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.

Police arrest 18 parents on charges related to their kids missing school

October 31, 2014

The Duval County School Board is using the criminal justice system to force parents to send their children to school and a batch of dozens of warrants was issued last week. Police arrested 18 parents and were looking for 26 more, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The parents were charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and with failure to comply with school attendance laws, the newspaper reported. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is a first-degree misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a year in the county jail. The failure to comply with school attendance laws charge is a second-degree misdemeanor and carries a maximum sentence of 60 days in the county jail.

Police said they chose these parents because they were 44 cases with the highest absentees rates in the county, and the data used covered more than just the current school year. The legal system is supposed to be the very last resort in school attendance cases and school officials say they tried to work with the parents but to no avail, the newspaper reported. But when they do go to the legal system, police, prosecutors and all involved make it a point to go as public as they could with it - trying to use these Jacksonville Misdemeanor Cases to set an example for other parents. And chances are it will work.

Police and prosecutors often try to make headlines to make people aware of the consequences for actions for some seemingly minor crimes, including selling alcohol to minors or hosting an open house party where underage teens are drinking alcohol.

In most of these Jacksonville Misdemeanor Cases, parents do not end up receiving significant, if any jail time. But the shaming of the headlines and the potential of a person losing his or her job because of an arrest like this could be enough for people to think twice. These Jacksonville Misdemeanor Cases on truancy charges are an example of a crime where parents can be held accountable for the actions of the children they are responsible for. Proving how much the parents knew beyond a reasonable doubt in front of a jury could be challenging, but the overall point of these types of arrests is more about changing behavior than putting people behind bars. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney has represented thousands of people charged with misdemeanors and knows there's no such thing as a minor crime when you or a loved one is the one accused.

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

Man arrested for failing to register as sexual predator after police ask for help from public

October 29, 2014

A Jacksonville man was arrested this month for failing to register as a sexual predator following his release from prison. Police issued a warrant for the man and broadcast his picture and information a week prior to try to get the public's help in finding him, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The man was arrested in a Jacksonville motel and is now in jail facing the charge of failing to register as a sexual predator. That charge is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in state prison.

The man served nearly four years in prison for sexual battery on a child and did not register with police after he was released from prison last year, the newspaper reported. It's important to note that the five years are likely not the only time the man is now facing. By failing to register he almost certainly also broke the terms of his probation, which could expose him to the maximum sentence of the crime he committed in the first place. For example, if his original charge was a second-degree felony, the maximum sentence would have been 15 years in state prison. In this Jacksonville Sex Crimes Case, the man served four. So by violating his probation, he could then be sentenced to the rest of the sentence he has yet to serve - in this case, 11 years. In all other types of criminal charges, that would be the end of the potential punishment.

But this is where the difference lies between Jacksonville Sex Crimes and all other types of crimes. There is a specific and separate charge for failing to register as a sexual offender or predator. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement has strict guidelines that sexual offenders and predators must adhere to when it comes to registration. Those deemed to be sexual predators must register with police within 48 hours of release from prison. They also must check in with authorities at least twice a year and notify police within two days of moving residences. And when a sexual offender or predator moves, neighbors are notified that he or she has moved to the area, with information that includes his or her name, address and the type of crime they pleaded guilty to or were convicted of. The implications following a Jacksonville Sex Crime conviction are more severe than even someone convicted of murder, and can make it extremely difficult for a person to recover and get his or her life back together. That can be true even after a Jacksonville Sex Crime accusation - even without the restrictions that come with a conviction. Our Jacksonville Sex Crimes Attorney has represented hundreds of people accused of sex crimes and knows the severe consequences a conviction can bring. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will investigate the case against you or your loved one and explain the implications 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 Sex Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

More than two dozen store clerks and restaurant workers in St. Johns County charged with selling alcohol to minors

October 27, 2014

An undercover sting in St. Johns County led to charges for 25 people who sold alcohol to minors. The six-week investigation dubbed "Operation Last Call" was a joint operation between the St. Augustine Police Department and the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office, designed to cut down on underage drinking, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The 25 employees worked at 11 different bars, restaurants or clubs St. Johns County. All were charged with selling, giving or serving alcoholic beverages to persons under the age of 21, the newspaper reported. The charge is a second-degree misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of six months in county jail and a $500 fine.

For St. Johns County Misdemeanors such as this, the employees are not arrested on the spot, nor do they have to spend a night in jail. They are given what is called a notice to appear, which means they are assigned a date when they must go to court and appear before a judge on the charge. In St. Johns County Misdemeanors Cases such as this, it is highly unlikely anyone will spend time in jail, unless the person has either a history of similar crimes or an otherwise lengthy criminal record. Police conduct these stings every so often to remind people that the authorities are out there paying attention and that there are indeed penalties for selling alcohol to minors. While these charges are by no means the most serious, if workers know a $500 fine is right around the corner, they might think twice and check the identification of the next person who comes in to buy a case of Bud Light. And it is the clerk, not the business that gets the fine and potential criminal charges, so it's up to the person behind the counter or bar to make the decision.

Now, in these St. Johns County Misdemeanor Cases, police typically name the businesses in their release to local media, and no business owner wants that kind of bad press either, and would be within his or her rights to let the employee go. In most of these stings, police instruct the teen to provide his or her real identification if asked. While many teens do use fake IDs to purchase alcohol, these stings are not designed to get into the judging of which ID is real and which is not. That would make for a much more difficult case to prove beyond a reasonable doubt, Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney represents people on all types of charges, from second-degree misdemeanors on up to felonies with potential life sentences. All crimes are serious for those facing criminal charges and our St. Johns Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate the case against you or your loved one.

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

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

October 24, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

October 20, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

October 17, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

October 13, 2014

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

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

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

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

Former Atlantic Beach police chief arrested on 19 felony drug charges

October 10, 2014

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

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

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

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