernalia, the newspaper reported. Both are charged with trafficking methamphetamines, maintaining a drug dwelling and possession of drug paraphernalia. The trafficking charge is a first-degree felony and by far the most serious, carrying a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. Maintaining a drug dwelling is a second-degree felony that carries up to 15 years in prison, while the paraphernalia charge is a misdemeanor and would not include time in state prison - only up to a year in the county jail.

This St. Johns County Drug Crimes case has especially significant prison time attached because of the amount of the drug the pair is accused of having. With methamphetamines, trafficking begins with 14 grams. There are minimum mandatory sentences in St. Johns County Drug Trafficking Cases and they vary based on the amount of the drug police find. In this St. Johns County Drug Crimes case, the couple is accused of having more than 200 grams of methamphetamine - far more than the 14 gram threshold. With more than 200 grams, the defendants face a minimum sentence of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. For between 28 and 200 grams, the minimum mandatory sentence was less than half in both areas -- seven years with a $100,000 fine.
Felony degrees and maximum penalties in St. Johns County Drug Crimes Cases are based primarily on two main factors: The type of drug a person is caught with and the amount of the drug. For example, a person accused of having 15 grams of meth is looking at a trafficking charge and years behind bars. If someone is caught with the same amount of marijuana, the crime is a misdemeanor and prison time is not even possible. Our St. Johns County Drug Crimes attorney knows the details of Florida's drug laws and can help lay out the potential penalties and investigate the case fully to help you or your loved one know determine the best course of action 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.

Lawyer asks to move high-profile Michael Dunn murder trial out of Jacksonville

September 8, 2014

When Michael Dunn is tried a second time next year on a first-degree murder charge, his attorney is requesting the high profile case be tried outside of Jacksonville. A motion was filed this month asking for a change of venue when the state tries Dunn again on the one count the jury couldn't agree on earlier this year, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Dunn said he feared for his life when he opened fire on a car of teenagers at a Southside gas station, killing a 17-year-old, the newspaper reported. Dunn went to trial earlier this year and his case was followed closely by national and local media. He was convicted on three counts of attempted murder for the shooting at the three teens in the car who survived, but the jury could not come to agreement on whether Dunn was guilty of first-degree murder in the teen's death.

Dunn, 49, faces a mandatory 20 years on each of the three counts, so he will be in prison for at least 60 years. Because these are mandatory sentences, they must be served consecutively and in their entirety without a change of gained time for good behavior. So he would be released when he is 109, meaning he's likely already serving a life sentence. Despite that prospect, the state is pushing forward with another trial that will be expensive to taxpayers and put the city in the national spotlight again. The first trial garnered gavel-to-gavel news coverage, so his attorney has a legitimate point that the media coverage could taint a potential jury pool.

The change of venue request in this Jacksonville Murder Case can be made in the "interest of justice" according to state statutes. Essentially that includes any elements that could prevent finding an impartial jury in the Jacksonville Murder Case, which could be whether jurors have heard about the case and already made a decision one way or the other on if they feel Dunn is guilty. The requests are filed fairly regularly, but not often granted. Most murder trials are in the media prior to the case going to trial, and reading a story or watching a news progress does not preclude them from being fair and impartial on the jury. But the level of media attention in this case was as high as it has been for any case in recent years - and there will be more in advance of the trial as it gets closer. The ultimate responsibility of the justice system in any Jacksonville Criminal Case is for the defendant to have a fair trial in front of a jury of his or her peers. The role of a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney to fight for a fair trial, including seeking to move the trial if there could be an issue with a local jury.

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.

Man arrested for DUI after crash into fire hydrant floods streets in Jacksonville Beach

September 6, 2014

Police arrested a man on DUI charges, saying he ran a stop sign to trigger a series of events that left Jacksonville Beach streets flooded and several people and businesses without water service. A driver told police he was headed north on 1st Street when another car ran a stop sign and crashed into him, sending his car into a fire hydrant, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The fire hydrant burst and the water that rushed out flooded many nearby roads, the newspaper reported. Meanwhile, the driver who ran the stop sign is accused of getting out of his car and running away, the newspaper reported. He eventually stopped on the beach when confronted by police. The driver was charged with leaving the scene of an accident and a DUI causing property damage. Both charges are misdemeanors - leaving the scene a second-degree with a maximum sentence of six months in jail, and this type of DUI charge a first-degree misdemeanor that carries up to one year in the county jail.

