February 2013 Archives

Police called when man allegedly sets girlfriend's car on fire, find the couple allegedly having sex on Jacksonville Beach

February 27, 2013

A bizarre story of an alleged domestic argument followed by what appears to be make-up sex on Jacksonville Beach landed both the boyfriend and girlfriend in jail last week. Police were called after witnesses said Kathy Granone and her boyfriend David Aiuppy were arguing and throwing objects out of their car in a Jacksonville Beach parking lot, according to a report by First Coast News, Granone apparently walked away from the car and toward the beach. Aiuppy allegedly lit the car on fire, and then followed her to the beach, the television station reported.

Police arrived to investigate the car fire and witnesses pointed the couple out on the beach. The two were allegedly having sex in the middle of the beach at 5:40 p.m., a time when their actions were visible to everyone nearby, the television station reported. Both are facing an exposure of sexual organs charge, a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in the county jail. Granone is also charged with resisting an officer without violence in Jacksonville, another first-degree misdemeanor. Aiuppy is charged with Duval County arson - a far more serious case. In Aiuppy's case, because he allegedly knew there was no one in the car when he set it on fire, he is charged with a second-degree felony and facing up to 15 years in state prison. In cases where the suspect either knew or should have known a building or vehicle had people inside, the charge would be a first-degree felony with a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison.

One question people often ask in regards to any Jacksonville Sex Crimes case is whether it will result in them having to register as a sex offender. People are very familiar with the law and fear they'll have to go through that process for any sex crime they are accused of. In this case, exposure of sexual organs is a misdemeanor and would NOT require either Granone or Aiuppy to register as a sex offender if either are eventually convicted or plead guilty to the charges.

Sex offender registration is something to be avoided if at all possible. It restricts how close a person can live from a school and requires a person to notify law enforcement every time he or she moves residences. The part most defendants dislike the most is that neighbors are notified of your sex crime as soon as you move. That doesn't even happen for people who served time for murder. In this Jacksonville Sex Crimes case, it appears to be a mistake made in a volatile relationship and certainly not worthy of branding the couple as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.

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

Jacksonville murder conviction overturned, court says police ignored man's "right to remain silent"

February 25, 2013

A Jacksonville man on death row for a 2008 murder will now get a new trial that will likely feature far less evidence for the jury to consider. The Florida Supreme Court ruled this week that Randall Deviney repeatedly invoked his right to remain silent but police kept interrogating him anyway, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Near the end of the questioning, Deviney eventually confessed and that videotaped confession was played for the jury during his 2010 trial, the newspaper reported.

Deviney, now 23, is accused of killing his elderly neighbor that he used to do odd jobs, the newspaper reported. Now, according to the Supreme Court ruling, his confession and interview will not be allowed in for Deviney's second trial. That may or may not make much of a difference because Deviney's DNA was found in the victims fingernails, the newspaper reported. But cases like these can be life and death for the accused - literally death in Deviney's case - and police should be expected to follow the law in building their case. Deviney was told at the outset of the interview he was not under arrest in Jacksonville and he was free to leave at any time, the newspaper reported. At that time police read him what are called Miranda rights, which explain that he has the right to remain silent and the right to ask to speak with a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney before talking to police.

Deviney denied killing the victim and when police kept telling him he did it, Deviney told police "I'm done" six times and then asked to leave. Police told him he couldn't because he was now under arrest in Duval County, the newspaper reported. Later in the interview, Deviney confessed, the newspaper reported.

But it never should have been able to get that far. If you are arrested or being questioned by police and you invoke your right to remain silent, that is your right and it should be honored. You also have the right to ask for a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney, which is crucial to beginning your defense case against whatever crime you are being arrested for. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney knows the Miranda laws and the rules of police questioning inside and out and can help determine if police went too far during their interview, as the Supreme Court says they did in Deviney's case. It can make a huge difference in the amount of evidence the state is able to prevent at trial and, in some cases, could mean the state doesn't even have enough evidence to proceed with the case against you or your loved one.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm 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.

