May 2013 Archives

Arena Football League coach arrested for role in brawl following game at Jacksonville arena

The defensive coordinator for a visiting Arena Football League team was arrested on a felony battery charge in Duval County for his role in a fight that left a 68-year-old Jacksonville Sharks team official in the hospital. Cedric Walker, listed at 6-foot and 245 pounds, is accused of pushing Jacksonville's assistant general manager in a fight that began near the visiting locker room following a May game, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The Sharks official was apparently confronting some of the Sharks' cheerleaders about why they were still on the field when coaches from the opposing San Jose SaberCats stepped in and the argument took off, the newspaper reported. Walker is accused of pushing the Sharks official, who had gall bladder surgery a week earlier, into a wall twice, the newspaper reported. The Sharks official was taken to a local hospital and was treated for a concussion.

The fight escalated from there and a Sharks trainer also suffered a broken nose when trying to break up the fight, though there were no other charges filed, the newspaper reported. Police found Walker in the parking lot following the fight and arrested him. He was released from jail the next day and is scheduled to appear in court again in June. In most instances, Walker would face a Jacksonville misdemeanor battery charge and a maximum penalty of a year in the county jail. But in this case, he is looking at a third-degree felony and up to five years in state prison. The difference in this Jacksonville Battery Case? The Sharks team official is 68 years old and police arrested Walker for battery on a person age 65 or older.

All types of assaults and batteries have significantly upgraded penalties when the victim is over the age of 65. The charge can apply regardless of whether or not the suspect knows the age of the victim, the defense of thinking the man was younger is off the table in this Jacksonville Battery Case. The law justifiably attempts to protect senior citizens, the same way it does children with enhanced penalties and a whole separate set of law involving Jacksonville Child Abuse and Child Neglect. In this Jacksonville Battery Case, though, it does not appear that Walker was preying on the Sharks official just because he was older. There was a verbal confrontation, things got heated and it escalated from there. Walker will be arraigned at his court appearance June 11 and it will be interesting to see if he is actually charged with the felony, or if the charge is reduced to a misdemeanor battery or even dropped. Much of the state's decision in Jacksonville Battery Cases centers around the wishes of the victim. Prosecutors prefer to have the victim on board with any charging decision, though it is not always possible. If this case does end up being a felony, expect to see plenty more detail on the Sharks' official's role in starting the altercation. It's difficult to make the case that the official is an innocent elder being pushed around if he is, in fact, part of the reason this Jacksonville Battery Case escalated in the first place.

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

Sisters convicted in Jacksonville shooting are out on bond until June sentencing

Two Jacksonville women convicted of shooting their niece are out of custody while awaiting their prison sentences, an uncommon occurrence in a Jacksonville Gun Crimes case. Joyce Williams was convicted of attempted murder and carrying a concealed weapon. She is facing between 25 years and life in prison when she in sentenced in June, according to a report on News4Jax. Her sister Joycelyn Glover was convicted of possessing a firearm as a convicted felon and faces at least five years in prison in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes case.

In many cases, defendants are out on bond before they go to trial. If they are convicted, the judge usually orders the person into custody immediately, especially in a Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case where people are facing significant time behind bars. Sentencings are typically delayed at least a month following a trial, but in most cases the defendant is in the county jail until the sentence is announced. That time in jail is then credited to the overall sentence, just as the time is when someone is awaiting trial if they have not bonded out. The decision of whether or not to remand a person immediately into custody is strictly the judge's decision. The judge must weigh whether he or she deems the defendant to be a risk to take off and not report for sentencing. The decision is similar to one a judge must make in determining whether to set a bond in any Jacksonville criminal case.

