October 2012 Archives

Police officer admits on stand he lied to Jacksonville defense attorney in botched evidence case

October 31, 2012

The credibility of a Jacksonville police officer is in serious doubt after he admitted in a court hearing he lied to a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney in a case where police destroyed key evidence. The testimony came in a hearing last week about the Jacksonville police destroying a metal pipe Duval Countycriminal defense attorneys say could have proven the attack that Robert Lewis is facing a minimum mandatory three years in prison for was, in fact, staged by the alleged victims in the case, according to a report by Action News Jacksonville. Lewis' Jacksonville criminal defense attorneys have filed motions to dismiss the charges.

Sgt. JK Lentz was asked about a phone call when the Jacksonville defense attorney called over to the evidence room. Lentz whispered to someone in the room when he found out who was calling and when the Duval defense attorney asked if the prosecutor was in the room with him, Lentz said no, the television station reported. But, on the stand, Lentz changed his story and admitted that he intentionally misled the defense attorney. Now, does that mean Lentz and the prosecutor deliberately destroyed the evidence and then conspired to cover it up? Not necessarily. But it certainly opens the door for the Jacksonville criminal defense attorney to start moving down that road in efforts to get the Duval criminal charges dropped against Lewis. Defense attorneys have a right to publicly question everything Lentz has said in this case to date. If he lied about something as small as that, what else is he lying about? It's a fine line the Jacksonville criminal defense attorney has to walk - and it would likely be ramped up more if the argument was part of a trial in front of a jury. Right now, the case is still in the pretrial phase and hearings are in front of only the judge.

The judge is expected to rule this week on the defense motion to drop the charges against Lewis. He is charged with Jacksonville aggravated assault, accused of pointing a shotgun at two men and firing in another direction. He is facing at least three years in prison if convicted, but could be sentenced to up to 20 years on the multiple charges. But defense attorneys say it was Lewis who was beaten unconscious by two men with a pipe. A forensic expert hired by the defense said the blood on the pipe indicates the attack was staged, the television station reported. But police said during the hearing last week that even though evidence is supposed to be four years old before it is destroyed, this particular pipe was mistakenly thrown away. The officer put his own credibility into question with the lie to the Jacksonville criminal defense attorney. We should know this week if a judge rules it hurt the case enough to let Lewis walk free.

If you or a loved one needs an Aggressive 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 Aggravated Assault Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

State takes Death Row inmate to trial on a different Jacksonville murder, jury finds him not guilty

October 29, 2012

A Jacksonville jury did not think Duval County state attorneys proved Thomas James Moore was the person who killed and raped Donna Morris in 1990, finding Moore not guilty last week. What the jury didn't know, though, was that Moore has already been sentenced to death for a 1993 murder where robbed, killed and set fire to the house of senior citizen Moore was staying with at the time, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The judge ruled before the trial that the state could not bring up or discuss the fact Moore is in prison, including what he is there for, because she felt it could bias the jurors, the newspaper reported. And it likely would have. Jurors, and people in general, would surely be more likely to think a convicted murder could have committed another murder - especially in a case like this where there was very little evidence connecting Moore to the killing. Moore's criminal record could have easily tipped the scales to a guilty verdict.

Moore was arrested for charges in Jacksonville, Florida after being on Death Row for nearly 20 years because DNA evidence tied him to Morris, the newspaper reported. Moore's Duval County Criminal Defense Attorney argued the two could have had sex prior to the killing and that no one ever saw Moore and Morris together. Moore did not take the stand in the case, for one major reason: If he would have testified, the state would have been able to then question him about his prior criminal record - including the fact he is currently on Death Row. That would have completely changed the Jacksonville criminal case. But that's why our system is set up the way it is. Moore was being judged by a jury of his peers on that particular crime - the Jacksonville rape and murder of Donna Morris. That's it. His life and past choices are not on trial and Moore and his Jacksonville criminal defense attorney just have to prove there is reasonable doubt he did not crime this specific crime. And they did. This is precisely why, for example, if someone is on trial for a Jacksonville DUI and they have been convicted twice before on similar charges, the jury is not told this would be the defendant's third Duval County DUI. Could it make a jury more likely to think the person did it because they have been caught drinking and driving before? Of course. Does it mean the person is guilty the third time just because of the first two arrests? Absolutely not.

