June 2012 Archives

Jacksonville criminal murder trial ends with no decision

As a Jacksonville Criminal Trial Lawyer, I follow the criminal trials and their results in Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties. A recent high profile murder case this week ended in a mistrial. According to an article in the Florida Times Union, Andrew King has to have another Jacksonville trial because the jury could not come to agreement on the verdict. King has been accused of killing a twenty-two year old woman and her unborn child. The state attorney's office argued that King killed the victim because she caused relationship problems with him and his girlfriend, who was the victim's roommate. King's Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer argued that under that theory, King would have a beef with his girlfriend, not the roommate. Apparently, the whole criminal jury wasn't convinced that King was guilty of the murder and told the judge. A mistrial is a trial that ends inconclusively because the jury cannot reach a verdict. A mistrial can also be declared by the judge if there is serious misconduct during the proceedings.

According to the Jacksonville Arrest and Booking Report, the victim in King's case was Felicia Burney and was 35 weeks pregnant. She had been sharing a home with King's girlfriend, Kathleen Butler. The cause of death was stab wounds to her head and neck. Police reported that King had been acting hostile towards Burney and she had been in fear for her life. There was no signs of forced entry in the house and police believed King had possession of a set of house keys. Evidence was collected at the scene of the murder and sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Often times in a Jacksonville criminal case, items are analyzed for fingerprints and DNA. Apparently, King's DNA was found on items collected at the scene. That can be explained because it was his girlfriend's home and he had been in it several times.

When you are arrested for any crime in Duval, Clay or Nassau County, it is important to have a Duval County Lawyer experienced in conducting trials. While not every case goes to trial, you are entitled to have one and make the prosecutor prove the case against you if you wish. While not every Duval County criminal attorney is comfortable trying cases, our Jacksonville attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, has conducted many trials to favorable verdicts. Prosecutors and judges know which criminal attorneys go to trial and which don't. Assistant state attorneys know the Jacksonville criminal attorneys that will not proceed to trial and instead just "plea out" all of their clients. Don't settle for an attorney who handles criminal cases in Jacksonville who cannot handle EVERY aspect of a criminal case.

Call our Jacksonville Criminal Trial Law Firm for a FREE CONSULTATION at (904) 365-5200. The Mussallem Law Firm is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Flurry of meth lab busts in Jacksonville

Police broke up the second meth lab in six weeks at a Jacksonville motel, the latest in a string of raids cracking down on methamphetamine production in Northeast Florida. Investigators had found a meth lab in the same motel near the Clay County line in May, arresting four people in Jacksonville at that time, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. In the most recent bust, two people were arrested and police did not say whether the two cases were related. The production and use of methamphetamines is often associated with rural, outlying areas and most of the busts in Northeast Florida come in the surrounding counties, including Baker County, Clay County, Nassau County and Putnam County. But the arrests are trending upward in Duval County as it appears more and more police resources are being dedicated to fighting meth production and use. A prime example is the raid of an upscale home near the St. Johns Town Center this month where police found a meth lab inside.

Florida laws are extremely strict in meth cases and carry very serious penalties. Manufacturing methamphetamines is a second-degree felony in Jacksonville, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. In most cases, prosecutors will tack on charges like possession of chemicals for manufacturing meth (another second-degree felony) or third-degree felonies such as possession of meth and possession of felony drug equipment. Duval County third-degree felonies are punishable by up to five years in prison. And there are no Florida misdemeanors in meth cases. Regardless of how much you have, it is a felony. By comparison, a person needs to have more than double that amount - over 20 grams - of marijuana, or else the case is still a misdemeanor. Florida law now requires signatures for people to buy some products that contain the chemical to make the drug, including some over-the-counter cough medications. Police routinely scours those registries to hunt down potential labs. The production also causes a strong, recognizable odor that is toxic to people in and around the lab. That distinct odor makes tips to the police fairly common about labs in more densely populated areas, such as apartment complexes or, in some of the recent cases, a motel. And because meth manufacturing can be so dangerous to people around, the penalties are enhanced if it is produced in a residences or dwelling if children are present. Right or wrong, methamphetamines are treated differently than many street drugs and the penalties can be severe and long-lasting. Our Jacksonville Drug Crimes Attorney knows all of the possible penalties and enhancements involved with a meth charge and can advise you of all of your rights and options should you be the subject of an Jacksonville drug investigation. And if the current trends hold, expect more investigations and more charges in Jacksonville than we are accustomed to.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County drugs crimes attorney is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Cable documentary follows New York Sex Crime Unit

More than all other accusations, being accused of a sex crime in Jacksonville or anywhere else carries a lifetime of potential problems. In most of the cases I have handled as a Duval County Sex Crime Attorney, there is little to no physical evidence. All it takes is one person saying they were violated.

HBO, Home Box Office, has just released a documentary about the first prosecutor unit dedicated to sex crimes exclusively. "Sex Crimes Unit" follows district attorneys in Manhattan as they prosecute all types of sexual crimes. This Manhattan office was the first in the United States to commit a separate division to these particular crimes. The state attorney's office in Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties also has a unit, called the Special Assault Division whose attorneys handle primarily sex crimes.

There are many crimes in Jacksonville that are in the category of "sex crimes". The most commonly known crime is Duval County sexual battery or rape. In order to prove that a Jacksonville sex battery occurred, the state attorney's office must prove that the defendant committed an act with the victim in which the defendant's sexual organ penetrated or had contact with the anus, vagina or mouth of a victim without consent. The consent must be intelligent and voluntary and cannot be coerced by the defendant. The victim does not have to physically resist the attack. Most other Florida sex crimes are crimes against children. When a child makes any kind of sexual accusation in Jacksonville, the police take the child to be interviewed by "experts" at the First Coast Child Protection Team. These interviews are supposed to be free of suggestion and the workers take the child's word as true. At that point, the police will attempt to speak to the person accused of the sex crime. When contacted by a sex crime detective in Jacksonville, immediately contact an experienced Jacksonville Sex Crime Attorney. As I have written in prior blogs, the police are not there to help you, they are there to make an arrest in Jacksonville.

There are several different sex crimes in Florida involving children. They are crimes such as Lewd or Lascivious Battery, which means engaging in sexual activity with a child under sixteen years of age. Lewd or Lascivious Molestation means touching a child over twelve years of age but younger than sixteen in a lewd or lascivious manner. Under this Florida sex statute, the defendant cannot intentionally touch the breasts, genitals, genital area, buttocks or the clothing covering any of these body parts. There are also computer sex crimes, such as Possession of Child Pornography and Lewd or Lascivious Exhibition over the Computer. All of these crimes are Jacksonville sex felonies and if convicted, the defendant is facing prison time as well as being labeled a sex offender or sex predator for their entire life.

If you have been accused of a sex crime in Duval, Clay or Nassau County, call our experienced sex attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem at (904) 365-5200. Our Jacksonville Sex Crime Law Firm is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Court ruling could allow police to search cell phones without a warrant in Florida

A ruling this month from an appellate court in Daytona Beach would allow police to search a suspect's cell phone without first obtaining a warrant. The state argued that law enforcement should be allowed to look at the contents of the phone that they can access and should not need to get a warrant first, according to a report by First Coast News. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. The ruling opens up a serious gray area in the law, one that is becoming more and more important as technology continues to advance. A federal court that covers the Jacksonville area has already ruled that a suspect does not have to give police their code or password to unlock their phone if they do not want to.

