Police raid suspected Jacksonville meth lab, no one in the home at the time

Jacksonville police raided and broke up a methamphetamine lab last week, closing off a residential street for hours. When police arrived, no one was in the home, therefore no one was immediately arrested in the raid, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police collected evidence from the home and said they were looking for someone to speak with about the activity and contents inside the home. Detectives would likely start with the homeowner and whoever is listed in public utility records as the person responsible for water and electricity. Generally, if the home is a rental property, the tenant is the one who has the electric bill in his or her name.

Now that doesn't mean the owner or tenant is the one involved. Police and prosecutors could have a problem proving this Jacksonville Drug Crimes case without anyone in the home at the time of the raid. One strategy may be talking to the tenant or owner and, if they deny involvement, pressing them to tell what they know or face the charges themselves. The one thing police will definitely have on their side is the seriousness of the penalties in this Jacksonville Drug Crimes case. It's a second-degree felony to possess chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamines, and also a second-degree felony to manufacture meth. Both Jacksonville Drug Crimes have a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison.

Penalties move up quickly in Jacksonville Drug Crimes cases, and one can be charged with trafficking in meth with just 14 grams in a person's possession. No proof of a sale is needed - the crime is simply based on the amount. Trafficking in methamphetamine is always a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in state prison, but also has a minimum mandatory sentence based on the amount. The lower levels of 14 to 28 grams, for example, have a mandatory minimum of three years in state prison. Compare these Jacksonville Drug Crime penalties with a drug like marijuana, when possession is still a misdemeanor until 20 grams, and trafficking charges do not apply until a person has 25 pounds in his or her possession.

Although police would have no doubt preferred to have someone inside the home at the time of the raid, they will likely say they could not wait because of a potential safety risk. The cooking of meth emits toxic fumes that can harm people in the immediate area. Many busts are in hotels or apartment complexes and police will decontaminate adjacent rooms and units once a lab is busted. Our Jacksonville Drug Crimes lawyer represents people facing charges involving all types of drugs (from marijuana to meth) and all types of charges (from possession to trafficking).

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.

Police say 4th of July arrest count normal for busy holiday weekend at Jacksonville area beaches

Despite an increased police presence and some crowd control issues in recent years, police did not make more arrests than usual over the recent 4th of July holiday weekend. Ten people were arrested in Atlantic Beach over the weekend, mostly misdemeanor crimes involving alcohol - DUIs or public drunkenness, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Exact figures from Jacksonville Beach and Neptune Beach were not reported in the story but, anecdotally, officials said the weekend was a typical holiday weekend from an arrest perspective.

Generally speaking, police aren't out to make a ton of arrests on holiday weekends, especially the 4th of July when thousands of residents and visitors pack the beaches for a day and stay for a fireworks show at dusk. Police are more in the mode of controlling the crowd and making sure things do not get out of hand - similar to at other large events such as a the Florida-Georgia football game in downtown Jacksonville. But Jacksonville Misdemeanor Arrests do happen at these larger events, mostly related to alcohol. Often, it can be a person who hasn't been in trouble before, had a few too many drinks and then finds themselves in jail and before a judge the following morning.

The immediate inclination is to plead guilty, take the slap on the wrist punishment, get out of jail and move on. Unfortunately, in Jacksonville Misdemeanor Cases, that is a short-term decision that can have long-term consequences. It can never hurt to initially plead not guilty and then consult with a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney to examine the case and look at possible options. A guilty plea in first appearance court will not go away. And, instead of potentially working out something where adjudication is withheld as long as certain conditions are met, the plea stays on the person's record. And in some Jacksonville Misdemeanor Crimes, the penalties immediately increase if it is a person's second conviction of the same crime.

That is especially true in Jacksonville DUI Cases, where fines are doubled for a second conviction, maximum jail time jumps from six months to nine months, and a driver is required to have an ignition interlock device installed and the car will not start until the driver blows an alcohol-free breath into the system.Pleading guilty to seemingly minor charges can have lasting consequences. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system, fulfill your obligation after your arrest and move on with your 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.