Strategy and discussions with a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney are critical in a case like this. Our Jacksonville Criminal Trial Lawyer has tried dozens of cases and knows the ins and outs of the rules about what can trigger other actions, like a defendant testifying and their criminal record being fair game. 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 Lawyer, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville father busts peeping tom, beats him and holds him for police

October 26, 2012

A Jacksonville father finally caught a man his 15-year-old daughter had been saying was looking at her from outside the family's Jacksonville home. After the daughter said she saw a silhouette in the lawn, the father ran outside and found James Lowery standing outside, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The father tackled Lowery and hit him several times before holding him on the ground until police arrived. Lowery could not explain why he was in the lawn, but did say he drank an entire bottle of wine earlier in the evening, the newspaper reported.

He was charged with three Jacksonville, Florida misdemeanors: trespassing, disorderly intoxication and resisting an officer without violence. The trespassing and resisting charges are both first-degree misdemeanors, punishable by up to one year in the county jail. The disorderly intoxication charge is a second-degree misdemeanor and on that charge Lowery could serve up to 60 days in jail. In most cases, our Jacksonville Misdemeanor Crimes Attorney has seen sentences run concurrent, meaning Lowery is not likely to be sentenced to more than one year in jail for all three crimes - if he was to receive that much time. He was released from jail on a bond of about $9,000 for all three charges combined.

And despite the obvious beating Lowery took from the father -- police described it in the newspaper as "minor injuries" but the jail mug shot shows a different story - the father is not expected to face any criminal charges in Jacksonville. First of all, Lowery was on the man's property committing a crime and the father could argue he was doing what he could to keep Lowery there until police arrived. The law allows a certain amount of discretion for people to use the necessary amount of force to remove someone from their property, especially if the person was committing a crime. Though Lowery is not facing a prowling charge, not yet anyway, the evidence released to date points to the fact he was likely up to no good. More importantly, though not clearly spelled out in the law, is the fact that the state would have an extremely difficult time convincing a jury to convict the father of a crime in this case. That's where common sense comes into play when prosecutors are determining charges. It's highly likely that most jurors could see themselves doing the exact same thing to Lowery is they caught him in the lawn looking at their daughter. Heck, many of them might be thinking the dad let Lowery off easy.

There's a fine line of how much force can be used in situations such as this, and most of it is up for interpretation - be it from prosecutors, a judge or, in some cases, a jury. Our Jacksonville Misdemeanor Attorney has seen many cases where someone in a similar situation to the father was charged with a crime. In this case, the state appears to be making the right call in not pursing charges against the father.

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 Criminal Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville judge looking for answers to why evidence was destroyed in Duval County aggravated assault case

October 24, 2012

Jacksonville defense attorneys are asking that charges against a Jacksonville man be dropped now that key pieces of evidence in the case have been inexplicably destroyed. A metal pipe and a tent that could have been used to prove an alternate theory in the case against Robert Lewis were discovered to be destroyed when the defense went to inspect them earlier this month, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Lewis is charged with Jacksonville Aggravated Assault with a Deadly Weapon for allegedly pointing a gun at two men and firing one shot in another direction without intending to hit anyone, the newspaper reported. The state has filed a three-year minimum mandatory in this case, meaning Lewis would be in prison for at least three years if convicted, but could face up to five years on the Duval County third-degree felony charge. Lewis is also charged with possession of a firearm by an adjudicated delinquent, a second-second felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

But Duval County criminal defense attorneys say it was Lewis who was the victim in the case, beaten unconscious by two men with a pipe in the tent he was living in, the newspaper reported. Lewis' Jacksonville criminal defense lawyers say the crime scene was staged to look like Lewis was the aggressor. A forensic expert had examined the evidence and said it did appear to be staged, the newspaper reported. But now the pipe and the tent are gone. The Jacksonville criminal defense lawyer has asked for charges to be dropped now, and the judge is expected to make a decision in the case this week. The destruction of evidence can be a serious problem and must be taken seriously. In Lewis' case, he's been in jail since February on a charge he says he is innocent of, the newspaper reported. And the evidence that might set him free is now gone. Our justice system provides that everyone is entitled to a fair trial and to present his or her case to a jury of peers for the ultimate decision. But the hallmark to that defense is now gone. Mistakes certainly do happen from time to time, but shouldn't the state take that into consideration and drop the charges against Lewis? He didn't destroy the evidence. But the Jacksonville state attorney appears inclined to go forward with its case, even though Lewis' defense is now severely limited. As a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney, it is troubling that key evidence is gone shortly before a trial is set to begin. Let's hope it is just an isolated incident that does not happen again.