Phones are not just phones in today's day and age. These phones often contain a person's pictures and videos; social media accounts and contacts of family and friends. Many people use their phones as a second computer and if a police officer was able to just scroll through the phone, he or she could see all recent Internet searches and sites visited, which could even include financial information. Of course, all of this type of information is available to police - if they get a warrant first. A Jacksonville criminal warrant to search a person's home or computer must be approved by the prosecutor's office and then signed by a judge. If police can satisfy a judge there is probable cause to conduct the search, then the cops can look at whatever they want. Those safeguards are there for a reason: so police cannot go on massive fishing expeditions and just conduct searches willy nilly on anyone they choose. This decision from the state court would be a step in the wrong direction in terms of protecting people's rights. A smartphone is no different from a computer these days and should be treated that way by the courts.

If you are contacted by the police conducting a criminal investigation in Duval, Clay or Nassau Counties, it is crucial that you know your rights. You have the right to remain silent and you have a right to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney. You also have the right to say no if the police ask to search your car, your home, your computer and, for now it seems, your cell phone. If police have a warrant, they can do what they want within the bounds of the warrant itself, but our experienced Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney has seen many searches where police have overstepped the scope of the search that was approved by the court. If you are being investigated for a crime, our Jacksonville criminal attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem can walk you through your rights and advise you how far police are allowed to go without a Duval County warrant. When police say "anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law," they aren't messing around. The same goes for anything they find during a search of your car or even your cell phone.

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 Warrant Attorney is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Television star arrested for domestic battery in Florida

The Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney at our Duval County Domestic Battery Law Firm has represented hundreds of people charged with all kinds of violent crimes in Florida. There are several Jacksonville crimes that are considered violent, such as Domestic Battery, Domestic Violence Assault, Aggravated Battery, etc. A man featured in the television show, "Swamp People" has been arrested in Orlando on domestic battery and assault charges. According to an article on FoxNews.com, Noces LaFont Jr. had an argument with his girlfriend that allegedly ended in him punching her and trying to burn her. The two were lodging at a hotel in the Disney area. LaFont was issued a bond and bonded out of the Orange County jail.

To be convicted of the crime of Domestic Battery in Jacksonville, the state attorney's office must prove the following elements beyond every reasonable doubt:

1. LaFont intentionally touched or hit the girlfriend against her will or

2. LaFont intentionally caused bodily harm to his girlfriend.

To be convicted of Assault in Duval County, the state attorney's office has to prove:

1. LaFont intentionally and unlawfully threatened, by word or act, to do violence to his girlfriend

2. At the time, LaFont appeared to have the ability to carry out his threat

3. The act of LaFont created in his girlfriend's mind a well-founded fear that the violence was about to take place.

If a defendant is convicted of a Jacksonville Domestic Violence charge, that person is facing up to a year in county jail as well as mandatory probation. Domestic Battery probation includes a 26 week batterers' intervention class and heavy financial penalties. If someone is convicted of Assault in Duval County, the person is facing up to 60 days in jail because assault in Jacksonville is a second degree misdemeanor.

At the time the article was written, it was unknown whether LaFont hired a Florida Criminal Attorney, but expect that he will. In addition to possible jail time and a harsh probation, being convicted of a "violent" criminal charge will follow you for the rest of your life. The government can take away your privilege to purchase firearms and future potential employers will think twice before hiring someone with a "violent" past. As a Duval Criminal Defense Counsel, when I am hired on a domestic battery case in Jacksonville, the first thing I do is conduct a thorough interview of my client. We go step by step. Often times, our Jacksonville Battery Defense Law Firm gets a call from the alleged victim in the case. He or she often tells our criminal attorney that what is contained in the police report is inaccurate and that they do not want to press charges. While it is beneficial for an alleged victim of domestic violence to say that they do not want the person charged, it is not dispositive. The state attorney can still bring the Duval battery charges if they think they can prove the case in other ways, like through pictures. That is why it is so important to talk to our experienced Jacksonville Domestic Battery Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem as soon as possible.

If you are arrested for any criminal charges in Duval, Clay or Nassau County, contact our Jacksonville Criminal Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem at (904) 365-5200. Consultations are always free and our Duval County Criminal Lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Man killed by Jacksonville police had role in 1993 slaying of Duval County corrections officer

A man shot and killed by Jacksonville police last month was one of five teens convicted in the brutal 1993 shooting of a female corrections officer. Of those five, three received life sentences, according to the Florida Times-Union. Two others testified against the group and got 15 years. One of those two was Thomas McMullen. McMullen was wanted in an apartment complex shooting last month and, after being chased by police and refusing to show his hands and surrender, was shot and killed by a veteran Jacksonville police officer. McMullen did not have a gun on him, but police found one two blocks away on the path of the chase and said he likely threw it during the foot chase, the newspaper reported. McMullen, 32, was 14 when he and four others tried to rob two women in a convertible. The driver, a Duval County corrections officer, pulled a gun and the boys ended up shooting and killing her.

The case shows the disparities in sentencing and that they aren't always based on the propensity for someone to reoffend. McMullen was released from prison in 2008 and had been arrested three times since, though he was only convicted once, according to the newspaper. His reduced sentence, as many are, was based solely on the fact that he testified in court against the rest of the boys involved. The state rewarded him for his cooperation with the reduced sentence. Now, McMullen was very young at the time, and he and the other 14-year-old involved got the reduced sentences. The shooter was 13 and the other two involved were 16 and 18. The 1993 shooting rattled some in the community because the boys were just riding on bikes looking for people to rob; the corrections officer happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. There was no connection between the killers and the victim. The state was under pressure to make arrests in Duval County and make the charges stick and the passenger in the officer's car was also shot, though she recovered. Prosecutors must have needed more evidence, and they got it in the form of McMullen and the other 14-year-old.

Friendships have a funny way of losing their importance when people are looking at spending the rest of their lives in prison. People often turn against each other in these situations and police can often have a way of making a suspect think everyone else is pointing the finger at them and their only way out is to start talking, too. If you or a loved one is facing a charge with multiple suspects, you need an experienced Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney who is looking out for you - and only you. Our Jacksonville violent crimes lawyer has represented hundreds of clients who've been implicated with friends or other people and will lay out all of your options so you or your loved one can make the best decision 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, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County Violent Crimes Lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to discuss your criminal matter. Our Duval County Criminal Law Firm represents people charged with crimes in Duval, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns Counties.


New law in Louisiana demands status update for registered sex offenders

Our Jacksonville Sex Crime Law Firm keeps tabs on criminal law changes, especially sex crime legislation around the country. A newly passed law in Louisiana will make registered sex offenders post their status on social media websites. A report on CBS news says the law aims to punish the offender with this law the same way it punished someone for not registering in the first place. The law takes effect in August and requires an offender to put their criminal histories online.

Sex offenders and predators in Florida must register their names, social security numbers, date of birth, sex, age, weight, height, eye color, hair color, photo and address. The person has to report in person twice a year, once in their birth month and once six months later. If the sex offender does not report in person, they can be arrested for the Jacksonville sex crime of Failure to Register, which is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. To prove this Florida sex charge, the state attorney must prove that the person is, in fact, a sex offender. They must also prove that the offender knowingly failed to register either their permanent or temporary residence. "Permanent residence" is defined as a place where someone sleeps for five or more consecutive days. A "temporary residence" is defined as a place where someone sleeps for five or more days total during the year and is not the offender's permanent address.

In addition to the requirement to register in Florida, someone convicted of a sex crime in Duval County or anywhere in Florida has many other requirements that must be met. If a defendant is placed on sex offender probation in Jacksonville, there are many conditions. Some of these special probation conditions in Jacksonville include a curfew , not living within 1000 feet of places where children play (schools, day cares, parks, etc.), prohibition against contact with the victim of the sex crime, having no contact with children under 18 years of age, not being allowed to be on the internet without permission from the probation officer, not being allowed to have any pornography, keeping a driving log, submitting to mandatory sex offender counseling and mandatory polygraph exams. Being on probation for any sex related crime in Duval, Clay or Nassau County is very difficult. If you violate any condition, you will be arrested for a violation of probation and subjected to the same amount of time you were facing on the original criminal charge.

