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.

A Jacksonville man was arrested this month after speeding away from police in what appears to have been a stolen car.  Police started looking for the driver after someone called 911 saying the car was speeding and almost hit a motorcycle, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The chase reached speeds of 70 mph and went through multiple stop lights, but finally ended miles later when police ran the vehicle off the road near downtown Jacksonville, the newspaper reported. The man was arrested at gunpoint, the newspaper reported.

The 19-year-old suspect is charged with DUI, possession of marijuana, auto theft and a handful of traffic violations for laws he is accused of breaking during the chase, the newspaper reported. Some of the traffic violations can be criminal, including fleeing or attempting to elude law enforcement in a patrol vehicle with lights and siren activated. Media reports did not specify if police were in a patrol vehicle or an unmarked car, but it’s more than likely it was a patrol car. If so, the defendant can be charged with a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in state prison. Theft of a motor vehicle is also a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of five years in state prison.  Other charges in this Jacksonville Traffic Case are misdemeanors, but the cumulative effect can be an issue for the defendant. Even though DUI and possession of marijuana are misdemeanors, the fact that the driver is accused of being impaired while leading police on a high-speed chase is likely to be a factor in any plea negotiations or in sentencing if the man is convicted of or pleads guilty to the court.

While the felony charges in this Jacksonville DUI Case have prison time attached, misdemeanors do not. A first conviction for DUI is a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail and possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana has a maximum penalty of one year in county jail.  A DUI on its own, or marijuana possession on its own, would likely be seen differently without the police chase and the stolen car. Prosecutors and judges look at the entire situation when evaluating cases for plea agreements or sentences, respectively, and driving away from police is one way to accumulate a bunch of charges very quickly.  Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will conduct a full investigation into the charges against you or your loved one and then advise you of the consequences and key elements of the state’s case so you can make an informed decision.

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

A string of undercover operations in Nassau County led to more than 20 arrests on serious felony charges over the past several months.  All of the charges are for selling drugs in what police dubbed Operation No Trap Zone and rolled out to the media this month, complete with 20 mug shots of the people who were arrested, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. All are facing felony charges and there are more than 50 charges combined, the newspaper reported.  The arrests were all made over the past several months, but police often bring them all together in one news release to maximize the attention in the media.

Exact details were not released in this Nassau County Drug Crimes Case, but it appears undercover detectives were buying drugs from the people who were arrested. The majority of the charges are for selling cocaine, but other drugs listed in the newspaper report include marijuana and various prescription drugs. Selling cocaine is a second-degree felony with a maximum sentence of 15 years in state prison. The charge can become more severe, depending on where the alleged crime occurs. For example, if the sale is within 1,000 feet of a university, public housing facility, church, school or park, the crime becomes a first-degree felony. At that point, a conviction or guilty plea in a Nassau County Drug Crimes Case carries a maximum penalty of 30 years in state prison.

The same charges and penalties apply for the majority of the other drugs people are accused of selling in this Nassau County Drug Crimes Case. The sale of Hydrocodone, Xanax and other prescription drugs is also a second-degree felony. The only drug someone is accused of selling in this Nassau County Drug Crimes Case that is not a second-degree felony is marijuana. Sale of marijuana is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison. Penalties and sentences vary more in Nassau County Drug Crimes Cases where the issue is possessing drugs – severe penalties kick in much quicker for cocaine and pills that they do for marijuana, for example.  In this Nassau County Drug Crimes Case, it does not appear that this is one large drug operation police have broken up, but rather a series of smaller enterprises. However, with this many arrests and all but one person living in Fernandina Beach, there have to be a few connections. Prosecutors are almost certainly talking to the defendants to see what they know – and if that information is valuable enough to the state to start cutting deals and getting people to testify against each other.  Our Nassau County Drug Crimes Attorney has represented people facing a variety of drug crimes, including possession and sale cases. Our Nassau County Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate your case and provide you with the information you or your loved one need to 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 Nassau County Drug Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Two juries in the same courtroom came to different conclusions in the cases of two men charged with first-degree murder in what police described as a drug-related killing.  One man was convicted of two counts of first-degree murder for his role in the death of two Jacksonville brothers who were shot and killed in their car, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The second defendant is facing a new trial after a jury could not reach a unanimous decision on whether he was guilty or not guilty. His Jacksonville Murder Case could be reopened for negotiations or scheduled for a new trial.

