August 2013 Archives

State clears corrections officers in the death of Clay County inmate

August 31, 2013

Prosecutors have decided not to seek criminal charges against Clay County corrections officers who watched a 19-year-old inmate die in a restraint chair earlier this year. The death of Daniel Linsinbigler Jr. was ruled a homicide, but no charges will be filed in this Clay County Homicide Case, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Linsinbigler was in the medical unit of the jail and taken from his cell after officers said he was acting belligerent - kicking his cell door and yelling, the newspaper reported. Linsinbigler was on suicide watch at the jail 10 days after his arrest on an indecent exposure charge and was likely days or weeks from being released before his death, the newspaper reported.

Three inmates told investigators from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement they heard Linsinbigler crying out that he could not breathe, the newspaper reported. But none of the corrections officers or medical personnel mentioned that fact in the 62-page report, the newspaper reported. Linsinbigler died of asphyxiation, the newspaper reported. Prosecutors have ruled the death accidental and unintended in this Clay County Homicide Case, the newspaper reported. The lack of charges is fairly common in case involving an inmate death, much like when people are killed in police-involved shootings. Any penalty or punishment for the police or sheriff's office likely comes in the form of a civil lawsuit filed by the family. The standard of proof in a civil case is not as difficult to meet, and many police departments will defer to the civil court system rather than have one of their own face criminal charges. Not to mention, if prosecutors file criminal charges, it certainly lends creditability to any civil claim in the case - opening up the sheriff's office to what could be more serious monetary damages.

The most likely criminal charge, if there were to have been one filed, would be manslaughter. Manslaughter is the charge the state applied when someone dies as a result of another person's negligence. For example, if two people are in a fight and one ends up dying, the state could file manslaughter charges. Intent is not an issue in a manslaughter case. The state would not have to prove that the corrections officers were trying to kill Linsinbigler, only that their negligence caused his death. The first step in any case that might include officers and criminal conduct is the criminal investigation - which is now complete. The next step is an internal review that could include changes in policy or potential discipline for the officers involved. While there still are punitive options against the officers in this Clay County Homicide Case, the most serious are clearly the criminal charges - which have now been eliminated.

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

Jacksonville man convicted of shooting at friends and neighbors outside of his home

August 29, 2013

A Jacksonville man was found guilty of six counts of aggravated assault for firing into the air and then in the direction of six people in front of his home last summer. Randal Ratledge was convicted last week and now faces a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years in prison on each count, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The judge, however, could choose to run the Jacksonville Gun Crimes sentences at the same time, meaning Ratledge could be sentenced to the minimum of 20 years - even though he was found guilty on six counts. Ratledge is 56, so a sentence of much more than 20 years could essentially end up being a life sentence.

Ratledge was outside talking with friends and neighbors when he and his wife went inside, the newspaper reported. The couple began to argue and Ratledge then walked outside, shooting into the air and then in the direction of people until Ratledge eventually dropped the gun after a struggle and then went inside, the newspaper reported. Ratledge did not have a criminal record prior to this Jacksonville Gun Crime incident and his Duval County criminal defense attorney argued that Ratledge had a bad reaction with the sleeping pill Ambien and was not guilty by involuntary intoxication, the newspaper reported. The jury did not agree and convicted him after less than an hour of deliberations. The state had offered Ratledge a plea deal that would have allowed him to serve 10 years in prison, but he declined, the newspaper reported. The details of the offer almost certainly came from the state and are part of prosecutors now defending themselves from criticism on seeking minimum mandatory sentences too often on cases like Ratledge's.

Under Florida's 10-20-Life laws, there are minimum mandatory sentences established for crimes involving firearms. If a person shows a gun during the commission of a felony, a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years could apply. If the gun is fired, the minimum is 20 years if convicted. And if someone is hit, it can trigger a life sentence. These are mandatory on a conviction. But the state can negotiate sentences below those numbers if prosecutors choose. They did in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes case, offering 10 years, though the defense obviously declined the deal. One thing to keep in mind for minimum mandatory sentences: defendants must serve every day of the sentence. In traditional sentences, people usually serve 85 percent of the sentence, so the 10 years is really more likely to be 8-1/2. Taking a case to trial will almost always up the ante for a potential sentence - especially in cases where a minimum mandatory applies. But, it's also unlikely for someone to take 10 years in prison for something they may not believe they are guilty of. The stakes are high in Jacksonville Gun Crime Cases, and our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will lay out all of the options for you or your loved one so you can make an informed decision 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 Jacksonville Gun Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Man accused of molesting 15-year-olds now charged in plot to have alleged victims killed

August 27, 2013

A Jacksonville man already looking at two Jacksonville sex felonies for allegedly molesting two 15-year-old girls appears to have compounded his problems and is now accused of a jailhouse plot to have both girls killed. Daniel Lowery has been in jail since March, charged with two counts of lewd battery - a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Last week, he was charged with two counts of capital criminal solicitation - both first degree felonies with a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison, the newspaper reported.