If you have been arrested for any type of sexual crime in Jacksonville, Clay County or Nassau County, call Victoria "Tori" Mussallem immediately. Our Duval County Sex Crime Attorney has represented hundreds of people accused of sexual misconduct. Call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200. Our Jacksonville Sex Law Firm is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville newspaper examines another 20-year minimum mandatory in a "warning shot" case

A judge in Clay County tried to take the "mandatory" out of a "minimum mandatory" sentence for an elderly man who fired two warning shots, but was instead shot down himself by a higher court. Ronald Thompson, a 65-year-old Keystone Heights man, was convicted by a jury in 2010 of four counts of aggravated assault with a firearm in Clay County, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police said Thompson was at a neighbor's home visiting a woman and fired two shots into the ground near a teenager and his friends after the teen got in an argument with his grandmother. Because Thompson fired a weapon, he was subject to a 20-year minimum mandatory sentence under Florida's 10-20-Life laws. But the trial judge disagreed, sentencing Thompson to three years in prison - the last offer on the table before the case went to trial. The state appealed that sentence and it was overturned by the 1st District Court of Appeal in Tallahassee. The judge then filed an order mandating that State Attorney Angela Corey herself attend a December 2011 sentencing hearing. The state again cried foul to the higher court and asked for the judge to be pulled off the case, the newspaper reported. The court agreed and another judge in Clay County sentenced Thompson to 20 years in March.

The standoff is the boldest Northeast Florida pushback against the 10-20-Life laws, which have garnered media attention and protests in recent months. The most high-profile case was of Marissa Alexander, a woman who said she was a Jacksonville domestic assault victim and fired a warning shot at her now ex-husband but was sentenced to a mandatory 20 years in prison. In Florida, if a firearm is used in commission of a felony the following minimum mandatory sentences apply: 10 years for showing a gun, 20 years for firing a gun and up to life if someone is hurt or killed. Prosecutors have the right to waive those minimum mandatories, but have rarely done so under Corey, who in 2008 took over as state attorney for Clay County, Duval County and Nassau County. Judges and criminal defense attorneys have argued that the laws take the discretion out of the judges' hands - which was clearly the case in the Thompson aggravated assault case. Prosecutors argue that if the cases go to trial, the price of poker goes up - especially if a jury of ones' peers finds the defendant guilty. One often unknown fact in criminal law is the jury is not told of the punishment a person faces during a trial - nor are they even told if it is a Clay County felony or a misdemeanor. The purpose is so the jurors follow the letter of the law and nothing else. But you could make the argument that both the Thompson and Alexander juries may have gone another direction if they knew both were looking at 20 years in prison. The Thompson case shows that even a judge is powerless in minimum mandatory cases. In these serious Duval, Clay and Nassau County gun crimes, the defendant must think long and hard about whatever deal the state is offering, knowing there is no wiggle room at sentencing. Our Clay County Gun Crimes Lawyer is well-versed in the Florida minimum mandatory gun laws and can help lay out all of your options, including taking the case to trial.

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

Wife of Sandusky comes to his defense in sex case

As a Jacksonville Sex Crime Attorney, I follow high profile sex charge cases and the case against Jerry Sandusky is about as high profile as it gets. Sandusky is currently on trial for numerous sex crime accusations. Although Sandusky himself did not take the stand in his own defense, his wife, Dottie, did. According to an article on Fox News, she told the Pennsylvania criminal jury that contrary to what the alleged victims said, she never saw or heard anything resembling bad or sexual behavior between these boys and her husband. Dottie Sandusky also testified about the alleged victim's personalities and her observations of the boys.

In Duval County Sex Cases and in the Sandusky case itself, there is often little or no physical evidence linking a defendant to the alleged victim. Often times, it only takes a child telling someone they were touched. In many Jacksonville Sex cases, the case starts with the child telling a caregiver, such as a parent or teacher, that something inappropriate happened. At that point, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office is called and the child is brought to The University of Florida First Coast Child Protection Team. At that location, the child is interviewed by a child protection worker and that interview is videotaped if the child is younger than a teenager. If the child is over twelve years of age, it is not recorded. No reason has been given as to why there is a difference, but as a Jacksonville Sex Crime Attorney, I think it is helpful to see and hear exactly what a child says did or did not happen. The Jacksonville sex crime detective assigned to the case is usually watching this interview through a two-way mirror. If he or she has any additional questions, they instruct the child protection worker to ask it.

After the interview is completed, the detective moves to the suspect. The police will make contact with a the suspect, usually by phone, informing him or her about the sex allegations against them. At this point, tell the officer you want to speak to your Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer immediately. The officers are not there to protect your rights and are not here in your best interest. They are there to make a Jacksonville sex crime arrest. Detectives are taught in interrogation classes to tell a potential suspect anything, including lies, to make a suspect say what they want them to say. As an experienced Duval Sex Attorney, I instruct my clients to invoke their right to remain silent. I speak to the police, they do not. In most cases when I am hired prior to my client speaking to the police, I am able to prevent my client from being arrested on a sex charge in Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties. Even if you have already spoken to the police, it is imperative to also speak to a Duval County Criminal Attorney.

Our Jacksonville Trial Lawyer, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, has represented hundreds of people charged with sex crimes in Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties. In addition to successfully having many of these serious criminal charges dropped, she has proceeded to trial and achieved many successful outcomes. Sex crime accusations are extremely serious and you need a serious sex crime trial lawyer who has actually represented clients at trial. Some Jacksonville attorneys have not conducted a trial for a client in years, if ever. Call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 today for a free consultation. Our Jacksonville Criminal Attorney is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

St. Johns County police make arrests at three open house parties

Shortly after school lets out and the kids are no longer worried about finals and papers, some Jacksonville-area police departments heighten their awareness of partying by teen-agers. And parents need to be aware that they can be held criminally responsible if parties with drugs or alcohol being consumed by minors happen under their watch. St. Johns County police busted three parties in the past week, according to a report in the St. Augustine Record. In one case in Fruit Cove, police came to a house and saw teen-agers in the front with plastic cups and saw them run when police arrived, some into the home, the newspaper reported. Police asked the 51-year-old homeowner about the party and he said he was asleep and didn't know it was going on. He was arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and holding an open house party in St. Johns County. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida punishable by up to a year in jail. Holding an open house party in Florida is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail.

The house party charge is more commonly applied in cases like this, and was also charged in the two other busts this month, the newspaper reported. The stakes are raised if someone is hurt or killed as a result of the party. For example, if a teen drives drunk after consuming alcohol at an open house party and either seriously injures or kills him or herself, the charge against the person in control of the residence would be elevated to a first-degree misdemeanor. In that case, the person would face up to one year in jail. There were no serious injuries reported in any of these three cases, so the standard second-degree misdemeanor would apply. In order to prove a charge of holding an open house party in Duval, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns Counties, the state must show: the person had control of the house, meaning the authority to dictate what happens there; the person allowed the party to take place; minors were either drinking or doing drugs; the person knew that type of behavior was going on, or should have known it was going on and did not take reasonable steps to prevent it. There are obviously many moving parts in a case like this and it often comes down to how much the person should have known. If, as in the Fruit Cove case, the homeowner was asleep and the alcohol, for example, was brought in after he went to bed, should he have known? That's a difficult question and one that may ultimately be put in the hands of a jury.