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

St. Johns County inmates facing more time now after drug smuggling ring busted

October 22, 2012

A woman who was a month away from being released from jail on two St. Johns County misdemeanor charges is now facing felonies after being pegged as the mastermind of a drug smuggling ring inside the St. Johns County jail. Police say Hana Marie Colson, 29, was receiving strips of Suboxone that were hidden behind the stamps on envelopes sent to her in the mail, according to a report in the St. Augustine Record. Suboxone is a drug used to help people recovering from addiction to opiates such as heroin, Oxycontin and hydrocodone. The drug can be taken similar to Listerine strips, where a person places a small strip on his or her tongue and it dissolves. Now Colson has a hearing set for this week for violating the terms of her probation. She will likely be charged with introducing contraband into a detention facility, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison, and possession of contraband on the grounds of a detention facility, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Jail officials thought they noticed one female inmate who was under the influence of a drug and she failed a urine test, the newspaper reported. Further testing of other inmates found it was isolated to the female inmates in the jail, which is separated by gender, the newspaper reported. Twenty-two of them tested positive and, in interviews, several of the inmates said they got the drugs from Colson. So far, it appears that Colson simply gave the drug away and was not selling it inside the jail. That would open up an entirely new set of criminal problems for her. As for the woman who mailed the drugs, she's also looking at a felony charge of introducing contraband into a correctional facility, on top of methamphetamines charges she was arrested on last week that stem from a September raid, the newspaper reported.

Over the years, our St. Johns County drug crimes Attorney has learned the quickest way to extend your time in jail - or to upgrade, so to speak, to a state prison - is to get in more trouble behind bars. Colson was a month from being released on charges of credit card fraud and drug possession. Now, not only does she face new charges, she faces the maximum penalty of one year on each of the two misdemeanors. She was originally sentenced to six months on each charge and was allowed to serve both sentences at the same time. Not only do more charges pop up if one gets into trouble in jail, it also makes the judge significantly less likely to cut the defendant a break the next time sentencing rolls around.

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 Drug Crimes Lawyer, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Five Clay County charged after teen killed leaving a house party

October 19, 2012

Four months after a Clay County teen was hit by a car leaving a beer pong party, five people were charged for their role in hosting the party and providing the alcohol. Hollee Marie Krueger, 19, was killed after she stepped into the road while walking home from the party, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Tests done at the hospital where she was pronounced dead showed Krueger's blood-alcohol level was .16, more than twice the legal limit. Last week, police announced Clay County criminal charges for the two people, both age 20, who lived in the house. They were charged with holding an open house party where alcohol is served to minors. They are among the first to be charged locally under the law that was passed by the state legislature last year. Three others, two 21-year-olds and a 22-year-old, were charged with buying or giving alcohol to minors.

All five are facing Clay County second-degree misdemeanor charges and could face up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. They were booked into jail and their bonds were set between $50,000 and $60,000, the newspaper reported. In terms of jail time and the fine, the charges may seem rather minor. Most of the cases discussed on this blog are cases where people are at least facing time in prison. But this is significant because it is part of an overall effort from the state and law enforcement to crack down on underage drinking. Police have been conducting stings for years when they send a teen into a store to buy alcohol, checking to see if the person at the register checks for ID. But in many cases, teens are getting the alcohol elsewhere - not directly from the store itself. The new law is designed to make homeowners and people who are of age think twice about being responsible for underage people drinking.

To prove the criminal case in Clay County, the state would have to show that a reasonable person should have known there was underage drinking going on at the time. The party, where about 15 to 20 people were playing beer pong in a garage, was advertised on Facebook, the newspaper reported. Unlike some cases where parents may be asleep while teens are drinking in another part of the house, it appears that the people who lived there were part of the party and knew what was going on. People do not always have to be the ones actively committing a crime to be charged with one. None of these five are the ones who hit and killed Krueger. In fact, that driver is not facing charges. But these five are now facing charges, and state officials have said part of the reasoning is to let other parents and people of legal drinking age that there are serious consequences for letting teens drink.

