July 2012 Archives

Jacksonville Jaguars' top pick avoids jail time in DUI plea deal

Jacksonville Jaguars draft pick Justin Blackmon pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor DUI charge stemming from a June arrest in Oklahoma. Blackmon's blood-alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit of .08, but he received the standard sentence of probation, fines and alcohol awareness courses that most first-time Jacksonville DUI offenders receive, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Blackmon was fined $500, will have to pay court costs, serve 50 hours of community service and take courses. All phases can be completed on Probation in Jacksonville, where Blackmon was scheduled to report last week for training camp. His driver's license will also be suspended for a year, which could be reduced if he has a device installed on his vehicle that measures the alcohol level in his breath before the car will start. Blackmon was arrested for Driving Under the Influence on June 3 for driving 60 mph in a 35 mph about 3 a.m., the newspaper reported. The Drunk Driving arrest came just more than a month after the Jacksonville Jaguars selected the wide receiver from Oklahoma State University with the 5th pick in the National Football League draft. Police stopped him for speeding, said he had a smelled of alcoholic beverages and was unsteady on his feet. He blew a .24 and a second test registered a .26, the newspaper reported.

While Blackmon is legally a first-time DUI offender, this was not his first brush with the law regarding alcohol. Blackmon was arrested for DUI in 2010, but that charge was reduced to possession of alcohol by a minor, the newspaper reported. Any penalty for a second offense would hinge on a second conviction, not just a second arrest. The June case was resolved fairly quickly, taking only just six weeks to work out. Much of that was because of Blackmon's circumstances. The Jacksonville Jaguars appeared to have been waiting for the case to resolve before embarking on serious contract discussions with Blackmon. A deal was still not in place when the Jaguars began training camp last weekend.

Whether you are a professional football player, an accountant or a waiter or waitress, a Duval County DUI can have serious implications on your employment. The biggest issue will likely be your ability to drive. Even outside of the Florida DUI penalties, the Department of Motor Vehicles can suspend your license - even if your DUI is dropped or lowered to a lesser charge. Our Jacksonville DUI Attorney can help arrange a temporary license while our attorneys investigate in advance of your "Formal Review Hearing" before the DMV. You have 10 days from your arrest to request and reserve your right to a hearing. If at that hearing the DMV finds the suspension invalid, your license will be fully restored administratively - and your Jacksonville Criminal DUI case is also helped significantly. Police have a very specific set of procedures they must follow in Duval, Clay and Nassau DUI arrests, and our experienced Jacksonville DUI Attorney knows them inside and out. Our Northeast Florida DUI Lawyer will review all aspects of your case and advise you on your best options to move forward and move on from the Jacksonville arrest.

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

Car burglaries up in Jacksonville neighborhood

As a Jacksonville Criminal Lawyer, I represent people charged with all types of crimes, including Burglary in Jacksonville. Car burglaries, also referred to as Burglary to a Conveyance in Duval County, are up in one Jacksonville neighborhood. In the past week, seven cars were broken into in the apartment complex of Leigh Meadows, according to an article on News4Jax.com. Every one of the cars was unlocked, which is an invitation for a Jacksonville theft. Often times, the thieves will lift door handles looking for that one unlocked door. The act of going from car to car to steal is also referred to as "car hopping". In order to be arrested for burglary to a car in Jacksonville, all you have to do is touch the outside of the car with the intention to commit a crime therein. That crime would be a theft in Duval County.

Burglary in Jacksonville is defined in the Florida Statutes as entering or remaining in a home, structure or conveyance (car) with the intent to commit an offense once inside. A home, or dwelling, is defined as a building of any kind that has a roof over it and is designed to be occupied by people overnight. You can even be arrested in Jacksonville for burglary if you steal something out of the attached porch or carport. A "structure" means any building, temporary or permanent, that has a roof over it and is enclosed. In the case of car burglaries, a "conveyance" is defined as any motor vehicle, ship, vessel, railroad car and trailer.

Punishments for burglary in Jacksonville vary depending on whether or not there was someone was inside the home, structure or car at the time of the burglary. Any charge of Burglary is considered a felony in Jacksonville. A burglary to an unoccupied car is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Like I said above, just touching the outside of a car wanting to steal something inside can be considered a felony in Duval County. If you or a loved one has been arrested for a burglary in Jacksonville, it is extremely important to consult with an Experienced Duval County Criminal Attorney. Our Jacksonville Burglary Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, has represented hundreds of people charged with theft crimes in Northeast Florida. Call our Jacksonville Theft Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION.

