August 2012 Archives

Doctor's health could throw off case of man charged with pistol whipping a former Jacksonville Jaguar and cheerleader

August 31, 2012

As much black and white, letter-of-the-law work goes on in the criminal court system, it's sometimes easy to forget that everyone involved is human. And things happen in people's lives. That's evident in a bizarre twist in the case of a 22-year-old Jacksonville man accused of pistol whipping former Jacksonville Jaguar wide receiver Kassim Osgood and the cheerleader he was with in 2010, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. There are suggestions that the defendant, Julian Armond Bartletto, is not mentally fit to stand trial. The final hearing before Bartletto's trial is scheduled for October, and it's at that hearing that a doctor is scheduled to testify and discuss why he deems Bartletto competent and mentally fit to stand trial. But that doctor had a massive heart attack and it is not yet clear if he'll be in any sort of physical condition to take the stand - especially in a high-pressure case like this one.

If the doctor cannot testify, the court will likely try to figure out when he might be physically up to such a task. If it's going to be longer than the judge is comfortable with, he could have the option to assign a different doctor to the case. Prosecutors would undoubtedly be upset with that decision, especially because the competency is often an inexact science. And the state already has an opinion that favors its side in trying to prosecute Bartletto. Osgood and the cheerleader had been watching television in a second-floor game room of the cheerleader's parents' home when authorities said Bartletto came in pointing a gun with a plastic bag over his head, the newspaper reported. The cheerleader ran and ended up taking the man's gun, while Osgood jumped from an open window and ran to a neighbor's house and that person called 911.
Bartletto is charged with two counts each of Jacksonville armed burglary with assault and kidnapping and single counts of Jacksonville aggravated assault, armed robbery and attempted armed robbery. He faces up to life in prison if convicted of all of the charges. His competency will be the key issue and, for now, it rests on the health of a doctor who declared Bartletto fit to stand trial.

If you or a loved one needs a Gun Crime 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, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Man resentenced in 1983 Jacksonville rape case, released from prison despite prosecutors' objection

August 29, 2012

A Jacksonville man sentenced to life in prison for rape while the co-defendant who testified against him got less than a year in Duval County jail was released last week after 25 years behind bars. DNA evidence that questions Billy Joe Holton's involvement in the case brought some attention to his plight, but a Jacksonville judge said the disparity between his life sentence and the deal for the co-defendant who admitted to the same crime is what led to his decision to release Holton, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Holton was sentenced to time served, but must be on strict Duval County sex offender probation for 10 years that limits where he can live and requires frequent visits and contact with a probation officer. Holton's sentence was based partially on incorrect information as well, according to the newspaper report. Sentences are determined by what the court refers to as sentencing guidelines. Various factors, primarily the type of crime and the defendant's criminal history, are plugged into a formula to determine a numeric range of time in prison the defendant is likely to face. Judges are often hesitant to give sentences outside of the guideline range. In Holton's case, his guidelines included an armed robbery that occurred after the rape and should not have been a factor in his sentence, the newspaper reported. Without that charge on his record, Holton's guidelines would not have called for a life sentence.

Tim Smith testified that he and Holton broke into a Springfield home and both raped the woman, taking turns holding her son, the newspaper reported. They told her to lay under a blanket while they left. Police found semen on that blanket, the newspaper reported. Smith was sentenced to the seven months he'd already served in jail awaiting trial and was set free. Holton got life. But in 2009, new DNA technology was used to test the semen on the blanket and Holton was ruled out. Other attorneys are working to overturn the conviction and the judge said in court last week the DNA evidence was part of the reason he let Holton out of prison, the newspaper reported. Prosecutors asked that Holton's life sentence be upheld. The work on throwing out the conviction can continue, the important part was getting Holton out of prison first - that work can now be done on its own timeline.

Despite having the guidelines, the range is often broad and people can commit similar crimes and have vastly different sentences. Not typically life for one and time served for another, but sentencing disparities definitely exist. And, without question, if one person cooperates and provides significant information that wasn't known otherwise, the one who helps the state will get a better deal. The strategy involved in the decision to plead and negotiating a sentence rival the strategy needed during a trial, though it doesn't often get that sort of recognition from people who aren't around the courthouse every day. Our experienced Jacksonville Rape Lawyer has worked out thousands of cases and tried her share, too, and knows not just if an offer might be worth taking, but when to take it or keeping pushing.