Lowery is accused of sending a letter from jail with instructions on where to find a gun Lowery had and that the girls needed to be silenced so they could not testify, the newspaper reported. The letter also allegedly included information on where the girls lived, what they looked like and suggestions on the best time and place to shoot them, the newspaper reported. A state investigator intercepted the letter and, using the information, was able to run down the gun that is now part of evidence for the state in this Jacksonville Sex Crimes Case. And while this Duval County Sex Crimes Case is rather extreme, it highlights the issue that the best thing anyone can do in jail is just remain quiet and wait for their case to resolve.

In many cases, far more than our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney can count, defendants accused of any type of crime routinely help the state by sending things from jail or talking too much on the phone from the jail. Defendants are told in no uncertain terms that anything they say on the jail phones is being recorded and can be used against them. Prosecutors DO listen to jail calls and WILL use them in court. What often emboldens defendants to open up more and more on the phone with family members or whomever they are speaking with, is the fact they haven't heard anyone say anything about previous conversations, so defendants often falsely assume no one is really listening. And that may be true - for the time being. Prosecutors aren't going to waste their time sifting through jail calls and letters on every single case. But when one is set to go to trial they'll pull the calls. And, that's where the often find defendants talking about having someone hide evidence or threatening a person who will be called as a witness by the state. Not only could those actions allow the state to add more serious charges, it also adds evidence the state can present to a jury that could show guilt for the original charge. If you are arrested an accused of a crime, please remember anything you say on jail calls or write in a letter can be used against you. Or if you're loved one is calling you from jail, steer conversation away from the case whenever possible. Little things said on those phone calls can have major implications when the state is putting the finishing touches on its 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 Jacksonville Sex Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Man facing life on two Jacksonville murder charges accepts state's plea deal for 15 years

August 23, 2013

In another example of the state charging people with crimes that carry life sentences and then offering a much better deal as trial approaches, a Jacksonville man facing two counts of murder will go to prison for 15 years. Calvin Bryant was charged in two shootings during a 2010 a block party where one man was killed and another was injured, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Bryant was initially charged with second-degree murder, attempted first degree murder, carrying a concealed firearm and the use of a firearm in the commission of a felony.

Both murder charges are first-degree felonies that carry a sentence of up to life in prison. The use of a firearm charge is a second degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison and the concealed weapon charge is a third-degree felony with a five-year maximum sentence. In this Jacksonville Murder Case, the state dropped both gun charges - virtually unheard of in Jacksonville criminal justice proceedings these days. On the surface, it appears the state was not confident at all in either of the two murder charges against Bryant. To start with second-degree murder and an attempted first-degree murder and them go down to 15 years is a significant drop. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney sees the state routinely insist on far higher sentences for much less serious charges - certainly charges that don't involve someone being killed. The next obvious question, then, is: If the state's case is so weak, then why did the defense take prison time and not push the case to trial?

In Jacksonville Criminal Defense Cases, especially Jacksonville Murder Cases, the decision to take a deal or go to trial is one of balancing and managing risk. In this Jacksonville Murder Case, Bryant was facing life in prison if convicted. It was not a mandatory life sentence but, in the vast majority of Jacksonville Criminal Defense cases, the sentencing following a trial is more severe than what the state was offering before trial. That doesn't say much about every person's fundamental right to a trial before a jury of one's peers, but that's how our system operates. The opportunity to take 15 years instead of risking a life sentence was why Bryant chose to plead guilty, his attorney told the newspaper. In many Jacksonville Murder Cases, the state does not even have an offer other than life in prison. That's why so many Jacksonville Murder Cases end up in trial. If a defendant is looking at life in prison on a plea or life in prison on a trial, there's no incentive not to take the case to trial and most defendants do. But, when there is another option on the table, the decision is different. In Bryant's Jacksonville Murder Case, the state gets at least some time in prison and the defense cuts its losses and gets a favorable deal for the defendant.

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

No prison time for mother of 12-year-old who killed half-brother in Jacksonville manslaughter case

August 21, 2013

A Jacksonville mother charged with manslaughter and child neglect for waiting to take her unconscious son to the hospital was sentenced to probation and counseling this month, despite prosecutor's hopes of locking her up for 15 years. The sentencing wraps up the criminal portion of the case involving Cristian Fernandez, whom the state charged with first-degree murder at age 12 for crushing his 2-year-old half-brother with a bookcase, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Biannela Susana returned home from a quick errand to find her young son injured and tried to research the injuries, among other things, while waiting hours to take her young son to the hospital, the newspaper reported. Had she brought him earlier, he may have survived, doctors have testified in this Jacksonville Manslaughter Case. The sentence was issued last week, a month after an all-day hearing where both sides stated their case. Prosecutors wanted 15 years for Susana, but the judge went in an entirely different direction.