If police come to talk to you about an open house party at your house or apartment, the best course of action is to call a St. Johns County Criminal Defense Lawyer immediately. Many people think that a misdemeanor, especially a second-degree misdemeanor, is something they can handle on their own. But an experienced St. Johns County criminal defense lawyer could be the difference in clearing your name and having a permanent stain on your criminal record. If you or a loved one is facing an open house party charge, call our St. Johns County criminal defense attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem. Our St. Augustine Criminal Attorney has represented thousands of people charged with crimes in Jacksonville and the surrounding area. Call The Mussallem Law Firm 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation.

Man and woman arrested for child abuse when children found restrained

Child abuse cases in Jacksonville and all over the United States are considered very serious. Five children are in the government's care after two of the kids were found bound and with blindfolds over their eyes in a parking lot in Lawrence, Kansas. According to an article on abc.com, the family consisting of a man, woman and five children who were living in a car. Witnesses saw two children, five and seven years-old, outside the vehicle with their hands behind their backs and their eyes covered. The other children present were twelve, thirteen and fifteen years-old. Both the man and woman were taken into custody and arrested for child abuse and child endangerment. The man was also arrested for obstruction, which is called resisting a police officer in Jacksonville.

In Duval County, there are several crimes involving the abuse of children. The term "child" is defined as a person under 18 years of age. Jacksonville child abuse is the intention infliction of physical or mental injury on a child, an intentional act that one could reasonably expect would result in a physical or mental injury on the child or actively encouraging someone to commit acts that could hurt a child. Someone convicted of knowingly and willfully abusing a child without causing great bodily harm is facing up to five years in jail because the crime is a Jacksonville third degree felony. Duval County child abuse charges can be elevated to first degree felony if the abuse is "aggravated". Aggravated child abuse occurs when someone commits a Florida aggravated battery on a child, purposely tortures, maliciously punishes or willfully cages a child or when abusing a child the defendant causes great bodily harm or permanent disability. Child Neglect is another crime in Jacksonville, Florida. A child is criminally neglected if a caregiver fails to provide the child with the care and supervision necessary to keep the child mentally and physically healthy. Some factors to be considered are whether or not the child was given nutritious food, clothes, shelter from the elements and medical care a reasonable person would consider essential for a child. Someone convicted of Duval County child neglect without causing the child harm is looking at five years in prison because the Jacksonville crime is a third degree felony. If the child is caused great bodily harm as a result of the Jacksonville child neglect, the crime is elevated to a second degree felony punishable by up to fifteen years in prison. The only exception to the Florida child neglect law is if someone leaves a newborn child at the hospital, EMT station or fire station with no intention of coming back for the baby, this is not considered child neglect in Florida.

It is very easy to get arrested for child abuse in Jacksonville these days. When parents discipline their children, sometimes marks are left. If a teacher sees marks on the child, they are obligated to call the police and the Department of Children and Families. At that point, you are facing a criminal investigation in Jacksonville and before you speak to anyone, you need to contact a Jacksonville Child Abuse Attorney immediately. The police are not there to help you, they are there to make a Duval County arrest. Call The Mussallem Law Firm to speak to an Experienced Duval County Criminal Attorney. Our Jacksonville Child Neglect Attorney is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at (904) 365-5200.

Jacksonville-area politician arrested for DUI in Nassau County, Florida

Nassau County Commissioner Stacey Johnson found herself behind bars last weekend, arrested for driving under the influence (DUI). Johnson was arrested about 10:30 p.m. Friday, and very few details were released by police over the weekend, according to a report on News4Jax. Many in the media are rushing to judgment on Johnson, primarily because it's her second seemingly alcohol-related scrape with the law in the past three months. But the laws and procedures officers must adhere to in DUI investigations in Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties are specific and detailed, which can oftentimes lead to cases being dropped or reduced to a less serious offense, such as reckless driving in Jacksonville.

Johnson was given a warning for disorderly conduct in Nassau County after a woman punched her in the face at the Ritz-Carlton bar on Amelia Island, the television station reported. Johnson was accused of confronting a woman at the bar saying, "I just wanted you to know I deleted you off my Facebook account, you fat (expletive)," and the woman punched her, according to News4Jax. Johnson was then accused of trying to cover up the incident and announced she would not seek a second term on the commission. That first incident will likely be brought up by the prosecutors if and when negotiations begin. The state will always try to make a point about a pattern of conduct in cases like this. But the fact is that case has been resolved and Johnson is now facing only one charge - the DUI.

The most important part of Johnson's Nassau DUI case will be the traffic stop. The officer must have a reasonable suspicion that Johnson was committing a traffic infraction or crime in order for he or she to even approach the commissioner's vehicle. After the officer makes contact with you, he or she must see or detect more suspicious activity before asking you to perform field sobriety exercises. The typical reasons our Nassau County DUI Attorney has seen in police reports through the years are: red or watery eyes, a subject smelling like alcohol, slurred speech or the person swaying when he or she stood or walked. If an officer feels Johnson showed one or more of those signs, she was likely asked to perform field sobriety exercises - designed to determine if someone is too impaired to be driving. Those tests include: being asked to walk in a straight line and turn around; to stand on one leg; to stand with your legs together to test your balance; to move your arms to touch your finger to your nose and recite the alphabet or a series of numbers in order (Rhomberg Alphabet). Each individual test has various indicators of impairment and, if the officer determines enough of the criteria have been met, a DUI arrest is made.
From there, Johnson was likely asked to take a breathalyzer examination. Much will rest on her decision to either take the test or not. If she did not, she will automatically lose her driver's license for one year - though that can be appealed. But by not taking the test, it drastically reduces the evidence against available to prosecutors and often makes the case come down to the one person's word against another.

DUI cases in and around Jacksonville often come down to technical details of the traffic stop and arrest. Our Jacksonville criminal defense attorney knows the rules inside and out, and will immediately get to work dissecting the details of 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, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Jacksonville DUI lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Secure drug treatment at Duval County Jail

As a Jacksonville Drug Crime Attorney, I have represented many clients who have drug problems. If not for their drug addiction, they probably would have not been arrested in Duval County. There are a few drug treatment options for people charged with crimes in Northeast Florida. If the person arrested in Jacksonville has not been in trouble before, Duval County Drug Court is an option. Drug court is an intensive twelve to eighteen month program consisting of counseling, random urinalysis and court appearances. If the defendant completes the program, their Jacksonville criminal charges will be dropped.

Another option is called The Matrix House. This is a secure drug program that takes around four months to complete. By secure, I mean that the defendant cannot leave the facility. Matrix House is located at the Community Control building of the jail at 451 Catherine Street, Jacksonville, Florida 32202. This substance abuse treatment center is run by River Region, a drug treatment company in town. Often times, when someone is sentenced to complete the Matrix program, the person is sentenced to complete it with early release upon completion with Jacksonville Probation to follow. The main condition of this Duval County Probation is to participate in the aftercare program of Matrix.

There are several crimes that will disqualify someone from participating in the Matrix House Program. If convicted of these crimes, the program may reject someone who is otherwise qualified and in need of the services. The crimes are Jacksonville Violation of Injunction, Duval County Aggravated Assault/Battery, Aggravated Stalking, Arson, Burglary of an Occupied Dwelling, Child Abuse, Escape or Attempted Escape, Carjacking, Murder, Kidnapping, Lewd, Lascivious or Indecent Assault involving a child under 16 years of age, Robbery, Sexual Battery or any attempt to commit the previous crimes. If the defendant has been diagnosed with an underlying medical, mental or emotional disorder, the person can also be disqualified. The applicants for this Jacksonville drug treatment must live in Duval County to be Matrix eligible.

If you have been arrested in Jacksonville and think you may have a drug problem, call our Jacksonville Drug Attorney at (904) 365-5200. There are several options for you in Duval County. Call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to discuss your case with our Experienced Criminal Attorney in Jacksonville, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem. The Mussallem Law Firm is here for you.

