The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with multiple other law enforcement agencies in Florida, has made several arrests connected to an internet/traveler sting.  According to an article in The Florida Times Union, four men have been arrested this week on sex charges in Jacksonville.  This is the tail-end of the arrests, according to the report.  Eleven arrests were made in July after the sheriff’s office conducted “Operation Blue Hawk”.  Typically, detectives pose as either a boy or a girl, between twelve and fourteen years of age, asking to meet up.  When the man appears at a time and location certain, they are usually arrested on the spot for soliciting a minor, traveling to meet a minor, and unlawful use of a two-way communication device.  All of these Duval sex charges are felonies.  One of the men allegedly involved in this sting possessed child pornography when arrested.

When police set up these stings, they have their act together.  All communications with a subject are saved, including emails, direct messages, texts and phone calls.  When the suspect comes to the location set up by the detectives, they are immediately arrested when they walk in the door.  All electronic devices are taken from them, including their cell phones and computers.  The phones and computers are searched and if any questionable images or videos are found, a new charge will be added.  Under Florida law, if you seduce, lure or entice a child, or someone you believe to be a child, to commit illegal sexual conduct, this is a third degree felony.  In addition to facing up to five years in prison, you are facing being labeled a sex offender, forever.  Traveling to meet the minor is also a third degree felony, punishable the same way.  The one felony associated with these stings that is not a “sex” charge is unlawful use of a two-way communication device.  This is also a felony in Florida.  The one man in this sting has an additional charge of possession of child pornography.  Child pornography is defined as any image showing a minor engaged in a sex act.

If arrested in a traveler sex sting, it is imperative to seek the advice of an experienced and knowledgeable Jacksonville sex crime lawyer.  Not every case is the same.  Mitigation can be presented to the state attorney’s office to possibly have the charges reduced or even dropped in the right circumstance.

A man is in jail in Gainesville, Florida after a Florida football player intervened in an alleged sexual assault on an intoxicated woman.  According to an article on KTLA 5 news, the football player was working security at a local bar and noticed the man and woman touching near a dumpster.  Both parties appeared drunk and when the man started touching the woman sexually, security pulled the man away and the police were called.  The woman was allegedly unable to hold her head up and had trouble standing.  The accused man was charged with sexual battery and has a $500,000 bond.

Sexual battery when a victim is physically incapacitated or unable to resist is one of the most serious sex crimes in Jacksonville and all of Florida.  It can be charged as a first degree felony, which is punishable by up to thirty years in prison.  Florida statutes define a “physically helpless” victim as one who is unconscious, asleep, or is physically unable to consent.  Being drunk or intoxicated on drugs can be considered physically helpless in this case.  In any rape allegation, it usually comes down to a he said/she said.  A woman saying she did not consent to sexual contact can be enough to prosecute a sexual battery.  Even if she did not physically resist.  Even if she did not initially report the alleged assault.  Even if the two were seen together, happy, just before the alleged rape.  In many cases, there is no physical evidence to substantiate the claim.  If the alleged victim seems credible to the prosecutor, that is enough to move forward.  In the Gainesville case, the security reportedly took cell phone video of the contact between the parties at the dumpster.  If there is video evidence of sexual contact, the issue will come down to whether or not the woman consented or had the ability to consent.

The extremely high bond, half a million dollars, is not abnormal when there are accusations of sexual misconduct.  In Duval County and around Florida, bonds for sex cases are far higher than any others, including some murders and violent crimes.  The mere suggestion or allegation of illegal sexual contact can lead to being arrested and put in jail on a bond so high you cannot meet it or you could have no bond.  Just based on a person’s word.  That is why it is so important to consult with an experienced Duval County Sex Crime Attorney the minute there is any word of sexual misconduct.

A manager at JTA, or Jacksonville Transportation Authority, is facing a felony charge of grand theft.  According to a report in the Florida Times Union, the man stole over $300,000.00 from the Authority.  Part of the manager’s duties included being involved in real estate transactions, according to the article.  The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office is alleging that the man diverted funds that belonged to the authority to his personal bank account.  The alleged illegally obtained funds total $394,624.65.  The manager was arrested for grand theft of an amount over $100,000, which makes the charge a first degree felony punishable by up to thirty years in prison.