Susana was sentenced to 10 years, but the judge opted to suspend the sentence, the newspaper reported. She was also given credit for the more than two years she spent in jail awaiting the resolution of her Jacksonville Manslaughter Case so, technically, she'd have less than eight years left to serve. The judge ruled that Susana's need for immediate mental health counseling that she could not receive in prison outweighed the threat of her being a danger to the community, the newspaper reported. She will spend 90 days at a domestic violence shelter and then two years at a halfway house to get life skills training and mental health counseling, the newspaper reported. She will remain on Duval County probation for the remainder of the 10-year-sentence. A local nonprofit that helps at-risk girls has agreed to hire Susana once she meets the other requirements. If Susana violates any of the terms of her release, she could be sentenced to serve the rest of her sentence in prison.

Cristian pleaded guilty to manslaughter as well, along with Jacksonville aggravated battery, and was sentenced to time in a juvenile jail. He'll be released when he turns 19 and will be on probation for another eight years. The judge has the latitude in Jacksonville Manslaughter Cases to break up the sentence however he or she chooses. While it is rare for no prison time to be issued in a Jacksonville Manslaughter Case, this case is inherently different, with a 12-year-old initially charged with first-degree murder and his mother charged for her role following the injuries. Probation can often be a trap for defendants, with the state eager for a violation to get another shot at prison time. This seems to ring especially true in this case, where prosecutors were openly critical of the sentence for Susana, the newspaper reported.

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

First pleas among big players in Internet café theft case with deep Jacksonville connections

August 19, 2013

A Jacksonville lawyer publicly pegged as the mastermind of a massive scheme to use a charity as a front to making millions on Internet Café gambling said he has never considered any sort of plea deal in the case. Mathis is charged with racketeering and money laundering, but insists he wants his day in court to clear his name, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. In a rare move for someone facing serious Florida criminal charges, Mathis and his attorneys invited the media for a discussion with Mathis the day after another one of the alleged ringleaders of the criminal enterprise entered his own guilty plea in this Jacksonville Theft Case, as did three members of his family, the newspaper reported.

Johnny Duncan, former national commander of Allied Veterans of the World, pleaded guilty to five Florida felonies but didn't fully admit that he committed any crime, the newspaper reported. Duncan's attorney said his client, 66, suffers from serious health problems and the ongoing case was too stressful for him and his family, the newspaper reported. The key takeaway from the Duncan plea: Prosecutors agreed to recommend probation instead of prison time for Duncan, who has agreed to testify against the others involved in the case.

What prosecutors need from Duncan - or from somewhere in their case against Mathis - is proof of intent to steal and intentionally divert money alleged to be earmarked for charity. Mathis has said all along he was the attorney for Allied Veterans and was paid to research the legality of the operations and advise his clients, which he did, the newspaper reported. With Duncan's less than hearty admission and a ruling from the judge that the gambling expert the state was planning to use cannot testify, it appears from the outside that the state's proof in this Jacksonville Theft Case could be on shaky ground. The arrests made statewide headlines as more than 50 people were charged, including high-ranking officials within the Jacksonville Fraternal Order of Police. The cases are now based in Seminole County, where the warrants and investigation ended, though Mathis' attorneys are asking the case be moved to Jacksonville, where most of the crimes are alleged to have taken place - and where most of the witnesses live. Mathis is using his right to a speedy trial, which means the state has to take the case to trial within six months of the arrest. The trial in this Jacksonville Theft Case, sure to get plenty of notice statewide, is set to begin in September.

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.

South Florida cops arrested accused of making female DUI suspect have sex to avoid arrest

August 16, 2013

Two South Florida police officers are now on the wrong end of the arrest docket, accused of using their power for sex and a strange enjoyment of being kicked in the testicles. A veteran officer of the Lauderhill Police Department allegedly pulled a car over with two women inside who were leaving a strip club about 4 a.m., according to a report in the Miami Herald. The officer, Franklin Hartley, said he was going to arrest them, but inside had them drive and follow him behind a business, the newspaper reported. He called another officer, Thomas Merenda, to meet him there, too, according to the newspaper.