Florida football player kicked out of diversion program for driving charge

University of Florida defensive tackle, Leon Orr, was in a diversion program for possession of marijuana and possession of paraphernalia charges in Gainesville. According to an article on ESPN.com, while in this program, he received a ticket for Florida Driving on a Suspended License, which is considered a misdemeanor crime. While in this diversion program, Orr was to pay a fine and perform community service hours. After receiving this Florida driving citation, Orr was kicked out of the program and is now facing all crimes in court. His next court date is June 21, 2012.

A Diversion Program in Jacksonville is a device used by the state attorney's office to divert cases from the criminal justice system. Once someone completes the program, their Duval County criminal charges will be dropped. There are several forms of this program and it typically reserved for first-time offenders. For Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes, the diversion program is called the Youth Offender Program. (also referred to as YOP) If you are arrested in Jacksonville as an adult, there are several diversion options available. The most common Duval County diversion program is called the Pretrial Intervention Program. (also referred to as PTI) If your Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney is able to get you into PTI, there are certain conditions that must be met. Some conditions of the pretrial diversion program are completion of community service hours, payment of restitution owed and completion of classes. Another diversion program in Jacksonville is called "Drug Court". The City of Jacksonville implemented this court to address people who have been arrested in Jacksonville for crimes they likely would not have committed if they had not been on drugs. Drug court takes from one year to 18 months to complete and includes intensive outpatient drug treatment, random testing for drugs and many court appearances.

If you have been arrested in Duval, Clay or Nassau Counties, you should talk to an experienced Northeast Florida Criminal Defense Attorney. If you are a first-time offender, you may be eligible for a diversion program. Call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 to speak to our Jacksonville Criminal Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Musallem. Our Duval Attorney is available to discuss your case 24 hours a day, 7 days a week

Jacksonville man arrested for shining laser at police airplane

A Jacksonville man was arrested in Duval County last week, accused of shining a laser light into the window of a police airplane. The man was charged with misuse of a laser pointing device, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Believe it or not, the crime is a third-degree felony in Jacksonville, punishable by up to five years in prison. The pilot said he saw a green light flash into the cockpit four times and was able to pinpoint the house where it was coming from. When police arrived at the house and began talking to the suspect's wife, they heard him run through the house and eventually found him hiding in a bathtub. He told police he didn't think the laser extended that far. The Federal Aviation Administration has had several complaints about lasers being pointed at pilots, the newspaper reported, so there is a possibility of more charges on the way. Police have not said whether or not the same man is a suspect in the other Duval County criminal cases, or if the lasers were pointed from the same general area in Jacksonville. Laser lights can be very dangerous for pilots, obstructing their vision and possibly causing a serious accident.

And it certainly doesn't help the man's case that it was a police plane that caught him. Police agencies don't take too kindly to this type of behavior and could be looking to make an example of him. He may have picked the wrong plane to mess with. Is he likely to spend five years in prison for this crime? Probably not. It sounds like a joke, but misuse of a laser pointing device is among a handful of seemingly off-the-wall crimes that can be charged in the state of Florida. There is molesting a crab trap, even molesting a vending machine (both are misdemeanors in Jacksonville). You can be charged with a DUI even if you are driving a riding lawnmower or even a golf cart. The charges are funny until they are yours. Then they become serious, especially when serious prison time is involved. Anytime you are charged with or being investigated for a crime, it is a good idea to speak with a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney right away. You may not have heard of a particular charge, but there's no doubt our Jacksonville criminal defense attorney has. We understand the severity of a criminal conviction - especially a felony - and will fully investigate any case, whether it's a murder charge, a drug crime or even misuse of a laser pointing device.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County criminal defense lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Navy man arrested in Jacksonville on aggravated assault charge

A sailor assigned to the boat, the USS Hue City, has been arrested on felony assault charges in Duval County. Jonathan Lee, according to an article in the Florida Times Union, allegedly showed his gun and threatened to shoot a fellow sailor. Police were dispatched and met with the alleged victim. The alleged victim said that he and Lee were in a strip club drinking and he urinated next to Lee's car. When the alleged victim urinated on Lee's car, "joking around" he says, Lee allegedly pulled a handgun from the trunk of the car and put the magazine in. Lee is reported to have said "If you piss on my car, I will shoot you". At that point the alleged victim said he was in fear for his life and grabbed Lee's wrist, making him drop the handgun. At that point, someone broke the two men up and Lee left the scene. JSO transported the alleged victim to the Mayport Naval Station to find Lee. Police asked for his consent to search his vehicle and Lee agreed. Law enforcement found a gun in his trunk as well as a marijuana joint in the ashtray. The police also found a loaded magazine next to the gun. Lee was then arrested in Jacksonville and posted bond in Duval County.

Lee was arrested for Jacksonville Aggravated Assault, a third degree felony and Possession of Less than 20 Grams of Marijuana, a first degree misdemeanor. To be convicted of aggravated assault in Duval County, the state attorney prosecuting the case must prove he intentionally and unlawfully threatened by word or act to do violence to the victim and have the apparent ability to do so. The victim must also have a well-founded fear that the violence is imminent. To make the Jacksonville assault charge "aggravated", it must be committed with a deadly weapon without the intent to kill or with an intent to commit a felony.

Our Jacksonville Criminal Military Defense Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, has defended members of the United States Military for years, including sailors in the Navy. Our Duval County Criminal Law Firm is proud to help those who serve us. Often times, soldiers get punished twice, once by civilian law enforcement and once by the military itself. Even if the Jacksonville criminal charges are dropped or dismissed, the United States military can mete out their own punishment. If you serve in our military and have been arrested on criminal charges in Duval, Clay or Nassau Counties, contact our Jacksonville Navy Criminal Defense Law Firm, at (904) 365-5200. The Mussallem Law Firm is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jail population swells with downtown Jacksonville courthouse opening delays

The fiasco in opening the new Duval County Courthouse in downtown Jacksonville isn't just a public relations black eye for the city, it's been grinding the justice system to a halt. The new courthouse is now set to open June 18 - though we'll believe it when we see it. If it does, the court system will be been shut down for a month, far longer than the one week closure that had been planned. During that time, the population at the Duval County jail has seen its population increase as the system has come to a halt, according to a report on News4Jax. The television station reviewed inmate records and found last week, two weeks after the courthouse was supposed to be open, there were 3,742 inmates being held in the jail. That's about 100 more than on the day the courthouse was supposed to open and left the jail just 10 percent from its maximum capacity, according to the news report. The State Attorney's Office also told the television station that at least 30 jury trials had been postponed during the delay. Thousands of Jacksonville court dates and hearings had to be rescheduled, which will make for packed calendars during the first few weeks in the new building.

And while it can seem like some cases go on forever - and some clearly take longer than they need to - there are time constraints that must be followed. For instance, once a person is arrested, they must appear before a judge within 24 hours. That is not a problem here even with the courthouse situation - those appearances are held in a jail courtroom, also called "first appearance" or J-1) and were not affected here. Another crucial deadline is after 40 days. The state, if it files an extension, has no more than 40 days to file Jacksonville criminal charges against someone who is being held in jail. If charges are not filed, a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney can ask the court to release the inmate. If the state does indeed chose to file charges, prosecutors then have 175 days (about six months) to begin a trial, unless the defendant waives that right. Many defendants do, simply to allow for further negotiations and for the Duval County defense team to prepare for a trial, but there had to be at least a few speedy trial issues crop up in what's now a month without any trials.