"Flash rob" at Jacksonville Wal-Mart makes national headlines

Video footage of a couple hundred teens piling into a Jacksonville Wal-Mart, destroying produce and stealing snacks went viral on YouTube and was shown on television newscasts across the country. Now, police have singled out one person they are looking for in connection with the incident this month, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Jacksonville police has shown the screenshot pulled from a security video of a woman, asking the public for help identifying her. Police have not publicly stated what her role is, according to the newspaper. The teens went to the Wal-Mart after a massive house party in the area was broken up, according to the newspaper. Police later learned one of the party goers was shot and then started investigating that shooting. The woman could be wanted for questioning in relation to the shooting, or to the party. While the shooting is obviously the most serious crime and will command the most attention from police, interesting legal questions would arise should police seek to identify and try to prosecute any of the teens who stormed the store. One of them took video footage and posted it on YouTube. It's a safe bet that he or she has already had a visit from the police. Dozens of faces in the video are clearly identifiable and several other teens can be seen taking photographs or video from their cell phones.

There is some footage of fruit being smashed, and store officials reported drinks and snacks being stolen, but none of those are serious crimes. Jacksonville Criminal Mischief, essentially vandalism, is a misdemeanor, as is a Jacksonville Petit Theft - anything stolen from a store with a value of under $300. But police could try to identify more people from the store and bring people in for questioning, which would likely lead to a massive string of people either giving names of people in attendance or not talking at all. Proof of an actual crime would be difficult, but police could decide to do it more to discourage that type of behavior in the future. Police have used similar methods to identify rioters on college campuses for example, and the proliferation of cell phone cameras has made it easier to identify people than ever before. Police used to have to rely on news footage and were often unsuccessful in court in trying to get newspapers and television stations to turn over pictures and footage that were not published. Now, it seems, everyone has a camera rolling.

If police do in fact come calling to speak with the teens, they have a right to remain silent and to speak with a Jacksonville Criminal Attorney. Anytime you or a loved one thinks they may be contacted by police, it could be a tremendous benefit to speak with a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney first, just to be prepared on how the encounter with police may go. If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Jacksonville Theft Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


Jacksonville man arrested on DUI charges from April crash that sent four teens to hospital

Police arrested a Jacksonville man this week on multiple DUI charges for a St. Johns County crash that seriously injured three teen-agers and left one more with minor injuries. Brian Reynolds Peters is facing a litany of charges, including three counts of DUI causing serious injury; DUI causing injury; two counts of DUI causing property damage and a traditional DUI, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Peters is accused of running a stop light and crashing into a car with four teens inside, the newspaper reported, And even though it was one incident, charges can be made separately for each individual victim in accordance with Florida criminal statutes. For example, three of the teens were seriously injured and Peters is charged now with three counts of St. Johns County DUI causing serious injury - one for each teen. A fourth victim was not seriously injured and, for her injuries, Peters is charged with DUI causing serious injury.
He is being held at the Duval County Jail on a $36,500 bond because he was arrested in Jacksonville. He will now be booked into the St. Johns County Jail, because that is where the crime occurred and is where he will be facing charges.

Peters was not arrested for St. Johns County Driving Under the Influence immediately. He was also taken to the hospital after the crash and police were likely waiting for blood test results to come back before making DUI arrest in the case. Peter's blood-alcohol level was more than three times the legal limit of .08, according to the newspaper. A warrant for his arrest was issued July 10 and U.S. Marshalls arrested him at his home in Jacksonville a week later, according to the newspaper. He was also charged with St. Johns County possession of drugs and possession of drug paraphernalia for items he had with him at the time of the crash.

If police have a reasonable suspicion that a driver was under the influence when he or she is in a crash that causes serious bodily injury, police do not need consent to take blood to determine the person's blood-alcohol level. In a more typical Jacksonville DUI case, the suspect has more rights when it comes to dealing with the police. Typical Duval County DUI cases are also misdemeanors and first-time offenders rarely do any jail time - excluding the night of the arrest. Peters, though, is facing three Florida felonies on the DUI causing serious bodily injury charges. Each count has a maximum penalty of five years in prison. Though it is uncommon, a judge has the power to sentence Peters to 15 years, five years on each charge. Those are called consecutive sentences. In many cases, judges will use what are known as concurrent sentences, meaning the defendant serves the three sentences at the same time and, if given the maximum in Peters' case, he would serve just five years in prison.
DUI penalties rise significantly when serious injuries are involved and it is important to have an experienced Jacksonville DUI attorney to examine your case and discuss your options. Our Jacksonville DUI attorney has represented hundreds of clients on DUI charges, including those that have been elevated to felonies.

If you or a loved one needs a Criminal Defense Attorney in St. Johns County or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our St. Johns County DUI attorney is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

FDLE releases crime information for 2011

Every year, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement releases offense and arrest data for the state as a whole and for individual counties. In 2011, the total number of adults arrested in Florida was just over 950,000. Just over 87,000 juveniles were arrested for various crimes in every county, including Duval County. Reports of many crimes went down last year, including instances of rape (sexual battery), robbery and aggravated assault. There are many factors that contribute to a crime rate dropping, including reduced budgets. Less money means less police officers on the streets. Less officers on the street arrest make less arrests overall.