School employee facing felony charge after being accused of kissing student in St. Johns County

Police arrested a 26-year-old school employee on St. Johns County Sex Crimes charges, after the accused of kissing a student last month. The woman, who works at the Florida School for the Deaf and Blind, is accused of sitting on a couch across from the student, when the two then kissed, according to a report on News4Jax. The woman was arrested and charged with lewd and lascivious molestation of a child between the ages of 12 and 16. The charge is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in state prison.

The underlying factor in this St. Johns County Sex Crimes Case is the relative age of the alleged victim - which was not reported by the television station, though the exact age doesn't matter. With the victim being between 12 and 16 and the suspect being over the age of 18, the same charges apply. Molestation may seem like it is overstating the case, and sounds like much more than a simple kiss. However, according to Florida Statutes, "A person who intentionally touches in a lewd or lascivious manner the breasts, genitals, genital area, or buttocks, or the clothing covering them, of a person less than 16 years of age, or forces or entices a person under 16 years of age to so touch the perpetrator, commits lewd or lascivious molestation." In this circumstance, the state has decided that a kiss qualifies to make this a felony St. Johns County Sex Crime.

It seems highly unlikely that the defendant in this St. Johns County Sex Crimes Case would receive anything close to the maximum penalty of 15 years in state prison. Right or wrong, the courts tend to look at cases differently in terms of punishment when the alleged perpetrator is a woman, as opposed to a man. The big issue in terms of sentencing in this St. Johns County Sex Crimes Case is whether the woman will have to register as a sex offender. If she was to plead to or be convicted of her current charges, she would have to register. That is likely a key piece of any negotiation, though it could be one the state is unwilling to budge on. Once someone is classified as a sexual offender, he or she has to check in with police at least twice a year - and within 48 hours of moving residences. The public piece comes in when the person moves, then neighbors are sent a notice that a sex offender has moved into the area - with the person's name and the charge that led to the conviction. The registration is important to notify the public of dangerous sexual predators, but can also stigmatize people and create what amounts to a life sentence for someone who made a bad decision and is not out to prey on children.

Our St. Johns County Sex Crimes Attorney is well-versed in the registration laws and can explain the requirements in detail so you or your loved one can make an informed decision on how best to move 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.

Former Jacksonville corrections officer arrested, accused of conspiracy to bring banned material into the jail

A former Jacksonville corrections officer was arrested this month, accused of conspiracy to introduce contraband into a correctional facility. The officer was terminated in February when this investigation began and was already on employee probation for falsifying his employment application, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Now, the former officer's problems are even more serious, with a felony charge in the balance. Conspiracy to introduce contraband into a correction facility is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison.

The newspaper report did not specifically what the man was accused of helping sneak into the jail, or the details of the scheme and how it was done. Immediately in Jacksonville Felony Cases such as this, when people hear contraband being introduced into a correctional facility, they tend to think drugs. And, in many Jacksonville Felony Cases, that assumption is correction. But, jails and prisons are highly regulated environments and the list of contraband one can be arrested for bringing into the facility is extensive. Contraband includes written communication and food or clothing intended for an inmate in a correction institution. For example, if a person is visiting a family member or friend and tries to sneak in a candy bar for an inmate, they can be arrested for introducing contraband into a correctional facility. The same is true for weapons, drugs, cell phones and any other communications device.

And while the charge may be the same for someone trying to sneak something in and a corrections officer charged with doing it, it's highly likely the two Jacksonville Felony Cases will be looked on in different lights by state prosecutors and the judge. When a corrections officer is charged in a Jacksonville Felony Case such as this, it implies he or she was either working with someone to allow banned material, possibly for some form of compensation, or at a minimum choosing to look the other way. This Jacksonville Felony Case is a prime example of how the court will often treat a case differently when a person in a position of authority is involved. It also emphasizes the importance of the state getting the charge right, because if it ends of being dropped or the person is found not guilty, the damage professionally for the officer is likely done with an arrest alone.

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

Florida Supreme Court overturns drug crime convictions, rules the initial traffic stop was illegal

The Florida Supreme Court ruled this month that the mere fact that the color of a vehicle is different than the color specified on the registration with the state is not enough to pull a driver over. The ruling led to drug trafficking and other related convictions to be overturned for a Panhandle man whose case began in 2010, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Decisions like this set the law for the entire state of Florida and are applicable here in Jacksonville Drug Crimes Cases.

