Police searched a Northeast Florida home and found what they described as an elaborate marijuana grow operation and seized plants with a street value of tens of thousands of dollars.  Police said they received a search warrant to look inside the home and found 72 mature marijuana plants and marijuana that had already been picked from the plants, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The drugs found inside the home were worth about $80,000, the newspaper reported. When police eventually left the home, they took two truckloads of lights, irrigation systems and other materials used in the alleged grow operation, the newspaper reported.

The man is charged with cultivation of marijuana, possession of more than 20 grams of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia, the newspaper reported. The cultivation and possession charges are both third-degree felonies with a maximum penalty of five years in state prison. The drug paraphernalia charge is a misdemeanor and any time done on that charge would be in county jail, not in state prison. The two felonies are the important charges in this St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case.

Charges and potential penalties in St. Johns County Drug Crimes Cases are based on two main components: the type of drug a person is accused of having and how much of it police find on his or her person. And of the common street drugs people are accused of possessing, charges for marijuana are by far the most lenient, meaning the minimum amounts for serious charges are far higher than for drugs that include cocaine and prescription pain pills. For example, when people have more than 300 plants, they can be charged with drug trafficking and the St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case then becomes a first-degree felony. In this case, the man had 72 plants and isn’t even 25 percent of the way there, despite having what police said is $80,000 worth of marijuana. The threshold of 20 grams to constitute a felony is also far higher than for any other drug. With cocaine, for example, there is no amount that constitutes a misdemeanor. Any amount is a felony.  Our St. Johns County Drug Crimes Attorney represents people on all types of drug charges. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney will fully investigate your case and provide you with information so you or your loved one can make the best possible 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.

A Georgia man who told police he has three prior DUI arrests was arrested and charged this month for his role in a Jacksonville crash that critically injured a 19-year-old motorcyclist.  Police said the driver was turning left into an apartment complex when he did not stop for a motorcycle that ran into the front of his car, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The driver stopped momentarily, started walking toward the injured motorcyclist, then came back to the car and drove off into the complex, the newspaper reported.

Police later found the driver walking in the apartment complex and said he had bloodshot eyes and slurred speech, the newspaper reported. Police had to get a warrant to take a blood sample from him because he initially refused. In Jacksonville DUI Cases involving a serious injury, drivers do not have a choice in giving a blood sample. If they do initially refuse, police can quickly obtain a warrant and get it done that way. When drivers agree to a Florida driver’s license, they agree to give a blood draw if police suspect alcohol or drug use in a crash where someone – even the driver – is seriously injured.

In this Jacksonville DUI Case, the man is charged with leaving the scene of an accident resulting in a serious injury and not rendering aid to the victim. That charge is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. The Florida Legislature made a change to the penalties in 2014, increasing the charge from a third-degree felony to a second-degree felony. The crime previously had a maximum sentence of five years in state prison. The new law also strengthened minimum mandatory sentences in hit-and-run cases when people are killed.  One point to note in this Jacksonville DUI Case: Technically, the driver has yet to be charged with the DUI portion of the crime. When blood is drawn for cases like this, typically the results take six to nine months to return from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab. In cases where the driver did not leave the scene, there likely wouldn’t be any charges at all until lab results returned. In this Jacksonville Felony Case, the man can already be charged with a second-degree felony without the blood test, and he has shown a propensity to flee. The case will likely not resolve until those blood test results are back, though that could change in negotiations between the state and the defense.  Our Jacksonville DUI Attorney has represented hundreds of people charged with DUI and knows the specific procedures police must follow in these cases. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly review and investigate your case to make sure every aspect of the law was followed.

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.

A man who was a teenager at the time he was arrested on murder and other charges, pleaded guilty this month and avoided a potential life sentence.  The man, now 21, pleaded guilty in connection with the shooting death of an 18-year-old man in 2013, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. He pleaded guilty to second-degree murder, armed robbery and possession of a firearm by an adjudicated juvenile delinquent, the newspaper reported. Both the murder charge and the armed robbery charge have a maximum sentence of life in prison. He was sentenced instead to 35 years in prison in this Jacksonville Murder Case. The murder charge carries a minimum sentence of 25 years on state prison.

There were two people facing similar charges in this Jacksonville Murder Case and the second has not pleaded guilty. He is still awaiting trial, the newspaper reported. Cases like this always lead to speculation that the person pleading first will be testifying against the second defendant. The man’s Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney told the newspaper the plea does not require him to testify in the case against the co-defendant. One key element in this Jacksonville Murder Case is that the man has already been sentenced. Typically, when the deal is contingent on cooperation, the state will ask the judge to postpone sentencing until after the trial in which the person is supposed to testify. This is done so the state still has some sort of leverage over the defendant. If the sentence that reflects cooperation has already been given, there is no incentive for the person to actually testify against the other person in his or her Jacksonville Murder Trial.

