Kentucky man arrested, accused of travelling to have sex with St. Johns County teen he met online

October 24, 2014

Police arrested a Kentucky man this month after he was accused of travelling to St. Johns County on multiple occasions to have sex with a teen he met while playing a video game online. The teen's parents learned of the relationship with the 37-year-old man and told police, who then launched an investigation, according to a report on First Coast News. The man is charged with lewd and lascivious conduct with a person between the ages of 12 and 16, travelling to meet a minor and using a computer or other electronic device to lure a minor for the purpose of sex. All three charges are second-degree felonies with a maximum penalty of 15 years in state prison. Therefore, if the man is convicted of or pleads guilty to all three charges in this St. Johns County Sex Crimes Case, he could be facing up to 45 years in state prison.

The man was arrested in Kentucky and remains there until a hearing to have him brought to St. Johns County to face charges. This process, known as extradition, involves showing general aspects of the cases to prove there is at least probable cause, and, more than likely, the man will be brought to Florida and appear in court on charges in this St. Johns County Sex Crimes Case. Typically, charges that involve traveling to meet a minor stems from an uncover sting by police, where a detective is posing as a teen online. These types of operations were made popular by the Dateline NBC To Catch a Predator series and, despite the attention and popularity, people would still continue to get caught. This case is slightly different, as the two allegedly met playing a popular online game, and it was not in a chat room or other area where the two started talking.

There is no indication in any of the media reports that the man knew the age of the girl in this St. Johns County Sex Crimes Case, or if the teen ever told him how old she was. Police will likely gain access to all of the online conversations between the two, and if there is anything in the transcripts that indicates the man knew her true age, that can make the state's case significantly stronger in terms of proof beyond a reasonable doubt. But the case still must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt if it goes to trial. Perhaps more than any other type of crime, people rush to judgment and assume anyone accused of a St. Johns County Sex Crime - especially one involving a minor - is immediately guilty. Our St. Johns County Sex Crimes Attorney has experience in these types of cases and will fully 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 St. Johns County Sex Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Pest control employee accused of stealing jewelry from customers' homes, then selling the items for cash

October 20, 2014

Police arrested a Clay County pest control employee after an investigation pointed to him as the person pawning items that customers said came up missing from their homes. The man is now facing five felony charges and more could be coming, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. In announcing the arrest, police asked people who had this company in their home to do an inventory of valuables and check to see the name of the technician that was in their home. The man is now charged with three counts of grand theft and one count each of dealing in stolen property and providing false information to a second-hand property dealer. Each of the grand theft cases are third-degree felonies with a maximum penalty of five years in state prison, while the remaining two counts in this Clay County Theft Case are second-degree felonies, each with potential sentences of 15 years in state prison.

That's a significant jump in severity and shows the priority lawmakers place on punishing people proven to profit off of theft. Each of the two second-degree felonies involve selling stolen property and, when a person is selling an item at a pawn shop, he or she must attest that the property does indeed belong to them. If that turns out to be false, it opens up both second-degree felonies charged in this Clay County Theft Case, because the person is accused of selling stolen property and lying about it being stolen. So, in reality, one move opens up the exposure to up to 30 years in prison in this Clay County Theft Case. In most Clay County Theft Cases, though, it's the sale of the stolen items that triggers the arrest. By choosing a pawn shop, the suspect does create a paper trial that police can follow down the road.

If indeed more cases are discovered, similar charges would apply. The felony or misdemeanor degree, and potential jail or prison sentence, in Clay County Theft Cases is based on the value of the property that is reported missing. If the property stolen is less than $100 in value, the charge is a second-degree misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of six months in the county jail. That bumps up to a maximum penalty of a year and a first-degree misdemeanor if the value is between $100 and $300. That makes $300 a critical number in Clay County Theft Cases, because that makes the charge a felony and puts state prison time on the table. Grand theft stays a third-degree felony in most cases until the value exceeds $10,000. Our Clay County Theft Attorney represents people arrested on a range of theft charges - from misdemeanor theft on up to dealing in stolen property. Our Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate you case and talk with you or your loved one about 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 Clay County Theft Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Woman accused of trying to hire undercover Jacksonville police officer to kill her daughter-in-law

October 17, 2014

A 70-year-old Clay County woman is charged with two felonies after allegedly trying to hire a hit man to kill her daughter-in-law. Diana Costarakis is accused of meeting twice with the person she thought was a hitman, but was actually an undercover officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police said she paid the officer $500 one day and $1,000 the following day as a down payment, the newspaper reported. The rest of the $5,000 to have the woman killed could come from the jewelry she would be wearing at the time of her death, Costarakis is accused to telling the officer, the newspaper reported.