As a Duval County Criminal Defense Attorney, I am very interested in analyzing crime statistics in Jacksonville. Last year, Jacksonville logged a total of 44,522 crimes committed and reported. Jacksonville crime went down more than 3% from 2010. Reported Jacksonville robberies went down, Duval County rape allegations went up, Aggravated Assault charges in Jacksonville went down, Jacksonville burglary charges dropped, and Jacksonville theft charges went down. There are several law enforcement agencies that can arrest people in Jacksonville, including The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, The Atlantic Beach Police Department, Jacksonville Beach Police Department, Neptune Beach Police Department, and the University of North Florida Police Department.

Our Jacksonville Criminal Law Firm also represents people who have been arrested in Clay County. Total crime went up from 2010. Several reported crimes dropped in 2011, including rape charges, robbery cases and Clay County aggravated assault. There are several agencies that have arrest power in Clay County. These law enforcement agencies include the Clay County Sheriff's Office, Green Cove Springs Police Department and Orange Park Police Department.

Following the other counties, crime in Nassau County also dropped by 3 1/2 percent. The two types of Nassau County crime that increased were Nassau County theft charges and Grand Theft Auto Charges. The agencies that have arrest power in Nassau County are the Nassau County Sheriff's Office, the Fernandina Beach Police Department, The Nassau Division of Law Enforcement and Florida Game Commission.

Clay County police arrest 47 people after yearlong drug investigation

A special task force of the Clay County Sheriff's Office spent a year going undercover and trying to break apart illegal drug operations, resulting in 47 arrests in Clay County last week. Detectives started looking into a Middleburg neighborhood notorious for drug activity, but then spread through the entire county with help from local police departments inside Clay County and specialized state and federal agencies, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The police rolled out one man, Maurice Futch, as one of their primary targets. He's now facing multiple counts of selling cocaine, with some of the aggravators the state uses to enhance the penalties - selling the drugs within 1,000 of a school and another charge for selling within 1,000 feet of a church.

Investigations such as this Clay County drug crime investigation often resemble a pyramid. Police nab some of the drug users and lower-level dealers first, trying to monitor from surveillance whom their suppliers are, and also using the arrest and threat of major prison time to get them to spill the beans. Most of the charges in the Clay County drug sweep involve cocaine and prescription drugs - which carry incredibly stiff penalties for people caught with them. A few Oxycontin or hydrocodone pills could result in up to five years in prison. Many of those caught in this sting will be more than willing to cooperate (if they haven't already started) and the state will likely welcome the help.
First-time Clay County drug offenders on possession charges may be allowed to enter substance abuse counseling and other state-sponsored programs to avoid prison time, though those opportunities are becoming increasingly rare in Duval County, Clay County and Nassau County. Our Clay County Drug Crimes Attorney knows what options are available and can help try to negotiated acceptance into a program as part of a deal with the state. Some clients would rather just serve their time, knowing the rules in drug programs are strict and designed to make a person pay for blowing an opportunity to turn his or her life around.

You can be arrested for selling drugs even if you aren't the one doing the selling. If you have a large quantity of drugs on you when you are stopped by police, you will likely face a sale charge. For trafficking, the penalties increase dramatically - and so do the thresholds for the amount of drugs one must have one them. For marijuana, it's 25 pounds or 300 plants. For cocaine, it's more than 28 grams. For pills, it's just 4 grams - no more than a handful of pills. As prescription drugs become more common, expect more of sweeps similar to this Clay County drug investigation.

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

Two Jacksonville men among 23 arrested in statewide sweep of sexual offenders

Two Jacksonville men were back in jail after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement conducted a sweep of unregistered sex offenders. Police arrested one man in April and another in June for these Jacksonville Sex Crimes, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. State police timed the crackdown around a time where students were getting out of school and could be more likely to come in contact with a potentially dangerous sexual predator. Both men had failed to register with the police when they moved - a violation of their status as a Florida sexual offender and, in the state of Florida, separate crime in and of itself. Jacksonville failure to register as a sex offender is a third-degree Duval County felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Many defendants who are charged with failing to register as a sexual offender feel like they are being punished twice for the same crime. While there may be in fact one sexual incident that is the root of the offense, failure to register is a separate crime. And the stakes are generally high.

In most criminal cases in the state of Florida, a length of a sentence is at least partially based on sentencing guidelines. The guidelines factor in the type of crime and the defendant's criminal record, especially the severity of previous crimes. So, in a failure to register case, everyone charged with that has also either pleaded to or been convicted of a Jacksonville sex crime. And the seriousness of that crime almost guarantees sentencing guideline to be at least a year in prison, likely much more. Judges are often reluctant to give a sentence that is not within those guidelines and must provide a legal reason for doing so. A sex crime conviction in Jacksonville or anywhere in Florida carries with it enormous penalties and obligations, including the registration requirement. Sex crimes are the only crime that, if you are convicted, allows the state to broadcast your history every time you move to a new neighborhood, alerting everyone in a certain geographic radius.

Sexual predators are not free to live wherever they choose. For example, they cannot live within 1,000 feet of a school. And authorities keep close tabs on the offenders and predators, making sure they are living where they say they are. Stings like the one that nabbed the two Jacksonville men are fairly common. Both men had two previous sex crime convictions, according to the newspaper, and likely have sentencing guidelines near the top of the five-year maximum. The consequences of a sex crimes conviction are damning and can be extremely difficult to recover from and you need an experienced Jacksonville sex crimes attorney that can help fight the charges and limit the damages to your professional and personal life.