This Jacksonville DUI charge has a slightly increased penalty because there was property damage involved. Charges increase to felonies when people are seriously injured or even killed but, for the most part, Jacksonville DUI Cases are misdemeanors. Media reports on this Jacksonville DUI Case do not indicate how police came to the conclusion the driver was impaired. Most likely, police smelled an odor of alcoholic beverages on the man once he was caught by police. During the arrest, the man was likely asked to perform field sobriety exercises, which are tailored to determine whether or not the person is too impaired to be driving. Tests include walking in a straight line and turning around; stand on one leg and also with one's legs together to test balance; touching one's finger to his or her nose and reciting numbers or letters.

If the driver does not pass those tests, he or she is typically arrested on Jacksonville DUI Charges. From there, the driver is taken to jail and asked to take a breath test. In Florida, like most states, the legal limit is .08. Drivers can refuse to take the test - just like they can refuse field sobriety exercises - but there are immediate penalties that kick in. Those, however, can be worth taking because the field sobriety and blood alcohol results are often the best evidence the state would have in a Jacksonville DUI Case. This case may be a little different because of the crash and the fact the man ran away, but that does not prove that he was intoxicated at the time of the crash. There are many state rules and regulations governing how field sobriety and breath tests must be conducted. If they are not done properly, they cannot be used as evidence in a Jacksonville DUI Case. Our Jacksonville DUI Attorney knows the ins and outs of the laws governing traffic stops and testing in DUI cases and will review your case to provide you or your loved one with the best options 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 DUI Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Dozens arrested on drug charges as part of Operation Summer Slam in Clay County

September 2, 2014

Clay County police arrested 35 people and were seeking more than a dozen more, predominantly on charges of selling drugs that date back to February. Police began the months-long investigation looking into people selling prescription drugs, but ended up expanding the probe to other controlled substances, including marijuana and cocaine, according to a report on News4Jax. Twenty-nine people were arrested on Clay County Drug Charges for selling narcotics, and six more were picked up on other charges when police executed the warrants on the intended targets, the television station reported. There were outstanding warrants for about a dozen people following the sweep of arrests last month.

When a person is accused of selling a controlled substance in a Clay County Drug Case, the charge is a felony. The degree of felony and the maximum penalty are based primarily on two factors: the amount of the drug the defendant is arrested with and the type of drug he or she is accused of selling. For example, charges related to prescription drugs carry much more severe penalties than those involving marijuana. For example, drug trafficking charges involving prescription pills such as hydrocodone begin at 14 grams - just a handful of pills. Trafficking charges for marijuana do not begin until the person is accused of having 25 pounds of the drug. Drug trafficking charges are first-degree felonies, with varying minimum mandatory sentences that apply based on the amount of the drug included in the charge.

There are other factors that can determine the felony degree and potential punishment in a Clay County Drug Crimes Case. For example, there are enhanced penalties for selling or delivering drugs within 1,000 feet of a school, church or child care facility. Several of the cases in this Clay County Drug Crimes sweep have upgraded charges, and that increase is typically one felony degree. For example, sale or distribution of marijuana is normally a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison. However, if the transaction is completed within 1,000 feet of a school or other area listed above, the charge becomes a second-degree felony. Second-degree felonies have a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison - a significant difference for the defendant. Our Clay County Drug Crimes Attorney has represented people on all types of drug charges - from possession to trafficking involving all types of controlled substances. Our Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney knows what police must show to prove a sale and will thoroughly investigate the 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 Drug Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Detective arrested in St. Johns County prostitution sting

August 29, 2014

A Palatka police detective was arrested this month, caught in an undercover prostitution sting in St. Johns County. Police used Internet ads and discussions to have conversations with both men and women looking to either pay for or be paid for sex, directing the people to a St. Augustine Beach motel, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The sting was conducted after hotels in the area said prostitution was being arranged online and then carried out in their businesses, the newspaper reported.

The detective was arrested at the hotel and charged with solicitation to commit prostitution. This St. Johns County Sex Crime does not carry much in terms of an actual punishment - it's a second-degree misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of six months in jail and a jail sentence is highly unlikely. But the charge is highly embarrassing, especially for someone in law enforcement, and the detective has already resigned from his position in the police department, the newspaper reported. These types of stings in St. Johns County Sex Crimes Cases are used occasionally and usually result in a dozen or so arrests. In this sting, 14 people were arrested over four days, the newspaper reported. Often times, there's one person - a teacher, a coach or, in this case, a police officer, that is caught in the sting and ends up being the headline. With many of these discussions and negotiations for sex starting online - and traceable by police - there is generally plenty of evidence available for the state in such cases. Years ago, when police would focus on one-on-one discussions, maybe in a city park, for example, the charges would end up being dropped months later - after the arrests were all over the media and the careers and lives of those arrested were severely affected.

This operation included police posing as solicitors looking for a prostitute and police posting an advertisement that appeared to be taken out by a prostitute, so they sought johns and prostitutes in this St. Johns County Sex Crimes investigation. These are generally conducted after a series of complaints, and are publicized to serve as a reminder that police are watching - even though the penalties are not severe in terms of incarceration. Many St. Johns County Misdemeanor Cases can be resolved with the judge withholding adjudication if certain conditions are met, meaning the conviction or plea would not be a part of the person's criminal record. Misdemeanor cases can be just as damaging to a career and personal life as a felony that carries a 15-year prison sentence. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney will investigate your case and look for options that have the least long-term impact so you or your loved one can get past the arrest and move on.

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 Misdemeanor Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jury rejects manslaughter charge, instead convicts man of battery in deadly fight

August 25, 2014

A jury did not find enough evidence to convict a man of manslaughter in the death of another partygoer, but instead found him guilty of a lesser charge of felony battery. The man was accused of punching another man repeatedly while the man was already on the ground after a series of fights broke out during a bonfire, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The victim was rushed to the hospital but died from his injuries, the newspaper reported.

Police said another man initially punched the victim in the face and the man fell to the ground, the newspaper reported. That's when the man who went to trial this week jumped in, the newspaper reported. The reduction from manslaughter down to battery is very significant for the defendant. Manslaughter is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. Felony battery, however, is a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced next month, and it will be interesting to see if the judge - who was on the bench for the entire trial - goes toward the maximum because of the reduced charge. In Florida, manslaughter is the "killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification" and "cases in which such killing shall not be excusable homicide or murder."

In this Jacksonville Battery Case, the jurors likely had a difficult time with who threw the fatal punch or punches that night. The state felt it knew, however, and charged the man who initially knocked the man to the ground with battery - not manslaughter. The state tried to prove that the defendant continued to hit the man once he was on the ground, and at that point it became more than just a fight. In most Jacksonville Felony Cases that result in someone's death, prosecutors will charge the defendant with some type of charge that acknowledges the killing. Usually it's manslaughter or first- or second-degree murder. But that doesn't always mean the proof is there. In this Jacksonville Battery Case, it was not - according to a jury of the defendant's peers. In Jacksonville Criminal Defense Trials, the judge will read the jury the requirements of the charges - and lesser included charges the jury can use as alternative.

Jacksonville Felony Cases hinge on what the state can prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate your case and then lay out the options so you or your loved one can make the best decisions 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 Criminal Defense Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Nassau County deputies conduct drug-related search, find stolen property

August 22, 2014

Police in Nassau County started an investigation after spotting marijuana plants in the yard, and then found several stolen vehicles behind the home. Three trailers, a truck, a boat, a jet ski and construction equipment were all found in the backyard of the Hilliard home, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police said the items were reported stolen from Jacksonville over the past few months and the total value is about $77,000, the newspaper reported. Police removed all of the vehicles and also took drug paraphernalia from inside the home, the newspaper reported.