The trial logistics of this Jacksonville Murder Case are different than most. In this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case, four people were allegedly going to buy drugs from the two brothers and the two brothers were both shot in the face and killed. One defendant already pleaded guilty to second-degree murder in this 2013 incident and is awaiting sentencing. The alleged shooter is charged with first-degree murder and the state is planning to seek the death penalty against him. That left the two men who recently went to trial. The facts of the case were similar enough that the state could present the cases against both at the same time. But, separate juries were assembled for each of the defendants in this Jacksonville Murder Case. So when it came time to deliberate and discuss the charges, one jury went into one room and the other went into a separate room.

This practice is done so every defendant has a fair trial and is judged on his or her own actions as offered as evidence by the state. If a jury was considering both cases at the same time, the actions of one defendant could influence their opinion of the other. A person’s right to a fair trial in front of a jury of his or her peers is essential – especially in a first-degree murder case. There are only two possible sentences when someone is convicted of first-degree murder: life in prison or the death penalty. The 20-year-old man who pleaded guilty to second-degree murder could face a sentence that would allow him to be released from prison at some point, but he likely agreed to cooperate in the case. The 21-year-old defendant now facing a new trial could have a similar option, depending on what he and the state choose to do with the case. If the case does go to trial a second time, the jury will not be told it’s been to trial before – just like previous criminal charges aren’t allowed in as evidence 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 Duval County Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A motorcyclist was arrested this month on two serious felonies, charged with DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide in an August crash that killed a pedestrian.  The driver is accused of going between 70 and 80 mph on a road with a 30 mph speed limit, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. A 23-year-old pedestrian, who police think was trying to cross the unlit road, was hit and killed, the newspaper reported. The driver was also injured in the crash and had a blood-alcohol level of .089 and .091 on two tests – above the legal limit of .08 on both.

Vehicular homicide and DUI manslaughter are both second-degree felonies punishable by up to 15 years in prison. In both cases, the charge can be enhanced to a first-degree felony if the driver leaves the scene without rendering aid, which did not appear to be the case in this Clay County Traffic Case. So, in this Clay County DUI Case, the man is facing up to 30 years in prison if convicted on both counts and sentenced consecutively. And while the two charges seem identical, there are differences – the major one related to sentencing. A conviction in a DUI manslaughter case comes with a minimum mandatory sentence of four years in state prison. The vehicular homicide case does not have a minimum mandatory sentence attached to it. The elements needed to prove the crime are different, too. In vehicular homicide, the state has to prove the driver was reckless when he or she caused the accident. For DUI manslaughter, all that must be proven is the driver was intoxicated and caused, at least in part, the accident.

In many Clay County Traffic Cases, defendants do not have a lengthy criminal record prior to the arrest, different from what you may see when someone is arrested on a Clay County Drug Charge. That can make a four-year minimum mandatory sentence the impetus for a defendant to get working on a plea agreement. In this Clay County Felony Case, while the driver doesn’t have serious charges on his record, the newspaper reported the 27-year-old had 36 traffic citations over the past 10 years. Those would not be part of the evidence should this Clay County Traffic Case end up going to trial – the information would not be presented to a jury. However, a person’s record is relevant and known to the prosecutors and the judge, and will be part of the consideration in terms of any plea negotiations or sentencing from the judge if the driver chooses to plead guilty without a deal in hand from the state.  Our Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney has represented hundreds of people with minor criminal records who suddenly find themselves facing serious prison time. Our Clay County DUI Attorney can thoroughly investigate the case against you or your loved one and explain all of the consequences 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 Clay County DUI Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Prosecutors and law enforcement held a big press conference two years ago, announcing what appeared to be the beginning of a major statewide gambling bust – with dozens arrested and more supposedly to follow.  As it turned out, those 57 arrests were the only arrests ever made and only one person was convicted and sentenced to time behind bars, according to analysis by the Florida Times-Union. In fact, only one other person was sentenced to house arrest and the other 55 cut deals with prosecutors that included no jail time at all, the newspaper reported. Many of those 55 had their charges dropped outright, but not before they were paraded in front of the cameras in what prosecutors claimed was a $300 million racketeering and money laundering case.