The real number to pay attention to in a bond is 10 percent - that's the amount of the bond needed to get a bondsman to post the bail for you or your loved one. So, is the bond is $5,000, it would take $500 to get out of jail. When setting a bond, the judge often includes some type of monitoring requirements, such as house arrest or restricting travel within the state of Florida. Being out of jail awaiting trial is obviously ideal for most defendants. It can allow them to continue to work, especially important if their case involved fines or paying restitution, which is common in Jacksonville Theft Cases. In this Jacksonville Gun Crimes case, it allows the sisters to make arrangements for family members and such or tie up any loose ends before they are sent to prison - one for at least 25 years, the other for at least five. Judges typically force the person into custody to eliminate the possibility of the person leaving town or committing another crime before they are sentenced. It will be interesting to see after this Jacksonville Gun Crimes sentencing if other local judges end up taking a similar path in terms of allowing people to report back for sentencing.

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

Mentally ill St. Johns County woman, 98, to be moved from jail to mental health facility

A fourth psychological exam has cleared the way for a 98-year-old St. Johns County woman to be moved from the jail to the Florida State Hospital. The fate of Amanda Stevenson had been in question for close to two years since she was arrested in St. Johns County, accused of shooting and killing her nephew during an argument in 2011, according to a report in the St. Augustine Record. Stevenson had been found incompetent to stand trial because she suffers from dementia, the newspaper reported. The judge had ordered the Agency for Persons with Disabilities to find a home for Stevenson, but it said Stevenson did not meet the agency's criteria to be committed. The new test cleared the way for the Department of Children and Families to take custody of her and place her in a mental hospital where she can likely get more help for her illness than she could in jail or prison. This St. Johns County Violent Crimes case was difficult in terms of where to house Stevenson because she should not be kept in jail when she has not been convicted in this St. Johns County Violent Crimes Case. But, she wasn't cleared either. And prosecutors argued she should not be sent to live at home, even with restriction including house arrest, because she was a danger to society. Prosecutors asked that Stevenson remain jailed until an alternative could be found and she did for nearly a year after Stevenson was found incompetent to stand trial in July 2012. County jails are not meant for people to stay in long-term: they are for people awaiting trail and people sentenced to one year or less on a misdemeanor charge. People convicted of felonies, such as murder, are placed in the state prison system.

Stevenson will now be committed to a state hospital, the common landing place for people deemed unfit for trial. She is not free to leave at any point and will live and receive treatment there. She will be eligible to petition for the murder charge to be dropped in five years, the newspaper reported. This St. Johns County Violent Crimes Case highlights some of the limitations in our criminal justice system when it comes to dealing with the mentally ill. The so-called "insanity" defense can get a bad name and is often thought of as people pretending to be mentally ill as a way to avoid prosecution in a case. But, in our criminal justice system, everyone accused of a crime has the right to a fair trial. And, to have that, a person must be able to understand what is going on and be able to make decisions about 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 Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Convicted murderer gets life in prison, Jacksonville prosecutors say they'll try again for death sentence

A Jacksonville man facing murder charges in three different cases has been found guilty of the first two and last week received his second life sentence when a judge opted against the death penalty. But that doesn't appear to be stopping the state from pressing forward once more to have DeShawn Green executed, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The state plans to proceed to trial on the third murder charge and seek the death penalty, even though Green is already facing two life sentences, the newspaper reported.

In this second Jacksonville Murder Case, Green was convicted in the shooting death of a man at a Jacksonville apartment complex and police said he was out for revenge after two of his friends were shot, the newspaper reported. Green and Bruce Brice Jr. were both charged in the shooting, though neither admitted to firing the shots. Brice worked out a plea deal to testify against Green and, in turn, was sentenced to just seven years in prison, the newspaper reported. In convicting Green, the jury found him guilty of being part of the crime, but did not find beyond a reasonable doubt that he was the actual triggerman, the newspaper reported.

In first-degree murder cases in the state of Florida, there are only two possible sentences: life in prison or the death penalty. If the state chooses to seek the death penalty, which it does in Jacksonville more frequently than many other parts of the state, the same jury that sat through the trial is asked to make a recommendation to the judge regarding the death penalty. In Green's Jacksonville Murder Case, the jury voted 7-5 to sentence Green to death. But, in death cases, the jury recommendation is only a recommendation and the judge has the final say. In this case, the judge said he went against the jury's recommendation because of the doubt as to whether or not Green fired the shots, the newspaper reported. Prosecutors have appealed in Jacksonville Murder Cases when a judge chooses life in prison against the recommendation of the jury, so that could be an option in this case. The narrow 7-5 vote may dissuade the state from that option, especially with another murder trial for Green coming soon. Interestingly, the only thing a jury does that it doesn't have to be unanimous in is recommending death. From a petit theft misdemeanor case all the way up to a first-degree murder case, a jury must be unanimous to convict a person of a crime. All it takes is one person and, if an agreement cannot be reached, the jury is considered hung. From there, a mistrial is declared and the trial would have to start all over again with a new jury in place. In a death sentence, though, majority rules. Until the decision reaches the judge.

