Jacksonville fire department official on desk duty following DUI arrest

December 19, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

December 15, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 12, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

December 8, 2014

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

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

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

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

"Warning shot" case that garnered national headlines ends in plea deal for Jacksonville woman

December 5, 2014

A long-running Jacksonville aggravated battery case that drew national media attention because of a 20-year minimum mandatory sentence ended last month with a plea deal. The defendant pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated battery for firing what she says was a warning shot into the ceiling because she was afraid of her estranged husband, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police said there were two children nearby, which led to the three charges, the newspaper reported. The woman was facing 60 years in prison, but the agreement reached last month calls for her to do three years in prison. Because of time served over the delays and other turns in this case, she will be released in January.

This deal ends a highly-publicized case that drew local and national discussion about warning shots and minimum mandatory sentences. The defendant was initially found guilty of all three counts by a jury in 2011. Because of Florida's 10-20-Life law, and the fact the defendant fired a weapon, a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years applied and the judge had no discretion in the sentence. The conviction was overturned on a technicality and the case came back to Jacksonville. But one major element had changed. Interpretation of the 10-20-Life and minimum mandatory laws had since changed. Prevailing legal opinion now is that each charge carries a minimum mandatory 20-year sentence. So instead of 20 years, the defendant, now 34, was looking at 60 years in state prison if convicted again.

The three-year sentence is a similar plea deal to what the defendant initially rejected right before her 2011 trial, the newspaper reported. Under Florida's 10-20-Life law, if someone pulls a gun during the commission of a felony, there is a minimum mandatory 10-year prison sentence that can apply. If a firearm is discharged, the sentence is bumped up to 20 years. If someone is shot, the minimum mandatory is life. Now, prosecutors ultimately have the discretion to waive those penalties, as they eventually did in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case. But once the case goes to trial, the sentencing decision is out of everyone's hands - even the judge's. The threat of minimum mandatory sentences is often used in bargaining by the state to get people to plead guilty to charges and take shorter prison sentences, rather than face a mandatory 60-year sentence, or whatever the charge may be. Minimum mandatory sentences are definitely a card the state holds and our Jacksonville Gun Crimes Attorney can explain all of the details and consequences so you or your loved one can make an informed decision about a pending 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 Gun Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


St. Johns County police find car but offer little further information in hit-and-run case

December 2, 2014

St. Johns County police have located the vehicle they think was involved in a hit-and-run crash that killed a cyclist last month. Police said they received a tip that the vehicle was under a tarp at a home in St. Johns County, according to a report on News4Jax.com. Police are not releasing the type of vehicle, but did say initial investigations make them confident this vehicle was involved, the television station reported. The case began when a 26-year-old man was found dead in a local road near a bicycle that looked like it was hit by a car, the television station reported.

No arrests have been made in this St. Johns County Traffic Case. The television station reported that police interviewed people at the home where the vehicle was found, but did not file any immediate charges. Any criminal charges would be for the driver, which means police need to be sure they have the right person who was driving the car at the time of the accident. When charges are issued, the most serious will likely be leaving the scene of an accident causing death. If a driver is involved in a crash where someone is seriously injured, the driver is required by law to stop the vehicle, attempt to render aid, call 911 for help and stay at the scene of the accident until authorities arrive. None of those appears to have happened in this St. Johns County Felony Case. The charge of leaving the scene of an accident causing death is a first-degree felony with a maximum penalty of 30 years in state prison. The charge also carries a minimum mandatory sentence of four years in state prison. Minimum mandatory sentences are important for people to understand in plea negotiations because every day of the sentence must be served. In most St. Johns County Felony Cases, defendants serve 85 percent of their sentence if they stay out of trouble in jail or prison. So a 10-year-sentence, for example, is more like 8-1/2 years.

A similar charge - including the minimum mandatory sentence - would apply if the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the crash. That charge becomes difficult to prove if the driver is not located immediately after the crash. Drivers has serious responsibilities to stop when an accident occurs and people who have no previous criminal record can face lengthy prison sentences for not following the traffic rules. Our St. Johns County Felony attorney has represented people facing all types of criminal charges and will fully investigate your case, review your options and provide you with information to make the best decision going forward.