Many of the key people arrested in the case were from Jacksonville, including the attorney for the alleged gambling centers and police union officials who had a role in some of the centers. The state alleged that the gaming centers were illegal gambling, but accepted plea deals to probation in many of the cases.  This case is a prime example of why there is a balance in the judicial system and people are innocent until proven guilty. At the outset, the public was led to believe that more than four dozen people were involved in this elaborate scheme to rip off millions of dollars. But as the cases came together, the holes must have been apparent to prosecutors as offers for probation were being made – including some that included dropping many of the charges.

The key in these Florida Felony Cases was that people were offered these deals without having to agree to testify against the co-defendants in the case. Typically, how Jacksonville Felony Cases with multiple defendants work is, prosecutors start offering deals to people charged with the less serious crimes – on the condition they testify against some of the ringleaders. This is a common tactic in Jacksonville Drug Crimes Cases, where the state looks to solidify its charges against the drug supplier by flipping people buying drugs or some of the lower-level dealers.  But that didn’t happen in this Florida Felony Crimes Case. Only one case went to trial, that of the attorney for the nonprofit running the internet cafes who was accused of being the mastermind of the gambling operations. He was found guilty by a jury and sentenced to six years in prison, but is out of custody while the case is being appealed.  Not all cases are as airtight as police present them to be when they are announced. The state has the burden of proving all criminal charges beyond a reasonable doubt, and not all cases that are charged meet that standard.
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 Felony Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Prosecutors have changed course and are now charging a 15-year-old boy as an adult in four fires police say were deliberately set in a Jacksonville neighborhood.  Fire officials were investigating the fires to three vacant homes and a car in a Jacksonville neighborhood and told police a person had been seen near all of the fires, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. A suspect matching the description was spotted by an officer and the boy was allegedly carrying a can of gas, the newspaper reported. The boy was taken to the juvenile detention center, where most teens are taken following an arrest. However, in this Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Case, the boy has been transferred to the county jail and charged as an adult, the newspaper reported.

Arson is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison on each count. With four counts, this 15-year-old boy could be looking at up to 120 years behind bars. While it is highly unlikely, this appears to be another case of prosecutors using adult charges to try to push a boy around. No one was injured in any of the four fires, and there has not been an estimate on monetary damages in any of the media reports on the incidents.  Even when a Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Case is transferred to adult court, it can still be brought back to juvenile court. In many cases, adult charges are part of the negotiations by the state – right or wrong, that’s the reality. If the crime stays in juvenile court, juveniles can still be punished in the same manner as adults – from house arrest and probation on up to what amounts to a prison for teens. Because this boy is charged with first-degree felonies, some of the lower level options are not available to him. Those sentences include house arrest and placement in a low-risk residential facility. Judges have latitude in most juvenile cases, but there are certain punishment standards driven by the type and severity of the crime a child is facing.

The juvenile court system is in place to handle youth and teens differently than adults, recognizing that people make mistakes in their youth that should not completely ruin their ability to be a productive adult. In many Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Cases, there is a one-size-fits-all approach to punish to the highest degree and treat kids like adults.  Our Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Attorney will thoroughly investigate the case against your loved one and work to have the case addressed in juvenile court – where it belongs.  Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney has represented hundreds of juveniles accused of crimes, including very serious crimes, and is well-versed in the law regarding juvenile crimes.

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.