Hartley is accused of telling the woman she could be arrested as he kissed and fondled her, eventually ordering her to have sex - which she did, the newspaper reported. Merenda then allegedly took his turn, fondling the women, and asking one to punch or kick him in the groin, which Hartley assured the women Merenda enjoyed. Hartley is charged with two counts of unlawful compensation, while Merenda faces one count. The second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, is for public officials receiving an improper benefit - generally money or a special favor, but it also applies to sexual favors in this case. Both also face a misdemeanor battery charge, the newspaper reported. Both men turned themselves in to police last week and are out on bond - and on unpaid leave from the police department - while the cases resolve.

Allegations of police using their power for sex are not entirely uncommon, though they do not often result in criminal charges. The officers in this Florida Sex Crimes case, through their attorneys, have proclaimed their innocence. But the state says investigators found a pair of orange panties at the scene one of the women said belonged to her, and have GPS records from both officers' vehicles placing them in the parking lot for about 90 minutes during the time of the alleged assaults, the newspaper reported. Now, officers do park their cars for extended periods of time and catch up on writing reports and such, but the timing appears to be suspicious.

Other Florida DUI Attorneys will be closely watching how this case plays out against these two officers. Drivers, especially women, who have DUI cases in which either Hartley or Merenda was the arresting officer will no doubt be paying attention. Regardless of how the criminal case turns, the ethics and credibility of both officers can now be questioned in court and there could soon be cases where defendants say they were arrested because they would not comply with demands for sexual favors. The case is already ugly for this South Florida police department, and has the potential to get much worse. But the reality is officers must be beyond reproach when it comes to making arrests. Decisions should be made on the law alone and defendants should all be treated the same way. When they are not, it is fair game for a Florida DUI attorney to question the officer's motive in defending his or her client.

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.

Couple says car shown in running light in Jacksonville red-light camera case is not theirs

August 14, 2013

A woman whose license plate number is exactly the same as one on a car shown running a red light in Jacksonville will have to go to court to profess her innocence - and try to avoid a hefty fine. The Putnam County woman received a ticket in the mail that shows a car with the same license plate information as hers clearly making a left turn on a red light at a Jacksonville intersection, according to a report on News4Jax. But that car is a light-colored sedan, not even close to the orange Dodge Charger she owns and says is registered to that license plate, the television station reported. Now, the woman is going to have to head to court, show the evidence and state her case - in hopes of having this Jacksonville Traffic Case dismissed.

The burden should not be on her to prove her innocence in this Jacksonville Traffic Case. But that is precisely what red light cameras have done in Jacksonville Traffic Cases, shifted the burden from innocent until proven guilty to the state essentially forcing drivers to show the photographs are wrong. The notices and photos arrive in the mail and the message appears clear: Prove it's not you or pay the fine. The red light cameras appear to be headed for legal battles, as they have in other cities and states that have implemented this. The cameras are often credited for reducing the number of crashes at intersections because people, in theory, pay more attention to running a red light when they know there's a likelihood of punishment if they go through the red light. But, make no mistake, these red light cameras are also a cash cow for local governments. They can generate hundreds of tickets at a fraction of the cost of an officer sitting in his or her patrol car at an intersection individually pulling people over who drive through a red light.

And the cost of a Jacksonville Traffic Case can be more than the $150 or so listed on the ticket. If you do not pay the fine in a certain amount of time, a month, the fine can double.
The legal challenges on red light cameras in Jacksonville Traffic Cases will be interesting to watch. Our Jacksonville Traffic Attorney is keeping a close eye on the early cases using these cameras and can help determine if the case of you or your loved one is worth fighting in court.

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.

Investigation into Memorial Day brawl at Jacksonville Beach suspended again

August 12, 2013

It appears there will be no arrests in the foreseeable future connected to the Memorial Day brawl that shut down part of Jacksonville Beach during holiday festivities and left one man seriously injured. Jacksonville Beach police last week suspended their investigation in the case for the second time, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Charges or not, the incident has heightened awareness and led to a push from residents for more of police presence at the beach - especially during special events and holidays, the newspaper reported.

Cell phone videos of the brawl went viral and were broadcast heavily on local television and local news websites, clearly showing a man being beaten. With the public nature of the incident, many are asking how there could possibly not be any Jacksonville Beach Battery charges. Our criminal court system operates far differently than the court of public opinion, even in this Jacksonville Battery Case. Police have said they suspected this brawl was between two rival gangs from Jacksonville and that none of the witnesses said to have been nearby have been willing to provide any information to police. A grainy cell phone video is not enough to positively identify the attacker in this case in front of a jury - and that appears to be about the extent of the state's case thus far.

While this was made more public by the video and the public reaction that ensued, it's no different than a fight that might happen outside a bar or a sporting event. Things happen quickly, words escalate into a physical fight and people scatter. