October 2011 Archives

Serial Flasher Arrested in Jacksonville on Sex Charges, Facing Multiple Counts

October 31, 2011

After weeks of suspicion, Jacksonville police arrested a 24-year-old man they say is the serial flasher that had been exposing himself to girls and women across town, First Coast News reports.
Composites sketches had been plastered all over the news as the incidents escalated and the suspect confessed to police, the television station reported. He is accused of driving up to girls or women in his black Volkswagen, talking to them and exposing himself while masturbating.

So far, he's charged with three counts of lewd and lascivious exhibition in Jacksonville and one count of exposure of sexual organs - but count on that number going up. Police said they know of at least six cases and top brass said at a news conference last week they wouldn't be at all surprised if more victims come forward.
Sex crimes in Jacksonville, Clay County and Nassau County are extremely serious and, once a person is accused, the court of public opinion has already made up its collective mind: guilty as charged, lock he or she up and throw away the key. Period.

Not so fast.

Our justice system provides everyone charges with a crime - yes, even sex crimes - with a right to be represented by a criminal defense attorney and, if necessary, to take the case to trial. Sex crimes in Florida in particular can be a life sentence - with a conviction placing someone behind virtual bars forever. Sex crimes are the only crimes that, if you are convicted, allow the state to broadcast your history every time you move to a new neighborhood, alerting everyone in a certain geographic radius.

Florida's laws required many people convicted of sex crimes to register as a sexual offender or predator. Those laws are complex and our Jacksonville criminal defense lawyers know the ins and outs - and how to manage the consequences and stigma that sex crimes accusations bring.

If you need a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call Mussallem & Associate, PA at 904-365-5200 for a free consultation.

For more information on this Jacksonville sex crime, see: http://www.firstcoastnews.com/news/breaking/article/224196/17/Man-Arrested-Confesses-to-Being-Area-Flasher

Identity Theft Arrest in Jacksonville Has Long-Term Consquences

October 21, 2011

News4Jax.com recently outlined a case of mistaken identity that could end up haunting the falsely accused for life.

An arrest can be a damaging thing for a person who is falsely accused. Despite pleading that the charges aren't true, police rarely listen they believe they have the right suspect. So, the only place to take those concerns is to the courthouse. Getting a fair trial can squash police malfeasance.
Jacksonville criminal defense lawyers have fought hard for years to defend clients who are innocent of the charges where the state has little evidence, but is too strong-willed to listen. This requires a jury to acquit on charges of theft in Jacksonville, drug offenses or even violent crimes.

In this case, a woman was falsely accused and falsely arrested and experts believe there will be a long-lasting effect that could haunt her for years.

A Jacksonville woman was arrested and charged with shoplifting from the Wal-Mart on Normandy Boulevard after a shoplifter seen in the video dropped a purse that had Myrick's driver's license. Police hunted her down and arrested her, until the video surveillance proved it wasn't her.

An expert said that even though she was falsely accused and not only the victim of identity theft, but also bad police work, she will not be able to live down the arrest. The expert, a former FBI agent, told the news station that she will continue to appear in law enforcement databases. So, if she gets pulled over, the officer will see the arrest and could treat her with heightened suspicion, asking if she has any stolen merchandise in her vehicle.

The woman said her driver's license got into a shoplifter's purse after she surrendered it to the Department of Motor Vehicles 10 days before the incident. The license had been reported lost by authorities.

But there are ways to fight back.

For one, a person who is arrested must hire an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense attorney as soon as possible so she can get involved in the case. That means working with police and prosecutors to dispute the charges and possibly get them dropped.

Even if they are too stubborn to drop the charges, an attorney is necessary to fight the charges before a judge or jury. And once the not guilty verdict comes in, it will be necessary to ensure your lawyer files the paperwork to seal and expunge the records leading to your arrest.

That will guarantee that records don't show up in public view, but as the expert said to the news station, it's possible that an arrest will still show up to law enforcement officers. And with the Internet, it's always possible that mug shots and information that shows up on sheriff's jail web sites could end up being preserved online forever.

That's why we have to hope that officers do their due diligence and make arrests based on solid evidence and not weak eye witnesses and hunches. Sadly, that's not always the case. They sometimes get caught up in the hunt for the arrest and don't take into consideration the effects an arrest can have on the accused.

Continue reading "Identity Theft Arrest in Jacksonville Has Long-Term Consquences" »

Ponte Vedra Beach Housewife Accused of Violation of Probation in St. Johns County

October 20, 2011

Just when you thought Quinn Gray had vanished from the scene, here she comes, on her way back into court on an alleged violation of probation. Gray, who now goes by the name Quinn Hanna, made national headlines two years ago after faking her kidnapping and trying to extort $50,000 from her husband while she ran off with her lover for the weekend.
Hanna was sentenced to seven years of Florida probation and, as part of the deal, she was to pay back the costs of the full-scale investigation police embarked when she was thought to be taken against her will. As a condition of that St. Johns County probation, Berger also ordered Hannah to receive a substance abuse evaluation and a mental health evaluation and to follow any recommended treatment; attend two AA/NA or similar-type meetings a week; consume no alcohol; have no violent contact with her ex-husband, Reid Gray, or his family; have no contact at all with her co-defendant Jasmin Osmanovic; have no contact with the media in regards to Reid Gray and the Gray children; pay $2,500 cost of prosecution; and pay $43,000 cost of investigation to the St. John's County Sheriff's Office.
If you are charged with violating terms of your probation, you need an experienced Jacksonville probation attorney that knows the ins and outs of the law.
News4Jax is reporting Hanna's probation officer is recommending she be placed on two years Florida house arrest for six probation violations - mostly involving failure to pay. Court records show she owes more than $43,000, the television station reported.
Probation violations are serious charges and can often mean you'll face the maximum amount of time you could have received before you were placed on probation. It can often be the hook the state uses to give a back-door jail sentence - setting conditions a defendant is unlikely to be able to meet.
But, for you to be found in violation, the state must prove your actions constitute a "willful and substantial" violation. This means you had to knowingly break a significant term of your probation.
First of all, Florida does not have a debtor's prison. If it did, it'd probably be full. But it doesn't, so you cannot be hauled downtown and booked on a violation for being broke.
Our Jacksonville criminal defense attorney has represented hundreds of people accused of violating their probation. We will represent you at a hearing where you can present your side of story.
In the Hanna case, for example, her probation agreement says she cannot speak to the media about her ex-husband Reid, from whom she tried to extort $50,000, or the couple's children.
Hanna provided a statement to Dateline NBC for a two-hour special the newsmagazine ran on the case last month, which her probation officer is claiming was a violation.
Hanna's attorney told the television station she didn't speak about Reid or the children, so she was well within her right.
Probation officers do not have the final say on what is or is not a violation. That's for the judge to decide.
Having a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney who knows the ins and outs of a "willful and substantial violation" is critical if you are accused of violating your probation.
If you need a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call Mussallem and Associate, PA at 904-365-5200 for a free consultation.

Former Chippendales Dancer Charged With Jacksonville Sex Crimes

October 18, 2011

News4Jax.com is reporting that a former Chippendales dancer was arrested on Jacksonville Beach recently after allegedly fondling several girls.

Aside from murder, sex crimes in Jacksonville are the most serious a person can face. In Florida, the penalties typically run from five years in prison to life in prison.
Jacksonville sex crimes attorneys have defended alleged rapists as well as teens accused of statutory rape and people who are charged with possessing child pornography. The variation in these cases makes this area of law complex and one that shouldn't be left to the average lawyer.

In this case, a 39-year-old former Chippendales dancer who lives on Jacksonville Beach was arrested after two teen girls said he grabbed them while they were at the beach recently. He now faces charges of lewd and lascivious molestation and battery on a juvenile.

The girls said they began talking with the man while sunbathing near the Jacksonville Beach pier. He later allegedly followed them into the water and told them he would teach them how to surf.

Police say that he allegedly grabbed them around their waists and touched them against their will. Authorities say it began as touching and progressed to grabbing and forceful actions.

The girls allegedly told police that they could tell he was aroused when he was touching them and once they broke free they called police. The defendant allegedly also text messaged pictures of his genitalia to the girls, though they immediately deleted the photos.

Teenagers often lack the ability to determine consequences and reason, which can cause them to make up false allegations for which they don't realize the severe penalties that can befall a person. If the defendant didn't give a statement to police and they can't confirm the touching took place if it was under water, it may be a tough case to prove.

Plus, there is no proof the man sent inappropriate text messages since they were allegedly deleted, which gives the girls less credibility. But if there is a history of a text message exchange, that means the girls gave him their phone number, which shows they were at least entertaining the idea of talking with this defendant.

It may end up being unclear exactly what happened and if anything illegal did occur. But on the face of it, it looks like a man --regardless of his former job title or history -- was arrested for talking with some teenagers on the beach.

Should a 39-year-old man be talking with 15-year-old girls on a beach? It's probably not the best decision, but it certainly isn't illegal. In cases of this nature, with such steep penalties on the line, police and prosecutors must be diligent to discover the facts and not just the assumptions.

Continue reading "Former Chippendales Dancer Charged With Jacksonville Sex Crimes" »

'Hackerazzi' Suspect Should Keep Quiet in Jacksonville Cyber Crime Case

October 17, 2011

The hottest news out of Jacksonville in a long time is the arrest of 35-year-old Christopher Chaney in connection with a computer hacking scandal that resulted in nude photos of celebrities being sent across the Internet.

The Florida Times-Union reports that Chaney will appear in court in Los Angeles on Nov. 1 to face charges as part of a 26-count indictment alleging he broke into celebrity e-mail accounts and found personal information, including photos.
But the biggest news from a criminal defense standpoint is that Chaney has, unfortunately, granted interviews to the media, during which he has apologized, which is something that definitely will be used against him.

While it may feel like a soul-cleansing act to tell the world he's sorry, it will only add more evidence for federal prosecutors to use in Los Angeles, the paparazzi capital of the world. With the world watching this case, they will use as much evidence as they can in working to convict this man.

Whether talking about computer-related cyber theft in Jacksonville, robbery, assault or any other crime, it is highly ill-advised to speak to anyone, let alone the media, before trial.

As an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer will tell you, the battle in the public is sometimes as important as the battle in the courtroom. What people read in the newspaper, see on television or watch online influences their opinion. And every person who is exposed to this case is a potential juror.

Therefore, there may be times where it is advantageous to speak with the media in an attempt to sway people into seeing both sides of the story, but that requires smart thinking and a strong strategy for how to handle it. Allowing a defendant to go out and tell the world he's sorry implies guilt and it could be used at trial or in sentencing.

The case boils down to a 35-year-old man who allegedly got into the computer accounts of actresses Scarlett Johansson and Mila Kunis along with singer Christina Aguilera. Nude photos of Johansson, along with personal information of all three were posted online.

The federal indictment against Chaney alleges that he monitored popular celebrity social networking sites, such as Twitter to be able to come up with the passwords to these accounts. Once accessed, he was able to find persona information, such as conversations about roles in films, photos and contact information.

Already facing a steep public relations battle, Chaney made it worse by granting interviews. In them, he told the media that he apologizes, that it "eats at" him and that he worries for his mother's safety. He must now worry that prosecutors in Los Angeles will use those words, along with any statements he may have made to investigators, in order to send him to prison for years or decades.

Consult with your attorney before you say anything -- either to police, a neighbor, cellmate or the media --because there's a reason you are told it "can and will be used against you in a court of law." Because it will.

Continue reading "'Hackerazzi' Suspect Should Keep Quiet in Jacksonville Cyber Crime Case" »

What Happens When You Are Arrested in Jacksonville?

October 13, 2011

Most clients call our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Law Firm after they have been arrested in Jacksonville, Clay County or Nassau County. An arrest is defined as the taking or keeping of a person in custody by legal authority in response to a criminal charge. In Duval, Clay and Nassau County, the police can "arrest" you in one of two ways. One is the traditional arrest that involves handcuffs and a trip to the police station. With some crimes, the officer can issue a Notice to Appear. A Notice to Appear is a piece of paper that acts as an arrest, but you are not taken into custody by the police. You will have to make a court date to address the criminal charge in Jacksonville. A notice to appear is normally issued to people who have never been in trouble before and the common crimes are possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana, driving on a suspended license, trespass, petit theft, and criminal mischief.

If the officer elects to actually arrest you in Jacksonville, you will be detained and transported to the Pretrial Detention Facility. Once you are there, you will be searched, fingerprinted and seen by a jail nurse. Once your medical evaluation is over, you will be told to change into the jail clothes and put on one of six floors at the jail. The police officers may try to get a statement from you about your case. You have the right to remain silent. Exercise that right! The police are not there to help you, they are there to justify their arrest. Ask to speak to a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney and don't say anything else to the police.

Within 24 hours, you will have the right to go before a judge. If you were arrested for a misdemeanor in Jacksonville, you may be able to take care of your case in first appearance court. You will be given an offer by the assistant state attorney or the judge. It is your right to enter a plea of Not Guilty. If your case is a felony in Jacksonville, you cannot resolve your case in first appearance court. The judge will issue a bond that you must post to be released or release you on your own recognizance (also called ROR). Most of the time, the judge will impose a bond on you and you will have to post 10% of the whole amount with collateral for the rest.

Once you are released from jail, your case begins. You should call a Jacksonville Criminal Attorney, a Clay County Criminal Attorney or a Nassau County Criminal Attorney as soon as possible. At Mussallem & Associate, P.A., our criminal attorney is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call today for a free consultation at (904) 365-5200.

Report of False Child Abuse in Jacksonville Lands Man in Jail

October 12, 2011

A Jacksonville man was recently jailed for making a false report of child abuse to the Florida Department of Children & Families, News4Jax.com reports.

Charges of child abuse in Jacksonville, or in this case making a false report of child abuse, are very serious allegations. Everyone knows that children are clumsy and sometimes don't have the mental capacity to understand the risks they are taking when they go too far or do too much.
But authorities sometimes over-charge in child abuse cases because they know these cases will be followed in the news media. So, rather than allow a person to "get away" with a crime, they almost always file charges. Our Jacksonville child abuse defense attorneys have seen innocent parents charged with hurting a child they would never imagine harming.

In this case, the man was sentenced to 45 days in jail after being charged with making a false report of child abuse, the TV station reports. The report doesn't detail the specifics of the charge. He was charged with a third-degree felony, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.

Filing a false report in Florida means reporting abuse, neglect or abandonment of a child to the state's child abuse hotline when the purpose of the call is to harass, embarrass or harm another person, gain financially, get the custody of a child or otherwise benefit from making the call.

DCF investigators must see the children who are allegedly abused within a certain time period according to the law and officials say that false reports, while rare, can take away from the time spent with real abuse victims.

But it's often DCF investigators that lead to charges being filed against parents. They typically get the first call to go a house where child abuse or neglect is alleged, sometimes before police are even notified. And it can be an investigator, who has no training in law enforcement, making determinations that abuse has happened.

While it appears this defendant got a good deal if the charges were actually substantiated, child abuse defendants often don't get such consideration.

According to Florida Statute 827.03, child abuse means:

  • Intentionally inflicting physical or mental pain upon a child.

  • An intentional act that could be expected to result in mental or physical injury to a child.

  • Active encouragement of another to commit acts that could result in mental or physical injury to a child.

Any parent would be quick to tell you they play with their kids, run around with their kids and sometimes even wrestle with their kids in order to entertain them. And you will see cases where this playful atmosphere turns tragic.

The key to this statute is the term "intentional." Attorneys have battled over this word for years as it means the defendant meant to commit this crime. An accident shouldn't apply. Sadly, police will charge a parent or guardian anyway and let the court system decide if the charges apply.

By that point, the defendant is already scarred, their reputation in shambles, all while their child may have been injured and dealing with recovery. It's irresponsible, but it happens every day. Don't let the state accuse you falsely of child abuse when it's undeserved.