If you or a loved one needs a Sex Crime Defense Attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Experienced Duval County Sex Crimes Lawyer, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville man with lengthy criminal record charged with DUI manslaughter

A Jacksonville man picked up his 18th arrest last week, charged with Jacksonville DUI Manslaughter and vehicular homicide after an April crash that killed a passenger in his car. The Duval County arrest was the third DUI for Douglas Hippen and the judge ordered him held on a $300,000 bond, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. As expected, the local media focused on the 18 arrests in the headline for the story, and the commenters in online message boards have been having a field day ranting about how Hippen never should have been out of jail to begin with. While that may be some people's perspective, it also highlights the distinct differences between an arrest and conviction - despite the fact many people use the two terms interchangeably.

Arrests are not convictions. Period. Arrests are made typically by one officer using his or her judgment, often in the heat of an incident or along the side of a road. Convictions are made if a person admits guilt by pleading guilty or if the person is found guilty by a jury of his or her peers after a trial. The arrest is simply the first step in a Jacksonville criminal case. That is typically where a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney would enter the picture. When an arrest is first made, police often do not have all of the facts of the case they'll need before going to trial. A Duval County Criminal Defense Attorney will take their own look at all of the facts - including the encounter with police that led to the arrest. There are many examples of why an arrest doesn't result in a conviction. One is obvious - the defendant takes the case to trial and a jury finds him or her not guilty. Another factor is a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney finds enough issues with the case that the state agrees to either drop the Jacksonville criminal charge or reduce it to a lesser charge that does not carry significant jail time. That happens occasionally when a crime charged as an aggravated battery with a 15-year maximum prison sentence is reduced to a simple battery where a defendant can face now more than a year in the county jail.

People are not punished on an arrest alone, at least in terms of jail or prison time. Societally, as in Hippen's case, can be a different story. Most employers will separate the two, asking applicants if they have ever been arrested and, in a separate question, if they have been convicted of a crime. Regardless of whether a charge is eventually dropped or dismissed, the arrest is almost always still a public record. And while getting arrested is never a positive thing, getting convicted is far worse.

If you or a loved one needs an Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County violent crimes lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

"Youthful offender" sentencing to be key issue for Jacksonville teen pleading guilty to vehicular homicide

The state will seek 35 years in prison for a 16-year-old Jacksonville boy who pleaded guilty last week to Jacksonville vehicular homicide charges in connection with the death of a 22-year-old hospital employee. Zachary Lambert was being chased by police about 3 a.m. after an officer saw him driving erratically, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Four miles later, Lambert's truck sped through an intersection and hit another car, killing the 22-year-old driver. Lambert was initially charged with murder, but the charge was amended and he pleaded guilty to vehicular homicide in Duval County, according to the newspaper report. His deal with the state attorney also included guilty pleas to Jacksonville Grand Theft Auto and Jacksonville Fleeing or Attempting to Elude a Law Enforcement Officer. His Jacksonville Criminal Attorney told the newspaper she will seek a youthful offender sentence for Lambert.

A youthful offender sentence in Jacksonville, Florida is available for a judge when the defendant is 21 years of age or younger at the time of sentencing. Florida Youthful Offender sentences are a maximum of six years in prison, but are typically a combination of prison and some form of Jacksonville probation (for example, four years in prison followed by two years of Duval County house arrest). The sentences are also focused more on rehabilitation, designed to help the young men and women lead productive lives once they have served their time. Youthful offender sentences are not the same as juvenile sentences. For one, the person must be charged as an adult. Jacksonville juvenile sanctions typically only apply when a defendant is charged as a juvenile - which is happening less and less often in Clay County, Duval County and Nassau County. The second difference is youthful offender sentences extend until a defendant is 21. Once a person turns 18, they cannot be in juvenile court. So the law does allow some leniency for younger offenders - if the judge or the state decides to use it.

In the Lambert case, the state is opposing the youthful offender provision and is asking for the maximum sentence possible for what Lambert pleaded to - citing the death Lambert caused and the teen's prior criminal record. His previous charges include an aggravated assault for allegedly threatening his sister with a knife. Lambert's criminal record will be an issue. Most judges are not in the business of giving a series of chances. If a person has been spared a tougher sentence in the past or, for example, been sent to drug rehabilitation instead of prison, a judge may be more likely to drop the hammer. Sentencing hearings are essentially the trial in most cases, and our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney has represented hundreds of clients in those hearings. Our Jacksonville criminal defense attorney will lay out the case and may call family members and friends as witnesses - whatever it takes to share your side of the story and hopefully achieve the best sentence possible.