No charges have been filed, but police appear to have plenty of options in this Nassau County Felony Case. In terms of Nassau County Drug Crimes charges, cultivation of marijuana is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in state prison. The charge could be elevated to drug trafficking - a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison. That would only apply if the defendant has more than 300 plants, which does not appear to be the case from this brief mention in the newspaper. Possession of drug paraphernalia is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year in the county jail. It could be possible to have marijuana growing in a rural area without knowledge of the property owner, but when it is found growing with paraphernalia and other growing materials present, that's a tougher sell.

As for the theft charges, the theme is similar to the Nassau County Drug Crimes charges with the marijuana plants. Instead of the physical amount that makes the difference in the drug cases, it's the dollar value that plays the biggest role in the type of charge and the potential punishment in Nassau County Theft Cases. There are other factors, including if the property was stolen from law enforcement, but the main factor is the amount. In this Nassau County Theft Case, it's unclear now if police have evidence that the person who owns the property is the person who stole the property. If not, there are still elements in the statutes that make a person liable if they knew or should have known the property was stolen when then buy or sell it. The threshold for a theft charge to be a felony is $300. If property is valued at more than $300, the defendant can be charged with a third-degree felony that has a maximum penalty of five years in state prison. Because there are several stolen goods, all valued at more than $300, the state could charge several counts of grand theft, which could be stacked to expose the person to decades in state prison.

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 Nassau County Drug Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Originally sentenced to 33 years in "road rage" crashes, woman now agrees to house arrest and probation in plea deal

August 18, 2014

After her first conviction was overturned in May, negating her 33-year sentence, the state opted to offer a plea deal to a woman accused of injuring several people in what St. Johns County police described as road rage crashes. In some cases, an overturned conviction means a new trial. In this St. Johns County Felony Case, the state opted for a plea that was far better than the original sentence, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The woman is accused of driving into a bicyclist and into a St. Johns County police car, then driving at another officer who was on foot. She also is accused of hitting a person driving a scooter and then a truck and another vehicle, the newspaper reported.

In all, she was charged with 14 felonies: six counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon, aggravated attempt to elude causing serious injury and resisting arrest with violence. The first trial was a bench trial - simply in front of a judge, not a jury of her peers. An appellate court threw out the conviction, saying the woman was entitled to have a trial in front of her peers and she likely did not understand the full consequences of allowing her attorney to waive that right. The main issue at the trial was whether or not the defendant was mentally ill at the time of the incident in this St. Johns County Felony Case. There were conflicting reports from doctors, the newspaper reported, and the judge did not feel she was in fact insane at the time of the crashes. The main difference in a jury trial is there are more people involved in the decision. In this St, Johns County Traffic case, there would have been a panel of six jurors. Any decision must be unanimous, so it would only take one person to disagree and prevent a conviction. Given the state's decision following the case being overturned, it brings up the question of whether or not the state would have even gone to trial in front of a jury the first time.

Now, the defendant is sentenced to just two years of house arrest and 10 years of probation - a far cry from the 33-year prison sentence she received the first time around.
From a procedure standpoint, there are a variety of avenues that must be considered in a St. Johns County Felony Crimes Case. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney has represented thousands of people and will suggest different strategies so you and your loved one can make the best decision in your case.

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 Felony Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Appeals courts rules Jacksonville sex offender has served his time, should be released

August 15, 2014

A Jacksonville man who served his sentence after pleading guilty to sexual battery charges should be freed and the state did not file proper procedures in attempting to have him committed after his release, an appellate court ruled this month. A state law, known as the Jimmy Ryce Act, allows the state to continue to hold some sex offenders in custody even after they've served their sentences. But there are certain procedures that must be followed for the state to do so. In this Jacksonville Sex Crimes Case, the state did not refer the case to the Department of Children and Families before the sentence was complete, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Because that was not done in time, the court ruled the state no longer had authority over the man and could not civilly commit him, the newspaper reported.