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

Jacksonville newspaper fights to keep reporter from being subpoenaed in illegal taping case

October 17, 2012

A Jacksonville newspaper reporter is a key player in the illegal taping case involving Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll and the paper is trying to block prosecutors from questioning the reporter. Carletha Cole, a former aide to Carroll, is charged with secretly recording a conversation she had with Carroll's former chief of staff and giving a tape of the meeting to the reporter, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The Times-Union posted the recording on its website and Cole was eventually charged with a Florida third-degree felony and faces up to five years in prison. In the state of Florida, both parties must be aware of any recording and provide consent that allows them to be recorded. Journalists have some protection when it comes to being subpeonead in cases they are reporting on, but that state says in this case reporter Matt Dixon is crucial to the case. Dixon is the one Cole gave the tape to - which is how the secret recording ended up going public - and the newspaper reported that investigators say they have email records that show Dixon and Cole discussing the recording.

The judge has already denied one request to keep someone from questioning in the case. That was Carroll herself after Gov. Rick Scott tried to keep attorneys from questioning her. But the judge denied the request last week, saying Cole has a right to defend herself. The judge did want criminal defense attorneys to specifically say why they need to speak with Carroll and detail the purpose of the questioning. It will be interesting to see if the judge makes a similar ruling on the newspaper reporter. Media companies will always fight having one of their journalists questioned, fearing the precedent it could set in having reporters dragged into every case they write about, simply for doing their jobs. Newspaper executives say potential whistleblowers could shy away from giving information to a news organization if they know that reporter may end up on the witness stand talking about the information he or she gave.

In most Jacksonville criminal cases, it is unlikely a reporter will end up having to testify. In many cases, it appears to be more for show than anything. It's likely part of the strategic back-and-forth between the state and the criminal defense team. If the defense wants to put the lieutenant governor on the stand, the state will try for the reporter. This case is an example of some of the preparations and behind-the-scenes work an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense attorney does on a case before it ends up in a trial - if it ever does. Both sides are always looking for an edge, especially as it gets closer to trial or a plea negotiation.

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 Criminal Defense Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Out of-town football fan stabbed at nightclub before Jacksonville Jaguars football game

October 15, 2012

A Chicago Bears fan died after his throat was slashed this month and a man police have described as a jealous husband has been charged with murder. Chris Pettry's neck was slashed with a pocketknife by a man who he'd been speaking with earlier in the evening, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police said Matthew Hinson may have been upset that Pettry was talking to his wife, but witnesses said there did not appear to be a confrontation between the two men. Police found Hinson about a block away from the incident and, after a scuffle with police, arrested him in Jacksonville on a murder charge. The bloody knife was found in Hinson's pocket and he is being held in jail without a Jacksonville bond. The exact charge has not been determined, but likely will be before Hinson's formal arraignment at the end of the month.

The Jacksonville state attorney's office will have a decision to make on just what to charge him with. If prosecutors decide to make it a first-degree murder case, the state will have to present the evidence to a grand jury. In the state of Florida, only a grand jury can make the call on a first-degree murder charge. When a case goes to a grand jury, it is not about "proof beyond a reasonable doubt" like a tradition trial would be. It is simply about the state showing it has enough of a case to charge the person and the jury is not being asked to determine guilt at that time. First-degree murder is a mandatory life felony, meaning if a person is convicted, the judge has no choice but to sentence the defendant to life in prison. Second-degree murder is also punishable by up to life in prison, but there is not a mandatory life sentence. The major difference between the two charges is premeditation. In a first-degree murder case, the state must prove the defendant made the decision prior to the act that he was going to kill someone. Premeditation does not have to be a long period of time, such as something a person had plotted out for weeks, but there does have to be enough time to make a decision.

With little evidence released thus far, it's difficult to know if the state has enough to show Hinson was premeditated in the killing. One argument from a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney would be that Pettry snapped and, while he may have walked behind Pettry and slashed his throat, it was part of a confrontation and not something he planned enough to constitute first-degree murder. The difference is important for Hinson, who does not have a criminal record, according to the newspaper report. A second-degree murder charge opens the door to a potential negotiated plea - if the state is talking at this point. Hinson is likely looking at decades in prison, but a 50-year sentence would still beat a guaranteed lifetime behind bars.