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 Duval County Sex Lawyer, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville police bust marijuana grow house, arrest owner and take three dozen plants

August 27, 2012

A tip from a neighbor led police to a Jacksonville home where they found 36 marijuana plants and other evidence of a grow operation inside the residence. When police arrived, they smelled the odor of burning marijuana, knocked on the door and Derrick Anton Warren let the officers inside, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Once inside, police found 36 pot plants inside a bedroom, two garbage bags of freshly picked marijuana and dried processed marijuana throughout the home, as well as empty cultivation pots, the newspaper reported. Warren was arrested for Jacksonville Cultivation of Marijuana, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. While he certainly would have always faced some prison time for having large quantities of pot and plants in his home - a fairly new law passed by the Florida legislature in 2008 put an additional hurting on smaller-scale pot growers like Warren.

The law, part of a legislative crackdown on marijuana in Florida, now makes it a second-degree felony to grow 25 or more plants - a fraction of the previous threshold of 300 plants. The law, called the Marijuana Grow House Eradication Act, also made it a first-degree felony (punishable by up to 30 years in prison) to grow 25 or more plants in a home with children present, though there were no indications from the newspaper report that children were living in Warren's home. The 2008 law also makes owning a house for the purpose of cultivating, packaging and distributing marijuana a third-degree felony in Duval County, punishable by up to five years in prison. The law also made it easier for law enforcement to collect evidence - a subtle change that is important once cases get down the road for a potential trial. Police used to have to find places to store the large grow equipment, often a comprehensive labyrinth of lights and wires, to preserve it as evidence. The change in the law allowed police to simply take pictures of the equipment, making it easier to move forward from a prosecution perspective.

Time will tell how much evidence police have against Warren, outside of what they found inside his home. Police in Duval County, Clay County and St. Johns County commonly use electric utility records to help cases - sometimes even to initiate an investigation - because growing pot takes a significant amount of light and people who grow typically use several times more electricity that the average consumer. And according to what is out now, Warren appears to have voluntarily let the police inside his home. Who knows exactly how that conversation occurred, but you do not have to let police into your home unless they have a warrant to search it. And if they were only acting on a tip from a neighbor, they likely do not have had enough evidence for a judge to sign a warrant. The ideal scenario in such an instance would be for the homeowner to not let police in and immediately call a Jacksonville Marijuana Lawyer to discuss the situation.

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

Sentences fall in line for men caught traveling to meet a minor for sex in Clay County sex crime sting

August 24, 2012

Guilty pleas and sentences are now rolling in for the 19 men caught in an undercover, underage sex sting in Clay County and there appear to be few outliers in terms of the punishment. Last week, the tenth defendant in the case was sentenced to seven years in prison. He pleaded guilty to the Clay County Sex Charges of traveling to meet a minor to do unlawful acts, use of a two-way communication device to facilitate a felony and soliciting a child via computer to engage in sexual conduct, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. When he was arrested, police found drugs on him, so he also ended up pleading guilty to both possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of marijuana in Clay County, the newspaper reported. The sex charges for he and 18 other men stem from a five-day sting "Don't Play in Clay" in April where various police agencies set out to arrest men seeking sex from young girls, the newspaper reported. The Clay County Sheriff's Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement and FBI joined forces to pose as a 14-year-old girl and chat online with men interested in sex. Once the men arranged to meet her at a Fleming Island home, police were waiting for them when they arrived. Most of the men are receiving five years in prison and 10 years of Clay County sex offender probation, the newspaper reported.

The sting is similar to the now-infamous "To Catch a Predator" stings that used to air nationally on Dateline NBC. Cases like this can be fraught with entrapment issues as to who is actually initiating the meeting. But in most cases there is enough of a record built with the online chat transcripts alone that taking a case to trial and having it read out loud in court would not play well to a jury. That's why, in most cases, defendants are taking plea agreements. And what appears to be happening in this case is common for similar large busts of this nature: the precedent is set by the first couple of people who plead guilty and the rest can either fall in line or go to trial. All of the men are charged with similar sex crimes but they are not dependent on one another. This differs from a large-scale drug bust, where people are often flipping on each other and helping police in hopes of getting a reduced sentence. For the Clay County sting, police don't need Suspect 1 to help their case against Suspect 19 - it serves them no purpose. Part of the benefit an experienced Clay County Sex Crimes Attorney brings to the table is knowing when the state's best offer is going to come - and being willing to take it quickly when it does. This comes from working in the system long enough to know how different prosecutors operate, and knowing how different crimes and busts are treated - such as the "Don't Play in Clay" investigation.