If the person isn’t testifying, or the state does not believe the testimony to be crucial to proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt, it doesn’t matter when the person is sentenced. From the media reports in this Jacksonville Murder Case, it is not clear which of the two men was the shooter. The man who was sentenced was arrested after police received a tip that he was bragging about being involved in the first murder of 2013, the newspaper reported. He was charged with murder after lab results showed a gun found on him matched the one used in the murder.  Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney represents people charged with all types of crimes – from misdemeanor charges and traffic tickets on up to capital felonies such as murder and armed robbery. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate the charges against you or your loved one and provide you with information so you can make the best decision on how to proceed 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.

A Clay County man was arrested and booked on three charges this week, all stemming from a June traffic crash that killed a 24-year-old man.  The driver was accused of driving into a man who was walking his bicycle across an intersection, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. This month, he was charged with DUI manslaughter, DUI causing property damage and DUI. DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony with a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in state prison. DUI and DUI causing property damage are both misdemeanors and all punishment in misdemeanor cases would be in the county jail, not in state prison. Punishment guidelines in standard Clay County DUI Cases are based on the number of previous DUI convictions or guilty pleas the person has on his or her criminal record.

The charge to be concerned about in this Clay County DUI Case is clearly the DUI manslaughter. Not just because it is a felony, but because it also carries a minimum mandatory sentence of four years in state prison. In some Clay County Felony Cases, the state will waive the minimum mandatory as part of a plea agreement but, once the case goes to trial, it’s out of everyone’s hands – including the judge. The defendant in this Clay County DUI Case is now out on bail and likely knew he would eventually be charged with serious felonies in this case.

Even though the crash occurred in June, it is not uncommon for it to take several months, including close to a year, for charges to come. In cases where there is a serious injury or a death, police can take a blood sample from the driver without the driver having to consent. This is different than a regular DUI case where the driver can refuse to take a breath test – though are still penalties that apply. A blood test is mandatory in cases with an injury. The results often take between six to nine months to come back from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement lab. While a breath test could have been taken at the scene to prove the misdemeanor DUI, it makes sense in cases like this for the state to wait for the blood test and charge the entire case at once. Breath tests are often successfully contested in front of juries in some Clay County DUI Cases, but blood test results are generally viewed as significantly more reliable.  Our Clay County DUI Attorney is well-versed in the policies and procedures police must follow when making a DUI arrest and will thoroughly investigate the case against you or your loved one to make sure those standards were followed.

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.

A Jacksonville police officer is now facing two charges – including one felony – in connection with allegedly lying about how many hours she worked in an off-duty role.  Investigators had been watching the officer for more than a month and found she only worked about 15 of the 24 hours she was reporting for her off-duty role providing security at an apartment complex, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The problem is, the officer filled out paperwork to indicate she worked all of the hours, but instead was leaving early or arriving late, the newspaper reported.

The officer is charged with official misconduct and petit theft. The official misconduct charge is the one to worry about. The charge is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in state prison. More importantly, pleading guilty to or being convicted of a felony can have a crippling effect on her law enforcement career, as many agencies have specific policies against hiring people with a felony on his or her criminal record. The theft charge is a second-degree misdemeanor, which could include some county jail time, but rarely does.

Jacksonville police officers are allowed to use their patrol car and uniform when they work off-duty security jobs, such as the one the defendant was working at a local apartment complex. In exchange for the use of the uniform and car, the sheriff’s office must approve all of the off-duty work and employees must report their time. When Jacksonville Theft Cases like this occur, they are usually the result of a tip from the agency to police, though it is not clear how the investigation began in this case. In this Jacksonville Theft Case, the officer offered to go on unpaid leave until the criminal investigation is complete, the newspaper reported. Once the criminal case is over, police will conduct their own internal investigation to look at discipline for the officer. In many cases, the internal discipline can be more severe and have a greater impact on the employee than the criminal charges.

Jacksonville Theft Cases involving employees likely happen every day and don’t receive headlines. In this case, the amount of money allegedly stolen was less than $300. But in this case, it is a police officer lying about employment – which always earns attention from the media. There are certain balances people must make in handling a criminal case and making sure it is isn’t something that puts their career in even more jeopardy. Our Jacksonville Theft Attorney can help navigate that balance and look for a solution that minimizes both the criminal and employment consequences in your Jacksonville Felony 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 Theft Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A man from Jacksonville and another from St. Johns County were arrested last week, caught by undercover detectives who say they men were on their way to a sexual encounter with a child they believed to be under the age of 14.  But the person they were accused of chatting with online and arranging to meet was not a child, but instead law enforcement working on behalf of police to help arrest adults looking for sex with children, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. In all, 22 men were arrested in the sting, including the two with ties to Northeast Florida, the newspaper reported.