In Jacksonville Sex Crimes cases, the state can petition for the defendant to be held involuntarily if the judge agrees the person is a sexually violent predator and has a high likelihood of reoffending if released among the general public. In this case, the state argued the man has a history of these offenses and "suffers from a mental abnormality and/or personality disorder that makes him likely to engage in acts of sexual violence if not confined in a secure facility for long-term control, care and treatment," the newspaper reported.

Civil commitment is essentially a prison where the state provides mental health treatment and warehouses sexual predators that have completed their prison sentence. They are not free to come and go as they please and periodic reviews come up to determine whether they should remain in custody. There are no other crimes for which people can continue to be held following their sentence. Convictions in Duval County Sex Crimes can ultimately be a life sentence. Once someone is convicted of or pleads guilty to a felony sex crime, the person is required to register as a sex offender. That means checking in with police at least twice a year, and reporting within 48 hours when the person moves residences. The public piece of this comes in when neighbors are notified that a sex offender has moved to the area, with the person's name, new address and the charge that qualified the person as a sex offender. There is a stigma attached to sex crimes and, this year, the state just toughened the Jimmy Ryce law, allowing for more people to be held after prison, the newspaper reported.

Pleading guilty to a sex crime can have serious, permanent consequences. Our Jacksonville Sex Crimes Attorney knows the details of registration and other restrictions, and can explain those to you or your loved one so you can make an informed decision on how to proceed with the case.

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.

Originally facing death penalty, Jacksonville man sentenced to 35 years in murder case

August 11, 2014

A Jacksonville man who prosecutors had been looking to execute pleaded guilty to a lesser charge this month. The man had been facing a first-degree murder charge for allegedly killing his mother in 2010 their Jacksonville home, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Instead, the state backed away from the initial charge and allowed the man to plead guilty to second-degree murder, the newspaper reported. Following the plea, the defendant, now 25, was sentenced to 35 years in prison, the newspaper reported.

While a murder charge is obviously very serious, and the 35-year sentence illustrates that point, there is a significant difference between first-degree murder and second-degree murder. In Jacksonville Murder Cases, there are only two options for sentencing in a first-degree murder case: life in prison or the death penalty. The judge has no latitude at all. But when the charge is second-degree murder, the judge can sentence the defendant anywhere from 25 years in prison to life in prison. In this Jacksonville Murder Case, the judge went toward to lower end. If the man stays out of trouble in prison, he will likely be released in 30 years, so at age 55 - a significantly better result than life in prison, which would have been the best possible outcome if the first-degree murder charge stuck.

In this Jacksonville Murder Case, the state initially filed the paperwork to seek the death penalty, but later backed off. It is another instance that looks like the state is using the death penalty as a bargaining chip in negotiations. There are various aggravating factors the state must prove in order to use the death penalty - and there are legal issue specific to the degrees of murder. For example, for a charge to be first-degree murder, there must be some form of premeditation - even if for just a moment. Aggravating factors for the death penalty include whether the murder was "especially heinous, atrocious, cruel or depraved." In this Jacksonville Murder Case, the defendant was accused of beheading the victim and removing her eyeballs, so that likely would have qualified. The death penalty is, and should be, reserved for the worst of the worst and used sparingly. Either a Jacksonville Murder Case is a death case or it's not. The death penalty should not be hung over a defendant's head to pressure a plea to another charge.

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.

Man drives stolen van right by Jacksonville police and victim, is arrested after a chase

August 8, 2014

A Jacksonville man was arrested after he drove a stolen van in front of the victim who was talking with three police officers about the vehicle. Police then jumped in their cars after the driver and eventually arrested him, according to a report on News4Jax. The man is charged with several counts of dealing in stolen property and also charged with fleeing from police. The severity of the Jacksonville Theft Charges will be determined by the value of the property he is accused of stealing. Fleeing and eluding police is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison.