Our legal system is built around certain rights for people charge will crimes, and many of them have to do with specific lengths of time and deadlines. A significant slowdown or delay, as Jacksonville criminal defense lawyers are facing now, can cause major problems in making sure people's constitutional rights are respected and not violated. If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County Criminal Trial Lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

St. Johns County police officer arrested on domestic battery charge

As a Jacksonville Domestic Battery Attorney, I have read hundreds, if not thousands of arrest and booking reports associated with domestic violence charges in Florida. It is very easy to get arrested for Domestic Battery in Duval, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns Counties. Most of the time, it only takes one person telling police someone touched them. A St. Johns County sergeant, Randy Capo, learned how easy it was when he was arrested in May after someone in the neighborhood called police. According to a report in the Florida Times Union, Capo allegedly wrestled his girlfriend and hit her in the chest with his head. Capo submitted his resignation before the police department could terminate him. After hiring a St. Johns criminal defense attorney, Capo's violent charges were dropped.

There are many crimes that make up "domestic violence" charges in Jacksonville and all over Florida. Florida crimes such as assault, battery, sexual battery, aggravated assault, aggravated battery, and stalking are considered "domestic" if the victim is a family or household member of the defendant. A "family or household member" is your spouse, ex-spouse(s), people who are related to you by blood or marriage, your child's other parent or people who are living together as if a family or have done so in the past. The crime of Domestic Battery in Jacksonville and all over Florida is a first degree misdemeanor. Along with the maximum of one year in jail, domestic violence charges carry other mandatory punishments if a defendant is convicted. If you enter a plea to a domestic battery in Florida, the court must order a minimum of one year probation for the defendant to complete the Batterers' Intervention Program. A person convicted of this Jacksonville violent misdemeanor must also serve 5 days in jail unless the judge waives this requirement.

Having a Duval County domestic battery on your record will hurt you more than you know. In addition to being convicted of a crime, this is considered a violent crime. The government may prevent you from obtaining a concealed weapons permit as well as prohibit you from buying guns from gun dealers. Future employers may think you have violent tendencies and opt for someone without the criminal history. If you are arrested for any Florida violent charge, contact an experienced domestic battery attorney. Our Jacksonville Domestic Violence Attorney has handled hundreds if not thousands of domestic charges and is available to discuss your case. Call The Mussallem Law Firm for a FREE CONSULTATION at (904) 365-5200. Our Jacksonville Domestic Battery Lawyer, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Eleven Clay County teens charged with felony armed burglary in Fleming Island break-in

Prosecutors will have an interesting decision to make this week on 11 Fleming Island High School students charged with ransacking an unlocked home during Memorial Day weekend. All of the boys are 16 and 17, most of them football players at Fleming Island, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Most are charged with Florida armed burglary, a first-degree felony publishable by up to life in prison. That would be if the boys are charged as adults. And that's where the decision will come in. The authority lies with the prosecutor's office and would exponentially increase the amount of prison time the teens could be facing. The charges stem from a Memorial Day weekend incident where a family accidentally left their home unlocked while in Alabama, the newspaper reported. Police said the boys may have known the family was going to be out of town. The teens are accused of ransacking the home and stealing three guns, a gun safe, gas cards, electronics and golf clubs, the newspaper reported. The loss was estimated at over $5,000. A neighbor said they saw several cars parked near the home one night over the weekend, the newspaper reported.

Information on past criminal records for the boys was not reported by the local media, but that will likely be a huge factor in whether they are charged as adults. There are various types of juvenile sanctions that can be levied in a case like this, from time in a juvenile facility on down. All are geared with an eye on rehabilitation and helping the offender become a productive member of society once the sentence is up. That would not be the case if the boys ended up charged as adults and serving time in adult prison. They could be stuck in prison for decades. And while the charges are very serious, it could be argued they sound more severe than what actually happened. Armed burglary can be a bit of a misnomer. The charge makes it sound like a person had a gun or a knife when they committed a burglary. In many cases, including this one, that is not true. If someone takes a gun during a burglary in Clay County, that can be charged as an armed burglary. The only thing that makes it an armed burglary is if the person accused of the burglary was armed at some point during the crime. And if that weapon is a gun, as it is in this case, the crime is punishable by up to life in prison.

The number one job of a Clay County criminal Juvenile Defense Attorney in this case is to try to keep the case in juvenile court. Our Clay County juvenile crimes lawyer has represented hundreds of teens who teetered on the edge between juvenile and adult court. Oftentimes, starting the discussions early with prosecutors and building as much evidence as possible that shows this was an isolated incident can be beneficial. If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Fleming Island or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Clay County Armed Burglary Attorney is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Florida man on house arrest after being convicted of DUI manslaughter

Normally, if you are convicted of a crime and sentenced in Jacksonville, you must appeal your sentence from jail or prison. Not so for Polo heir John Goodman. According to an article in the Palm Beach Post, Goodman will remain in the comfort of his home while his DUI case is appealed. He was convicted by a jury of DUI manslaughter and sentenced to sixteen years in prison. Goodman's DUI defense attorney filed a motion asking the court to allow him to be remain free while the criminal lawyer appeals the conviction. The judge agreed, with conditions. Goodman had to pay seven million dollars in cash to get out of jail. Once released, he has to remain in his home while guarded by two police officers at a cost of $2000.00 daily. Other conditions of his Florida bond include remaining only a certain distance away from the officers at a time and going outside for only 1 hour a day.

In order to be convicted of DUI Manslaughter in Florida, including Duval, Clay, and Nassau Counties, the state attorney must prove several factors. The defendant had to be in actual control of the vehicle and while driving the car, the person's normal faculties were impaired by alcohol or drugs. As a result of driving the car, the defendant caused or contributed to the death of a person. The definition of "vehicle" in this Jacksonville DUI charge is any device in which a person can be transported on a highway. "Normal Faculties" are the defendant's ability to see, hear, walk, talk and judge distances. DUI manslaughter is a second degree felony punishable by up to fifteen years in prison. If the defendant didn't help the victim after the crash occurred, the defendant can be sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.

A defendant's release post-conviction and post-sentence doesn't happen often in Jacksonville. If someone is arrested for DUI manslaughter in Jacksonville and is found guilty after trial, the judge will immediately take that person into custody while they await sentencing. The defendant is entitled to have a Jacksonville sentencing hearing and after that hearing, the judge will make a decision about the sentence. Every disposition of a case is made in open court.

If you are arrested for DUI in Jacksonville, you should contact a Jacksonville Driving Under the Influence Attorney immediately to discuss your rights. Duval County DUI charges not only effect your criminal record, but could also cause increased insurance rates and could cause you to lose your Florida driver's license. Our DUI Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem has represented thousands of people charged with driving charges in Northeast Florida. The Mussallem Law Firm is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call our Duval County DUI Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 today.

Another long Jacksonville juvenile crime sentence gets review from a higher court

The 70-year prison sentence of a Jacksonville teen found guilty of attempted first-degree murder when he was 14 was sent to the Florida Supreme Court this week for review. The case is being reviewed following last year's U.S. Supreme Court ruling that found sentencing juveniles to life in prison for crimes other than murder was cruel and unusual punishment, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The sentenced at issue was also a Jacksonville juvenile case, where a teen convicted of armed robbery was sentenced to life in prison. His sentenced has since been reduced to 25 years. The Supreme Court ruling affected more than 200 cases, but 70 percent were in Florida, the newspaper reported, and Jacksonville has certainly had its share. The case discussed last week involves Shimeek Grindine, who was 14 when he shot a man during a Jacksonville robbery attempt in 2009.