Continue reading "Report of False Child Abuse in Jacksonville Lands Man in Jail" »

State v. Walker Shows Importance of Breath Testing Challenges in Florida

October 11, 2011

A recent case out of Iowa showcases why a motion to suppress in a criminal case is so important as well as why it is critical to have a private meeting with your Jacksonville DUI attorney once you've been arrested.

This case brings up two important points -- defendants should never make a statement to police without first talking with their lawyer and breath testing in DUI cases should always be challenged.
Being arrested for DUI in Jacksonville can be a difficult experience because most people who face the charge have never been thrust into the criminal justice system before. They now must deal with the possible penalties as well as the humiliation that can come with an arrest.

State v. Walker shows us the importance of a good attorney and what challenging a breath test can do for a defendant. In this case, an Iowa man was arrested for DUI. In a smart move, the man asked to speak with his attorney after he was charged.

Walker and his attorney spoke, but it was through an intercom in a booth separated by glass that was being monitored by police video cameras the entire time. After the two spoke, he agreed to take a breath test, which estimated his blood alcohol level was more than double the legal limit.

Once the case was being prepared for trial, the attorney filed a motion to suppress the test results because in Iowa, a defendant has a right to see and consult with his or her attorney "confidentially," similar to rules in most states. The court granted the motion.

On appeal, however, the court of appeals reversed the ruling. But the Iowa Supreme Court agreed with the trial judge, vacating the appeals court decision and ruling the police violated his rights by restricting the meeting with his attorney to a booth with a glass partition and under police surveillance.

This may have been a lucky break for the defendant if the charges were eventually dropped, but the right thing happened. When a suspect meets with his or her attorney, they have the reasonable expectation that their conversation won't be taped or viewed by police. It's called a confidential conversation for a reason.

And whether because of a similar situation or because the device is faulty, breath testing in Jacksonville DUI cases must always be scrutinized. The breath testing devices used by police in Florida are always producing incorrect readings based on the weather and manufacturing flaws.

This should not be a primary piece of evidence used by prosecutors hoping to nail a defendant to the wall. This evidence can be held out of court, giving the defendant a big advantage prior to trial and keeping a big piece of evidence away from the state.

It is important to ensure that the defendant's rights are upheld at all stages of the case. This means making certain that improperly obtained information isn't allowed to taint the jury. If witnesses aren't credible, they too should be dismissed from the case and if prosecutors aren't acting ethically in handing over evidence or police in how they acted during the investigation, the case requires a thorough review.

Continue reading "State v. Walker Shows Importance of Breath Testing Challenges in Florida" »

Domestic Battery Charges in Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties

October 10, 2011

As a Jacksonville Domestic Battery Attorney, I have represented hundreds of people who have been charged with Domestic Violence in Northeast Florida. Many of my prior clients, and their alleged victims, had no idea how serious domestic charges and a domestic battery arrest is. If the police are called out to a domestic disturbance, it is almost guaranteed that someone will be arrested. Often times, people call the police thinking that the officers will come out and separate the two parties or make the aggressor leave the house. The truth is, the officers don't want to take the chance of something violent happening when they leave. The result is, somebody is going to jail. That person is usually the one who did not call the police.

Once you are arrested for Domestic Battery the state attorney's office has to make a decision about your case. The prosecutor will discuss the circumstances of your arrest and any evidence collected with the police officer. He or she will also attempt to make contact with the alleged victim. In our Duval County Domestic Battery Law Firm, we are often contacted by the named victim in the case and that victim often times wants the domestic violence charges dropped. The alleged victim will be asked to take a class at the state attorney's office before their desires are listened to. Even then, if the prosecutor on the case thinks they can prove their case even without the cooperation of the victim, they could still proceed.

If you enter a plea to a domestic battery charge in Florida, there are certain minimum mandatory punishments. Florida law mandates that a person be adjudicated guilty (convicted) of the domestic charge, but an experienced criminal attorney could negotiate with the prosecutor and a withhold of adjudication is possible. Twelve months of probation is also mandated and you will have to complete the Batterers' Intervention Program through the Salvation Army. This is a 26 week class that must be completed to the satisfaction of the workers in charge. Homework and absolute attendance is required. If you violate the probation, you could be arrested on a violation of probation in Jacksonville and facing the same amount of jail time as your were on the domestic battery. Domestic Battery in Florida is a first degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 12 months in jail.