In this Florida Drug Crimes Case, a police officer saw a bright green car and ran the license plate number through the state database that shows whom vehicles are registered to and other facts about the car, according to the newspaper report. The registration showed the car was blue, not green, so the officer used that as the basis to initiate a traffic stop, the newspaper reported. Once the man was pulled over and the officer approached the car, the officer smelled marijuana, which led him to search the car and find marijuana, crack cocaine and cash, the newspaper reported. The man was convicted at trial, but appealed, arguing the traffic stop amounted to a search without a warrant. The Supreme Court ruled the change in color was not "inherently suspicious" enough to justify pulling the person over without further probable cause, the newspaper reported. Drivers are allowed to paint their vehicle and do not have to immediately report the color change to police, so it should not be a factor to base suspicious activity from, the court opined. Yes, the defendant did have drugs in his possession. However, everything begins with the initial encounter with police and, if that's not done correctly, it doesn't matter what police find. Whatever is discovered would then be inadmissible in court.

Police must have a specific reason to make a traffic stop. In many Jacksonville Drug Crimes Cases, the reason listed in a police report will be along the lines of the driver swerving or speeding; driving with an expired tag; or maybe having a headlight burnt out. All of those are reasons the court deem acceptable to pull someone over. The issue of a valid traffic stop comes up frequently in Jacksonville DUI Cases, where the entire case is based on the traffic stop. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney knows the limits of what police can do without a search warrant, and knows the fine print on what constitutes a legal traffic stop. Our Jacksonville Drug Crimes Attorney will thoroughly investigate your case to make sure everything was done by the book before you move forward 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 Drug Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Father and son arrested, accused of growing marijuana in St. Johns County

Police arrested a father and son last month in St. Johns County, accusing the two of growing marijuana in their home. Both men are charged with cultivating marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Cultivation of marijuana is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison. Possession of drug paraphernalia is a first-degree misdemeanor, with penalties of up to one year in county jail, so obviously the cultivation charge is the one both men will be most concerned about in this St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case.

Police raided the home after hearing complaints from neighbors, but when they got there the plants had already been harvested, the newspaper reported. Police said they found enough lights and other equipment to charge the men with cultivation, the newspaper reported, though that could be problematic in terms of proving this St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case beyond a reasonable doubt. Cultivation of marijuana becomes a second-degree felony is more than 25 plants are found. Second-degree felonies are punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. Marijuana cultivation penalties in St. Johns County Drug Crimes Cases were increased in 2008 with the Marijuana Grow House Eradication Act. The act significantly decreased the number of plants needed for a second-degree felony charge from 300 down to 25.

Police will have to present evidence in this St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case that shows a jury beyond a reasonable doubt that the men were running a grow operation. It's not impossible without the actual plants, but it does make it more difficult. One avenue police will likely explore in this St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case is getting one of the defendants to testify against the other and provide information about the grow operation. An early indication would be the father is the mastermind of the operation. The newspaper reported the father was not offered a bond in this St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case, but the son could have been freed with a bond of about $10,000.

Our St. Johns County Drug Crimes Attorney represents people accused of all types of drug crimes - from possession to sale to cultivation. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney knows the ins and outs of Florida Drug Crimes Laws and will investigate your case and lay out all of your options 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 St. Johns County Drug Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Driver faces civil citation, not criminal charge, in traffic accident that killed Jacksonville man

A man who rear-ended a broken-down car on a Jacksonville bridge, likely causing the stranded driver to be propelled off the bridge and into the water, has been charged with careless driving. The stranded driver was found dead by a fisherman several days after the crash, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The driver cited in this Jacksonville Traffic Case was going 65 mph in a 45 mph zone, the newspaper reported, and police said he was driving in a "careless or reckless manner." Police have not said where the victim was standing when his car was struck, the newspaper reported. Careless driving is not a criminal charge, but is instead a traffic citation that results in a fine and points added to a driver's license.

Jacksonville Traffic Cases such as this are extremely difficult when it comes to potential criminal charges. In this case, a criminal charge could be vehicular homicide. According to Florida law, vehicular homicide is the killing of another person "caused by the operation of a motor vehicle by another in a reckless manner likely to cause the death of, or great bodily harm to, another." In this Jacksonville Traffic Case, the state apparently did not see that the drivers' actions met this standard. When people see a case like this, it's natural to want someone to be punished for something that results in the death of someone else, especially someone who was doing nothing wrong. Especially when, as the newspaper reported in this Jacksonville Traffic Case, when the accused driver has a history or traffic citations and even received another speeding ticket weeks after the crash that killed the Jacksonville man. But the criminal justice system is designed to be based solely on facts - and the need to prove a case to a jury beyond a reasonable doubt.