The men are charged with travelling to meet a minor to engage in a sex act; using a computer to seduce, solicit, lure or entice a child; and unlawful use of a two-way communications device. Traveling to meet a minor is the most serious of the three charges and is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. The other two charges are both third-degree felonies, punishable by up to five years in state prison.  So each of the men in these Florida Sex Crimes cases are looking at the potential of 25 years in state prison, if they plead guilty or are convicted and the judge chooses to sentence them to the maximum possible and run the sentences consecutively. That’s unlikely to happen, but the men are likely looking at prison time – especially given the recent local history on these types of stings.

These undercover operations are not uncommon, and there appears to be no shortage of men who end up getting charged in similar stings. They were initially made popular on national television with Dateline NBC’s “To Catch a Predator” series, when camera crews and detectives would set up in different cities and essentially reel would-be predators in. Police record all of the internet chats and discussions, so there is often a lengthy paper trail when the men appear in court – a paper trail that doesn’t sound good at all when read before a jury.  On top of any prison time, all of the defendants in these Florida Sex Crimes cases are also likely looking at having to register as a sex offender. That requires checking in with police at least twice a year and notifying police whenever the person changes residences. An when a sex offender moves, immediate neighbors are notified of his or her presence in the neighborhood – with the address and a description of the charge he or she was convicted of or pleaded guilty to.  Our Jacksonville Sex Crimes Attorney is well-versed in the consequences of defendants being classified as a sex offender and can explain the policies and procedures so you or your loved one can make an informed decision going forward with you 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 Sex Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A judge ruled St. Johns County should not have immediately condemned the home rented by a couple now charged with growing marijuana.  The judge ruled this week the couple could return to their home for two weeks to gather personal items, as well as the fish living in seven aquariums that may or may not still be alive after not being tended to in a month, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The couple was arrested in February, charged with possession of marijuana, possession of equipment used to manufacture drugs and producing marijuana. All three of these St. Johns County Drug Crimes Charges are third-degree felonies punishable by up to five years in prison, meaning both are facing up to 15 years in prison if convicted.

The important point to note in this St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case is the defendants have only been arrested and charged. Neither one has been convicted of any crime. Both are out on bail while the St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case works its way through the court system. The couple maintains they were legally growing the marijuana for medical use and did not break any laws, the newspaper reported.  In order to legally condemn the house and remove the couple from the home, the county would have had to prove the home was an “imminent and substantial danger to life or health,’ the newspaper reported, and the judge ruled the county didn’t do so. Initial news reports indicated the couple was extracting oil from the marijuana, which could be dangerous and cause and explosion – which led to the decision to condemn the home. Instead of giving the residents time to respond or collect their belongings – including living beings such as the fish – the county immediately taped off the home and barred anyone from entering.

St. Johns County Drug Charges can be very serious and are generally based on the type of drug found and the amount the person is accused of possessing. Most manufacturing cases involve methamphetamines, and those charges carry more severe penalties that those involving marijuana. This St. Johns County Drug Case will be interesting because, although medicinal marijuana is not broadly legal in the state of Florida, there are some rare exemptions people can receive to grow the drug. It does not appear this couple had obtained one, but that will likely be played out in court over the next few months.  Our St. Johns County Drug Crimes Attorney has represented people accused of all sorts of drug crimes, including those involving cultivating marijuana. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly review your case, including the details of how the arrest was handled, and then provide you with information so you can make a decision on how to proceed.

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

The state Supreme Court this month tossed out a 70-year sentence given to a Jacksonville boy who was 14 at the time he committed an armed robbery.  The defendant, now 20, will have to be resentenced, as will likely hundreds of defendants across the state who received similar lengthy sentences, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The defendant was arrested in 2009 for shooting a gas station owner, the newspaper reported. The boy pleaded guilty to attempted first-degree murder and armed robbery. Both are first-degree felonies with possible sentences up to life in prison. The boy in this Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Case was sentenced to 70 years in prison.

The Supreme Court ruled that the 70-year sentence for a teen was essentially a life sentence, and that went against the intent of a previous U.S. Supreme Court ruling. That decision banned life sentences for juveniles charged with any crime other than murder. When juveniles are sentenced to life in prison, a review must occur after 25 years. If a juvenile is not given a life sentence on a crime that would warrant one, such as murder, the minimum sentence is 35 years.  But for cases other than murder, the courts have not had clear direction on how teens should be resentenced and perhaps this Florida Supreme Court decision will provide more clarity. These decisions apply to teens who are charged with crimes as an adult – not simply teens who have relatively minor charges that stay within the juvenile court system. In many instances in Duval, Clay and Nassau counties, prosecutors will bypass the juvenile court system and immediately throw the case into adult court.