Costarakis is charged with criminal solicitation and criminal conspiracy in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case. Both charges are first-degree felonies in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. In criminal solicitation and criminal conspiracy cases, the seriousness of the charge is based on the crime the person is soliciting or conspiring to commit. If the crime is a capital crime, such as murder, then soliciting and conspiracy charges are first-degree felonies. So Costarakis is looking at up to 60 years in prison if convicted and sentenced to the maximum penalty on each count. As a general rule, the solicitation felony degree is one level down from the crime the person is soliciting for. So if the base crime is an armed robbery, a first-degree felony, soliciting or conspiring to commit an armed robbery would be a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. If the conspiracy is based on a third-degree felony, the solicitation or conspiracy charge would be a misdemeanor.

The key in a Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case like this is the state's ability to prove Costarakis was expressly paying to have the person killed. Police know that and, according to the newspaper report, asked her if the daughter should be killed. Costarakis is accused of saying, "If you don't do it, I will," the newspaper reported. On the surface, that doesn't bode well - and neither do the two cash payments to the officer. Defenses to conspiracy and solicitation in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case can be that the suspect was backing out of the plan and changed his or her mind. There is no evidence to that end that has been released so far, but that wouldn't be something police would voluntarily give up. It would, however, be subject to disclosure as the Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case moves forward. Jacksonville Violent Crimes Cases often appear to be open-and-shut cases when police wrap them up in a tidy bow and present them to the media. But when an experienced Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney starts examining the case and investigating the details and tactics used by the police, an entirely different picture can sometimes emerge.

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

State drops murder charge against 98-year-old St. Johns County woman found mentally incompetent

October 13, 2014

Prosecutors have finally dropped murder charges against a 98-year-old woman who was found mentally incompetent to stand trial over a year ago. In doing so, Amanda Stevenson now has access to her retirement benefits that had been suspended due to pending charges and those funds can be used for a private long-term care facility where she can live, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The back and forth in this St. Johns County Murder Case highlights the fact that a case doesn't just end once a person is found to be mentally incompetent to face the charges.

Stevenson was charged with second-degree murder in the 2011 shooting death of her nephew, with whom she had an ongoing dispute, the newspaper reported. A year later, Stevenson, who suffers from dementia, was found incompetent, but remained in jail while state agencies went back and forth as to who would be able to take care of her. In May, she was finally released from jail and placed in a mental health facility under the care of the state Department of Children and Families, the newspaper reported. In the motion dropping the charges, two doctors agreed that Stevenson was not going to regain mental competency, likely because of the stage of her dementia and her age, the newspaper reported. In many St. Johns County Murder Cases where mental competency is at issue, the person will be periodically evaluated to determine if competency can be regained - possibly through counseling or medication. The murder charge was punishable by up to life in prison. At 98, practically any sentence amounts to life in prison in this St. Johns County Murder Case.

But, as all of the legal wrangling was working itself out, her retirement benefits were frozen until the charges were formally dropped, the newspaper reported. Different pension and retirement plans operate differently. In terms of social security, payments are only supposed to be suspended when a person is convicted of a felony, not simply charged. But many state plans, for retired teachers or other state workers for example, and disability payments can be suspended once a person is jailed on charges. Part of the argument is that state and federal disability benefits are used to pay for living expenses and, if the person is incarcerated, the state is paying to take care of the person - regardless of whether or not the person has been convicted. Mental competency can be a serious issue, especially in St. Johns County Murder Cases, and the courts have complicated standards as to when a person is mentally able to stand trial - and when he or she is not. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney can have your loved one evaluated by a mental health professional and present those findings to the court, if deemed necessary.

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

Former Atlantic Beach police chief arrested on 19 felony drug charges

October 10, 2014

The former chief of police in Atlantic Beach is now facing more than 20 charges, including drug trafficking and tampering with evidence after police raided his home last month. The chief was placed on administrative leave last month because he was part of an active criminal investigation and resigned four days later, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. He turned himself in a week later and is charged with 18 counts of possession of a controlled substance, one count of trafficking in codeine, possession of drug paraphernalia and evidence tampering.