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

Jacksonville judge rebuffs state's request for life, gives teen 35 years in prison after murder plea

October 12, 2012

Despite the prosecutor's push for a life sentence, a Jacksonville judge sentenced a local teen to 35 years in prison for shooting another teen in 2010. Ernest Thomas Bell, 16, was just 14 at the time of the shooting and pleaded guilty to Jacksonville second-degree murder, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Bell shot someone who had picked on him periodically through the years, the newspaper reported, but the victim was unarmed at the time. Bell faced between 25 years and life in prison, according to state guidelines. Life sentences for Jacksonville Juveniles who have been arrested have been a hot topic in Jacksonville after a local case was part of a U.S. Supreme Court ruling in which life sentences were found unconstitutional for juveniles not convicted of murder. Another local angle is the case of Cristian Fernandez, who was charged last year of first-degree murder at age 12 - the youngest person in the state to ever be charged with that crime.

A different Jacksonville judge threw out statements Fernandez made to police, saying he didn't understand the severity of waiving his right to remain silent. Jacksonville police and prosecutors have spun the ruling around to argue the legislature clearly did not intend for only people 18 or older to be eligible to be charged with first-degree murder. Bell shot Shavarius Wilkes once in the shoulder and once in the back of the head, the newspaper reported, a shooting that ended up being the final round of an ongoing dispute. By charging Bell with second-degree murder instead of first-degree murder, prosecutors essentially said they could not prove the shooting was premeditated and that Bell went to the scene with the intent to shoot and kill Wilkes. First-degree murder would have resulted in a mandatory life sentence. It is also a charge that can only be brought by a grand jury. Second-degree murder charges are solely at the discretion of the State Attorney's Office so, if a case might be a little thin, the state will sometimes file as a second degree rather than risk getting shot down by a grand jury. Second-degree murder is also punishable by up to life in prison; the difference is the charge does not carry a mandatory life sentence.

A charging decision on a Jacksonville criminal case can be a good tell on how strong a prosecutor thinks his or her case is. Often times, especially recently, the state can have a tendency to overcharge clients. So if there's an instance where it looks like they've charged lower than they could, an experienced Jacksonville Violent Crimes Lawyer will sniff that out and look further to try to find out exactly where the holes are. 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, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Man arrested for taking bribes to get Clay County probationers out of community service

October 10, 2012

A resident ranger at a Boy Scout camp in Clay County was arrested last week for soliciting and taking bribes from people assigned to do community service there. Michael Kenneth Eble was taking money from the defendants and then signing their official documents to indicate they had completed the community service, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police said Eble's bribery operation was widespread and the Boy Scout camp's community service program has been suspended until a replacement is found. Eble, 50, was fired and evicted from his residence at the camp, the newspaper reported. He is facing a bribery charge in Clay County, a second-degree felony that could land him up to 15 years in state prison.

People who are arrested on misdemeanor charges in Clay County are often sentenced to do some form of community service, often times as part of his or her probation. In other cases, it can be one of the conditions that the defendant must meet to have an adjudication withheld in the case. One question this case brings up is whether or not the people who paid Eble rather than do their own community service would be subject to any punishment. Technically, if someone is assigned to probation and does not complete the community service, that would constitute a Clay County violation of probation. If someone violates their probation, they could get the full sentence for the previous crime. So, for example, if someone was on probation for a charge that had a maximum of a year in the county jail, the defendant could now be sentenced to a year in jail.

In this case, it is probably more likely that the state will choose to use the people who paid the bribes as witnesses against Eble and not pursue Clay County criminal charges against them. Could the state insist the people actually complete the community service this time? Maybe. But the state is probably more likely to look at them as victims in a case like this. Community service is an important component of sentences for Clay County misdemeanor cases, and our Clay County Probation Attorney has had hundreds of clients who have done their required hours. The state needs to ensure the public that it is above board and not influenced by people like Eble, and will likely pursue the case against Eble aggressively. One key to Eble's case will be who initiated the discussion about the bribery. If it was Eble, and there are several people who say so, his case has some serious problems. White collar crime defenses can be difficult because, similar to Eble's cases, there is generally a pattern of activity before police get involved, which can lead to a string of witnesses that could look damaging at trial. But, it's also possible that he developed a reputation for providing this service, so to speak, and people sought him out. That could also open up the possibility for probation violations against those who paid the bribes.

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

Jacksonville man sentenced to six life sentences for Jacksonville sex charges - allowing sex offender to stay with young daughter

October 8, 2012

A Jacksonville judge handed down six consecutive life sentences to a man found guilty of knowingly allowing a convicted sexual offender to live in his daughter's room and ultimately molest her. Christopher Scott Perry was convicted of five counts of principal to Jacksonville sexual battery on a child younger than 12, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Each carried a mandatory life sentence. The jury also convicted Perry of other counts of molestation, child neglect with great bodily harm and conspiracy to commit sexual battery in Duval County. The judge sentenced Perry to the maximum charge on every count, including another life sentence and terms of 30 and 15 years in prison as well.