The appellate court decision to send Grindine's case for another look centers on what exactly constitutes a life sentence in practical terms. For Grindine, he would be in his mid-80s if he did the full sentence. Even if he received gain time and did the 85 percent of the sentence most inmates actually serves, he'd get out in his mid-70s. There is was no timetable given as to when Grindine's case might be heard by the Florida Supreme Court. Interestingly, as the sentences handed down to juveniles are getting attention for their severity, more and more Jacksonville youth are seeing their cases handled in adult court, rather than in the juvenile system established for kids under the age of 18. When juveniles are charged with serious felonies, the state can do what is called a "direct file," meaning they will put the case in regular court and the defendant will face the same penalties an adult would. That practice is becoming more and more common in Northeast Florida, particularly in Clay County and Duval County.

Last year, Jacksonville prosecutors filed first-degree murder charges against Cristian Fernandez, who was 12 at the time he was accused of killing his 2-year-old half-brother. Most recently, a 16-year-old who was in the home and had drugs in his pocket when a Clay County detective was shot during a meth raid was charged as an adult with felony murder. There used to be a time where a record that stuck with you was the major concern for juveniles charged with crimes. Now, it's serious time in serious prison, and you need an experienced Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Attorney to help work through the process. Our Jacksonville juvenile lawyer has represented hundreds of youth charged with crimes and can start negotiations early in hopes of keeping the charges in juvenile court where they belong, and minimizing the long-term damage on the child's future.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County juvenile crimes lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Florida drug crimes yield more prison time according to research

While practicing as a Drug Attorney in Jacksonville, I constantly review arrests in Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties. These criminal arrests include a large number of drug crimes. According to the Pew Center on the States, the state of Florida has been sentencing drug offenders to almost 200% more time now than nearly 20 years ago. The Center looked at 35 different states and compared time in prison for all types of crimes, including theft, violence and drugs. The research found that Florida ranks first in the increase in time spent behind bars. The average time someone convicted of a drug crime in Florida is just over two years in prison, according to the report. Longer prison terms for non-violent crimes only adds to the increasing problem of prison overpopulation in Florida.

There are several different drug crimes one can be arrested for in Florida and if convicted, carry many different possible punishments. Jacksonville Misdemeanor Drug crimes include possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. Each of these crimes carries a maximum of one year in jail. There are several more Jacksonville Felony Drug Crimes. Duval County felony drug arrests include possession of controlled substances such as cocaine, heroine, more than 20 grams of pot, and pills without a prescription, sale or delivery of illegal drugs, manufacture of illegal drugs and trafficking.

With Jacksonville possession charges, the possession can be "actual" or "constructive". You "actually" possess an illegal drug if the drug is in your hand or on your body, if the drug is in a container in your hand or on your body or if the drugs are so close to you they are in your ready reach and is under your control. To "constructively" possess illegal drugs, the drugs have to be in an area over which you control. To prove this, the state attorney must prove you controlled the drugs and you knew the drugs were in your area.

If you have been arrested on drug charges in Jacksonville, Clay County or Nassau County, call an experienced Northeast Florida Drug Attorney immediately to discuss your case. The Mussallem Law Firm is available 24 hours a day 7 days a week at (904) 365-5200. Our Jacksonville Drug Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem has represented thousands of people charged with crimes.

Phone calls from the jail lead to revocation of George Zimmerman's bond in Florida

George Zimmerman is now back in jail awaiting trial on second-degree murder charges in the death of Trayvon Martin, a case in the national spotlight and being prosecuted by assistant state attorneys from the Jacksonville circuit. Zimmerman had been out, released on a $150,000 bond, until prosecutors sifted through jail phones between Zimmerman and his wife when he was locked up the first time awaiting a bond hearing, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. A judge found last week that Zimmerman and his wife conspired to hide money that had been raised for his criminal defense, a tactic used to try to get a reduced bond that would be easier for him to meet, the newspaper reported.

The plan backfired, once Duval County prosecutors pulled the phone calls, and asked the judge to revoke Zimmerman's bond. The judge sided with the state and gave Zimmerman 48 hours to report to jail. He was booked into the jail Sunday. His criminal attorneys have told various media outlets the case will not be ready for trial until sometime next year. That means Zimmerman has at least six months behind bars. Police have said he will be in a separate cell and isolated from other inmates, the newspaper reported.

The takeaway here is to never, ever, say anything about your case on a jail telephone. Never. There are warnings posted by the phone, and played at the start of phone calls, that the calls are being recorded. Many people don't think the state will actually sit down and listen to them. But they will. And, in many cases, that is where the state gets it best evidence. Maybe it's another witness who is mentioned that police didn't know about. Or it's the location of stolen goods. Or even that confession that police have been unable to squeeze out of him or her. In this case, it was about the money the state was suspicious about from the very beginning. The bond revocation is no doubt a win for the state in this case. First, it adds some urgency for Zimmerman and his team. The state always would rather have a defendant in custody to help move the case along. If the defendant is out, especially is he or she has a decent idea they will be doing some time, there is really no incentive to resolve the case. Second, and far more important, is the fact that the judge made a decision against Zimmerman, based on his belief that Zimmerman was engaged in an attempt to lie to the court. That will be brought up repeatedly by the state, you can count on it. Any crack in Zimmerman's credibility is huge because his word is the crux of his defense.

Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, shot Martin in February after he says Martin was beating him up after Zimmerman confronted him about acting suspicious in a Sanford neighborhood. Martin's family has questioned who the aggressor was in the case, as have several national civil rights leaders who've held protests in the weeks since the shooting. The case has sparked racial tensions: Martin, 17, is black; Zimmerman, 28, was born to a white father and a Hispanic mother. The state will undoubtedly argue that if Zimmerman was found to have been lying on jail phone calls, how can a jury believe him when he talks about how Martin was killed? Without the jail phone calls, Zimmerman would still be out on bond. And he'd have a better chance of winning if the case does indeed go to trial. It's not a deal breaker, but it certainly does not help. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer always specifically instructs every client not to talk about their case on the phone. To anyone. There's nothing positive that will come out of it.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County criminal lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

New York may stop some marijuana possession arrests

As a Jacksonville Marijuana Attorney, I have represented hundreds, if not thousands, of people charged with pot possession in Duval County. As views are changing about this minor drug, laws are still on the books outlawing possession of marijuana, cocaine, etc. The state of New York may soon join several other states in stopping police from arresting people for marijuana possession under a certain amount. According to an article in the NY Times, the mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, is supporting a proposed law that will make possession of less than 25 grams of pot a civil violation, not a misdemeanor. Practically, this means that NY police will no longer arrest people for having less than this amount of marijuana. In addition to having the mayor's endorsement, the city's state attorneys also back the change to the law.

If you are caught possessing marijuana in Duval, Clay or Nassau Counties, you will be arrested in some form. If you have no prior arrest or criminal history and the amount you possess is less than 20 grams, the police can issue you a "Notice to Appear". This is a document that acts as an arrest without you physically being taken downtown to the police station. You or your Jacksonville drug attorney will have to make a court date and fight this drug arrest. The police also have the discretion to arrest you, even if you possess a very small amount of pot. Often times, Jacksonville possession of pot charges are accompanied by a possession of drug paraphernalia charge.

When you possess marijuana in Florida, the crimes you can be arrested for vary based on several factors. You can be charged with misdemeanor possession of less than 20 grams of pot. This is a first degree misdemeanor and the maximum punishment is one year in jail. If you possess over 20 grams, the Jacksonville drug crime becomes a third degree felony. If you attempt or actually sell pot in Duval, Clay or Nassau Counties, this drug crime is also a third degree felony. Believe it or not, you can also possess a "trafficking" amount of pot in Florida. If you are caught with over 25 pounds of marijuana or 300 or more plants, the crime becomes a first degree felony in Florida. If the amount you possess is more than 25 pounds, but under 2,000 pounds, there is a three year minimum mandatory sentence, which means if convicted, a defendant will serve three years day for day. If the amount of pot possessed is between 2,000 and 10,000 pounds, there is a seven year minimum prison term that has to be imposed. if the amount of marijuana exceeds 10,000 pounds, there is a fifteen year minimum sentence that must be imposed.