Four men charged with felonies connected to the gun used to kill a Clay County detective

February 23, 2013

Four men whom allegedly at one point had their hands on a stolen gun that was eventually used to kill a Clay County detective are now facing significant prison time. All four were charged with Clay County dealing in stolen property, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police tracked the gun using its serial number and several interviews with witness, the newspaper reported, and this case shows how wide of a net police can cast in a gun case.

Last year, one Clay County detective was killed and another injured when they were raiding a suspected meth lab and Ted Tilley opened fire from inside the home. Tilley tried to run away and was eventually shot and killed by police. Several people in the home were charged with murder in connection with White's death. But the trail did not end there. Police then targeted the gun Tilley used and traced it to being reported stolen out of Jacksonville in 2011. The gun changed hands four times, with everyone involved knowing the gun was stolen, the newspaper reported. The last person with the gun gave it to Tilley, a convicted felon who would not have been legally permitted to own or even possess a firearm.

All four men were arrested in Clay County last week and booked into the county jail in this Clay County Gun Crimes case. Three had bonds set at $50,000 and the fourth at $100,000, showing the weight the state is placing on this case. In order to prove someone is guilty of dealing in stolen property in Florida, the state must show the person either knew or reasonably should have known that the item in question was stolen. It's not clear in this case if the men were selling the gun each time it changed hands but, in this case, that is not relevant. Typically, this crime is charged when people are stealing items from businesses or homes and then selling the items. But in this Clay County Gun Crimes case it was used to show the trail of the gun and make all parties who touched it along the way responsible in the death. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms were both involved in the investigation.

Clay County Gun Crimes cases are serious and, as this case shows, any connection with a stolen gun can lead to serious consequences down the road - even if you or your loved one never pulls the trigger. 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 Gun Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Disgruntled Jacksonville employee charged after allegedly talking about shooting his bosses

February 21, 2013

A Jacksonville man was arrested this month after allegedly telling a co-worker he would drive to Orlando to get his assault rifle and two pistols so he could shoot each of his four supervisors. Rodney Rhyne was charged with making threats in Jacksonville, a Florida misdemeanor, according to a report on News4Jax. The fact he was even arrested at all shows how much our culture has changed in an era where mass shootings are becoming somewhat the norm.

Rhyne allegedly told the co-worker he would have 12 rounds in the magazine so he could shoot each of his bosses in the head three times, the television station reported. Rhyne apparently had received poor performance reviews and felt discriminated against at his job, the television station reported. When police contacted Rhyne at his home, he told them he did say those things, but he was just "blowing off steam," according to the news report.

The problem with proving this case Jacksonville threat case against Rhyne is both he and the co-worker could be right. The co-worker heard him say it and may have felt that Rhyne was absolutely serious and was very close to pulling off an office shooting. The law does not require the state to prove that a person, Rhyne in this Jacksonville Threat Crimes case, has the means to carry out the threat he or she is charged with making. So it would not matter if Rhyne had access to the guns he spoke about, though it certainly would help the state's case. As far as Rhyne goes, it is also reasonable to believe he was exaggerating and speaking in hyperbole when he said what he is accused of saying. People make wild threats all the time, and always have, but they are just taken far more seriously today given recent events. Keep in mind, this is essentially a he said-he said case. We don't yet know what the relationship is between Rhyne and his accuser, so there's no way to know if there's a possibly that he has a personal motivation for getting Rhyne in trouble. There won't be much more evidence in the case. It will be the accuser's word and probably testimony and evidence about Rhyne and his job performance and reviews - which really aren't an indicator if someone is "upset enough" to open fire in the workplace.

But, in today's society, police will be investigating any case where a similar threat is made. And it will be interesting to see how cases like this Jacksonville criminal case are handled in the legal system. Just when does talking about a potential crime actually become a crime itself? Despite it being a misdemeanor in Jacksonville, expect plenty of attention on this Jacksonville criminal case as attorneys and observers look for precedent in what will likely be a more common charge going forward.