The consecutive life sentences are obviously more for affect than anything else - one life sentence guarantees a person a life spent in prison in Florida. But the sentences, and the charges themselves, show how the prosecutors, judges and juries feel about a case like this when Perry was not even the one who committed the actual Jacksonville sexual batteries. The charge in a case like this is rare and the state worked out a plea deal and 30-year prison sentence rather than taking Perry's wife to trial on similar charges. The cases are examples that a person can commit a crime by allowing someone else to commit a crime. But Perry did enough - or didn't do enough to protect his daughter, depending on your point of view - to end up in prison for the rest of his life. In his case, the state proved to the jury Perry knew the man he let stay in his house, Robert Goenig Young, had been convicted of sexually assaulting a 13-year-old in the 1990s, according to the newspaper report. Young is in jail without bond awaiting a trial. In Perry's case, the law was applied the same way it would be to someone who served as the lookout for a robbery in Jacksonville or another similar crime. He is not equally responsible as Young, but because of the severity of the crime, he was still facing life in prison. In other cases, people can be charged with conspiracy to a particular crime, such as sexual battery or a murder, if the person is not honest about what they know in the case. Conspiracy can also be charged if someone helps hide evidence in a case.

If you or a loved one is even peripherally involved in a crime, or think police are investigating the involvement, it is crucial to get a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney on board quickly. Even the first conversation with police could be crucial to whether the state has enough to proceed with a case. If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County Sex Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Undercover sting cracks down on unlicensed contractors in Jacksonville

October 5, 2012

An undercover investigator posing as an unsuspecting homeowner helped bust 11 unlicensed contractors last month, part of a series of similar operations across Florida. All of the unlicensed contractors were charged with soliciting contracting work without state licenses, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The crime is a Jacksonville first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in the county jail and a $1,000 fine. The investigation was a joint effort between the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, the Department of Business and Professional Regulations and the Northeast Florida Builders Association, the newspaper reported. The proposed jobs varied, but included a new patio, converting a bathtub into a shower and electrical work.

In Jacksonville criminal cases and stings like this, most times the defendants do very little time in jail - if any at all. Unless one of the defendants has a previous conviction for the same charge, or a lengthy criminal record with some similar crimes, these types of cases typically work out for a sentence of probation. These types of stings are designed more for the public than they are looking for serious time behind bars. Police are trying to send a message to other contractors that they are watching and that the crimes will be taken seriously. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office paraded all 11 mug shots to local media outlets and they were plastered all over television and the internet shortly after the bust. It can be more about letting people know the law is out there. The same can be said for prostitution stings. Jacksonville police usually conduct at least one a year, generally putting an ad on the Internet for an escort service. As in the contracting case, the men's booking photos are distributed and broadcast locally, likely leading to a divorce or two over the years.

But just because the prison sentence isn't as long as a Jacksonville Drug Crime or Gun Crime, doesn't mean it is not extremely serious. This Jacksonville misdemeanor crime could stay with these contractors for quite some time. It may affect their ability to get a license, if they do ever intend to get one. Some of the defendants may be hesitant to plead guilty for that very reason.

Our experienced Jacksonville Misdemeanor Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, has represented people in similar types of stings and knows this is often people's first time dealing with the criminal justice system. It can be intimidating and lead people to do whatever they can to get rid of the crime immediately. But that's not always the best move in the long run. An immediate guilty plea could cause serious damage in terms of future employment. Our Jacksonville Criminal Attorney will help a defendant understand all of his or her options, but then lets the client make the ultimate decision.

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

Defendant points finger at animal in squirrelly Clay County DUI arrest

October 3, 2012

A man pulled over for driving all over a Clay County road and eventually arrested for Driving Under The Influence told police his driving was erratic because a squirrel was biting him as he drove. The man did have a baby squirrel wrapped up in his shirt when police came to his window, but the officer also smelled alcohol beverages coming from the driver, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. None of the local media reports on the Clay County arrest include information on whether the 24-year-old suspect, Warren Thomas Michael III, had any visible bite marks on his chest or stomach. Evidence of bite marks could be of some help as a defense, but the biggest issue for Michael will likely be two breath tests. The came back .145 and .156, both approaching double the legal limit of .08.