If you are arrested for drug charges in the Jacksonville, Clay County or Nassau County areas, you should contact a Jacksonville Drug Attorney immediately to discuss your case. Having a drug charge not only carries jail or prison time, but could scar your record for the rest of your life. Call Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, our Northeast Florida Criminal Attorney, at (904) 365-5200. The Mussallem Law Firm is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Top Jacksonville Jaguars draft pick arrested for DUI; blows three times the legal limit

The star receiver the Jacksonville Jaguars picked to catch passes ended up catching his second DUI in two years last weekend in Oklahoma. Justin Blackmon, who went to college at Oklahoma State University, was charged with aggravated DUI (also referred to as Driving Under the Influence) early Sunday morning after police stopped him for going 60 mph in a 35 mph zone, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. In Oklahoma, a person can be charged with aggravated DUI if their blood-alcohol content is above .15, the newspaper reported. Blackmon blew a .24, three times above the legal limit of .08.
State laws vary on DUI charges and the state of Florida does not have a similar law elevating the charges based on blood-alcohol level, though the penalties do increase when a defendant has a "double blow," meaning .15 or higher. The most common escalators in terms of charges in Florida occur when there is an accident involved and property is damaged or people are hurt, or even killed.

Penalties also increase based on how many prior DUIs a person has. In Blackmon's case, he now has two - the first in Texas in 2010, the newspaper reported. While many defendants sometimes think the first one doesn't count because it is in the different state, that is not true. Convictions cross state lines, at least in Florida, so it doesn't much matter where his first crime occurred, it will almost certainly be treated as a second DUI.

This drunk driving arrest has sparked some concern from fans about Blackmon, whom the Jaguars traded up to pick during April's National Football League draft. And it brought back memories of four or five years ago when nary a month seemed to go by without a Jacksonville Jaguar getting arrested - mostly for DUI charges. Blackmon has not yet signed his contract, so it is not known if he will be suspended or fined in accordance with the NFL's personal conduct policy. The courts play by different rules than employers do. But, if the news reports are accurate, things don't bode well for Blackmon. Officers have a very detailed and specific set of rules they must follow in DUI arrests. First, an officer must have a reason to pull someone over to start a DUI arrest. In Blackmon's case, police said he was speeding and not able to stay in his lane, the newspaper reported. To keep the stop going, the officer must then detect a reasonable sign of impairment. Police said Blackmon smelled of alcohol and had glassy eyes, the newspaper reported. The next step is field sobriety exercises, where an officer may ask you to walk in a straight line and turn around; stand on one leg; stand with your legs together to test your balance; move your arms to touch your finger to your nose and recite the alphabet or a series of numbers in order (Rhomberg Alphabet). In Blackmon's case, officers said he was not steady on his feet and had slurred speech. The newspaper also reported that Blackmon admitted to drinking alcohol before driving. Consenting to take the breathalyzer test certainly doesn't help Blackmon's case, especially given the results. That combined with this being his second offense and the publicity driven to the case because of Blackmon's sport celebrity could make it very difficult in negotiations. That is assuming the state is even willing to talk.

But there may be issues with the stop, or the tests or something involved with the arrest. An experienced DUI attorney would be the one to have a look. Our Jacksonville DUI Lawyer has represented hundreds of clients accused of DUI and knows exactly what to look for in police reports and what to ask in depositions that could bring out potential issues 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, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County DUI attorney is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville violation of probation for curfew violation

Our Jacksonville Probation Attorney has represented hundreds of people charged with violating their probation in Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties. When you are placed on probation in Florida, you have less rights than the common citizen. There are general conditions along with special conditions of every criminal probation. Some general conditions of probation include getting or keeping your employment, observing a curfew, being subject to random urinalysis and allowing the probation officer to search your person or home at any time. Special conditions of probation depend on the underlying offense. If you are placed on DUI probation in Jacksonville, some special conditions of that probation are performing 50 hours of community service, attending Driving Under the Influence School, attending the Mothers Against Drunk Driving Victim Impact Panel, impounding your vehicle and paying a fine. If you are put on probation for Domestic Battery, a special condition would be to complete the Batterers' Intervention Program, which is a 26 week class.

In order to violate your probation, the facts of your case must demonstrate a willful and substantial violation that the prosecutor must prove by a greater weight of the evidence, or more than 50%. In a recent Florida case, man was placed on sex offender probation and violated because he was late for his curfew by 30 minutes. If you are placed on sex crime probation in Jacksonville or anywhere in Florida, there are multiple special conditions placed on you, including attending mandatory sex offender counseling, prohibited computer access, restrictions on where you can live, keeping driving logs and observing a curfew. The court, when determining whether this 30 minute violation was willful and substantial, the court must decide whether this violation indicates that probation will not work for this person. At the time of this Florida violation, the man had completed almost two years of his probation without incident. He was not charged with any new law violations and was not arrested for any other crimes. Other than being 30 minutes late, the man was otherwise compliant with all terms and conditions imposed on him. Because of these facts, the appellate court found that there was no basis for the conclusion that the probationer was unfit for probation and the revocation was unfair on these facts.

If you have been arrested in Jacksonville, Clay County or Nassau County on a violation of probation, call our Northeast Florida Probation Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Criminal Attorney is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to discuss your case.

Clay County man arrested after police say he exposed himself to undercover cops

Clay County officers sent female officers undercover to try to catch a man accused of watching passersby and neighbors, then fondling himself in their presence. The investigation started after a jogger said in February she saw a man expose himself as she went by and, when she passed back by the house again, the man's pants were at his ankles, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Female officers were then sent in plain clothes to walk or jog past the house and they say a man was hiding behind a fence, repeatedly exposing himself and fondling himself. George Hager was then arrested in Clay County last week on five counts of exposure of sexual organs. All five charges are Clay County, Florida misdemeanors, so he faces up to one year in jail on each charge. Police said they suspect there are more women out there who know about Hager and are asking more to come forward.

Typically, these types of resources are saved for crimes with more significant penalties - at least some sort of felony. For example, police will often target people buying or selling drugs, with hopes of eventually getting a higher-level drug dealer. In this Clay County Sex Crimes case, Hager is the end game, and he can only be charged with misdemeanors. The state is likely trying to stack as many cases up as possible, in hopes of multiple convictions and asking a judge to run Hager's' sentences consecutively. Consecutive sentences mean he could serve one year on the first charge and, once a year is up, the second sentence would start and so on. Concurrent sentences are far more common in Florida, which allows a defendant to serve all five sentences at one time, meaning the person would really be in jail for just one year.

The element of this case that might be surprising to people is that, as he is charged right now, Hager would not be eligible to be listed as a sex offender. Only people who are convicted of or plead guilty to felonies can be included in the Florida sex offender registry. Police told the newspaper Hager had multiple arrests on similar charges in the past. The only way Hager could be charged with a felony in Clay County is if he had exposed himself to a child under the age of 12, then it would considered a felony. The Florida sex offender registry forces all people who are convicted of or plead guilty to a felony sex offense to register their address with the local police departments. There are serious restrictions on where people can live - not within 1,000 feet of a school, for example - and every time a sex offender moves into a neighborhood, the residents who live in a certain radius are notified.

No other crime requires such a notification. Not even murder. Florida sex crimes, especially in Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties, can be the most devastating for a person's reputation and ability to move on and live a normal life. Accusations are extremely serious and require an experienced Clay County sex crimes lawyer to go over your option and consider all of the evidence the state has gathered. In many Florida sex crimes cases, it is often one person's word against another's.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Clay County or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Clay County sex crimes lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.