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 Criminal Defense Lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Florida Highway Patrol hunts drivers in Operation Checkered Flag

The Florida Highway Patrol spent one day last week cracking down on speeders and aggressive drivers along Interstate 95 in Northeast Florida. The FHP dubbed it Operation Checkered Flag and camped out primarily in Duval County, Nassau County and St. Johns County, according to News4Jax.com. Officers handed out more than 300 Jacksonville traffic citations - 189 of which were speed-related. Further statistics were not published but our Jacksonville Traffic Citation Attorney is pretty confident there also some Duval County arrests made and tickets issued for other violations - including Jacksonville Possession of Marijuana or other narcotics, Duval County Driving with a Suspended License, even a Jacksonville DUI (despite the hours of the operation being between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.). Duval County Traffic Stops are often the gateway to further criminal charges. Police officers will often use a traffic stop as a way to see if there are other potential issues, for example if the driver smells like he or she has been driving, or if it appears the driver or passenger are using drugs.

If an officer asks to search your vehicle, you do not have to let them - you have the right to say no. Many people feel like they don't have a choice, particularly because they don't want to say no to a police officer who can make their life difficult. That is not the case. But even if all of the cases during Operation Checkered Flag were simply Duval County traffic violations - likely for speeding - they can still be problematic if you're the one who ends up pulled over along the highway. Jacksonville Traffic Violations can be expensive, can drive up your car insurance rates and even lead to a license suspension if the violations mount up.

Jacksonville Traffic Tickets are scored on a points system, which speeding tickets carry a vary of different levels based on how fast a person is going, whether it is in a school or construction zone and host of other factors. Reckless driving is four points and leaving the scene of an accident is six points. Accumulating points can result in the following penalties:

12 points in a year: 30-day license suspension
18 points in 18 months: 3-month suspension
24 points in three years: 1-year suspension

If you simply send in a check to pay your fine, you are admitting guilt and accepting all of the penalties that come with the ticket - including the points on your driver's license, which are then reported to your insurance company. Our Jacksonville Traffic Attorney can take your ticket before a magistrate with the possibility of having the points waived or reduced.

Our Jacksonville Traffic Attorney has represented thousands of clients on Duval County traffic charges and knows how important a driver's license is for people - especially when they need to get to and from work, shuttle kids around town or whatever the case may be. If you or a loved one needs a traffic attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County Traffic Attorney is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


George Zimmerman out of jail on bond in Florida - again

The drama meter is well into the red already in the George Zimmerman Florida second-degree murder case, and the only issues in the court's hands thus far are where Zimmerman will be before the case goes to trial. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, is charged with murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a teen-ager with whom Zimmerman had an altercation with in his Sanford neighborhood. Zimmerman is claiming he was protecting himself under Florida's lenient and controversial "Stand Your Ground" law, which says someone does not have to retreat if they reasonably believe their life is being threatened. Jacksonville's elected State Attorney has been appointed as the special prosecutor in the nationally-watched case, which has reporters from across the country and all of the major television networks covering every significant hearing. This week was the second bond hearing for Zimmerman. He was initially out on $150,000 bond, but that was revoked after the judge found Zimmerman's wife lied in the first hearing about how much money the family had received in donations to its legal defense fund. This time, according to the Florida Times Union, the judge set the bond at $1 million and added restrictions that Zimmerman cannot leave Seminole County without permission from the court. He had been allowed to live out of state in a secure, undisclosed location, but the judge now perceives Zimmerman to be more of a flight risk.

Zimmerman posted bond two days later and, now that he is out again, expect the case to be delayed. It might not stall as much because of the high-profile nature of the case, but it will no doubt have an impact on when the case goes to trial. It's one of the best weapons in the state's vast arsenal and, trust our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer who knows, the state is not afraid to use it. When a person is out of jail and knows they have a significant chance of going to jail or prison, they really don't have a ton of motivation to speed things along. But, if someone is in jail, they usually either want to get out if they can by being found not guilty at a trial or want to get the sentence moving so they know what they're facing and can ride it out.

So the state does what it can to keep people in jail. Pure and simple. That's likely why prosecutors went on a fishing expedition through Zimmerman's jail phone calls after the first bond hearing. And they caught a whopper. They found Zimmerman and his wife orchestrating a lie about money that had been raised for Zimmerman's criminal defense. The judge accused Zimmerman of trying to game the system and referenced it several times in the second bond hearing. Typically, a person can be released from jail by posting 10 percent of the posted bond. So, in Zimmerman's case, that would be $100,000. Some bondsmen take less in high-profile cases such as this, and those negotiations are between the client and the bondsman.