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

Jacksonville police officer charged with theft for allegedly taking a purse she was thought was lost

February 19, 2013

An officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office was charged with theft in Duval County last week after she allegedly stole a purse that she thought was brought to a police substation after someone found it in the parking lot. But, the purse was really brought by an FBI agent as a decoy after police were given a tip that Cheryl Cummings was stealing items from the substation, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Cummings was then allegedly seen on surveillance video taking the purse to her car, where it was for several days before the purse disappeared, the newspaper reported.

She was charged with Jacksonville petit theft, a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida punishable by up to 60 days in jail, six months of probation and a $500 fine. She has been a police officer for more than 15 years and has been on light duty working at this substation on Jacksonville's Westside for medical reasons, the newspaper reported. After Cummings was contacted about this Jacksonville theft investigation, she allegedly brought in a missing wallet and told an internal investigator she had taken it home and was trying to find the owner.

While the investigation continues, Cummings will be assigned to other duties and stripped of her police powers, the newspaper reported. In terms of strictly legal issues, Cummings' crimes are not major and it is rare for someone to be jailed their first time arrested for petit theft in Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties. But this is a case where Cummings' career could play in role in sentencing and could hurt her. Police officers are held to a higher standard when it comes to breaking the law - right or wrong, they are. And while she was never charged or disciplined, Cummings was also investigated on a theft charge in 2004 involving taking money for fixing someone's credit report, the newspaper reported. That could play a role as her employment status is being sorted out.

Not having it on her record, though, is huge - especially in a Jacksonville Theft Case. Theft cases are one of the few where a case can be escalated to a felony based on a person's record. Normally, thefts of less than $300 are misdemeanors, but if the value of the property is more than $300, the charge is a third-degree felony - punishable by up to five years in state prison. However, that all changes if someone already has two theft convictions or pleas on their record. Then, the state can file the crime as a felony - regardless of how much money the property is worth. In Cummings' case, it is possible the state could try to charge her with a crime for the wallet she brought in, and there may be other cases that surface. Once police and internal investigators dig into a Jacksonville Theft Case like this, in many instances they'll find a pattern or behavior that's been ongoing for some time.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Theft Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Former police officer sentenced to life in prison in St. Johns County molestation case

February 15, 2013

A St. Johns County man convicted in December of three counts of lewd and lascivious sexual battery was sentenced to life in prison on each count last week. James Scharfschwerdt was accused of molesting one boy after getting teens to his home by promising fishing trips and alcohol, according to a report in the St. Augustine Record. All three St. Augustine Sex Charges involved the same teen, who is now 19, the newspaper reported.

During the trial, Scharfschwerdt admitted to giving boys alcohol and swimming naked with them, but denied molesting anyone. All of his Florida sex charges centered around one boy, but three other teens also testified during the trial that Scharfschwerdt did the same thing to them. That's where there could be an issue in this St. Johns County Sex Crimes case. If the state had enough evidence to charge Scharfschwerdt in the three other cases, then it should have prosecuted the cases. If not, they should not have been able to testify.

State law, under the Williams Rule, allows testimony related to similar crimes, but the testimony cannot be used as a "feature" of the trial. In this St. Johns County Sex Crimes case, it likely changed the entire makeup of the trial. With the victim and Scharfschwerdt being the lone witnesses to the alleged molestation, the case is a classic St. Johns County Sex Crimes case with one person's word against another's. But with three other boys testifying, despite the fact the state chose not to prosecute their cases, the jury is presented with an entirely different scenario. The jury is presented with a pattern of Scharfschwerdt's behavior, which would have to have an impact in the jury's mind as to whether he is guilty of molesting the one boy he was charged with molesting. People are naturally inclined to put more weight in a story where four people are saying a similar thing, as opposed to just one.