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

Clay County man arrested after buying materials used to cook meth

November 27, 2014

A Clay County man who was part of an ongoing methamphetamines investigation was arrested this month, accused of purchasing many of the chemicals needed to produce the drug. Police said they were alerted that the man bought a package of cold medicine used to make meth from a Jacksonville pharmacy, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Investigators were alerted because the man was already on a watch list for people suspected of making methamphetamines, the newspaper reported. When police tracked him down, they allegedly found him with a plastic bottle positioned to cook the meth in his car, along with other chemicals, the newspaper reported. Police then searched his home and found more chemicals hidden in the ceiling, the newspaper reported.

He is now charged with trafficking in methamphetamines, a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in state prison. The defendant is also facing a charge of producing methamphetamines, a second-degree felony with a maximum sentence of 15 years in state prison. Trafficking charges are very serious and begin if someone is in possession of just 14 grams of the drug. Trafficking amounts vary based on the type of drug and meth has one of the lower thresholds of any street drug. Methamphetamines are treated similar to oxycodone and other prescription pain pills, where a handful of pills can end up being a trafficking charge. And trafficking does not necessarily mean the person is selling the drug - the charge is based solely on the amount the person is charged with having.

For methamphetamines, anything between 14 and 28 grams carries minimum mandatory sentence of three years in state prison. Between 28 grams and 200 grams, that minimum rises to seven years. Anything more than 200 grams has a minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years in prison. Records show the defendant in this Clay County Drug Crimes case had recently pleaded guilty to less serious methamphetamines charges earlier in the year, but was out on bond awaiting sentencing. His arrest on new Clay County Drug Charges will not sit well at all with the judge and will likely cost him several years in prison. Showing remorse and changing behavior is important to judges making sentencing decisions, and doing the same thing just months after getting out of jail is not going to help. Our Clay County Drug Crimes Attorney represents people on all levels of drug charges - from possession to trafficking, from marijuana to methamphetamines. Our Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate your case and lay out the options for your or your loved one to make the best decision going forward.

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

Racy video leads to felony charges for two St. Johns County men; warrant out for third suspect in Jacksonville

November 24, 2014

Police have arrested two men and are seeking one more on child exploitation charges after a sexual video surfaced that had been used to promote a rap song. Two St. Johns County men, ages 18 and 19, are facing felony charges and there is a warrant out for a 21-year-old Jacksonville man, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. St. Johns County school officials alerted police after they learned the video had been posted on Facebook, the newspaper reported.

One man is charged with lewd and lascivious battery on a child between the ages of 12 and 16, along with the use of a child in a sexual performance. Both charges are second-degree felonies with a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, so the man is facing up to 30 years behind bars. A second defendant is charged with promoting a sexual performance by a child - another second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. All three of these St .Johns County Sex Crimes charges are very serious, and could lead to the men being classified as sex offenders, if they plead guilty to or are convicted of these charges.

More than any other types of criminal charges, St. Johns County Sex Crimes charges stick with a person long after he or she has done their time in jail or prison. Part of the punishment for sex crimes - particularly those involving children - is that the person register as a sex offender. That includes checking in with police at least twice a year - though it can be more frequent depending on the charge. Being a registered sexual offender also means that whenever the person moves, neighbors in the surrounding area are notified that a sex offender has just moved in. That notification includes the person's name, address and the charge that made them a sex offender.

In this St. Johns County Sex Crimes Case, few details of the video have been released and more of the story will be developed once it is clear what the third person will be charged with. So far, it is clear one man is charged with taking part in the sex act and another is only accused of using the video. While the charges are both second-degree felonies in terms of the statutes, prosecutors and the judge are likely to see the two very differently when it comes to addressing the charges in this St. Johns County Sex Crimes Case. There are major lasting consequences for pleading guilty in St. Johns County Sex Crimes Cases, and our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney can explain all of them to you or your loved one so you can make an informed decision.

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

Jacksonville man arrested, accused in a string of toilet flushing mechanism thefts from public restrooms

November 21, 2014

A Jacksonville man is facing several felony charges - and potentially even more - as police investigate the thefts of expensive mechanical equipment taken from local restrooms. Police had several reports of the thefts and then identified a suspect from surveillance video taken from a local McDonald's, showing a man walking in and out of the restroom at the time of the theft, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The suspect was arrested two days later when he was trying to sell the part at a metal recycling facility, the newspaper reported.

The man is facing multiple counts of several felonies, including:

1. Dealing in stolen property, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in state prison.

2. False verification of ownership to a secondary metals recycler for property under $300. The charge is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison.