In Jacksonville Traffic Cases, vehicular homicide is charged when a driver is putting other drivers in harm's way by his or her actions, such as weaving in and out of traffic and speeding excessively. The driver does not even have to be the one whose vehicle physically hit the car where people were killed. That was proven in a Nassau County Traffic Case earlier this year, where a man was convicted of six counts of vehicular homicide for sideswiping a car the led to a chain reaction that killed six people in 2010. Every case has different elements and requires an extensive investigation by the state and police before choosing to file criminal charges in a Jacksonville Traffic 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 Traffic Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Nassau County teacher arrested, accused of sexual relationship with teen student

A Nassau County teacher is facing a felony charge, accused of having a sexual relationship with a former student - beginning when she was 17 years old. Police started looking into rumors of the relationship earlier this year, but made the arrest after more information was brought forward, including from the defendant's sister-in-law, according to a report on News4Jax. The sister-in-law told the teacher's wife, who then confronted the man, who allegedly admitted to the relationship, the television station reported.

The defendant initially told police the relationship started after the girl turned 18, but the student said it began months prior to her birthday and the television station reported the man eventually admitted the same to detectives. He is charged with unlawful sex with a minor, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. This particular charge applies to people 24 and older who have sex with teens either 16 or 17 years of age, according to Florida law. In this Nassau County Sex Crimes case, the defendant is 32 years old - clearly above the threshold of 24. Once a person turns 18, he or she is legally an adult and there are not laws that govern consensual sex with another adult. There could have been issues in this Nassau County Sex Crimes Case because the man was the alleged victim's teacher, but the age is what the state is basing its charges on in this case. And, based on media reports and the alleged admissions from both the alleged victim and defendant, the state has the age piece locked up. There is no argument that needs to be made on consent in these types of Nassau County Sex Crimes Cases. The law does not empower 16- or 17-year-olds to have sex with people over the age of 24, and it's on the adult to know the law, or be charged with a Nassau County Sex Crime.

The sentencing threshold is rather high, and the details of the case will determine where the case falls in terms of a sentence in state prison - if the judge chooses that route. But it's highly unlikely there will be any sentence that does not include requiring the defendant to register as a sex offender. Anyone convicted of a Nassau County Sex Crime of this nature is required to check in with police at least twice a year, and notify police when he or she moves to a new house or apartment. And, once a registered sex offender moves into a new neighborhood, neighbors are notified of his or her presence, with a photo of the person and a description of the charge that classified the person as a sex offender. And even though a person convicted of a Nassau County Sex Crime may do his or her time in jail or prison and want to move on, the stigma and registration requirements do not go away. Our Nassau County Sex Crimes Attorney knows the details and requirements of sex offender registrations and can explain those to you or your loved one 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 Nassau County Sex Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

New Florida law includes warning shots in Stand Your Ground law

A new state law allows judges to veer from the Florida's strict 10-20-Life laws if it can be proven that a person fired a warning shot because he or she was in fear of death or imminent great bodily harm. The change expands the state's Stand Your Ground law to allow people to show a gun and fire a warning shot if they feel threatened, just as a person can use deadly force in a similar situation, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Before the law change, someone who fired a warning shot could be charged with aggravated assault with a firearm and, because a gun was fired, faced a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years in state prison.

A Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case was one of the reasons a South Florida lawmaker said he sponsored the bill, the newspaper reported. A Jacksonville woman was convicted of three counts of aggravated assault, and sentenced to 20 years in state prison, for firing what she says was a warning shot to scare off her estranged husband. Two of his children were present at the time, hence the two additional charges. Her conviction was overturned by an appellate court, so she is now awaiting a second trial in her Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case. Police and prosecutors contend that Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case wasn't a true warning shot, proof that you will still encounter similar disagreements in court on whether the law applies. Many in law enforcement have been generally supportive of the new bill because it helps clarify what is legal when it comes to self-defense, the newspaper reported, and because it protects people who are legally defending themselves.