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

Jacksonville youth pastor pleads guilty to Jacksonville sex charges

A Jacksonville youth pastor has entered guilty pleas to three counts of charges related to accusations that he had sex with a 15-year-old girl from his church. David Lawson pleaded guilty last week to three counts of lewd and lascivious conduct with a child between the ages of 12 and 16, according to a report on First Coast News. Each count is a second-degree felony in Duval County and carries a maximum punishment of 15 years in prison. So, if the judge chooses to apply consecutive sentences in this Jacksonville Sex Crimes case, Lawson could be facing 45 years in prison.

Lawson is scheduled to be sentenced next month. No details of the plea were included in the television news report, though it's very possible that the plea is a result of negotiations between the state and the Jacksonville sex crime defense team and that a sentencing range will be offered to the judge. The ultimate decision lies with the judge, but in most cases where the two sides come to an agreed upon range, the judge with stay within those terms. In many Duval County Sex Crimes cases like this, a plea is worked out because the state does not want to have to put a young victim through a trial if he or she is not comfortable. That doesn't mean prosecutors offer light sentences to avoid a trial - they do not. But in many cases, the defendant also wants to avoid a long, public trial that, in Lawson's case, would no doubt receive plenty of media attention given his former position in the community.

Shortly after police started investigating Lawson late last year, he was fired by his church. Lawson was arrested in January and has been out on Duval County bond while his Jacksonville Sex Crimes case works its way through the court system. Regardless of the eventual sentence and whether he goes to prison or not, Lawson will no doubt be a registered sex offender and will likely have a condition of his eventual probation that does not allow him to work with children again. As a registered sex offender, Lawson would have to register by filling out a form at the sheriff's office at least every six months with his address, phone numbers, place of employment, etc. And if he were to ever move, he must update the information within 48 hours or face criminal charges. If a registered sexual offender does move into a new residence, his neighbors are notified and everyone knows what crime he pleaded guilty to, regardless of long ago it may have been. People convicted of sex crimes face more scrutiny after they've served time than defendants of any other crime. Our Jacksonville Sex Crimes attorney will explain all of the ramifications of a guilty plea or possible conviction so you or your loved one can make the best decision in the case going forward.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Duval County 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.

Police drop investigation into Nassau County teacher's alleged sexual relationship with former student

After investigating an alleged sexual relationship between a Nassau County teacher and one of his former students, police have cleared him of any criminal wrongdoing. The former student told police she kissed the teacher, but then had sex with the teacher after she turned 18, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Once a person turns 18, he or she is legally an adult and it is not a crime for another adult to have consensual sex with an 18-year-old. Technically, 16 is the consent age in the state of Florida, but the age of the sexual partner could make it a Nassau County Sex Crimes case.

The teacher, however, is still facing discipline from the Nassau County School Board and Yulee High School officials have recommended that the board vote to terminate him next month, according to the newspaper report. The investigation in this Nassau County Sex Crimes case started earlier this year after one of the student's friends said the student said she had sexual contact with the teacher at his home, the newspaper reported. The teacher has been on leave since, the newspaper reported. Had the student been 17 years old, the teacher could have faced a second-degree felony, depending on how old he is. If the teacher is over 24 and has sex with someone under the age of 18, he could be charged with unlawful sex with certain minors, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. Equally important, if he was convicted or chose to plead guilty, he would more than likely become a registered sex offender.