3. Grand theft of property valued between $300 and $5,000, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

4. Criminal mischief causing more than $1,000 in damages to a business. The charge is also a third-degree felony, with a maximum penalty of five years in state prison.

More Jacksonville Theft Charges could be on the way. Police said they were investigating 17 of these thefts, and there have also been reports of similar incidents in neighboring Clay County, though no charges have been filed. While Duval County and Clay County have some separate court systems, for felony cases they fall under the same judicial circuit and under the same State Attorney's Office. In many cases, the attorneys involved will work together so if there is a plea negotiated, it tries to take into consideration all of the charges involved.

Most of the flushing mechanisms are valued between $300 and $800, which is an important threshold in Jacksonville Theft Cases. When property valued at less than $300 is stolen, the charge is a misdemeanor. It becomes a felony when the value is more than $300, which applies in this Jacksonville Theft Case. Value is an interesting piece of this case. The equipment has a value of more than $300 when it is stolen, but if you look closely at the charges, the man is charged with falsifying ownership for property less than $300. Pawn shops, recyclers and other similar businesses typically pay a fraction of the true value of the property, and the defendant must have been accepting payment that was less than $300. In terms of plea negotiations, it will be interesting to see if the defendant decides to work with police on the unsolved thefts. It would appear that more charges are coming one way or the other and the defendant could help limit prison time in this Jacksonville Theft Case if he helped solve the remaining cases.

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

Jacksonville man sentenced to 12 years in DUI manslaughter case

November 19, 2014

A Jacksonville man was sentenced to 12 years in prison after pleading guilty to driving drunk when he caused a crash that killed one person and seriously injured another. The driver's blood-alcohol level was 2-1/2 times over the legal limit at the time of the 2013 crash, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The driver was speeding and drove through a stop sign and into another car, the newspaper reported. A passenger in the other car was killed and the driver was seriously injured.

The driver pleaded guilty earlier this year to DUI manslaughter and DUI causing serious bodily injury. DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony with a maximum penalty of 15 years in state prison. However, this is one type of crime that also carries a mandatory minimum sentence. If someone is convicted of or pleads guilty to DUI manslaughter, there is a mandatory sentence of four years in state prison. DUI causing serious bodily injury is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison, but it does not have a minimum mandatory sentence attached. In this Jacksonville DUI Case, the driver was facing a maximum of 20 years in prison and ended up with a little more than half of that time.

While in some Jacksonville DUI Cases the blood-alcohol level is not made available, it is always part of a crash with serious injuries. If you are pulled over under suspicion of DUI -- for weaving in and out of traffic, for example - you will be asked to take a breath test once you are arrested. But drivers can refuse to take that test. When there are injuries involved, however, police can take a blood sample to test for alcohol without the consent of the driver. There are certain things that drivers automatically agree to when they accept a driver's license and that is among them. Another example is calling for help and stopping to render aid if a driver is in an accident and someone is hurt. So in serious Jacksonville DUI Cases, if the driver is not conscious or cannot otherwise make the decision to consent, it does not matter and blood can be taken anyway.

In many Jacksonville DUI Cases, there will be charges announced four to six months following the crash. Because of backlogs in the system, that's generally how long it will take to get the blood test results that can prove the driver was under the influence at the time of the crash. Our Jacksonville DUI Attorney represents people on all level of DUI charges, from first-time offenders charged with misdemeanors, to those facing felony charges, including DUI manslaughter.

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.

State rules motorcycle gang shooting at Jacksonville Beach restaurant justifiable, will not file charges

November 17, 2014

No charges will be filed in a Jacksonville Beach shooting that killed a member of a motorcycle gang. Prosecutors said the man who fired the shot was attacked by at least three men and pulled out a gun and fired a shot to end the attack, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. That shot hit one of his attackers in the head, killing him, the newspaper reported. The announcement comes more than four months after the June shooting, which prosecutors said stemmed from a planned confrontation between two rival motorcycle gangs, the newspaper reported.

The man who fired the shot had a broken nose, but prosecutors inferred it would have been much worse had he not ended the beating by firing a shot. Florida law allows a person to use deadly force if he or she feels in eminent danger of serious bodily injury or death. It's often known as the Stand Your Ground Law, and is often claimed but less often accepted in court as a reason for a shooting. But this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case did not get that far because prosecutors chose not to file charges in the case. The shooter in this case immediately gave his gun to a friend following the attack, who unloaded it before handing it over to police, the newspaper reported. The shooter, who had a concealed weapons permit to legally carry the gun, does not have a criminal record and voluntarily spoke to police after the shooting, according to the newspaper.