Grand theft charges in Jacksonville vary depending on the amount of money or the value of the property stolen.  In this case, because the amount is over $100,000, it is considered a first degree felony, which is the most serious level.  If the value of property or money stolen is $20,000 or more but less than $100,000, the theft is a second degree felony.  If the amount is $300 or over but less than $20,000, it is a third degree felony.  Any amount under $300 is a misdemeanor, which is handled in county court.

The manager’s bond is set at $300,003.  That bond is subject to what is called a “Nebia” hearing.  When a crime involves a lot of money, such as theft of the money or being accused of being a drug dealer, courts can require this hearing to find out where bond funds would be coming from.  The government does not want an accused suspect to use illegally obtained money to bond out of jail. Even if the case is eventually dropped, the suspect may still have to show where exactly the money is coming from.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office reports that the thefts of motorcycles increased substantially this year compared to last.  According to an report in The Florida Times Union, there are already as many of these thefts this year than in all of 2015.  The article reports that the weather warming up contributes to the spike.  Many of the motorcycles are sold off for their parts either at a shop or online.  The state of Florida ranks second for motorcycle thefts in the United States.

If someone steals a motorcycle and sells off the parts, a couple of crimes can be charged in Jacksonville.  The obvious one is Grand Theft.  Theft is knowingly taking someone’s property intending to temporarily or permanently deprive them of their property.  It becomes “grand” and a third degree felony if the value of the item is over $300.00 or if the item is a motor vehicle.  If convicted of a third degree felony in Florida, you are facing up to five years in prison.  If the value of the item is below $300.00 and $100.00 or over, the crime can be charged as a first degree misdemeanor.  If below $100.00, it is a misdemeanor of the second degree.

The other crime that can be charged is substantially more serious and in most cases, easier to prove.  Dealing in stolen property in Duval County is a second degree felony punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.  Any person who buys, sells or even tries to buy or sell items he or she knew or should have known was stolen can be charged.  In the motorcycle thefts, if the parts are put for sale on ebay, each part being sold can be a separate criminal charge.  When something is stolen either in a burglary or from a theft, police will scour pawn shops for recent sales and will peruse websites such as craigslist and ebay trying to find the items.

Jaguar player, Dan Skuta, was arrested just over a week ago for an incident allegedly occurring in an Orlando bar.  According to a report in the Florida Times Union, police claim Skuta hit a woman in the face and was arrested for battery.  Apparently, officers were approached outside the bar and told that the player hit the woman.  Even though there were no visible injuries, police chose to arrest Skuta based on what the woman and her friend told them.  This is very common.  It is not clear whether or not there were any other witnesses on the alleged victim’s side, but Skuta’s criminal defense attorney told the media there are witnesses on Skuta’s side to be presented to the State Attorney’s office in Orlando.  Also, Skuta appeared to have an injury below his eye, which lends credibility to his claim that he was the one hit in the incident.

Battery is a violent crime in Florida and occurs when you intentionally touch someone against their will or intentionally hurt someone.  This is a first degree misdemeanor and the maximum punishment is a year in jail.  As you can see in the case above, it is not necessary for the alleged victim to have visible injuries to prove a battery occurred.  Pushing someone can be considered a battery.  Taking someone by the arm and leading them somewhere can be considered a battery.  A typical sentence for a battery charge will include some form of anger management and the payment of fines and court costs.  Also, if you are convicted of a battery, even though it is a misdemeanor, it will follow the rest of your life.  As I said before, this Florida misdemeanor is considered a crime of violence and can prevent you from getting certain jobs if employers fear you have the propensity to commit violence in the future.

Witnesses are going to play an important part in this case.  Presumably all of the witnesses were consuming alcohol and their ability to perceive events may be questionable.  Witness credibility is incredibly important to proving a criminal case, especially when an alleged victim may have motivation to lie.  Attorneys must analyze whether or not the witness, including the alleged victim, had some interest in how the case progresses.  People are motivated by all kinds of things, like attention and money.  It will be interesting to see if the prosecutor’s office decides to file formal charges against the player.  In order to file a criminal case, the prosecutor must believe there is a reasonable probability of conviction if the case goes to trial.