Defense attorneys argued for a new trial, specifically based on allowing the testimony of the other three boys, the newspaper reported. The judge denied the request, but it is likely that decision will be appealed to a higher court and one can never predict what may happen there. From the perspective of a St. Johns County Sex Crimes Attorney, there's a reason why there are limitations on what a jury is allowed to hear in a case. For example, if someone is on trial for a DUI, the jury does not know if it's a person's first offense or if they've been convicted of a similar crime before. And that applies to convictions. In this case, Scharfschwerdt wasn't even charged, much less convicted in the three other alleged crimes. Sex crimes are often seen differently than other crimes and there's a propensity among jurors to assume that if an accusation is made, then it must be true. Our St. Johns County Sex Crimes Attorney has represented hundreds of people accused of sex crimes in Duval, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns Counties. She can examine all of the evidence and potential testimony carefully to help determine what can be used against you or your loved one.

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

St. Johns County juvenile inmate escapes, captured the same day in Central Florida

February 13, 2013

A 16-year-old St. Johns County juvenile inmate likely made his stay significantly longer after he was caught about 200 miles away the same day. Syllas McMillan was caught after he took a cab from St. Johns County to Inverness and then skipped out on the $275 cab fare, according to a report from First Coast News. The cab driver called police who, thinking it was likely McMillan, searched the area, the television station reported. McMillan was found by a police dog on a wooded area.

McMillan now faces a Florida escape charge, on top of the non-violent theft and burglary charges that landed him under juvenile supervision in the first place. McMillan was on an approved field trip to a local horse ranch when he allegedly kicked out a bathroom window and took off on foot, the television station reported. And, in this St. Johns County Juvenile Crimes case, McMillan just made his life a lot more difficult.

In St. Johns County Juvenile Crimes cases, there are a wide-range of punishments and supervision requirements. The most severe, obviously, is being housed in a juvenile detention center - essentially a prison for teens. But there are other options where teens can have some degree of freedom, including field trips and other activities like the one McMillan was on last week. The Florida juvenile system is supposed to be designed toward rehabilitating the teens and making them productive members of society, so there are certain freedoms and responsibilities given. But running away on a field trip is a good way to have any and all of those freedoms taken away. It will be interesting to see if the state decides to charge McMillan as a juvenile or as an adult on the escape charge. Deputies poured plenty of resources into trying to find him, setting up searches along Interstate 95, S.R. 16 and all throughout World Gold Village. He was wearing street clothes, so it's not like the cab driver would have automatically known by looking at McMillan that he had escaped.

In Florida, escaping from a juvenile detention facility or any juvenile supervision is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. More importantly in instances like this St. Johns County Juvenile Crimes case, it puts the prosecutors and the judge on notice that a person is a flight risk. That means if there's a question between probation or incarceration, they likely bet is incarceration. The same goes for setting a bond - it'll likely be much higher for someone with an escape on his or her record - even at 16.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in St. Augustine or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our St. Johns County Juvenile Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Boy charged with first-degree murder as 12-year-old pleads to lesser charge; will be released at 19

February 11, 2013

The nearly two-year saga and one of Jacksonville's most controversial court cases wrapped up last week when a boy charged with murder at age 12 pleaded guilty to reduced Jacksonville criminal charges on Friday. Cristian Fernandez pleaded guilty to manslaughter and aggravated battery in Duval County in the death of his 2-year-old half-brother in 2011, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. As part of the plea agreement, Fernandez will serve his time in a juvenile jail until he turns 19. From there, he will be released and required to serve eight years on probation, with a possibility of early termination after five years, according to the newspaper report.

Because he was charged with first-degree murder, Fernandez was facing a mandatory life sentence, though life sentences for juveniles have been recently been put into flux by the U.S. Supreme Court. Fernandez was the youngest person ever to be charged with first-degree murder in Jacksonville and his age sparked national headlines and debate as to whether he was old enough to understand the crime and the charges. Fernandez was accused of beating his 2-year-old half-brother to death. His mother pleaded guilty last year to Jacksonville aggravated manslaughter for leaving the children alone and waiting eight hours to take the younger son to a hospital, the newspaper reported. Her sentence has been on hold awaiting the outcome of her son's case, the newspaper reported.