Trafficking in codeine is by far the most serious of the charges - a first-degree felony with a maximum penalty of 30 years in state prison. The 18 drug possession charges are all third-degree felonies and carry a penalty of up to five years in state prison. Evidence tampering, which comes from disposing of a computer that allegedly was used to buy the steroids from abroad, is also a third-degree felony. The overwhelming majority of the drugs found in the case were anabolic steroids and believed to be solely for personal use, the newspaper reported. Police have not reported any evidence that the chief was in fact selling the substances. However, trafficking charges can be made solely on the amount one is accused of possessing - regardless of intent to sell - in Jacksonville Drug Crimes Cases. The trafficking charge is likely for the bottle of hydrocodone pills investigators found when they searched the chief's home. They also found a duffle bag with 11 bags of anabolic steroids and 13 bottles also believed to be steroids. Steroids are sometimes used by body builders and athletes to build muscle and decrease recovery time from injuries, but the substances are illegal and banned by most major sports organizations.

Jacksonville Drug Crimes Charges are always based on the type of drug and the amount of the drug. As is apparent in this case, the chief had a significant amount of steroids and an agent with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement told the newspaper investigators were "shocked by the amount we found." But because of the way Florida law addresses steroids, there isn't anything more severe than a third-degree felony for possession. Compare that to one bottle of pills that warrants a trafficking charge and a first-degree felony. Our Jacksonville Drug Crimes Attorney knows the requirements and penalties associated with drug possession and trafficking charges 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 Jacksonville Drug Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville man arrested in May hit-and-run death

October 6, 2014

Police arrested a Jacksonville man four months after he was allegedly involved in a hit-and-run accident that killed a pedestrian. The 22-year-old driver initially said he thought he hit a mailbox on New Berlin Road about 9:45 p.m. one May evening, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The driver did not stop at the time of the crash, but did call his insurance company the next morning to file a claim about hitting the mailbox, the newspaper reported. The driver then hired a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney the following day after hearing about the death in media reports.

The driver was charged with failure to leave information at the scene of an accident. That Jacksonville Traffic Charge is a second-degree misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of six months in the county jail. Given the circumstances and that the crash caused a death, there is a significant possibility that more charges will be filed in this Jacksonville Traffic Case, and that this arrest is just the beginning. According to Florida law, "The driver of a vehicle involved in a crash occurring on public or private property which results in injury to a person other than serious bodily injury shall immediately stop the vehicle at the scene of the crash, or as close thereto as possible, and shall remain at the scene of the crash until he or she has fulfilled the requirements of s. 316.062." Those requirements include reporting the accident to police, leaving insurance and driver's license information. Those apply even if the driver thought he had only hit a mailbox.

Leaving the scene of an accident involving property damage is a second-degree misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of six months in county jail - just like the charge the driver is currently facing. However, leaving the scene of an accident causing serious bodily injury or death is a third-degree felony, and when someone pleads guilty to or is convicted of this crime, he or she is looking at up to five years in state prison. The gravity of charges and potential sentences increase dramatically when serious injuries or death are involved. Police know they have the correct car because DNA results match, according to the newspaper report. In Jacksonville Traffic Cases, requirements such as what must be done when you are in an accident and part of the agreement of having a driver's license. In other words, to have a driver's license, you agree to do certain things, including stopping when there is an accident. Failure to do so can result in charges and a claim of not knowing you were supposed to stop is not likely to be a successful defense. This Jacksonville Traffic Case will be one to keep an eye on to see if further charges are eventually filed.

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.

Clay County police searching for woman in wallet theft

October 3, 2014

Police are looking for a woman accused of stealing a wallet from another woman in a store. Clay County deputies are asking for the public's help identifying the woman by using surveillance photographs taken from inside the store, according to a report on News4Jax. Police said the wallet was stolen from inside a purse and the woman's credit card was used at several locations to buy more than $1,000 worth of merchandise, the television station reported.

In this Clay County Theft Case, police have the benefit of photos that can be used to identify the suspect, assuming she is eventually identified and charged with a crime. The woman could be facing a variety of different charges. In Clay County Theft Cases, the charges and potential penalties are based on the value of the property the suspect is accused of stealing. In this Clay County Theft Case, the woman could be charged with the initial theft of the purse, and could face additional penalties because the person she is accused of stealing from is older than 65. In Florida, when a person is accused of theft from the elderly, there is an additional provision that requires the defendant, if convicted, to pay the victim the value of what was stolen and perform up to 500 hours of community service. That is on top of any potential penalties for the theft, which if the value is less than $10,000, is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison.