Criminal cases are a constant back and forth struggle for an edge. Because of discovery rules, all evidence is on the table for both sides to see before a trial. So the strategic aspects - who has the upper hand in negotiations, whether the state files a minimum mandatory sentence, if the defendant is already out of jail - are all part of the power struggle. Our Jacksonville Criminal Bond Reduction Attorney can file motions to have a bond reduced, which could result in a hearing similar to the one for Zimmerman. 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 Bond Attorney is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville probation conditions

As a Duval County Probation Lawyer, I have many clients who have been placed on some kind of criminal probation in Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties. Probation is a form of court imposed sentence in a criminal case with certain conditions. Certain crimes, such as Jacksonville Driving Under the Influence and Duval County Domestic Battery carry a mandatory term of probation as part of a sentence if someone is convicted. When you are placed on Jacksonville probation, there are many rules to comply with. You can't change your residence or employment without the consent of your probation officer. You must allow the probation officer access to your home. You must report to your probation officer in person at least once a month and must answer their questions truthfully. When on your probation, you cannot violate any law and just being arrested in Jacksonville for a crime will violate your Duval County probation. You cannot use alcohol to excess and cannot be in a place where illegal drugs are present. You must have employment or be looking diligently for employment. You are not allowed to have any firearms on your person or in your home without the probation officer's consent.

When you attend your first probation appointment in Duval County, you must have government issued identification. This includes a driver's license, Florida Identification card, military identification, social security card, birth certificate, passport, voter's registration card, school identification and alien registration cards. You must also show proof of residence, which includes rental agreements, receipts, mortgage payment slips, deeds and utility bills. Proof of employment can be verified through pay stubs or tax return. If you are unemployed, you must fill out forms supplied by the Jacksonville probation office.

In addition to these general conditions, certain Florida crimes carry other "special" conditions that must be completed. If you are placed on DUI probation in Jacksonville, you must complete DUI school and complete any recommended drug or alcohol treatment as deemed necessary by an assessment counselor, immobilize your vehicle by surrendering your keys and tag or getting a boot on your car and attend the Mothers Against Drunk Driving Victim's Impact Panel. If you are placed on Domestic Battery Probation in Jacksonville, you must enroll in and complete the Batterers' Intervention Program, which includes 26 weeks of anger management classes.

If you have had your probation violated in Duval, Clay or Nassau County, call our Jacksonville Probation Violation Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Often times, our Jacksonville Probation Law Firm is able to get you back on the judge's calendar without you having to turn yourself in on the violation. Sometimes the probation officer has violated you in error. Whatever the circumstance, it is important to consult with an experienced Violation of Probation Attorney in Duval County. The Mussallem Law Firm is here to help, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Domestic battery charges dropped against St. Johns County Sheriff's deputy forced out after arrest

The domestic battery charges that led a 31-year veteran of the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office to resign rather than be fired have been dropped. The State Attorney's Office said the victim in the case has recanted her story, leaving the state without enough evidence to prosecute the case, according to a report in the St. Augustine Record. While the St. Augustine criminal case is now gone, the damage is done for Randy Wayne Capo, whose law enforcement career is likely over even though he wasn't found guilty of any crime.

Capo was arrested in St. Johns County in May after neighbors heard a disturbance and called police. At the time, his girlfriend told police Capo slammed her face into the floor several times and head-butted her in the rib cage, the newspaper reported. The two had been struggling over Capo's cell phone, which he wanted back after his girlfriend accused him of cheating on her. When police arrived, the girlfriend had blood on her nose. Capo was arrested for domestic battery, which in Florida is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in jail, and was released the following day. His arrest touched off an internal investigation within the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office that recommended Capo be fired. Capo resigned before the sheriff could sign the termination papers. Unfortunately in an employment situation, workers do not have the same rights they have as citizens in the criminal justice system. Capo is innocent until proven guilty in the court system. But by the time that case played out in court, he was already assumed guilty by his employer - guilty enough that they were prepared to fire him. Capo could choose to fight the action in a civil case, and perhaps he will, but in the end he chose to resign - forced or not.

Domestic battery cases in Jacksonville are often sticky situations for the state. Alleged victims that tell police things in the heat of the moment can sometimes change their story - or even recant completely, as Capo's girlfriend did in this case. This could be because the victim is afraid of the suspect, or it could be because the victim is in fact lying. The only people that know that are the two involved. The state could decide to go forward anyway, but it doesn't play well in front of a jury to have the victim on the stand saying she doesn't want the case prosecuted. If she doesn't care, why should a jury? As challenging as it may be for Capo to piece a career back together following a domestic battery arrest, it would be infinitely more difficult after a conviction. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney has represented hundreds of domestic battery clients in Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties, many of which were "he said, she said," cases such as this. If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in St. Johns County or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our St. Johns County Domestic Battery Lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Supreme Court rules against life sentences for juveniles - even in murder cases

A United States Supreme Court ruling this week will pave the way for a resentencing in one of Jacksonville's most notorious murder cases - the 1998 killing of 8-year-old Maddie Clifton. The high court last week shot down mandatory life sentences for juveniles convicted of first-degree murder - and there are differences of opinions locally on whether or not it completely forbids any life sentence for a juvenile, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. This the second major Supreme Court ruling as it relates to juveniles in Jacksonville. The first, in 2011, was based on a Jacksonville case and abolished life sentences for juveniles convicted of anything but murder. Criminal defense attorneys argued the decision made it illegal to sentence a juvenile to life in prison for anything, though prosecutors said they interpreted it to mean judges still had the discretion to impose a life sentence, the newspaper reported. Before the ruling, anyone indicted on a first-degree murder charge, regardless of age, is subject to a mandatory life prison sentence if convicted.