The key to this Jacksonville Violent Crimes case will end up being the eight years Fernandez is on probation in Jacksonville. The probation is specifically tied to the aggravated battery charge, the newspaper reported, which is very important in terms of probation. Under Florida law, if a person violates probation, a judge could sentence the defendant to the maximum penalty on their original crime. So let's take Fernandez as an example. Jacksonville Aggravated Battery is second-degree felony with a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. If he violates, his maximum exposure is 15 years - minus however long he's already been on probation. He was originally charged with child abuse, which was a first-degree felony and carried a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. That's a huge difference in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes case.

There is a laundry list of conditions in his probation, including no unsupervised contact with children under 16 and staying away from his other siblings unless they initiate contact. The biggest stumbling block in probation could be committing another crime - that's an automatic violation. Then, a judge would determine whether to put him back on probation or send him to prison, which would be adult prison this time. It's difficult to predict how people will respond after a lengthy sentence, especially someone who will have spent seven years institutionalized before his 19th birthday.

Probation can be a trap door for many defendants, depending on the terms. Some clients choose to take a longer sentence up front to avoid probation, knowing their chances of violating could be high. Our Jacksonville Probation Attorney can lay out every option and work to negotiate a deal that works best for the client and is hopefully something he or she can adhere to and get back on track.

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

St. Johns County man arrested when police find 157 pot plants

February 8, 2013

A St. Johns County man is facing charges of cultivation of marijuana after a tip led police to 157 marijuana plants the man is accused of growing. Michael Colvin was arrested last week and after someone alerted police to what they described as an elaborate growing operation, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Colvin is charged with a second-degree felony and faces up to 15 years in prison if he is convicted. Just five years ago, that wouldn't have been the case.

Florida lawmakers in 2008 passed the Marijuana Grow House Eradication Act, and one key change in the law is now affecting how much time Colvin is facing. The threshold for the number of plants a person must possess to be charged with cultivating marijuana was reduced from 300 all the way down to 25. The new law picks up plenty of people in the middle, as it did Colvin in this St. Johns County Marijuana Cultivation case. Colvin's case was turned over the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area to be investigated. Police often use electric utility records as evidence in St. Johns County Marijuana Cultivation cases because growing marijuana requires an extensive amount of light - far more than an ordinary household would use.

Police found the marijuana in two separate buildings, the newspaper reported, but it was unclear whether the grow operation was inside a home or in more commercial style buildings. Another change that was part of the 2008 state law allows the state to simply take pictures of the grow equipment and use the photographs as evidence if the case ultimately goes to trial. Prosecutors were previously required to keep the equipment. It doesn't sound like much, but the operations are often complicated and police said the space needed to keep all of the equipment on hand until a trial was a hindrance to investigations. The law also made it a first-degree felony to grow marijuana in a home occupied by children, though that does not appear to apply in Colvin's St. Johns County Marijuana case.

Police also say they recovered a stolen shotgun when they found the marijuana, but it does not appear that Colvin has been charged yet in connection with the gun. His bond was set at $5,000 - a relatively low amount for a felony drug charge - and Colvin is now out of jail awaiting a trial. One key to the case will be if police will be able to prove that Colvin was selling the marijuana once it was cultivated, assuming the plants have been harvested at least once. Sale charges can up the ante and increase the defendant's prison time exposure in the case.

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

Jacksonville Criminal Attorneys for man accused of slashing football fan's throat look to have court records sealed

February 6, 2013

Duval County Criminal Lawyers for the man accused of slashing another man's throat with a pocketknife outside a downtown Jacksonville bar are asking for records in his case to be sealed until trial. Matthew Hinson is accused of walking up behind William "Chris" Pettry, slitting his throat and walking away, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Pettry was visiting from Illinois to watch the Chicago Bears play the Jacksonville Jaguars the next day. Various media reports have had different stories on what led Hinson to kill Pettry since the October stabbing, but most have focused on Pettry talking to a group of women that included Hinson's wife.