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

No Jacksonville criminal charges so far after man dies in hit and run crash near Jacksonville Landing

August 22, 2012

A Jacksonville man died last week, five days after being run over by a car in a parking lot shortly after the bars closed at the Jacksonville Landing. Taylor Evans, 22, was hit by man driving a truck, apparently fleeing from a group of people chasing and beating him, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police have offered very few details in the Jacksonville hit and run case, including whether they know who the driver was, though Evans' friend told the newspaper police had spoken with the driver and have yet to file charges. Police did ask for help seeking a woman who was being hit by a man at Maverick's, the night club where Evans and others attended that evening, though police have not said if that plea from the public is in any way connected to the man accused of running Evans over.

In this case, and in any Jacksonville criminal case, the decision to file charges lies with the State Attorney's Office. Most are routine and quick decisions - the police find drugs on someone during a traffic stop, the state files Duval County Drug Possession charges and the case moves on through the system. But not all cases are that cut and dried. There appear to be many moving parts in this case. Witnesses said the driver was being chased and beaten on his way to his car, even when he was inside the car, the newspaper reported. The driver apparently tried to speed off to escape and smashed into several parked cars before he drove over Evans and kept going. The driver could clearly faces charges of Jacksonville vehicular manslaughter and leaving the scene of an accident causing a death. Vehicular manslaughter can be charged as either a Duval County misdemeanor or a felony, depending upon the severity of crime. For example, if someone is speeding and causes a crash, that is more likely to be a Florida misdemeanor, but if someone is driving under the influence at the time of the crash that kills someone, it is typically charged as a felony.

That brings up another unanswered question in this case: Was the driver intoxicated at the time of the crash? That would open up a whole separate set of possible Jacksonville DUI charges. And, of course, if the driver is the one accused of beating a woman at the club, he could face battery or domestic battery charges in Jacksonville in that incident as well, depending on the relationship with the woman involved in the incident. But what about the people chasing and beating the driver? Could they face charges in Evans' death in that Jacksonville parking lot? Believe it or not, they could. Take this hypothetical: If there was a weapon involved in the alleged beating, some people in the group could technically be charged with aggravated battery - a Jacksonville felony. And, under Florida's felony murder law, anyone committing a felony during an incident that leads to a death can technically be charged with felony murder.

This case has loads of potential issues, most notably the ability of the driver to identify which individual attacker did what. But nonetheless, serious charges could be filed for people in a number of different roles in a case like this. In a situation such as this, it is extremely important to consult with a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney immediately if you think police may be asking you questions. An Aggressive Criminal Defense Attorney can be with you, if and when you meet with police, and best advice you of your options. 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 attorney is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Appellate court says judge wrong to end sex offender probation for infamous Tampa teacher

August 20, 2012

The former Tampa teacher whose 2004 sex case involving a 14-year-old male student made international headlines was ordered back on Florida sexual offender probation by the Florida District Court of Appeal. A judge last year released Debra Lafave four years early from her sexual offender probation, granting a request made by Lafave and her criminal defense attorney, according to a report in the Tampa Bay Times. Lafave pleaded guilty in 2008 to two counts of lewd and lascivious battery and her deal called for her to serve three years of house arrest and seven years of sexual offender probation, the newspaper reported. The only catch was that Lafave had to agree to serve the entire sentence. But last year, Lafave, now 32, told the judge of her struggles working two jobs, how she is engaged to be married and has already served three years of house arrest, the newspaper reported. The judge granted her request, shortly before he retired, and left four years of probation she did not have to complete. The state opposed the early termination and appealed, arguing it set a horrible precedent and takes the teeth out of a negotiated agreement if a judge can just go in and change it whenever he or she sees fits. The appellate court sided with the state and ordered her probation reinstated. In the ruling, the court wrote: "permitting the circuit court to go behind the terms of the plea agreement would undermine the public trust and confidence in the judicial branch," the newspaper reported. Lafave will soon be scheduled to appear in court and be given instructions as to how to finish her probation.