Sex crime accusations can be the most difficult to live down and have a tendency to stick with people even if the accusations cannot be proven in court. And if there is a conviction or a plea, sex offenders are subjected to scrutiny and a public broadcasting of their crimes that even people convicted of murder do not experience. Every time a sex offender moves his or her residence, neighbors in a certain vicinity are notified of his or her presence and the crime he or she pleaded to or was convicted of. Sex offenders in Florida are required to notify police when they move and are restricted as to where they live, as it cannot be directly near a school or park where children congregate.

Sex Crimes cases can have serious consequences and our Nassau County Criminal Defense Attorney has represented hundreds of people accused of various sex crimes and knows the potential sentences and scrutiny that come with being a registered sexual offender. Our Nassau County Sex Crimes attorney can explain the consequences and allow you or your loved one to make an informed decision as to how to best move forward with the 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 Nassau County Sex Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville police officer picks up another DUI arrest following traffic crash

A Jacksonville police officer who's been busted for drinking and driving before in her tenure on the force was arrested last week and charged with five counts of DUI causing property damage. Diane Jones was not on duty when she allegedly hit a car in a shopping center parking lot, then allegedly rammed in one on a nearby road, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Jones then returned to the same parking lot and allegedly hit a third car before bumping into another car twice while trying to park her vehicle, the newspaper reported.

Jones' problems didn't end there. Police said she refused to get out of her car and was pulled out by police when she reached for something underneath her seat, the newspaper reported. She then refused to submit to field sobriety tests and, once she was taken to a local hospital, refused to allow her blood to be taken, the newspaper reported. Had any of the crashes resulted in serious bodily injuries, Jones would have had no choice but to have her blood drawn. But since no one was hurt, she could still legally refuse.

Jones has been in legal trouble with drinking and driving before, and it's very likely her days as a Jacksonville police officer are now numbered. She received a 20-day suspension and was ordered to undergo treatment in 2007 after she was investigated for DUI by the Florida Highway Patrol, the newspaper reported. Then, in 2011, a citizen took video of her police car being driven recklessly and police found her drinking at a neighbor's house, the newspaper reported. Jones said she started drinking after driving and there was not enough evidence to prove she was drunk while driving. She was, however, fired from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office until an arbitrator ruled she must be reinstated, the newspaper reported. Jones was most recently assigned to a position taking reports over the phone and did not have a patrol car, the newspaper reported.
It's unclear how many DUI convictions Jones has on her record, but it's very possible she has none. Jacksonville arrests and investigations are not automatic convictions and that fact is significant in this Jacksonville DUI case. Had Jones been convicted in 2007 and in 2011, she would now be facing a felony charge. In Jacksonville DUI cases, if a person has two DUI convictions and is arrested on suspicion of DUI again, the charge can be considered a felony and punishable by up to five years in state prison. As it stands now, Jones is looking only at Duval County misdemeanors and potential time in the county jail - up to six months if it's her first conviction, up to a year if it's her second.
Consequences and penalties ramp up quickly in Jacksonville DUI cases so it's crucial that people do not plead to charges that cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The temptation is for people to plead guilty in first appearance court and start the clock on the coming driver's license suspensions, but that is a short-term decision that can have serious long-term consequences.

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

$7.5 million in cocaine washes on shore in St. Johns County

Twenty-five kilograms of cocaine police say came from South America washed up on shore in St. Johns County this month. The individually wrapped kilograms were likely headed for a destination along the East Coast, where buyers would have processed it, broken it up into smaller amounts and sold it, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. State and federal authorities are still investigating whether the cocaine fell off of a wrecked boat or airplane, or whether it was dumped by people who thought they would get caught with the massive amount of drugs, the newspaper reported. Police did not release all of the information on how the drugs were wrapped, saying it was still part of their investigation into what they estimated as $7.5 million worth of cocaine, the newspaper reported. That's likely all they have to go on. Fingerprints would not be available on items that have been in the water for that period of time. Needless to say, that amount of cocaine is more than enough to send someone to prison for a long, long time.