That is why it is so important to consult with an experienced Northeast Florida Domestic Violence Attorney if you have been arrested on battery charges in Duval, Clay, or Nassau Counties. Our Jacksonville Domestic Battery Attorney is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call us at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation.

Two Charged in Jacksonville Robbery at Local Pharmacy

October 7, 2011

News4Jax.com is reporting that two men have been arrested in connection with the robbery of a Walgreen's pharmacy.

Robbery in Jacksonville can lead to very serious penalties, especially when a weapon is used or even possessed by a person committing the crime. The defendant can be subjected to years to decades in a state prison, if convicted.
But poor state witnesses, shaky or fuzzy videos surveillance and trampled rights along the way by police can sometimes lead to charges with little evidence that can be successfully defended by an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer.

In this situation, according to the news station, two men were arrested after an officer spotted a getaway vehicle used after the Walgreen's pharmacy at Beach and University was allegedly robbed.

According to the report, the two men were arrested after a short vehicle and foot chase. Police are saying that the two 31-year-old men walked into the store, showed a weapon and stole pills from the store around 3 p.m.

After witnesses called police, a description of the getaway vehicle was put out to officers citywide. Within a few minutes, an officer spotted a vehicle that matched the description of the one used in the robbery.

Officers chased the vehicle and the men before making the arrests. Police said they found pills matching those stolen at the pharmacy on their possession when they were apprehended.

What may end up being an important part of this case is the weapon. The news story doesn't say what type of weapon was "shown" during the alleged robbery or whether police were able to find said weapon once they made their arrests.

In Florida, if a firearm is used during a felony, such as a robbery, the penalties can be enhanced. Under the state's 10-20-Life law, if a defendant has a firearm on them during a felony, they may be subjected to a minimum 10-year prison sentence. If the trigger is pulled, it's 20 and if someone is shot, it's 25 to life.

This changes everything. While robbery is already a felony punishable by years in prison if a person is convicted, adding a firearm makes the penalties that more difficult to overcome. If the weapon isn't a firearm, a person can still be charged with armed robbery as opposed to robbery, but that's still a felony.

In some cases when a person attempts to rob another person, they will act as if they have a weapon when, in fact, they don't. So, a witness will say the perpetrator had a weapon in their pants or pocket and sometimes prosecutors will attempt to charge a suspect with armed robbery when police have no proof a weapon was used. That is improper and must be closely examined.

There are many aspects of a robbery case in Jacksonville that can be torn apart by an aggressive Jacksonville criminal defense attorney. Not all cases are as they seem in the news media or as reported by police. There are often holes in the state's theory. An attorney just needs time to poke them out.

Continue reading "Two Charged in Jacksonville Robbery at Local Pharmacy" »

Florida DUI Suspect Gives Debit Card Instead of License

October 5, 2011

A man in was arrested for DUI in New Port Richey, Florida recently. Jon Baker was pulled over by the police around 2:00 a.m. after an anonymous tipster called police to report an erratic driver. When asked for his driver's license, Baker allegedly, after looking for a while, gave the police officer his bank debit card and a batteries. At that point, the police officer asked Baker to get out of his car and the car allegedly began moving backwards, as if the car was not in "park". He allegedly refused to participate in the field sobriety exercises and allegedly refused to blow into the breathilizer.

As a Jacksonville DUI Attorney, I have represented thousands of people charged with Driving Under the Influence in Duval, Clay, Nassau, and St. Johns Counties. When analyzing a DUI arrest in Jacksonville, the first thing I examine is the reason for the traffic stop. Often times, the officer will testify that the car was speeding or weaving. In Baker's case, the police found him after an anonymous tipster called police. Under Florida law, the officer has to observe some independent act by the driver that confirms the anonymous tipster's information. If independent police verification was not required, anyone could call the police on anyone and the officer could pull over people for no reason.

