Jacksonville teacher arrested for drug crime at alleged Clay County drug house

January 30, 2013

A Jacksonville teacher had some unfortunate timing when he went to an alleged Clay County drug house and police happened to be serving a warrant there. Police were already working there when James Van Richburg arrived and had marijuana, pills, drug paraphernalia and a handgun in his backpack, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Richburg pulled up to the house and police asked him to turn off the car. Richburg refused and he also wouldn't put his hands on his head or open the door, the newspaper reported. Police eventually got Richburg out of the car and cuffed him. That's when they found the backpack, which had two grams of marijuana, two marijuana pipes, seven pills and a handgun, the newspaper reported.

Richburg is only facing one Clay County felony, and that is for the pills. In Clay County Drug Crimes cases, pills carry more severe penalties than most other narcotics - certainly far more severe than Clay County marijuana charges. Even though he had only seven pills, Richburg faces up to five years in prison on the third-degree felony charge. The four other charges - two counts of possession of drug paraphernalia, one count of possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana and one count of resisting an officer without violence - are all first-degree misdemeanors. All carry a maximum penalty of one year in the county jail. So, technically, if convicted of all the Clay County criminal charges, if the judge opted to sentence Richburg to the maximum amount on each count and run the sentences consecutively, Richburg could face four years in the county jail and five years in state prison, though that is rarely done in cases like this.

There are, however, other options in some drug cases when a defendant will have the option to complete drug court and a variety of conditions - including community service and passing drug tests - that could result in avoiding jail or prison time. A driving factor in whether prosecutors make that option available is the defendant's prior criminal record. While anything is possible, Richburg has been a teacher in Duval County for more than three years and the district policy is to not hire anyone who has been convicted of a felony. That's not to say Richburg must have an entirely clean record, but it's unlikely that he is a convicted felon.

There may also be room in this case to question whether police had enough probable cause to pull Richburg out of the car and demand that he turn the car off. There are other elements in the encounter that would come out in trial and, while it certainly appears that Richburg was intending to go to the home, it's reasonable to at least explore whether or not being there on the street constitutes a probable cause for a search in this Clay County Drug Crimes case.

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