What the Florida Supreme Court is at least partially saying in this ruling is: juveniles who commit crimes cannot be treated exactly like adults. That’s why there is a separate detention and punishment system for teens – with five levels of detention, from house arrest on up to what’s essentially a prison for teens. That’s why there is a separate type of sentencing for Youthful Offenders, which can cap the time at six years for someone who commits a crime before the age of 21. Those years can be split among probation and prison with, for example, four years in prison and two years of probation – or any combination thereof.  Juveniles can commit serious felonies and, without question, should face punishment and be held responsible for their actions. But the state also must balance the mental capacity of a 14-year-old when issuing a sentence that will keep him in prison into his 80s.

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

Police arrested and charged a man this month with a sexual battery that started more than 50 years ago.  An investigation began in December after a person called police to report the man, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The man is charged with capital sexual battery, a life felony that carries a mandatory sentence of life in prison. The charges stem from when the defendant was 22 and the alleged victim was 6, according to the newspaper report. Police allege the abuse was ongoing from 1964 to 1971, and the person who reported the crime said the defendant is around young children and the caller feared it could happen again, the newspaper reported.

The relationship between the defendant and the alleged victim was not reported and the gender of the victim was redacted form the police report, the newspaper reported. In many Jacksonville Criminal Cases, there is what’s called a statute of limitations, meaning the state must file charges within a certain amount of time for the charges to be valid. However, in capital sexual battery cases like this one, there is no statute of limitations, so the charges can always be filed – even 50 years later, as was the case here.

In this Jacksonville Sex Crimes Case, the detectives investigating the case did what’s called a controlled phone call between the alleged victim and defendant. In these calls, detectives are on the line monitoring the call and what is said, though the suspect does not know the call is being recorded by police. And while the newspaper story says the conversation was redacted from the police report, in all likelihood there is some form of confession on the tape from the defendant. The state would likely need a confession to even file charges in a 50-year-old case that almost certainly has no physical evidence at all. The phone call itself will be a key piece of evidence for the defense, and will almost certainly be the centerpiece of the state’s case – if it is allowed into evidence. There could be many issues with the recording the defense could argue, including entrapment.  In many Jacksonville Sex Crimes Cases involving a child, the state will agree to a plea deal to keep a child from having to take the stand as part of the case. Most of the cases involving children, though are not life felonies like this Jacksonville Sex Crimes Case. Unless the state offers a plea to something that’s a reduced charge, it seems highly unlikely a 72-year-old man will plead guilty to a charge with a mandatory life sentence.  Despite the immediate rush to judgment on Jacksonville Sex Crimes Cases, everyone has the right to a trial before a jury of his or her peers. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney has represented hundreds of people charges with sex crimes and will review the case at hand and work with you on making an informed decision on how to proceed.

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

An important witness in the state’s case against a 12-year-old accused of first-degree murder has pleaded guilty to a separate crime.  The now 17-year-old gave police information on where to find the 12-year-old accused of shooting a homeless person in the head in June, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The teen also helped identify himself and the boy in a surveillance video, the newspaper reported. The teen was charged with armed robbery and auto theft in a separate incident where he was accused of stealing a car. He pleaded guilty to the armed robbery and the state agreed to drop the grand theft auto charge – a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

Armed robbery is a first-degree felony with a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years in prison because the teen showed a gun in the commission of the crime. However, because he was 16 at the time of the crime, he could be sentenced to a youthful offender sentence in this Jacksonville Robbery Case. A youthful offender sentence could be for any defendant 21 or younger and the sentence can be any combination of incarceration and prison, up to six years. So it could be four years in prison, two years on probation, or three or each, etc.

The teen in this Jacksonville Robbery Case has not been sentenced – and likely will not be sentenced until after the boy goes to trial. The state will want to make sure the teen helps out as a witness before the state helps him with any suggestion to the judge of a reduced sentence for the teen. Prosecutors made a point in the newspaper story to saying the teen’s plea deal was not contingent on him testifying in the Jacksonville Murder Case. But it’s a safe bet that any recommendation from the state on a youthful offender sentence in the Jacksonville Robbery Case sure is tied to the testimony. Ultimately, the sentence is up to the judge, but the state’s recommendation can go a long way – especially if the information helps get a murder conviction with information police would not otherwise have.  Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate the case against you or your loved one and lay out all of the consequences and scenarios so you can 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 Jacksonville Gun Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.