And that illustrates the point of the Jacksonville defense attorneys asking for the records to be sealed in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes case. Attorneys are requesting the judge seal crime scene photos, names of witnesses, 911 calls, surveillance video and all statements Hinson made to police, the newspaper reported. The case has been subject of numerous news reports - in the papers, on television and online - and this is partly a play to help end those stories and ensure there are enough people unfamiliar with the case to be able to field a fair and impartial jury. Strategy with documents and pre-trial publicity is an interesting cat-and-mouse game between the state and the defense in many instances and this Jacksonville Violent Crimes case is bringing that interplay to the forefront.

In some cases, it's the state that is asking to limit disclosure and may even ask for the judge to impose a gag order in the case if prosecutors feel defense attorneys are talking too much or leaking information in the case. Often, motions such as this end up being fought by the local media. True to form, two television stations have filed court documents to keep the records open, the newspaper reported. In the Florida court system, once discovery is filed with the court, it becomes public record and can be viewed or accessed by anyone. That differs from federal court rules, which require prosecutors to share discovery with the defense and the defense only.

The judge ruled she would not seal all of the records in Hinson's Jacksonville criminal case, but would allow a five-day period so the defense could review the documents and then make individual arguments about individual pieces of evidence being sealed, the newspaper reported. A neutral and untainted jury pool is crucial for anyone, but especially when the stakes are this high in a case that has and will continue to get plenty of media attention. Hinson is charged with second-degree murder and faces up to life in prison if he's convicted.

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

Man sentenced to five years in prison for Clay County hit-and-run crash that killed 13-year-old

February 4, 2013

A Jacksonville man was sentenced to five years in prison for leaving the scene of a 2011 traffic crash that killed a 13-year-old Clay County boy. Anthony Margadonna, 24, was sentenced last week after pleading guilty last year to leaving the scene of an accident causing death, a first-degree felony in Clay County, Florida. The sentence also includes 10 years of probation, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Margadonna was facing up to 15 years in prison. Florida law required Margadonna to serve at least 21 months in prison because the charge does carry a minimum mandatory sentence.

Margadonna was driving on Branan Field Road in Clay County about 9:40 p.m. on a November night when he hit a 13-year-old who was riding his bicycle, the newspaper reported. Police alleged that Margadonna did not stop, nor did he report the crash to authorities. He was arrested in Clay County two days later when his Jeep was spotted while he was driving, the newspaper reported.

It was never reported whether Margadonna was under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time of the crash. From a legal perspective, there's no way to charge him with it because he allegedly ran. There would not be an officer available to testify he or she witnessed signs of impairment because no one from law enforcement saw him until two days after the crash. Margadonna was sentenced to Clay County drug offender probation, which can be triggered by Florida drug crime convictions on his record - which he reportedly does have.

If you are in a traffic accident, you are legally required to stop immediately. In the case where someone is hurt, as in this Clay County Felony Crime case, you must provide reasonable assistance, including either taking the person to a hospital or calling someone, including 911, to arrange for medical attention if you think the person needs it or the person asks to see a doctor immediately. In this case, police say Margadonna did neither and just took off. It's unclear if he knew the extent of the damage or how badly the boy was hurt, but the driver has a legal duty to stop the car to find out.

Leaving the scene of accident with property damage is a misdemeanor in Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties, punishable by up to 60 days in jail. The charge elevates to a third-degree felony when someone is injured, exposing the defendant to up to five years in prison. When there's a death, as in this Clay County Felony Crime case, it becomes a first-degree felony and the minimum mandatory sets in. Crimes involving traffic accidents can be difficult because a person is just driving along the road when something happens. Decisions to stay or leave are made instantly and people are understandably shook up when an accident happens, meaning they may make decisions they would not ordinarily make. People who may not have a criminal record at all are suddenly faced with a decision where the wrong move can have them looking at mandatory prison time.

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 Duval County Leaving the Scene of an Accident Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.