When it comes to the use of the fraudulent card, the rules are slightly different. It is a third-degree felony to use a credit card that a person knows is stolen. In this Clay County Theft Case, the woman is accused of using the card at several different stores. Typically in these cases, it is one charge for the fraudulent use of the card if it is one spree, as appears to be the case here. The penalties are different than if a person is accused of simply taking the merchandise from the store. If the property is values at less than $100, the charge is a second degree misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of six months in jail. If the value is between $100 and $300, the charge bumps up to a first-degree misdemeanor and the maximum penalty is one year in the county jail. When the value gets to be more than $300, that's when the charge becomes a felony. Our Clay County Theft Attorney has experience representing people on a range of theft charges, from petit theft on up to serious felonies.

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.

Driving cited for driving into Clay County deputy who was directing traffic at a school

September 29, 2014

Police ticketed a driver who hit accidentally hit an officer with her truck while dropping students off at a Clay County school. The driver allegedly stopped in a turn lane to drop two students off at Oakleaf High School, and then drove back toward to school entrance where the officer was directing traffic, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The officer then fell to the ground when he was hit in the legs by the rear drivers-side of the truck, the newspaper reported. The officer had a reflective vest on and the lights on his patrol car were flashing at the time of the 7 a.m. accident, the newspaper reported. The officer was evaluated by a doctor but did not need to be hospitalized.

The 18-year-old driver was given a ticket for careless driving and a separate citation for not having proof of insurance. In Clay County Traffic Cases, moving violations each carry a different amount of points that can be assessed to a driver's record. Those points then accumulate and can result in severe penalties, such as a suspended driver's license. This case is a prime example of how those points can escalate based on the result of the violation. Ordinarily, careless driving would have 3 points assessed to a driver's license. Three points is the most common punishment in Clay County Traffic Cases, along with the fines and court costs that come with any ticket. However, according to Florida Law, any moving violation that results in an accident is a 4-point violation.

That one point can be significant for a driver with a pattern of tickets. The point accumulation that leads to license suspension is as follows:
 12 points in a year: 30-day license suspension
 18 points in 18 months: 3-month suspension
 24 points in three years: 1-year suspension

And by simply paying the ticket and the fine, you are admitting guilt and accepting the points that will be added to your driving record. Even if you or your loved one has an otherwise spotless driving record, it could be worth talking to a Clay County Traffic Attorney about contesting the ticket. Insurance companies use the points to determine the risk level of insuring a driver and, when tickets crop up, auto insurance rates will start to rise, too. Our Clay County Traffic Attorney can look into your case and help determine if there's a possibility of getting fines or points reduced.

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.

Police arrest man accused of vandalizing numerous Jacksonville Beach businesses

September 26, 2014

Police arrested a man this month, accused of painting graffiti on several local businesses in Jacksonville Beach. The man was arrested on two criminal mischief charges, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. One charge is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in the county jail. The second charge is a third-degree felony and carries a maximum penalty of five years in state prison.

So what makes one instance a misdemeanor and the other a felony? The amount of damage done to the property. If the damage is less than $200, as was reported in one of these Jacksonville Vandalism Charges, the charge is a second-degree misdemeanor. If the damage is between $200 and $1,000, the charge becomes a first-degree misdemeanor and carries a maximum charge of one year in the county jail. But once it becomes more than $1,000, the charge is a felony and time in state prison is now on the table. The $1,000 threshold applies to whether the damage was more than $1,000, or if the vandalism either cost more than $1,000 in labor and supplies to restore or repair. The charges also become a felony if the defendant has a previous conviction for the same offense, which does not appear to be the case in this Jacksonville Criminal Mischief Case. Now, it is highly unlikely a first-time offender will go to state prison for spray painting a building, but those are the maximum penalties he is facing in this Jacksonville Criminal Mischief Case.