From a sentencing and adjudication perspective, it essentially gets discretion back into the hands of judges, who are elected and appointed to make these decisions, which is a good thing. Anytime there's a hard and fast rule without room for interpretation, there's a risk of a sentencing not matching up with the actual crime, given the circumstances. Not all Jacksonville Gun Crimes Cases are exactly alike, and judges should be able to take all of the facts into consideration and make the best decision in terms of sentencing. Under Florida's 10-20-Life law, anyone who displays a gun during the commission of a felony can be sentenced to an automatic 10 years in state prison. If a gun is fired, a 20-year minimum mandatory sentence is applied. If someone is shot during the felony, the defendant would receive a mandatory life sentence if convicted. This new law does not prevent judges from imposing severe sentences in Jacksonville Gun Crimes Cases, it simply allows discretion in cases where it makes sense.

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.

Clay County police arrest wrong person on theft charge, innocent woman jailed for weeks

A Louisiana woman was jailed twice - once for several weeks - when police arrested her by mistake. Police were looking for a woman with the same name, but the descriptions of the two were different - off by several years, five inches and 20 pounds, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police did eventually arrest the correct woman on a Clay County Theft Charge, but not after public embarrassment and what could be some costly litigation for the county. This is the second time a person with the same name was wrongly arrested in Clay County. An 18-year-old spent a month in jail, accused of having sex with a girl younger than 12 when police were all along thinking he was a different teen with the same name.

In both cases, police went by the name alone and did not follow proper procedures in making sure they were arresting the correct person, the newspaper reported. The woman who was falsely arrested in this Clay County Theft Case said she lost her home and her daughter is now in counseling and saw her grades plummet because of her mother's sudden absence, the newspaper reported. Police finally relented in the case when the woman's Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney was able to provide medical records that showed the woman was in a hospital when the original theft occurred, the newspaper reported. The woman was also falsely arrested on a charge for passing a bad check and her attorneys say police did not show the bank manager a picture of the suspect, but rather arrested her solely based on the name. Police brought the woman from Louisiana to Clay County on the charge, even though the actual suspect was in Clay County the entire time, the newspaper reported.

Clearing one's name from a false arrest can be very difficult to do. When potential employers conduct background checks, the information is pulled from a Florida Department of Law Enforcement database that shows when people are arrested. There is information in the report on the result of the charges, but it is not always up-to-date. Either way, many employers don't even go a step further if they see someone was arrested for a Clay County Felony - especially a crime of dishonestly such as a Clay County Theft Case. The woman may be eliminated in a job placement process well before she would even have a chance to explain the situation that led to her arrest.

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

State corrections officer arrested in Clay County road rage case

A Florida Department of Corrections officer was arrested this month, accused of punching another driver in what police described as a road rage incident. Police said the man got out of his car, walked up to another driver and punched the driver in the face, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The alleged victim did not have any visible signs of injury, but did tell police that his chin hurt from the punch, the newspaper reported. The suspect was taken to the Clay County jail and charged with battery. Battery in Clay County is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in the county jail.

There was nothing in the media reports that indicate what the alleged victim in this case did or did not do to warrant that alleged reaction from the defendant. But in most Clay County Battery Cases, there are two sides to every story. A Clay County Battery is a misdemeanor crime in which someone hits or otherwise makes physical contact with someone else during an altercation. A felony battery would be if someone uses a weapon, such as hitting someone with a bat or a bottle, or there is a more serious injury. People often confuse assault and battery in Clay County Misdemeanor Cases and use the two terms interchangeably. They are two completely different crimes.

According to Florida law, an assault is "an intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to the person of another, coupled with an apparent ability to do so, and doing some act which creates a well-founded fear in such other person that such violence is imminent." In a Clay County Misdemeanor Case, assault is a second-degree misdemeanor, with less severe penalties than a Clay County Battery Case. The maximum penalty for a second-degree misdemeanor is six months in jail. The corrections officer could have more trouble with his employer than with the criminal justice system itself. Employers, especially the state, can have strict penalties on discipline for people when they are arrested. For Clay County Battery charges, there are often programs the state will often agree to that would have the charges dropped if certain conditions are met. In many Clay County Battery Cases, it could be anger management and other courses that a defendant could take, especially if they don't have a prior criminal record. It's unlikely that a corrections officer has a criminal record, so he would likely qualify.