Ending probation early, whether in Jacksonville or any other Florida city, is clearly not unheard of, but it is something that is asked for far more often than it is granted. The hook in this case is that the lengthy probation was part of what both sides - including Lafave - agreed to because the young victim's family wanted to avoid the spectacle of a trial, even though she faced up to 30 years in prison if convicted. Many, including nationally televised crime pundit Nancy Grace, hammered the initial plea agreement for being too lenient on Lafave, so prosecutors were, without question, going to fight this decision. What often gets lost in cases like this, from the perspective of a Jacksonville Sex Crimes Attorney, is the state ultimately was a part of the decision not to take the case to trial. Our Jacksonville Sex Probation Lawyer has seen when prosecutors try to hammer someone on a Duval County probation violation, for example, because they don't think the person got enough time on the original crime. Just because a prosecutor has buyer's remorse on a deal doesn't make it right to try to get even on a violation.

Our Duval County sex crimes attorney will be keeping a close eye on this case, especially if it is appealed to the Supreme Court, which Lafave's criminal defense lawyer told the newspaper is a distinct possibility. It could have serious ramifications on how plea deals are handled across the state, including in Clay County, Duval County, Nassau County and St. Johns County.

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

Confession in empty interrogation room is recorded, likely key to murder conviction

August 17, 2012

After offering little police could use in 10 hours of interviews, one sentence a 76-year-old man said to what he thought was just himself ended up playing a major role in his murder conviction last week. John Clark Smith Jr. dodged the questions of detectives and kept his cards close to the vest during hours of interrogation, but when police walked out of the room, Smith said to himself, "Uh, yeah, I killed her." That statement was recorded and played to a Jacksonville jury last week, which ended up convicting Smith of second-degree murder for shooting his niece with a shotgun in 2008, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Smith faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced next month, the newspaper reported.

There was not a ton of evidence against Smith in the case police said was an argument over money. Two of the people on the property at the time say they did not see Smith with a shotgun, nor did they see the one shot that was fired. It ended up being Smith's own recorded words that likely did him in. The case is a cautionary tale and a reminder that anything anyone says while in police custody indeed can, and will, be used against you in a court of law - as the saying goes. When police are interviewing someone - always assume that everything is being recorded. Always. One tactic police often use is they'll leave the room for an hour, even longer and just let the suspect sit in their own silence to think about what is going on. Sometimes, the defendant will say something - as Smith did. In other cases, they will break down in tears or lash out in anger. In yet other cases, the silence and wait will soften up the suspect enough that they will spill their guts when police walk back in the room. Nothing police do in these circumstances is done without a purpose and an end goal in mind. Detectives will often try to buddy up with a person in those rooms, bringing them something to eat or drink and talking to them like they are the suspect's friend. The officer is not your friend, he or she is doing their job to get you to talk and will do so by any means necessary.

There is one way for you to end the discussions. Ask for an criminal defense attorney. Once a suspect does that, police are not allowed to ask any more questions. A Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will discuss your case with you and will be present during any discussion with detectives, if you decide to continue to speak with police. Never talk to police on your own - even to what you think is an empty room.

If you or a loved one is being investigated for a crime and needs a Jacksonville Gun Crime Attorney, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County Criminal Defense Lawyer, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Officer arrested for moving marijuana in Jacksonville

August 16, 2012

A Jacksonville Sheriff's Office police officer has been arrested on pot charges in Duval County. According to a report in the Florida Times Union, Maurice Boykins was a corrections officer at the Duval County Pretrial Detention Facility. He has been accused of selling marijuana in Jacksonville to an inmate. The actual charge he was arrested for is Unlawful Compensation or Reward for Official Behavior, which is a second degree felony in Jacksonville. If convicted of this Duval felony, Boykins is facing up to fifteen years in prison.

An inmate in the Jacksonville jail told police Boykins was delivering marijuana to him. The inmate told investigators that he has been in jail for over three years and was befriended by the corrections officer. He further alleges that Boykins asked him if he smoked marijuana and the inmate said yes. Officer Boykins allegedly explained that if the inmate needed something, all he had to do was get his people on the outside to bring the drugs to the jail and he (the officer) would get it to the inmate. According to the report, Boykins gave the inmate six dime bags and the officer was paid $150.00 for each delivery. The inmate alleges that when his visitor would arrive to the inmate's floor, he or she would signal to the officer that they have a package. The inmate then watched for Officer Boykins to be alone in the control room. Once Boykins was alone, the inmate sends the visitor to the window and that is where the money and drugs are exchanged. Boykins allegedly then handed the pot to the inmate.