Speaking to police after an incident can be dangerous and could lead to criminal charges, but it is natural for people to want to explain themselves - especially in an incident where a person is accused of killing another person. In this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case, it worked out for the shooter, and was the right decision for the state to make. Once charges are filed, it can be difficult for the state to walk away from them - especially in a Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case like this where it was investigated for more than four months. Police were tight-lipped on this case for months, despite media attention and protests from the victim's family demanding information and justice. Prosecutors would have needed to be able to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt, and clearly did not believe they could in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes 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 Gun Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Off-duty Jacksonville detective charged with DUI after two crashes, flipping unmarked police car

November 10, 2014

Six weeks after reports that a police detective crashed into another vehicle and kept going before flipping her unmarked police car, the detective was charged with DUI and three other charges. The detective turned herself in to St. Johns County police last week to face a DUI, along with two counts of DUI causing property damage and another count of leaving the scene of an accident, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The detective is accused of bumping the back of another vehicle and continuing to drive, while people called 911 to report her swerving in and out of lanes, the newspaper reported. The detective eventually flipped the car and rescue crews were called to the scene.

The DUI and the leaving the scene of an accident are both misdemeanors. The DUI causing property damage charges are first-degree misdemeanors with a maximum penalty of one year in jail on each charge. When the crash was first reported, the Florida Highway Patrol said it did not suspect alcohol was a factor, but the detective did give a blood sample at the scene. The case is generating more than normal media attention for a couple of reasons. First, it's a police officer and, like it or not, stories of officers getting arrested are always going to be of interest to the media. Secondly, the detective is accused of driving drunk in her department vehicle outside the Jacksonville police jurisdiction. Jacksonville Sheriff's Office employees are allowed to drive their patrol or detective vehicles when off duty. But, when it is outside Duval County, it is supposed to be only to and from work. So there are clearly internal procedures to be looked at in this case, on top of any legal issues the detective is now facing, and the newspaper reported she has been assigned to desk duty for now.

On the St. Johns County DUI itself, the blood test appears to be plenty of evidence for the state. The detective apparently submitted to the test voluntarily, the newspaper reported. Had there been a serious injury in the case, the blood test is mandatory. The reason for the delay in charges in this St. Johns County DUI Case was the wait in the results of the test. Another media report from News4Jax reported it came back more than twice the legal limit of .08. Breath tests and the interpretation of field sobriety exercises are often challenged in court, but blood testing is generally deemed to be more accurate, so it will be interesting to see where the defense goes from here. Our St. Johns County DUI Attorney knows the specific process police must follow when making a DUI arrest and will investigate your case fully to determine if all of the laws were followed properly.

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

Woman arrested, accused of intentionally driving her car into a blood donation center

November 7, 2014

Police arrested a woman for driving her car into a blood donation center, a crash that shut the business down and sent nine people to local hospitals with injuries. None of the injuries were life-threatening, and the driver was among those taken for treatment, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The woman is accused of pulling up toward the entrance, pausing, and then driving through the entrance and another 40 feet into the crowded business, the newspaper reported. The car knocked over counters and other structures in the building and part of the roof collapsed, the newspaper reported.

The driver was charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and criminal mischief causing more than $1,000 worth of damages to a business. The aggravated battery charge is a second-degree felony with a maximum penalty of 15 years in state prison, while the criminal mischief charge is a third-degree felony that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Aggravated battery with a weapon is more commonly charged when someone uses a firearm or a baseball bat, something that is more targeted or used directly at one person. But a vehicle can be used as a weapon and this charge would qualify - assuming the act was intentional. Witness speculated that the woman had argued with the staff about being told she could not donate plasma for money, but all of those details would need to surface through the investigative and discovery process as the case moved forward.