Once an officer makes contact with a potential DUI suspect in Jacksonville, they are looking for clues of impairment. The things they look for are slurred speech, red and watery eyes, the odor of alcohol coming from the breath or person, and delayed reactions. When an officer asks you for your driver's license and registration, they watch to see if you find it in a timely manner. If you, as Baker did, give the officer anything other than your license and registration, the officer will note that as a clue of your impairment.

If the DUI officer develops "reasonable suspicion" to believe you are driving while under the influence, he or she can ask you to perform the field sobriety exercises. These are abnormal exercises used to test your "normal" faculties, such as walking heel to toe on a line and standing on one leg for 30 seconds. It is your right to refuse to perform these exercises. The DUI officers have extensive training and have performed these exercises over and over again. As a first-time Jacksonville DUI suspect, this is the first time you have ever been asked to do these tests. If you refuse to perform the field sobriety exercises, you will most likely be arrested for DUI.

Once you are arrested for DUI in Jacksonville, you will be asked to blow into the breathilizer. It is you right to also refuse this machine test. Many people don't realize that if you blow .000, you are still under arrest for Driving Under the Influence. You will be asked to give a urine sample to be tested for drugs. You will have to bond out of jail and will be fighting a DUI charge in Duval.

New Jersey v. Henderson Shows Us Why Jacksonville Criminal Witnesses Aren't Reliable

October 4, 2011

A recent case out of New Jersey draws parallels to the problems facing defendants in cases of assault or robbery in Jacksonville.

Eye witnesses are inherently problematic because they often tell police they saw many things that lead to a person being convicted. But they often don't say that it was second- or third-hand knowledge they are passing off as fact. Other times, witnesses have a fuzzy recollection of what happened, but the police trust in them anyway, which leads to an improper arrest.
Jacksonville criminal defense lawyers have seen these problems time and time again. As the Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney Blog has reported on before, New Jersey officials recently allowed for defendants to have a pre-trial hearing in order to point out inconsistencies with witness testimony and causes -- such as police misconduct, the time of day, distance from the crime or influence of drugs and alcohol.

The New Jersey Supreme Court also has given judges the power to tell jurors -- even in the middle of trial -- about why a witness misidentification may occur. Essentially, warning jurors about problems associated with eyewitness testimony.

We remain hopeful that Florida justices listen to the rumblings going on up North. Justices there wrote that there is a "troubling lack of reliability in eyewitness identifications," which is definitely true. Many defendants in Jacksonville and elsewhere are sent to prison on the back of witness testimony that is far from rock-solid.

New Jersey v. Henderson highlights why New Jersey officials made the changes -- to hold state prosecutors accountable for their actions of bringing in weak witnesses in order to secure convictions.

In this case, a man was shot to death in 2003 at an apartment complex. A witness was present when two men forced their way into the apartment. One of them he knew, the other he didn't.

According to the state, the man identified by the witness shot the victim while the stranger held a gun to the witness in a small, dark hallway. Nearly two weeks later, police showed the witness a photo lineup from which he identified Henderson as the man who held the gun on him during the murder.

Based on that testimony, the "stranger" was convicted of reckless manslaughter, aggravated assault and weapons charges. he was sentenced to 11 years in prison, plus parole for another six years.

An appeals court reversed, saying that the identification of the suspect from a photo lineup was "suggestive" by police. The appeals court sent the case back to the trial judge to determine whether the identification may have satisfied the remainder of the test.

After the New Jersey Supreme Court made its recent ruling about eyewitness identification and the problems the state has with misidentification, the case was sent back to the trial level for a new pre-trial hearing under the state's new guidelines.

While it appears on its face Henderson shouldn't have been convicted in the first place -- by a witness who didn't identify him for two weeks after the fact, and possibly after being nudged by police officers to pick Henderson from a photo lineup -- it's good to see the system working.

Many would argue that the man deserves to be convicted. But supporters of the criminal justice system would say that the system worked because although he was wrongly convicted, there is a checks and balances system in place that caught the problems.

Continue reading "New Jersey v. Henderson Shows Us Why Jacksonville Criminal Witnesses Aren't Reliable" »