People have a tendency to be at their worst behind the wheel and these Clay County Battery Cases are becoming more and more common. Our Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney has represented hundreds of people charged with misdemeanors and can help try to dispose of the case quickly so you or your loved one can get on with 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 Clay County Misdemeanor Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Florida Supreme Court making decision on mandatory consecutive sentences in 10-20-Life cases

A case now before the Florida Supreme Court regarding sentencing in 10-20-Life cases will have major ramifications across the state, including on one high-profile Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case. The case now being heard in Tallahassee involves a Rivieria Beach man convicted of four counts of aggravated assault with a firearm for firing five shots in the air in attempt to scare four other men, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. According to the state's 10-20-Life laws, there is a 20-year minimum mandatory sentence for a gun crime where the gun is fired. The judge interpreted the law to read that the sentences must be issued consecutively, and said he had no choice but to sentence the man to 80 years in prison - despite the fact no one was injured in the incident.

In most Jacksonville Criminal Defense Cases, sentences are issued concurrently. That means if a person is convicted of three counts of grand theft, a judge may sentence the person to two years in state prison on each count. When served concurrently, the sentences are done at the same time and the person only spends two years in prison. There's little disagreement that the 80-year sentence in this Florida Gun Crimes Case is excessive, but the matter may be out of the court's hands. Justices said during the hearing the law does say the court "shall" impose the sentences consecutively, and any departure would need to be addressed by the state legislature.

Florida's 10-20-Lilfe statutes lay out specific and mandatory penalties for gun crimes. If someone shows a gun during the commission of a felony, there is a 10-year minimum mandatory sentence. If a suspect fires a gun during the commission of a felony, a 20-year minimum mandatory sentence applies. If someone is shot, there is a mandatory life sentence. One of the most important factors in minimum mandatory sentences is that every day of the prison sentence must be served. In traditional sentences, most inmates serve 85 percent of their sentence, so a 20-year sentence is really 17 years. This Supreme Court Case is particularly relevant in Jacksonville, where a woman was convicted of three counts of aggravated assault for firing a warning shot to scare off her estranged husband. His two children were present, hence the three counts. Her 20-year minimum mandatory sentence in that Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case drew outrage and national headlines, but her conviction has since been overturned. A new trial is scheduled, but now it appears if she is convicted again, she would be sentenced to 60 years instead of 20. The stakes were already high, but it would make sense for Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorneys to try to hold off on a another trial in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case until it's clear if the minimum sentence is 20 or 60 years.

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.

St. Johns County man impersonating an officer arrested on felony charge after trying to pull over detective in unmarked car

A St. Johns County man with police lights in his car is accused of pulling over a detective in an unmarked car, who ended up having to investigate the alleged crime. The detective says he was legally passing a car, but that car then turned its red and blue lights on and tried to pull the detective over, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The detective did pull over but, once he did, the man allegedly drove off. The detective then followed him and turned on his own lights, pulling the man over, the newspaper reported. Police said the man gave several stories as to how he had the lights, but police didn't believe him so they issued a warrant for his arrest. He was not immediately arrested at the scene. But when he went to the Sheriff's Office to return the lights, he saw the detective he pulled over, who arrested him on the warrant and booked him into the county jail.

The man is charged with impersonating a police officer and unlawful use of blue lights. Impersonating a police officer is the more serious of the two crimes. The St. Johns County Felony Crime is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison. Unlawful use of blue lights is a first-degree misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of one year in the county jail. In cases like this St. Johns County Felony Case, where there is a felony and a misdemeanor, prosecutors may agree to drop one of the two cases and combine the two. One thing that could benefit the defendant in this St. Johns County Felony Case is that he was voluntarily bringing the lights back to the police department. His timing, as it turns out, may not have been the best. But the actual fact of returning the equipment is a start at something for a St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney to work with in terms of getting the best result possible for a client. It doesn't excuse the alleged crime, especially in the minds of police who take these crimes very seriously, but it does show an element of taking responsibility for one's alleged actions.