Jacksonville police conducted a covert operation to test the inmate's allegations. The confidential source went to the floor where Boykins worked and allegedly exchanged $150.00 for a bag of contraband. After this transaction, the officer was detained and interviewed. Police say he admitted to moving the drugs.

If you have been arrested for any drug sale charge in Jacksonville, it is important to speak to an Experienced Marijuana Attorney in Duval County. Call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Drug Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Former police officer pleads guilty to Jacksonville sex crimes against two young girls

August 15, 2012

A 25-year veteran of the Jacksonville Sheriff Office will now face up to 30 years in prison after pleading guilty to two Duval County felony sex crimes involving young girls. Richard Cannon pleaded guilty last week to Jacksonville attempted capital sexual battery and custodial sexual battery, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. One crime involved a girl under the age of 12 and the other victim was under the age of 18. Cannon was initially charged with 13 counts of various sex crimes in Jacksonville, but a deal was reached with the state to plead guilty to two of the crimes, the newspaper reported. He was arrested on these Duval County sex charges last year after victims told police of the attacks, which they said occurred between 2008 and 2011, the newspaper reported. Cannon resigned shortly after his arrest.

Following Cannon's plea in court, the prosecutor said the outcome was in the best interest of the victims because Cannon will be punished severely and the girls will not be forced into a trial where they would have to see Cannon and discuss the crimes again. This is common practice for the state, which would prefer to avoid putting sexual assault victims on the stand if possible. This also extends to depositions of child sex victims, depending on the prosecutor. Many times, if a defendant's Jacksonville criminal attorney takes the deposition of a child victim, all plea negotiations are off. This puts a defendant in a difficult spot, especially because in many Northeast Florida sex cases there is very little physical evidence - simply the word of the alleged victim versus the word of the defendant. A Jacksonville Sex Crimes Attorney will often need to hear what the victim has to say, but has to weigh that with the risk of being forced to trial in front of a jury - and juries often come into a sex crime involving a child assuming guilt, despite their inherent duty to be impartial.

This case is particularly problematic for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, having one of their own guilty of sex crimes involving young children. When Cannon, 48, is released from prison, he will have to register as a sexual predator for the rest of his life. Children are taught to trust people in certain professional roles - teachers, coaches and police officers, to name a few. Having one such as Cannon violate the public trust is a black eye for the entire sheriff's office, even though he is one of a couple thousand officers on the force. Sex crimes are treated differently than any other crimes in that the state broadcasts your whereabouts and criminal history any time you move to another home or apartment if you are a registered sexual offender or predator. The conditions also restrict where sex offenders can live in relation to schools and other places children congregate. The consequences are extremely serious and our Jacksonville Sex Crimes Attorney is experienced in sex cases, having represented hundreds of clients facing these types of charges.

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

Jacksonville police looking at juvenile interrogation policy after judge throws out statements

August 13, 2012

A ruling by a Jacksonville judge in a Jacksonville Juvenile murder case getting national attention has the Jacksonville sheriff reconsidering how his detectives interview juvenile defendants. The judge ruled last week that Cristian Fernandez did not understand he was waiving his right to an attorney during interrogations in the murder and Jacksonville sexual battery cases against him, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Fernandez, now 13, was 12 at the time of the interviews. After the ruling, Jacksonville Sheriff John Rutherford ordered his detectives to build cases against defendant 12 years old or younger on physical and forensic evidence alone and to not rely at all on any statements made to police.

The statements were seen to be very significant pieces of evidence in both cases against Fernandez, the newspaper reported. Fernandez is charged with first-degree murder in the beating death of his 2-year-old half brother and is also charged with sexually assaulting a different 5-year-old step-brother. Jacksonville state attorneys will soon decide if they'll appeal the judge's ruling. If they do, it will likely delay the Duval County sexual battery trial scheduled for Sept. 6, and the murder trial also scheduled for next month. A four-day hearing in August included testimony and reports from mental health professionals who provided their opinions on whether a 12-year-old boy with no knowledge of the criminal justice system could understand the severity of waiving his rights. The recordings have not been released, but Jacksonville criminal defense attorneys have said Fernandez refused to talk nine times before eventually agreeing to speak with detectives, the newspaper reported.

It will be interesting to see if the state decides to appeal the ruling to the 1st District Court of Appeal. The ruling opens up the discussion as to how old a defendant must be before they can understand the charges against them and the ramifications of talking to the police. Is it 12? 13? 14? That makes it fairly likely, from the perspective of a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney's perspective, that the state will appeal the decision. The decision is already having an impact on how Jacksonville police conduct their business, and they will likely want clear direction on how to move forward. Not to mention the affect the ruling has on the cases against Fernandez, one the state has been criticized heavily for in making Fernandez the youngest person ever to be charged with first-degree murder.