The framework of charges and potential punishment escalating based on the value of the damage is common throughout Florida criminal law. There are similar scales of punishment in Jacksonville theft cases, based on the value of what is allegedly stolen. Charges begin, as Jacksonville Criminal Mischief Cases do, as second-degree felonies and move on up from there. Similar distinctions are made when it comes to Jacksonville Drug Crimes Cases. The larger amount of an illegal substance a person is accused of having, the more serious the charges and the potential penalties. In Jacksonville Vandalism Cases, the more traditional outcome is the defendant agreeing to pay the business owner for the damage that was caused, and likely do some sort of community service or other punishment that does not include time in jail or prison. One element that could change in this case is whether more charges are filed as more businesses come forward, or the defendant talks to police about past acts. In some cases, the cumulative effect will influence sentencing, and lead to a more severe punishment than if the person was simply facing one or two counts.

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

Jacksonville teen arrested, charged with a series of break-ins to homes and vehicles

September 22, 2014

A Jacksonville teen who led police on a high-speed chase was arrested in Nassau County following a string of burglaries over two weekends. A neighbor spotted two teens backing into a driveway with their lights out, yelled at the suspects and called police, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The two drove off, but ended up in a ditch by nearby railroad tracks, the newspaper reported. The suspects ran on foot - one was caught and the other was still at large, the newspaper reported. The teen who was arrested faces more than a dozen serious charges in this Nassau County Theft Case.

One of the major issues in this Nassau County Juvenile Crimes Case is whether or not the state chooses to charge the 17-year-old boy as an adult. Among the charges are six counts of burglary to a dwelling - each of which is a second-degree felony with a possible 15-year prison sentence. Other charges include five counts of grand theft (a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison) and misdemeanor fleeing and eluding charges for running from the police. Prosecutors do have the option to file the charges in traditional court and treat the boy as an adult. Typically, that is reserved for Nassau County Juvenile Crimes Cases involving violence or guns, but the option is there.

While burglary charges are undoubtedly serious, it can also be argued they are the types of crimes that teens commit more than adults and are not necessarily indicative of a life of crime that will follow. There are specific sets of penalties and restrictions for juveniles who commit crimes, with the idea being they are punished but also given the chance to recover and move on, provided they meet certain criteria and show they are staying out of trouble. There are several varieties of incarceration in Nassau County Juvenile Crimes Cases, ranging from house arrest on up to what amounts to prison for teens. A teen's prior record is often a major factor in whether the charges are in juvenile or traditional court. If a person has not learned his or her lesson after having chances to do so, judges may run out of sympathy. Our Nassau County Juvenile Crimes Attorney will fully investigate the charges against you or your loved one and work for the best resolution that can allow a teen to learn from his or her mistake and move on down the path of being a productive citizen.

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

Federal lawsuit claims reckless work of Jacksonville Sheriff's Office led to several false arrests

September 19, 2014

Several people banded together to file a federal lawsuit against the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office this month, each with a story of how they say sloppy police work led to their arrest for a crime they did not commit. In each instance, the person claims that if simple, routine steps would have been followed by police, detectives would have been able to clearly see they had the wrong person, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The arrests occurred over the past two years and one man spent nine months in jail trying to convince prosecutors of his innocence, the newspaper reported. The charges people were arrested for that are mentioned in the lawsuit include armed robbery, robbery and theft - the majority of which are serious Jacksonville Felony Charges.

In order to make an arrest in a Jacksonville Criminal Case, police must have probable cause to believe the person has committed the crime he or she is accused of committing. In many cases, in order to enter private property to obtain evidence during an investigation, detectives must first get a warrant that shows the reasons they believe this particular person committed this particular crime. In many of the cases mentioned in the lawsuit, the police ended up getting the warrant. Decisions on whether to formally charge someone with a crime are made by the State Attorney's Office. Prosecutors are supposed to be the check and balance to the police, vetting the case independently to make sure the charge can be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. Among the four cases mentioned in this federal lawsuit, one did make it through the prosecutors, who dropped the case after an innocent man spent nine months behind bars.

In the other Jacksonville Criminal Cases cited in the federal lawsuit, the mistakes were caught before formal charges were filed. In one case mentioned, a 13-year-old boy was accused of a robbery and brought downtown for questioning without permission of his parent and interviewed by himself, clearly against police policy. These cases are a perfect example of why our Jacksonville Criminal Justice system is so important. Police officers are human. They make mistakes like anyone else in any other profession. And their work needs to be checked by prosecutors and eventually by a judge or a jury to make sure innocent people are not locked up for crimes they did not commit. Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorneys play a key role in protecting the rights of people who are accused of crimes. If you or your loved one is arrested for a crime, our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate the charges and make sure police operated according to the law when making their 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 Duval County Felony Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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.