Nearly all Jacksonville Theft Charges are based solely on the value of the property the state can prove is stolen. There are certain enhanced charges if the property is taken from inside a home, from law enforcement or an emergency vehicle, but those factors are not in play in this Jacksonville Theft Case. For example, if a person is accused of stealing property with a value of less than $100, the charge is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail. If the value is between $100 and $300, the charge is a first-degree misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of up to one year in jail. In Jacksonville Theft Cases, the key number is really 300. Once the value of the property surpasses $300, the state can charge the crime as a third-degree felony. Then, the potential penalty goes up to five years in state prison. State prison comes into the picture only in Jacksonville Felony Cases. People cannot be sent to state prison on misdemeanor charges.

In this Jacksonville Theft Case, media reports have not mentioned any charges related to stealing the vehicle itself. Police could still be trying to determine whether the suspect was the one who took the vehicle or had knowledge that the vehicle was stolen. The way the steering column had been destroyed, it would have been difficult to not think it was stolen, but the van had been missing for weeks when it was discovered. The owner told the television station he was more concerned about the missing lawn equipment he uses for his business, so the state could be looking at a plea bargain for this suspect in exchange for information leading to the missing equipment - if that is possible. Unless this suspect is proven to have the equipment, or to have sold the equipment, it will be unlikely the state is able to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he is responsible for stealing the van. Our Jacksonville Theft Crimes Attorney knows the specific elements needed to prove varying degrees of Jacksonville Theft Charges. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate the charges against you or your loved one and lay out the case so you 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 Duval County Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville prosecutors charge another 12-year-old with murder

August 4, 2014

A 12-year-old Jacksonville boy was arrested on a murder charge last week, bringing back discussion of a similar decision in 2010 that drew national headlines and attention. This time, a 12-year-old was arrested for killing a homeless man, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Prosecutors have not said whether the boy will be charged as a juvenile or as an adult. If he is charged as an adult with first-degree murder, as then-12-year-old Cristian Fernandez was, it would leave the only possible sentence as life in prison. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against mandatory life sentences for juvenile, adding yet another layer of complexity to this Jacksonville Murder Case.

Prosecutors do have the power to charge the boy as a juvenile in this Jacksonville Murder Case. There are varying levels of punishment in Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Case, from community service and house arrest on up to what amounts to a prison for teens. Clearly this 12-year-old would be on the most severe end of the scale, given the charge he is facing. He is accused of walking up to a homeless man in a parking lot and shooting him in the head, though police have not released information on a possible motive, the newspaper reported.

After months of negotiating and highly publicized hearings, Fernandez eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter as a juvenile, the newspaper reported. The teen, now 15, will be released from juvenile prison when he turns 19 and placed on probation. The two cases are far from identical, but the common thread is obviously the defendant being 12 when he's arrested. In the current Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Case, the newspaper reported police made the arrest based on information from a 16-year-old already being held on charges of armed robbery and stealing a car, so there are credibility issues that could come up. There were issues in the Fernandez case, including the police interview with the boy that was ruled inadmissible - so it must be emphasized that every case is different and has its own unique set of challenges. Those challenges and issues would become more evident as the Jacksonville Murder Case moves forward.

Prosecutors in Clay, Duval and Nassau counties frequently charge juveniles as adults in Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes cases that are far less serious than murder, so it would be difficult to see a scenario where the boy is charged as a juvenile. Eventually, Fernandez was treated as a juvenile. Eventually. But it started as first-degree murder as an adult, which is probably closer to where this Jacksonville Murder Case will begin, too. Our Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Attorney represents children and teens charged with all types of crimes, with cases in both juvenile and traditional court. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate the charges and work for a resolution that allows the juvenile to move on from his or her mistake and not have it hanging over them for the rest of their life.

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 Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jury convicts woman of reduced charges for firing shots at another vehicle

August 1, 2014

A jury convicted a Jacksonville woman of reduced charges in connection with her shooting into a car at a driver and her passengers. The charges have varied in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case that dates back to 2011. Ultimately, she was convicted of three counts of attempted manslaughter, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police said the woman fired shots from a pistol from her car at another vehicle and, when the other driver tried to escape, the woman continued to follow and continued to fire shots at the vehicle, according to the newspaper report.