If you or a loved one needs a Violent Crimes 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.

Armed burglar shot in one house, held at gunpoint in another before police arrive

August 10, 2012

A Jacksonville burglary suspect picked the wrong two houses to break into last week in Arlington and it got him a trip to the hospital on his way to the Duval County jail. Alejandro Antonio Carlson used a knife to break into a home last week at 3:30 a.m., but when the 33-year-old homeowner heard her dog barking, she went downstairs and fired a round of birdshot at him, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Bloodied and injured, Carlson broke into another home, telling the women inside "they're after me" and urging her to call police. The woman's husband, a senior citizen who had triple bypass a year ago, held Carlson at gunpoint in a side room of the house until police arrived. Carlson was taken to the hospital and is now in jail, charged with Jacksonville armed burglary and assault in Jacksonville. Neither the woman who shot Carlson with birdshot, nor the man who held him at gunpoint will be charged with a crime. Given the publicity to the Stand Your Ground laws in Florida, many people might first think that law is the reason they are justified in their actions.

But it's the Castle Doctrine that protects both homeowners in this case. It's essentially the original Stand Your Ground law, but it only applies to one's home. If someone breaks into your home and there is a threat of danger, a homeowner can take reasonable and necessary actions to remove the person from their home. The law has been on the books for centuries and Stand Your Ground basically extended the right to respond with deadly force to more situations, including those outside of the home.
In this case, Carlson was clearly not invited into either home, and was there in the middle of the night after using a knife to enter the home. In the second home, he pushed a door against the woman when she tried to corralled him and then shook off her husband who tried to grab him, the newspaper reported. While the news reports don't indicate that he intentionally tried to injure either of the homeowners and he tossed the knife on the kitchen counter after entering the second home, the husband is still well within his rights to keep a gun aimed at him until police can respond to the scene.

Carlson did not get out of either home with any cash or any of the occupants' belongings, but the fact that he bruised the arms of a 68-year-old woman inside of her own home presents an uphill climb in terms of negotiations. If you or a loved one needs a Burglary 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.

Using dogs in Jacksonville Drug Cases

August 9, 2012

As a Drug Crime Attorney in Jacksonville, I have represented many Duval County criminal clients who were arrested after a drug dog sniffed their vehicle. Whether you are pulled over in Duval, Clay or Nassau County, the police must follow proper procedure before and during a traffic stop when using canines. If you are pulled over for a Traffic Violation in Jacksonville, the officer can only give you a Duval County Ticket unless he or she has a "reasonable suspicion" a crime has, is or is going to be committed. After you are stopped, an officer can have a drug dog sniff your vehicle, but the time it takes for the drug canine to arrive cannot extend beyond the time reasonable required to issue the Jacksonville traffic citation. If the dog alerts to a specific area of the car and police subsequently find drugs in your vehicle, in order for that "sniff" to be legal, the dog's reliability must be established.

When canine drug dogs are trained, they receive around ten weeks of training. During this training, the dog learns odors of illegal drugs, including cocaine, crack, methamphetamine, marijuana and heroin. In addition to detecting specific drug odors, the dogs are put to the test when other strong odors are present along with the drug smells. Certified drug dogs must have maintenance training.

When determining whether or not a canine is sufficiently reliable to alert in a Jacksonville criminal case, the court must look at the totality of the circumstances. The Jacksonville State Attorney's Office has the burden of establishing probable cause and has to give over all records about the dog to the court. The first thing that must be established is that the dog was properly trained and certified. That training has to be explained so the court can evaluate how well the dog was trained and whether the canine has ever falsely alerted during its training. The Duval County State Attorney must also show records of how the dog has performed on the street, including the canine's successes and failures. Finally, the prosecutor must show the training of the dog's officer handler.