One element of this Jacksonville Aggravated Battery Case that could change is the number of charges the driver is facing. Right now, she is facing one count of aggravated battery. In many Jacksonville Violent Crimes Cases, the state will charge people with one count for each of the people who are injured in the incident. In this Jacksonville Aggravated Battery Case, that could mean eight charges, bringing her prison time exposure on those charges from 15 years up to 120 years. Would the state be likely to seek several decades in prison for the defendant in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case? Probably not. But this would be an example of how the state could use additional charges as leverage to help speed up the case or encourage the defendant to plead guilty and avoid taking the case to trial with the whole string of charges. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney has represented hundreds of people charged with battery, some for simple fights and others involving weapons and serious prison time. Each case has its own set of facts and our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate the case against you or your loved one and fight for the best outcome in 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 Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Man turns himself in to face charges in St. Johns County hit-and-run death

November 4, 2014

A man accused of hitting a pedestrian and leaving the scene of accident is now facing serious felony charges in St. Johns County. The 25-year-old man is accused of hitting a 53-year-old pedestrian who died from his injuries, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The driver did not call police or stop and wait for help to arrive, but instead drove off after the July accident, the newspaper reported. After evidence was collected and tested from the scene and the man's vehicle, police issued a warrant. Rather than wait for police to arrest him, the man turned himself in on a charge of leaving the scene of an accident causing a death.

The charge is a first-degree felony with a maximum penalty of 30 years in state prison. And while the maximum penalty is important, the key in this St. Johns County Felony Case is the minimum mandatory sentence. Florida law requires that if someone is convicted of leaving the scene of an accident causing death, there is a minimum mandatory sentence of four years in state prison. And in cases with a minimum mandatory sentence, the defendant must serve every single day of the sentence in prison. For most other crimes, people serve 85 percent of the time, so four years would really be just more than three years. This minimum mandatory sentence also applies regardless of a person's prior criminal history.

Florida drivers are required to stop if they are involved in a car accident of any kind. If the driver has a reasonable belief that someone is injured, he or she must stop, attempt to render aid and call 911 to get emergency crews on the scene. In this St. Johns County Traffic Case, the accusation is that none of those things happened. The requirements are there for any type of crash, though the penalties do increase depending on the severity of the damage that is caused. For example, if the victim has a serious bodily injury but does not die from the injuries, the charge would be a second-degree felony with a maximum penalty of 15 years in state prison. The charge also would not carry a minimum mandatory prison sentence - a key difference in the two charges. The charge would result in the driver having his or her license revoked for three years. In many St. Johns County Felony Traffic Cases, an arrest like this is a person's first serious experience in the criminal justice system. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney can investigate your case, explain the potential consequences and provide you or your loved one with the information to make a decision about how to proceed with the case.

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

Police say 23 arrests on gun, drug and robbery charges are tied to Jacksonville gang

November 2, 2014

Local police say a two-year investigation has helped weaken a Jacksonville gang known for dealing drugs and breaking into houses. The arrests have been made since police started investigating a January 2013 homicide, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union, so it has been an incremental dismantling - not just one sweep leading to a couple of dozen arrests. While most gang-related charges center on drugs, police say this gang also committed several residential burglaries within its territory near downtown Jacksonville, the newspaper reported.

Since the investigation began, police say they've taken five guns, 11 kilograms of cocaine, 20 pounds of marijuana and almost $30,000, the newspaper reported. A state law called the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organization Act, or the RICO Act, allows for upgraded penalties if the state can prove that the crimes are gang-related. Prosecutors must first prove that the gang or criminal enterprise exists. Then, the state must prove beyond a reasonable doubt to a jury that the crimes at issue were committed to further the criminal enterprise. Any gang-related charges typically come after whatever the defendant is arrested for in the first place. For example, in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case, a man was accused of robbing another man, then shooting another person who tried to stop the robbery, the newspaper reported. The man was initially charged with armed robbery, aggravated battery and shooting into a home - all serious felonies. Armed robbery and aggravated battery are both first-degree felonies and armed robbery can have a life sentence for someone who is convicted. But recently, police added two RICO charges to in the case, adding two more 30-year enhancements on top of what the 25-year-old man is already facing.

In order to make those claims stand up in court, police must have some sort of inside information at the gang level. The threat of the RICO charges can also be used by the state to try to move negotiations along in a Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case or a Jacksonville Drug Crimes Case. Not only can the threat of another 30 years help coax someone along, it could also encourage the state to get one of the defendants to testify against another of the defendants in the case. Jacksonville Robbery Cases are serious on their own, first-degree felonies if people are accused of using a gun in the crime, and often people will do what they can to have their own sentence reduced. Police are also looking for two more of the gang leaders and are likely trying to publicize the case to help get more information about the whereabouts of the suspects.

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.