In Florida, someone can be charged with trafficking in cocaine with as little as 28 grams of the drug. For some perspective, that is less than one-tenth of one percent of the amount of cocaine police just found ashore in St. Johns County. Trafficking charges apply for anyone who possesses, sells, manufactures or brings into the state more than 28 grams of cocaine, so the charges could certainly apply if they were able to tie them to anyone in this St. Johns County Drug Crimes case. Any St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case that involves trafficking in cocaine is a first-degree felony and most are punishable by up to 30 years in prison. But, different amounts of cocaine trigger different minimum mandatory sentences that apply. If the charge is for between 28 and 200 grams, the defendant faces a minimum mandatory sentence of three years in prison and a $50,000 fine. For between 200 and 400 grams, there is a minimum sentence of seven years and a fine of $100,000. The next level, between 400 grams and 150 kilograms, would apply in this St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case. The minimum prison sentence in 15 years and the fine is $250,000. Minimum mandatory sentences carry more time than traditional sentences because defendants must serve every single day of the sentence. In most cases, people only serve about 85 percent of the time they are given. Penalties escalate quickly in St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case, and you certainly don't need to be caught with 25 kilograms of cocaine to be looking at some serious prison 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 St. Johns County Drug Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Prosecutors drop felony charge against Jacksonville driver in crash that killed Baker County man

More than a year after charging a Jacksonville driver with a felony in the death of a Baker County man on Interstate 10, prosecutors have reduced the charges to misdemeanors. Holly King was initially charged with driving with a suspended or revoked license resulting in a serious injury or death, according to a report on First Coast News. That charge is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison. Now, King's case has been transferred to county court and she is facing a first-degree misdemeanor and a maximum of one year in the county jail.

The reduction is significant for King, because pleading guilty to or being convicted of a felony in Duval County can significantly affect a person's ability to get a job - notwithstanding the amount of prison time she could have been facing. As it turns out, the state should have never even charged here with a felony to begin with in the 2011 fatal crash. King was allegedly speeding on Interstate 10 when she drove up on a car driven by Lauren Annis, the television station reported. King lost control and allegedly hit Annis' car, which flipped, killing Annis' husband Todd, the television station reported. King was initially charged with careless driving, but six months later was charged with the felony in this Jacksonville Traffic Case. The felony is tied to the suspended license. King's license was suspended because she did not pay a traffic fine. According to state law, a license suspension that results from failure to pay a fine cannot be used to upgrade a misdemeanor to a felony.

Now, had King's license been suspended for receiving too many points for various traffic violations, the state would have had a legal basis to charge her with a felony. But, in this Jacksonville Traffic Case, the felony is not applicable. Legally, her license had been suspended three months before the accident that killed Annis and should not have been driving - but that still does not make her crime a felony. Traffic fines and penalties can add up quickly and bring some significant penalties. Tickets are scored on a point system and speeding tickets carry a variety of points. Reckless driving is 4 points. Leaving the scene of an accident is 6 points. As the points build, they can add up to big trouble:

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

Failure to pay fines can also lead to a license suspension, as it did in King's Jacksonville Traffic Case. Simply paying the fine is admitting guilt and accepting the points - along with the penalties that come with them and the ancillary costs that can include skyrocketing auto insurance rates. An experienced Jacksonville Traffic Attorney can examine your case to see if reducing points or penalties may be an option to pursue.

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

Armed-robbery conviction thrown out when court rules Jacksonville police illegally searched suspect's cell phone

The Florida Supreme Court has overturned the conviction and 50-year sentence of a Jacksonville man, ruling that police illegally went through pictures on the defendant's cell phone without his permission or seeking a warrant. Police should have gotten a Duval County warrant before searching the phone of Cedric Smallwood, accused of pointing a handgun at a convenience store owner and stealing $15,000 and another handgun from the store, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. After Smallwood was arrested, officers went through his phone and found pictures of a gun and stacks of money, the newspaper reported.