Jacksonville police officers pull over cars all the time, but it is important to know your rights. If you have been arrested for a drug crime in Duval, Clay or Nassau Counties, call our Jacksonville Drug Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, at (904) 365-5200. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Law Firm is available to you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

ACLU wants to know how Jacksonville plans to use automatic license plate readers

August 8, 2012

In what appears to be a nationwide preemptive strike, the American Civil Liberties Union is formally asking cities and states across the country how they plan to use and store data collected by the new automatic license plate readers that are installed by law enforcement. Jacksonville is on that list, as are Miami and Tampa, as part of ACLU's records requests in Florida, according to a report on First Coast News. The civil rights group is asking for specific details on how the license plate readers will be used to track to movements of people in Duval County, the television station reported. The readers are camera mounted either on patrol cars or alongside roads on telephone poles or overpasses that snap a picture of every license plate the crosses the frame. The photos are usually timestamped and can be sent to a database, where police would theoretically be able to search for matches, or have the system alert them when a certain tag number is spotted and recorded.

The ACLU has concerns about how police agencies across the country would be using the technology to track people. Police say it is one more tool that law enforcement can use to track people wanted in serious Jacksonville crimes and could, for example, get a violent person off the streets before he or she can inflict more damage. The issue, from the perspective of a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney, becomes if the police are using the information to find people already accused of a specific crime or if they are using it to narrow in on people who frequent or live in a particular neighborhood or part of town. In reality, though, if police want to pull someone over, they will. All it takes is one sign of impaired driving - a quick swerve, driving over the speed limit - or a small violation such as a busted taillight or questionable window tint for an officer to make a traffic stop. The question is, if police make an arrest based on what they find after the stop (a Duval County DUI or perhaps drugs in the vehicle), will that traffic stop stand up in court?

The same questions will need to be asked if the use of these automatic license plate readers becomes more prevalent. Chances are, it is unlikely police will put in police reports or other records that a case was initiated based on information from one of these readers. More likely, police will include the images as one piece of a larger pool of evidence, not a cornerstone of a case. Courts, likely federal court and possibly as high as the Supreme Court, will probably be the ones deciding this issue in the future and our Jacksonville Criminal Attorney will be keeping a close eye on the ramifications on Jacksonville criminal cases.

If you or a loved one needs a Driving 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, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville gentlemen's club security guard won't be charged in triple-shooting

August 6, 2012

A security guard who shot three men in the parking lot of a Jacksonville strip club will not be charged with a Jacksonville Gun Crime for his role in the incident. But the man whom police say drove his truck at the guard, prompting the gunfire, was charged with aggravated battery in Duval County last week, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Details are still sparse in the case, but police say three men were kicked out of Wacko's gentlemen's club about 1 a.m. after getting in a fight inside the club, but they returned to the parking lot in a blue pickup truck about a half hour later. The security guard came out to check on the situation and, when he did, David Cisneros-Orozco turned the car toward him and accelerated, the newspaper reported. The guard opened fire into the car, shooting all three occupants, including one who suffered life-threatening injuries, the newspaper reported. The driver took off after the shooting and police spotted the truck in the parking lot of a nearby Taco Bell. All three men were taken to a local hospital for treatment.

Police did not cite this law in announcing the charges in the case, but this a classic example of the Florida's now-infamous Stand Your Ground law. The law, since replicated by a third of the states in the country, states that people do not have to retreat if they reasonably believe they are in fear of their life or serious bodily injury. In this case, a person who was asked to leave, chose to come back on the property and appears to deliberately drive his car at the security guard really leaves the guard without many options. He has to try to stop the car or alter its course, so he fired his gun into the car.
As a Jacksonville Gun Crime Attorney, it is interesting that the driver was only charged with aggravated battery. Local prosecutors, especially in Clay County, Duval County and Nassau County, have not been shy about filing murder charges, so it is a little surprising there was not an attempted murder charge here for Cisneros-Orozco. But that certainly doesn't mean it's not coming. Oftentimes, as a part of negotiations, the state will keep a more severe Jacksonville criminal charge in its back pocket as it tries to get a defendant to agree to plead guilty for a sentence the state is looking for. Prosecutors will often set the ground rules and outline if there isn't a deal by a certain date, the state will file an upgraded charge. In this case it would be a Jacksonville attempted murder.

The overwhelming majority of Jacksonville criminal defense cases are decided long before the case would make it to a trial and sentences are often the result of discussions between the state and the Duval County Criminal Defense Attorney. Our Jacksonville Gun Attorney has worked on thousands of cases and will be on your side in those negotiations, working for the best possible outcome, knowing that in some cases you just need to go to trial - upgraded charges or not.