The woman was first charged in 2011 with three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison, so a total of 15. Prosecutors then upgraded the charges to attempted murder, second-degree felonies, and those are the charges that were brought to the jury in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case. In the end, the jury found the woman was not guilty of attempted murder, but instead guilty of attempted manslaughter. In the grand scheme of things, there's little difference in the bottom line. Florida's 10-20-Life laws dictate the sentencing in the Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case anyway, though the jury doesn't know that when they are deliberating on charges. Possible sentencing cannot be discussed in front of the jury because it could sway their opinion. The case is to be judged solely on the facts alone, not on any potential punishment. In Florida, prosecutors can choose to apply the 10-20-Life laws related to gun crimes and the minimum mandatory sentences that go with them. When applied, a person can receive a 10-year minimum sentence for showing a gun during the commission of a felony. The 20-year minimum mandatory applies when a gun is fired and the life sentence can come in when someone is hit.

These minimum penalties have been highly scrutinized and there has been some movement in the state legislature to give more latitude to judges, but for now these are the laws that apply in Jacksonville Gun Crimes Cases. One of the biggest issues with these sentences is that judges have ruled they must be applied consecutively. In this Jacksonville Gun Crimes case, the woman was convicted of three counts. So each 20-year sentence must be severed separately, meaning she has a mandatory sentence of 60 years in state prison. In most cases, judges have the discretion to run the sentences concurrently, means all three 20-years sentences at once so the total sentence is only 20 years. So while the reduced charge sounds good, it ultimately means the same lengthy prison sentence as the murder charge.

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 Gun Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Nassau County police announce two dozen felony drug arrests in "Operation High on Summertime"

Two dozen people, most from Nassau County, are facing felony drug charges after a series of undercover operations over the past several months. Police dubbed the project Operation High on Summertime and said it was aimed at reducing illegal drug activity in the county, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. All of the charges are related to selling drugs, according to the newspaper report. Media reports do not specify how the operation was conducted, but in many cases undercover detectives secretly record interaction that leads to the sale. And, eventually, to criminal charges and Nassau County Drugs Crimes Cases.

In these Nassau County Drug Cases, most of the charges are for sale of marijuana, sale of cocaine and sale of a controlled substance. In most cases these days, sale of a controlled substance generally means prescription drugs, but it was not specified in this Nassau County Drug Crimes Case. Felony degree depends mostly on the type of drug in these Nassau County Drug Crimes Cases. The difference comes in if the person has enough of the drug to qualify for a trafficking charge, which leads to a host of more serious charges with longer maximum penalties and mandatory minimum sentences that apply. Sale of a controlled substance and sale of cocaine, two of the most common charges in this Nassau County drug bust, are both second-degree felonies with a maximum penalty of 15 years in state prison. Sale of marijuana is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in state prison. In all Nassau County Drug Crimes Cases, marijuana has less severe penalties than other drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamines and prescription drugs such as hydrocodone and OxyContin. Marijuana possession can be a misdemeanor charge, whereas with the other drugs mentioned, even a simple possession charge is a felony in Nassau County Drug Crimes cases.

Police did not specify how many of the people arrested were involved in the same illegal drug operation, though it would be highly unlikely everyone was working independently. There are likely a few different rings represented here. That will be more evident once people start working out plea agreements and being sentenced by the judge. In most of these Nassau County Drug Crimes Cases, police are after a few specific individuals and will look to the smaller players to provide information in exchange for a reduced sentence. Our Nassau County Drug Crimes Attorney has represented people on a variety of drug charges, from possession to trafficking, and charges involving marijuana, cocaine and seemingly everything in between. Our Nassau County Criminal Defense Attorney knows what elements the state must have to prove a sale charge and will thoroughly investigate the charges 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 Duval County Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Jury convicts woman of reduced charges for firing shots at another vehicle