During Smallwood's trial in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case, his Duval County criminal defense attorney objected to the use of the photos because police didn't seek a warrant, but the judge allowed the photos, the newspaper reported. One appellate court agreed with the photo search, saying a cell phone was no different than a wallet or closed container found on a person, both items police are legally allowed to search.
But the Supreme Court saw it differently. The ruling is significant, especially in a digital age where people rely on mobile phones and devices for storing all types of information, including banking records and personal calendars. In many cases, the mobile phone is almost a personal computer, which police would need a warrant in order to search. Search warrants specify what law enforcement is looking for and can legally look for when searching a computer. Police do not have carte blanche access to pilfer through whatever they choose on a computer, The Supreme Court ruling makes sense in expanding that protection to mobile devices, which in many cases have just as much, if not more, information stored on them.

This does not mean police won't be able to touch or look at cell phones. It just means they must get a warrant first and lay out exactly what they are looking to find, and how that would directly affect the case they are working on. Media reports have not said whether the state intends to try Smallwood again in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes case. He was first arrested in 2008 and has been behind bars since - in the county jail until his conviction and then in state prison. He is now back in the Duval County Jail awaiting arraignment on this charge, the newspaper reported. Jacksonville armed robbery is a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison, so it would be difficult to imagine the state not aggressively pursuing the case again. But any case will have to proceed without the photos police obtained from Smallwood's cell phone. The Supreme Court ruling is definitely significant for Smallwood in his Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case and is also a win for suspects going forward in the state of Florida.

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

Clay County sheriff's deputy charged with DUI, breath tests show no alcohol in his system

A veteran Clay County Sheriff's Office deputy was suspended following his arrest last month on a DUI charge following a traffic crash. James Avery was arrested by the Florida Highway Patrol after the 1:15 a.m. crash after he was allegedly mumbling his speech, unsteady on his feet and appearing to be very tired and drowsy, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Avery was arrested and charged with driving under the influence in Clay County, a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail.

But Avery does have one piece of evidence that is in his favor for now. When police asked him to take a breath test, he did and it came back that he had no alcohol at all in his system, the newspaper reported. Police ordered him to submit a urine sample, which was sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement laboratory for analysis, the newspaper reported. It's unclear whether Avery submitted to that test as a condition of his employment or if his willingly did so as a part of the criminal investigation to prove that he was, in fact, sober at the time of his arrest. If the test was part of his employment, one would expect his Clay County DUI Attorney to argue that the test be thrown out in the criminal case.

A urine test could show drugs in a Clay County DUI suspect's system that would contribute the person driving under the influence. When someone is arrested on a Clay County DUI charge, the automatic assumption is the person was under the influence of alcohol. And our Clay County DUI attorney would agree that alcohol is the substance involved in the vast majority of DUI cases. Alcohol is more commonly detected, mostly because it is used more and is legal. The odor and signs of impairment also make it easier to spot for a police officer. If someone is on, for example, prescription narcotics, there isn't an odor an officer would immediately be able to pick up on when the driver opened his or her mouth to speak. A fair question in this case is: Why police would arrest Avery if the breath test came out .000? One reason is officers may have suspected he was on something else. Another procedural answer is the arrest occurs after the officer declares the driver has failed field sobriety exercises. Many people think breath tests are administered at the side of the road. They are not in Clay County DUI cases. The breath tests are given inside the jail as part of the booking process. So the driver has already been handcuffed and hauled downtown because the officer suspects there is enough evidence to charge the driver with a Clay County DUI. A breath test void of alcohol does not mean the person won't spend the night in jail and be charged with a DUI.

Our Clay County DUI attorney has represented hundreds of people charged with DUI, including those who have blown .000 on a breath test. Our firm is well-versed in the requirements to make a proper DUI arrest and can fully investigate the case of you or your loved one. 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 DUI Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

State drops DUI charge against former Clay County school board candidate

Coming up on two years after he was first arrested on a Clay County DUI charge, prosecutors have not chosen not to go forward with the case against a Clay County lawyer and former school board candidate. During a pretrial hearing last month, the State Attorney's Office announced it would drop the charges against Joseph Wiggins, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Wiggins had maintained his innocence since his arrest in August 2011 and said he didn't know if the pending charge contributed to his defeat in a 2012 election for the Clay County School Board.