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

First large-scale synthetic marijuana raid in Northeast Florida, more expected in response to new ban

August 3, 2012

Putnam County detectives conducted the first major synthetic marijuana bust on the First Coast since the increasingly popular drug was banned in Florida as of July 1.
Narcotics detectives confiscated 2,500 packets of synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or Spice, at 10 different stores, according to a report by News4Jax.com. Police did not make any arrests during the busts, instead saying this was part of the educational phase to get the product off the shelves and inform businesses that it is now illegal. The new law makes it a felony to sell the synthetic marijuana, which is often marketed as potpourri or incense. It is a Jacksonville third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Possession of synthetic marijuana is a misdemeanor, similar to possession of traditional marijuana.

There have been other raids across the state, but none that have been reported in Clay County, Duval County, Nassau County or St. Johns County. Those are likely on the way. The Putnam approach is fairly typically when a new law is first on the books. Police tend to begin with an educational campaign to make sure all of the businesses know the law and how it will be enforced. And while it seems fair and a nice gesture by authorities, what they are doing is building a record if they need it for court down the road. A judge may balk at charges if a slew of business owners are hauled into court shortly after a new law is enacted. The business owner could claim ignorance and, though that is not a defense, it may seem reasonable to the judge. But, if police can show a pattern, such as the business being raided and warned several times before the manager or owner is arrested on Florida drug charges, the charges are much more likely to stick.

This is a standard police procedure, even for laws that have been on the books for decades. For example, undercover narcotics detectives will often go back to the same street drug dealer three or four times and buy drugs before eventually arresting him or her on Jacksonville Drug Sale Charges. The result will be three or four Duval Drug Charges stacked on the same defendant. That way, if there are issues with a case in terms of a recording or some of the evidence, there are other cases to fall back on. Once the synthetic marijuana laws have been around for a few more months, expect to see police getting more aggressive in enforcement. Our Jacksonville Drug Crimes Attorney has studied the new law and will be keeping a close eye on how police react to it in Clay County, Duval County, Nassau County and St. Johns County.

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


Teacher jailed for Jacksonville sex crime investigated in 2009, but no arrest made

August 1, 2012

After a Jacksonville fourth-grade teacher was arrested in Jacksonville for six counts of lewd and lascivious contact with a child, a backlash is being directed at the Duval County School Board for keeping the suspect in a classroom despite similar accusations in 2009. Christopher Bacca, 26, a teacher at Windy Hill Elementary School in Jacksonville, is being held without a Duval County bond after his Jacksonville sex charge arrest last week, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Shortly after his Duval County Sex Charge Arrest, previous allegations that included an investigation by the Florida Department of Children and Families surfaced. The state recommended that Bacca be placed in a position with a less vulnerable student population, but he ended up back in a classroom with young children.

In the recent Jacksonville Sex Case, a boy told police he showered with Bacca and that Bacca fondled him and performed oral sex on him, the newspaper reported. School officials have not commented on whether the alleged victim is or was a student of Bacca's. But media reports have focused more on the 2009 incident and the red flags that it raised - or should have raised with the Jacksonville schools. In that case, an investigation started by the Florida Department of Children and Families found Bacca kissed a boy on the lips and slept in the same bed with him, the newspaper reported. The boy said he was living with Bacca for several months. The boy's mother said Bacca was a family friend and never reported any Jacksonville sexual abuse, nor did the boy.
Because there was no physical evidence of abuse and no Jacksonville sex crime accusations from the boy or his mother, police closed the case. Bacca is now being portrayed as a multiple-time convicted Jacksonville sexual offender, which is not the case. In fact, Bacca was never even arrested in Duval County in the 2009 case.

There are elements of the 2009 case that will likely never be made public. If Bacca and the boy were living together and the boy's mother knew of it, there was likely some longer-standing relationship between the families. All anyone sees now is the DCF report and immediate brands him a predator. Such is the nature of sex crimes in Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties. More than any other crime, an accusation is as good as a conviction in the mind of the public. And if there is a conviction or a guilty plea, Duval sex crimes are the only crimes that allow the state to alert area residents if you move into their neighborhood. That's not even true for people released on murder charges.
Sex crimes accusations in Florida can be extremely difficult to recover from. A conviction makes it even more of an uphill climb. Sex crimes often put the word of one person against another's and, in many cases, there is little physical evidence for the state to show. If you or a loved one is accused of a sex crime, calling an Experienced Jacksonville Sex Crimes Attorney is imperative. Our Jacksonville Sex Lawyer has represented hundreds of clients accused of sex crimes and knows how to defend against these types of charges.

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