There also may have been something to the man's initial story - enough that he was not arrested on the spot and the detective instead chose to issue a warrant for the man's arrest. The overwhelming majority of St. Johns County Felony Cases do not end up in trial, but rather resolve in some type of negotiated agreement between the state and the defense. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense attorney will thoroughly investigate your case and explain your options going forward so you or your loved one can make an informed decision about 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 St. Johns County Felony Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Operation Safe Summer leads to more than 50 drug crime arrests in Northeast Florida

A five-month, multi-county investigation designed to get drug dealers off the streets before students are released for summer break led to 57 arrests last month. More arrests are likely forthcoming, as police announced another 46 people had warrants issued for their arrest as part of the sting in St. Johns, Flagler and Putnam counties, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Detectives went uncover and bought drugs from street-level drug dealers - everything from prescription drugs and marijuana to cocaine, heroin and ecstasy, the newspaper reported.

Nearly all of the charges are for selling controlled substances, which are all felony charges in St. Johns County Drug Crimes Cases. Other charges some of the defendants may have are from other drugs or paraphernalia they had on them at the time, or for an outstanding warrant. St. Johns County Drug Crimes Cases have a variety of charges and penalties - all based on the type and amount of the drug in a person's possession. Once the charges involve a sale with actual money changing hands, everything is a felony. In these St. Johns County Drug Crimes Cases, it appears the detectives just hit the streets to find out what they could come up with. In many of these St. Johns County Drug Crimes Cases, police and prosecutors will use the charges against the street-level sellers to try to get the defendant to provide information on the mid- or high-level supplier they get their drugs from. Prosecutors might offer a reduced sentence in exchange for information that would lead to the arrest of someone on more serious St. Johns County Drug Crimes charges.

In St. Johns County Drug Crime Cases like this, detectives will typically record their encounter when purchasing drugs and use marked bills to show they indeed came from the police. Many defendants think that if they ask the person buying the drugs if they are a police officer and the officer says no, then they cannot be arrested. That is simply not true. The undercover officer does not have a legal obligation to disclose that information and the crime of selling narcotics trumps any misinformation from the police in these St. Johns County Drug Crimes cases. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney represents people on all types of drug charges, including sales, and knows the details of what police can and cannot do when purchasing drugs undercover.

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.

State will not charge Jacksonville man seen on video kicking stepson down skateboard ramp

State prosecutors have decided not to charge a Jacksonville man who kicked his stepson down a ramp at a skate park, reportedly to try to teach the 6-year-old to not be afraid to fall. The incident was caught on tape by fellow youth skateboarder and once it went online, it went viral and ended up of newscasts across the nation. Shortly thereafter, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office opened up a criminal investigation, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. That investigation is now complete and the State Attorney's Office last month chose not to pursue charges against the 27-year-old man.

Prosecutors conceded that there was child abuse in the incident, but that it was not severe enough for the man to go to prison, especially since he did not have a criminal record, the newspaper reported. Had the man been charged, it would have been a child abuse case. Jacksonville Child Abuse Cases vary in severity, but have one thing in common: All are felonies and would have the man facing serious time in state prison. A Jacksonville Child Abuse Case can be anywhere from a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison, on up to a first-degree felony with a maximum of 30 years in prison.

The state takes a variety of factors into consideration when deciding whether or not to file a Jacksonville Child Abuse Case. In this case, the suspect argued he was not trying to hurt the boy, but instead teach him that if he fell down the ramp, he'd survive, and there was nothing to be afraid of. The Florida Department of Children and Families also did its own investigation and the man has since completed anger management courses, which prosecutors cited in their decision not to prosecute. Also, the boy's mother - who is the wife of the defendant - did not want the state to prosecute the case. Now, the victim's family does not always dictate the decision on charging a crime, and nor should it. But the state did the right thing here in considering the wishes of the mother, and paying attention to what really happens to the family if the man is sent to prison for several years.

The state wrote the decision is the difficult spot between protecting children, while still allowing parents some autonomy in how they chose to raise their own children. This Jacksonville Child Abuse Case is an important example of prosecutors looking at the entirety of the case and its impact, rather than rushing to make a move that might be more popular with the public. The video elicits outrage from parents, and rightfully so. But that doesn't make it criminal. The checks and balances of our criminal justice system are there for a reason. Our Jacksonville Child Abuse Attorney understands the rights parents have to teach their children in their own way, but also knows the limitations of that right when it comes to the law.

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