He was charged with misdemeanor DUI and was facing up to six months in jail. His case was pending for 20 months before the state decided to drop the charge. Jacksonville DUI Cases can be difficult for the state to prove, particularly if the suspect does not submit to a breathalyzer exam. There are specific procedures police must follow when making a Clay County DUI arrest, and, if they are not all followed precisely, the traffic stop can be thrown out and the state is left with very little to go on - sometimes nothing at all. A DUI arrest begins with a traffic stop and the officer must have a reasonable suspicion that the suspect is committing a crime or traffic infraction before he or she even approaches the vehicle. Once the officer begins speaking with a suspect, he or she must see or detect more suspicious activity before asking to perform field sobriety exercises. The typical reasons our Clay County DUI Attorney has seen in police reports through the years are: red or watery eyes, a subject smelling like alcohol, slurred speech or the person swaying when her or she stood or walked.

If an officer feels the suspect is showing one or more of these signs, the next step is asking the driver to perform field sobriety exercises. The defendant can decline, which will likely result in an immediate arrest, but would also limit evidence in a potential criminal case. The exercises are tailored to determine if a suspect is fit to be behind the wheel. The officer typically asks the suspect to walk in a straight line and turn around; stand on one leg; stand with his or her legs together to test balance; move their arms to touch their finger to their nose and recite the alphabet or a series of numbers in order (Rhomberg Alphabet). Each individual test has various indicators of impairment and, if a suspect has enough missteps during the testing, he or she will be arrested on a Clay County DUI Charge. From there, the suspect will be brought to the police station and told to take a breath test. Suspects in Clay County DUI Cases do not have to take the test, but, similar to field sobriety tests, refusing to take it means at least one night in jail. If the defendant does take the test, our Clay County DUI Attorney will examine the test and its results to be sure it was administered correctly, just as she will for the initial traffic stop.

While pleading guilty to a DUI in first appearance court make seem like the easiest and best option, a Clay County DUI Attorney can delve into the details of the case and in some instances find errors that could lead the charges being reduced or dropped. If you or a loved one needs a DUI attorney in Orange Park or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Clay County DUI Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Conviction and five-year prison sentence thrown out for man accused of beating store owner

A Jacksonville man who's already served half of a five-year prison sentence after being convicted in the 2010 beating of a convenience store owner will now get a new trial in the case. Gerald Cribbs was convicted in a 2011 trial and sentenced to five years in prison on the Duval County felony assault charge, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Gribbs had been kicked out of a Westside Jacksonville convenience store three times for harassing female customers and, when the owner went out to the parking lot again to see if Cribbs had left, the owner was hit in the back of the head, the newspaper reported. The owner said during trial he heard Cribbs' voice threatening to kill him and the owner told police the night of the attack that Cribbs was the one who hit him in this Jacksonville Assault case.

But when an investigator for Cribbs' defense team testified in this Jacksonville Assault Case, he said he spoke with the owner just two months before the trial and the owner said he didn't know who hit him, the newspaper reported. Prosecutors then tore into the investigator, questioning his tactics and asking why he didn't talk to other witnesses. Jacksonville Defense Attorneys objected, but the judge allowed the questioning anyway, the newspaper reported. The 1st District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee last week sided with Cribbs, saying the questioning of the defense investigator shifted the case to where Cribbs was having to prove his innocence, rather than the state proving he was guilty. It is not the responsibility of a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney to prove his or her client is innocent. In all criminal defense cases in Florida, including Jacksonville Assault Cases, the burden of proof is on the state. Period. Prosecutors must prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt, or the jury is supposed to find the person not guilty.

In criminal cases in Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties, it is imperative that the playing field be level so the accused in ensured his or her right to a fair trial. That's why the potential sentence a defendant is facing is not made public during the trial - that information could sway the jury one way or the other. Another example is a jury decision must be unanimous. A person's freedom is a fundamental right and should not be taken away on a whim. It will be interesting to see if the state will continue to pursue the case against Cribbs, or if negotiations will ramp up. Cribbs has been returned from state prison to the Duval County Jail while the case resolves. Criminal cases can come down to small details that may seem like minutia at the time, but are of great importance to an experienced Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney.

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