A woman from St. Augustine is facing eleven criminal charges after allegedly fleeing from police.  According to an article in The Florida Times Union, police received several 911 calls reporting a car driving erratic and aggressively.  After police tried to stop the vehicle, the woman allegedly accelerated rapidly and intentionally rammed occupied vehicles.  The woman apparently had two small children in the car and eventually stopped after crashing into another car.  Even when police got their hands on the woman, they claim she continued to pull away.  The woman is facing one count of reckless driving, two counts of fleeing and eluding police, four counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, one count of aggravated battery with injury, two counts of child neglect and resisting an officer without violence.

The most serious of the charges are the felonies.  In Florida, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.  In order to prove this charge, the prosecutor must show that the woman threatened someone with violence, had the ability to carry that violence out, put the victim in fear of the violence and used a deadly weapon to threaten. In this case, the deadly weapon would be the car she was driving.  Aggravated battery is intentionally causing great bodily harm to someone and is a second degree felony in Florida.

The charges of child neglect may seem not so obvious.  Just having the children and erratically driving a vehicle could be considered child neglect or abuse in St. Johns County.  Under Florida law, neglect of a child occurs when a guardian fails to provide the child with care or supervision necessary to maintain the child’s physical health.  It is a prudent-person standard, which means the standard is what would a reasonable person do to protect the child.  Each child neglect charge is a third degree felony and the maximum punishment is five years in prison.  Fleeing and eluding the police is a second degree felony.  In order to prove this charge, the State Attorney’s Office has to prove the woman operated a vehicle and willfully refused to stop the car after being ordered to stop by an authorized law enforcement officer.

Three local young men are not going to be considered sex offenders or even felons after the State Attorney’s Office reduced their Duval County sex charges to misdemeanors.  According to an article in The Florida Times Union, the three were arrested in early April on charges of lewd and lascivious battery, a second degree felony, and computer pornography, which is a third degree felony.  In addition to looking at many years in prison, the men were facing being sex offenders for the rest of their lives.  The alleged victim, a minor, originally told police she was forced to engaging in sexual contact, but later changed her story.  The article also reports that video of the incident shows that the contact was consensual.  All three will enter pleas to contributing to the delinquency of a minor, which is a first degree misdemeanor in Florida.  They will be sentenced to probation to perform community service hours, have no contact with the girl, and have no unsupervised contact with minors.

When someone is even accused of a sex crime in Jacksonville, there is a stigma that automatically attaches.  Even if the accusation is a complete lie.  In sex cases, there is often no physical or eyewitness evidence, just someone’s word.  Despite the lack of evidence which so often accompanies sex charges, they are punishable as if you had murdered someone.  Many Jacksonville sex crimes are punishable by fifteen years, thirty years or life in prison.  There are all kinds of reasons people lie, but when someone says they have been sexually assaulted, there is usually going to be an arrest.

If you are arrested for any type of sex crime in northeast Florida or anywhere, you should first contact an experienced criminal defense lawyer in your area.  Just because you have been arrested does not mean that the State Attorney’s Office will file the charges you were arrested for.  As in the above mentioned case, prosecutors have wide discretion in what charges they pursue.  In this case, the State’s alleged victim lied up front, claiming she had sex against her will.  It turned out she was lying, for whatever reason.  Even if the sex was consensual, a minor cannot consent to any sexual contact and the State could have pursued the sex charges.  Instead, they chose to drop all of the sex felony charges and let the men enter pleas to a misdemeanor.  They will be able to go on with their lives and hopefully avoid any of these type of issues in the future.

Based on allegations in Pennsylvania, Bill Cosby will face trial for sexual assault.  According to an article in the Washington Post, the criminal judge in Cosby’s case issued a ruling that the prosecutors in his case had enough evidence to submit his case to a jury.  Even though Cosby has faced many allegations of sexual assaults from multiple women, this will be the first he will be tried for if the case actually goes to trial.

When someone is arrested for a sex charge in Duval County, the State Attorney’s Office will assign the case to a particular prosecutor.  That prosecutor will be in the Special Assault Division, commonly referred to as “SAD”.  Once assigned, that prosecutor must make a decision about what happens in the case.  This part of the process is called pre-filing.  The prosecutor will look at all of the reports and speak to the detective, witnesses and alleged victim.  This is the most critical part of any case.  The benefit of hiring an experienced sex crime lawyer in Duval County is that the lawyer will meet with the assistant state attorney before they make any decisions about the case.  The criminal defense lawyer can also accumulate evidence that the police missed or were not interested in.