DUI arrests in Clay, Duval and Nassau Counties are among the most subjective arrests in that without some sort of breath or blood test, there is typically very little evidence. In some cases, there is a dashboard video which could let a jury see for itself and try to determine whether the person looks to be under the influence. In most cases, DUI suspects end up taking the breath test and unwittingly give prosecutors everything they need to lock up the case. Take Michael's case, for example. Prosecutors could argue that it wouldn't matter if it's a squirrel, a raccoon or an elephant in the truck, he was still close to double the legal limit and thereby guilty of the Clay County DUI has was charged with. But without the breath test, it could be a different story.

DUI cases in Northeast Florida have a mountain of specific procedures and rules that police must follow, and a slip-up by the officer could lead to the stop being suppressed and not part of the evidence the state could use at trial. And, in Florida DUI cases, without a traffic stop there is most likely not a case at all. Many people either don't know they can refuse to take a breath test, or are afraid to do so. Refusing will almost always result in an automatic one-year suspension of a person's driver license - and police will be sure to point that out to the suspect if he or she thinks that might make a person more likely to consent to the test. Also, many people want to take the test to prove they are not impaired, which is also human nature. Research has shown that, especially when people are right around the legal limit of .08, they believe their motor skills and overall functionality are better than they really are. But Clay County DUI cases are much more likely to work out in the defendant's favor if there is not breath test evidence, especially one that comes in well above the legal limit of .08. Just as a point of reference, a 200-pound man who has more than three drinks in an hour would blow above a .08 and then be considered legally intoxicated.

Our Clay County DUI attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, has represented hundreds of clients charged with DUI - some who've taken a breath test and some who've refused. Either way, our experienced Clay Count DUI Defense Lawyer will give your case a thorough review and advise you of your best option going forward. If you or a loved one needs a DUI attorney in Clay County or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Clay County DUI attorney is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

U.S. Supreme Court to hear case on whether police can force a blood test on DUI suspects

October 1, 2012

The U.S. Supreme Court has decided to hear a DUI case that is expected to clarify when police are allowed to force a blood draw on a person suspected of DUI. The court's opinion, now expected to come down in early 2013, will likely have a far-reaching, nationwide impact on a suspect's right to refuse a blood test after being arrested for DUI in Jacksonville and elsewhere. The case at issue, discussed in an article in the Florida Times Union, involves a Missouri man who was pulled over for driving erratically. The officer said the driver smelled of alcoholic beverages and was slurring his words. But, when police asked him to take a breath test - a common procedure in a Duval County DUI case - the suspect refused. The officer then drove the man to a lab and ordered the man's blood to be taken, without even attempting to get a warrant.

The suspect's blood-alcohol level was nearly double the legal limit and he was arrested for DUI. But a judge ruled the blood test was not admissible. Appellate courts have agreed, but Missouri prosecutors have continued to pursue the case up the judicial ladder, reaching the peak last week when the Supreme Court agreed to hear the case. Like most other states, Florida has what is called an implied consent law. Basically, it means that by getting a driver's license, a person agrees to submit to a breath or blood test when an officer asks. A suspect can refuse - and many do - but the person then faces having his or her driver's license suspended for one year. If someone refuses a second time on a separate arrest, he or she can be charged with what's called a "criminal refusal." It's a first-degree misdemeanor in Jacksonville with a maximum penalty of one year in the county jail and, this time, the license suspension is 18 months.

The implied consent is key in Florida when it comes to a blood test. In most Jacksonville Driving Under the Influence cases, police would just rely on a breath test. But, if there is an accident and police suspect the driver is under the influence but he or she is injured and cannot communicate, police are legally allowed to take his or her blood. If a person is not capable off refusing, they have legally consented - according to the applied consent law. The issue is the Missouri case the Supreme Court will hear is a little different. In that case, the suspect did refuse, but police took blood anyway. Prosecutors argued that it was at 2 a.m., it was difficult to get a warrant, so police just took the blood. Convenience isn't typically a reason to not follow the law, and the court battle ensued. The suspect clearly refused to take the test but was forced to by police and that's now the major issue at hand.

Applications of various criminal laws can change rather quickly, and our Jacksonville DUI Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, stays on top of the latest development s to know every point that could affect a case. If you or a loved one needs an experienced DUI attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County DUI attorney is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.