The science that has been brought up repeatedly is that the brain is not fully developed to understand the consequences of such behavior. A similar finding emerged last week in the case of Cristian Fernandez, now 13, charged with first-degree murder in the beating death of his 2-year-old half-brother. The state is planning on trying Fernandez first on Jacksonville Sexual Battery Charges against another stepbrother, but a psychiatrist found Fernandez was unable to understand his Miranda rights when they were read to him - key testimony in a pending decision about whether the interviews and alleged confession will be brought in at trial.

The Supreme Court ruling also means another sentencing for Josh Phillips, convicted of brutally beating and stabbing his neighbor when he was 14 years old. He has already served 14 years in prison. The Jacksonville State Attorney at the time told the Times-Union this week that if he had it to do again, he would have left the sentencing discretion with the judge and not forced the court's hand with the mandatory life sentence. Recent high court decisions are moving toward reduced sentences for juveniles, while in Clay County, Duval County and Nassau County, the trend seems to be moving in the opposite direction. Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes are very serious and can without question have a lasting impact on the life of the youth who is charged and convicted. There are numerous options - from diversionary programs to incarceration - for teens charged with serious crimes and our Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Attorney has represented thousands of teens and knows all of the possible sentences and programs available. Our Jacksonville juvenile crimes lawyer is committed to working toward the best possible scenario so the teen can do his or her punishment that is deserved, but move on with his or her life and not have a mistake dragging them down the rest of their life.

If you or a loved one needs a Juvenile 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 Juvenile Lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

New trial for Clay County senior citizen who received mandatory 20-year prison sentence

The twists and turns in the now-well known case of Clay County man Ronald Thompson took another turn last week - this one in favor of Thompson. A judge threw out his conviction on four counts of Clay County aggravated assault stemming from a September 2009 incident, according to an article in the Florida Times-Union. The judge ruled that the jury instructions were unclear regarding the Florida justifiable use of deadly and non-deadly force. Thompson had become another prime example people cite when they argue against the use of mandatory minimum sentences, which Jacksonville-area prosecutors are filing left and right these days. Thompson was convicted of firing at least two shots into the ground in the direction of a teenager and his friends. The teenager was arguing with his grandmother, whom Thompson was there visiting, according to the newspaper.
Because the state did not waive the minimum mandatory sentence - the judge was forced by law to sentence Thompson to 20 years in prison. But that judge disagreed and sentenced him anyway to just three years - the last offer on the table from the state during negotiations. The state appealed, successfully had the judge removed from the case, and a new judge sentenced him to 20 years. But that new judge is also the one that reversed the conviction last week. Prosecutors will no doubt appeal that decision, too.

The big question now is whether the state will take the case to trial in Clay County again, or allow Thompson, who has already served close to three years in prison, to plead guilty and agree for his sentence to be the time he has already served. From a Clay County criminal defense perspective, and as a taxpayer, that is the right thing to do. There's no reason to go through another trial against an Army veteran in ill health without a violent criminal record. But many cases aren't looked at individually now. The state looks at setting precedent and preparing its playing field for future decisions. Why else would the state appeal the three-year sentence? It appears to have far less to do with Thompson's threat to society than the appearance that a judge got one over on the State Attorney's Office. Knowing the law and its ramifications is crucial for a Clay County Criminal Defense Lawyer, but knowing the relationships and politics at play is equally important. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney has represented thousands of clients and had cases with hundreds of different prosecutors. That knowledge and experience can be key when it comes to the case of you or your loved one, knowing when to push a case to trial and when the state may be willing to negotiate more than its letting on.

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 Gun Crime Lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Fireman arrested for sexual battery in Jacksonville

A fireman in Jacksonville, Florida has been arrested for a sex charge in Duval County and remains in jail on no bond. According to an article in the Florida Times Union, Daniel Evans has been accused of raping a woman in downtown Jacksonville. A witness flagged down a Jacksonville Sheriff's Office officer and told the officer a man was beating a woman in an alley between the buildings. The officer reports he saw the suspect run from the area. Police eventually found the running man, who they claim was Daniel Evans. The alleged victim was crying and lying face down. She told police she had just left a bar and was suddenly struck in the side of her head. She told police she was drug into the alley and was raped. A witness identified Evans as the suspect. Police say the firefighter was highly intoxicated.

When people, mostly men, are arrested for sexual battery or "rape" in Duval, Clay or Nassau County, it is usually the woman telling police she did not consent to the sexual contact. Under Florida law, "consent" is defined as a knowing, intelligent, and voluntary consent. If the woman does not put up a physical fight, under the law, that does not mean she consented. To be convicted of this Jacksonville Sex Crime, the state attorney has to prove that the suspect orally, anally, vaginally penetrated or has union with the sexual organ of someone without their consent. In this Duval County Sex Case, because the woman claims the suspect used actual physical force likely to cause serious personal injury, the Jacksonville sex felony is punishable by up to life in prison.

