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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Fletcher High School teacher was arrested for unlawful sexual activity with certain minors this week.  According to a report in The Florida Times Union, the teacher is accused of having sexual contact with a girl who is either sixteen or seventeen years-old.  Police allege that the two had intercourse and oral sex at the school, according to the article.  The alleged victim cooperated with police during their investigation and apparently wore a recording device on her person to document their conversations.  Once police completed their investigation, they sought and obtained an arrest warrant for this sex charge with a $35,003 bond.  The report indicates that the teacher invoked his right to remain silent when interviewed.

Unlawful sexual activity with certain minors is a second degree felony in Florida punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.  Along with the possible prison term, this charge, along with all Jacksonville sex charges, can lead to the lifetime sentence of becoming a sex offender or predator.  To prove this charge, the state attorney’s office must show that there was sexual activity between someone who is twenty four years-old or older and the alleged victim is sixteen or seventeen.  Under Florida statutes, “sexual activity” is defined as any oral, vaginal or anal penetration or union with another’s sexual organ or an object.  The alleged victim’s prior sexual history is considered not relevant under Florida law.

During police investigations or sex accusations, JSO detectives follow a similar pattern.  It starts with a report of unlawful sexual activity, which can be sex with minors to allegations of rape.  A sex crime detective is assigned and depending on the age of the alleged victim, will interview the alleged victim.  If the victim is under eighteen years of age, the Child Protection Team will interview the minor.  If the case calls for it, a medical examination will be conducted as well.  Once an interview is done, the police will turn their attention to the alleged assailant.  One common tactic is to initiate a controlled phone call.  This is a recorded phone conversation between the alleged victim and the suspect.  The victims are instructed on what to say and even during the conversation, get prompts from the detective who is sitting nearby.  The goal is to get the suspect to make some kind of admission.  In the Fletcher teacher’s case, the girl wore a recording device.  This tactic is less common, but is used sometimes.  Police will then attempt to interview the suspect.  If you are approached to “give your side of the story” to police, don’t.  Detectives are allowed, even taught, to lie to potential sex crime suspects.  Common lies include telling the suspect his or her DNA was found on the victim when they have none, or that the victim has injuries that the actually don’t.  It is so important to consult with an attorney who is experienced in Florida sex crimes before talking to anyone else, especially the police.

A Jacksonville police officer is facing several criminal charges stemming from separate alleged incidents.  According to a report in the Florida Times Union, the officer of fourteen years is charged with grand theft, petit theft and official misconduct in Duval County.  Those charges are pending after allegations that the officer was paid for time he did not work in off-duty jobs.  Official misconduct and grand theft are both third degree felonies punishable by up to five years in prison each and the petit theft is a first degree misdemeanor.  The State Attorney’s Office has not made a decision about filing those charges.  There is another allegation of sexual battery in Jacksonville that the prosecutor on the case has made a decision on.  The officer was accused of paying prostitutes to have sex with him while on duty.  One woman told police she was forced to have sex with the police officer, which is considered a sexual battery in Florida.  The State Attorney’s Office has decided not to file this charge because there is no reasonable probability of conviction.

When someone is arrested for any crime, the prosecutor’s office in that county has to make a decision on whether or not to file the charge.  In order for the police to make an arrest in Jacksonville, they must have “probable cause”.  This means, more likely than not, the accused committed a crime.  Once the case lands on a prosecutor’s desk, that prosecutor must decide whether or not they can prove the case beyond all reasonable doubt, which is a much higher standard than an arrest.  When someone is arrested for a felony in Duval County, which all sex charges are, the prosecutor’s office has a period of time to make a decision about what to do.  They can file the felony case as charged, drop the case if there is not enough evidence, or file the case as a misdemeanor.  Assistant state attorneys have a lot of discretion when deciding what to do and that is why it is so important to hire an experienced criminal attorney.  The Jacksonville criminal attorney can gather evidence and meet with the prosecutor to present your side prior to any charges being filed.

A sexual battery in Florida is defined as oral, anal or vaginal penetration, or union with, the sexual organ of another person or an object without the victim’s consent.  Consent is defined as knowing and voluntary, not coerced.  There are also different levels of sexual battery in Jacksonville.  If the accused sexually battered a victim without violence or physical force, the crime is considered a second degree felony, punishable by up to fifteen years in prison and a lifetime of being labeled a sex offender.  If the accused used violence or if the victim was physically incapacitated at the time, the sex crime is elevated to a first degree felony.  “Physically incapacitated” can mean asleep or even drunk, which is obviously subject to interpretation.  Often times, rape cases come down to a he said, she said.

A Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office police officer has been fired after being arrested for beating a woman in custody, according to an article in the Florida Times Union.  The officer was at the base of the jail in the intake area with the woman who he arrested.  That area, as well as other areas in the jail, is video monitored.  The officer was surrounded by three other officers, who did nothing, as the woman was hit repeatedly while restrained.  The officer was arrested for misdemeanor battery in Jacksonville.

In Florida, a simple misdemeanor battery is defined as an intentional touching against someone’s will or intentionally hurting someone.  Even a touch on the shoulder could be considered a battery in Jacksonville if unwanted.  If the victim of the battery is pregnant, the crime is elevated to a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.  A simple battery can also be converted to a felony if there is great bodily injury caused by the touching.  Also, if there is a deadly weapon used to injure someone, it is considered a felony in Duval County.  The fired officer will have to face a county judge with his pending case.

Police officers are taught how to handle a “hostile” person in their custody.  There are many ways to restrain an already restrained person that poses little physical threat to the officer.  Presumably, that is why the man was arrested.  The sheriff’s office chose not to discipline the three male police officers who just stood and watched the rogue officer lose his temper on this woman.  The office claims that it is not a crime to witness a beating.  That statement is true in the civilian world, but aren’t police officers held to a higher standard when they witness a crime less than four feet in front of them? Don’t police officers have a duty to protect the community, which this woman is a part of, from present harm.  Harm they knew was illegal as evidenced by them reporting the incident “almost instantaneously”, according to the JSO.

A man is being held in the Pretrial Detention Facility after being charged with aggravated child abuse in Jacksonville.  According to an article in the Florida Times Union, the mother of the child left her boyfriend, the accused, home alone with the two year-old while she went to work.  The woman told police her boyfriend told her he disciplined her daughter because the child misbehaved, according to the report.  The woman reported that the child had cuts and marks when she returned home and the child passed away later that day.  Homicide detectives are still investigating the abuse case and it may turn into a murder case before all is said and done.

It is unclear whether or not the man was interviewed by investigators before or after being arrested.  Police will always try to get a potential suspect to tell their side of the story prior to arresting them.  Police are allowed, even taught in interrogation classes, to lie to suspects to get the suspect to talk about their case.  If police ask you to come down to the police station to “clear things up”, you probably getting handcuffed at the conclusion of the interview.  If you are ever asked to be interviewed by any law enforcement agency, talk to an experienced criminal defense attorney first. Discuss your rights before giving them up.  More often than not, there is no benefit for you to talk to the police.

The man was arrested for aggravated child abuse, which is a first degree felony in Florida.  The maximum exposure is thirty years in prison if that is all the man is charged with.  If he is eventually charged with murder, the potential penalties could go even higher.  To prove this Duval County child abuse charge, the State Attorney’s Office have to prove the man willfully caused great bodily harm to the child (aggravated battery), or tortured or caged the child.  Willfully, as defined by Florida statute, means knowingly, intentionally and purposely.  If the man exercised his right to remain silent, it may be difficult for the prosecution to prove the man purposely harmed the child.  The State will attempt to use any alleged conversation with the girl’s mother as evidence against the man.