If the prosecutor elects to file the sex case in Jacksonville, a defendant has a few options.  The accused can fight the charge in court.  Their sex defense attorney will get all of the reports generated in the case and any video and audio recordings taken.  At that point, depositions will be scheduled.  Depositions are where sworn testimony is taken of any and all witnesses in the case, including the person making the allegations.  Almost anything can be asked at depositions, even if those questions cannot be asked in a trial.  Once all the depositions are completed, the case will go to trial.

A man from Clay County has been accused of raping an incapacitated woman and subsequently posting pictures of the woman online.  According to an article in the Florida Times Union, the man knew the woman before the alleged incident, which police are saying occurred this past New Year’s Eve.  The article reports that the two were together the next day, after the alleged rape.  The man allegedly put provocative pictures of the woman on social media after the encounter.  Those posts will most certainly be used in the prosecution of the accused.

The first and most serious charge the man is facing is sexual battery while the victim is incapacitated.  Under Florida law, a sexual battery is any sex act forced on someone else without consent. Consent has to be “intelligent, knowing and voluntary”.  When a victim is helpless to resist, the sexual battery is elevated from a second degree felony to a first.  This means the accused is facing up to thirty years in prison and being a sexual offender for life.  A victim is considered physically helpless if they cannot tell the other person they are unwilling to consent to the sex act.  In most Clay County rape cases involving physical helplessness, the victim is drunk on alcohol or high on some kind of drug.  If the sexual battery case went to trial, a jury will have to be convinced beyond all reasonable doubt that the alleged victim was in fact incapacitated.

The other two charges are less common and are both misdemeanors in Florida.   Sexual cyber harassment is when a person publishes sexual images of someone on the Internet without that person’s consent.  The person posting the sexually explicit material must have the intent to cause the victim substantial emotional distress.  It has to be willful and malicious.  This law does not just apply to pictures.  It also includes videos or any other real depiction of another person in a sexual position.  Video voyeurism is the second misdemeanor the man is charged with.  This occurs when a suspect installs a recording device to record someone where they have a reasonable expectation of privacy.  If the suspect is nineteen years-old or older, the Clay voyeurism charge is a third degree felony.  If the suspect is under nineteen, it is a first degree misdemeanor.

Nassau County Sheriff’s Office recently launched a campaign to bust people for selling and possessing drugs in Fernandina Beach, Yulee and Hilliard.  According to a report in The Florida Times Union, “Operation Liquidation” has been ongoing for several months as an undercover buy/bust operation.  The people busted were arrested for a myriad of drug charges including sale of cocaine, sale and possession of methamphetamine, sale of a controlled substance and sale of marijuana.

In many Florida drug bust cases, the narcotics officers posing as drug buyers approach a person and ask if they can buy drugs.  Often times, the detectives are led to the “seller” by a confidential informant.  This informant is usually working off a criminal case of their own hoping to make their situation better by setting up others.  Once the introduction is made, police give marked money in return for the drugs. The police can make a Nassau County drug sale arrest right after the transaction or wait to conduct future sales.  Police often use audio or video recording devices to chronicle the exchange.  After the arrest is made, police attempt to get the suspect to confess to the sale.

Sale of drugs, from cocaine to controlled pills, is a second degree felony punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.  Under Florida law, the substance sold has to be a controlled substance, such as heroin, cocaine, hydrocodone, etc.  “Sale” is giving the drug to another person for money or something else of value agreed upon by both parties.  If the quantity of the drugs is more than a set threshold under Florida law, the sale can transform to trafficking.  When someone is charged with trafficking a substance, minimum mandatory sentences and immense fines come into play.  Some people under Operation Liquidation were arrested for possessing drugs.  “Possession” can be actual or constructive.  Actual possession means you actually have the drug in your hand or on your person.  Constructive possession means that you have control over the place where the drug is located.  Possession of cocaine and heroin is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.  If you possess over twenty grams of marijuana, it is also a third degree felony.  If under twenty grams, the Florida marijuana possession charge is a first degree misdemeanor.