Just because someone is arrested for sexual battery in Jacksonville, that does not mean that the charges will absolutely be filed. The state attorney's office has the discretion to make a decision to file formal charges or drop the charge entirely. That is why it so important to consult with an Experienced Jacksonville Sex Attorney immediately. As a Duval County Sex Attorney, I contact and meet with the assistant state attorney assigned to the case. Our Jacksonville Sex Crime Law Firm presents information the police may have overlooked or simply did not want to hear or collect. We point out the flaws in the case and often are able to get the sex charge dropped. Contact our Jacksonville Sex Crime Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION.

Former City Council President arrested for DUI in Jacksonville

A former Jacksonville City Council president was arrested for DUI last month in a case that stems from him backing into a car at a stop sign. John D. "Jack" Webb was arrested and charged with DUI and DUI causing injury or damage to a person or property, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Both charges are Duval County misdemeanors. Webb was apparently driving near the in the Mandarin neighborhood of Jacksonville when he was at a stop sign, changed his mind and backed his truck up, according to the newspaper report. When he did so, he backed into another vehicle and police were called. The officer said he smelled alcohol coming from Webb and called in a Jacksonville DUI officer.

In Jacksonville and many other larger areas, the sheriff's office has a team of officers that specializes in DUI. Cities do this because there are extensive and specific processes that must be followed in order to make the case stand up in court. First, there has to be a reason to stop the vehicle in the first place. Generally in cases our Jacksonville DUI Attorney sees, it is because police say the driver is speeding or struggling to stay in one lane. In Webb's case, that's moot. The stop began with a Jacksonville traffic accident - typically a legitimate reason. From here, an officer must see or detect signs of impairment before asking the suspect to perform field sobriety exercises. In Webb's case, the officer smelled the odor of alcoholic beverages and called the DUI unit. The DUI officer then noted Webb had red, watery eyes and his face was flushed. Webb was taken to a well-lit parking lot for field sobriety exercises, but the results are not mentioned in the newspaper report. There were apparently signs of impairment because Webb was then arrested for Driving Under the Influence in Duval County.

Field sobriety tests in Jacksonville can 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). The discretion is then in the officer's hand as to whether or not the person has scored poorly enough, based on criteria of each test, to be arrested for DUI. Then, the suspect will be asked to take a breathalyzer test, which measures the alcohol content in a person's bloodstream. Webb, a Jacksonville attorney, did not take a breath test, according to the newspaper report. He is subject now to an automatic one-year driver's license suspension, but can appeal it. The lack of a breath test is often beneficial to Jacksonville DUI clients, though the newspaper report said Webb told the officer he had three beers at a local bar before his 10:30 p.m. arrest. Jacksonville DUI cases often come down to the technical points of the traffic stop and arrest. Our Jacksonville DUI Lawyer, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem has studied the police procedures and has represented hundreds of clients charged with this crime.

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 Lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Law in Georgia makes it a crime to remain silent about possible child abuse

Child abuse charges are serious accusations in Jacksonville and every city in the country. Allegations of violence against children are often felony charges that carry not only possible prison time, but a lifetime of having a "violent" criminal history. The state of Georgia has made it a crime to fail to report signs of child abuse on children. According to an article in The Florida Times Union, people who work with children (coaches, volunteers, scout leaders) must call the police if they suspect someone is abusing a child. If the person fails to report within twenty-four hours, that person is facing a misdemeanor charge and up to one year in jail.

While there is no specific law like this in Florida that applies to all people who work with children, teachers and doctors must report suspected child abuse to the police of the Florida Department of Children and Families. When representing a client on child abuse charges in Duval County, the case often starts with a call from a professional to the authorities. The Department, also referred to as DCF, gets involved and interviews the child. DCF will then call the police and the officer will question the child or take the child to the First Coast Child Protection Team to be interviewed. After the interview is conducted, the police will attempt to call the suspect. If you are accused of child abuse charges in Duval, Clay or Nassau County, call a Jacksonville Child Abuse Attorney immediately. Even before you speak to the police. Anything you say to them can and will be used against you.

Child abuse in Jacksonville is defined as the intentional infliction of physical or mental injury on a child, committing an intentional act that could be expected to result in physical or mental injury to the child or actively encouraging anyone to commit an act that could cause injury to a child. If convicted of this child violence charge in Florida, the maximum punishment is five years in prison. There is also an elevated abuse charge called Aggravated Child Abuse. This Jacksonville abuse charge is committed when someone commits a Jacksonville aggravated battery on a child, willfully tortures, maliciously punishes, or cages a child. You can also be convicted of this Duval County crime if your abuse of the child causes great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement. If you are convicted of an Aggravated Child Abuse in Florida, you are facing up to thirty years in prison because the charge is a first degree felony.

Our Child Abuse Attorney in Jacksonville, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem is experienced in defending people accused of committing crimes against children. She aggressively defends people charged with all crimes. Call The Mussallem Law Firm today at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Duval Abuse Attorney is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.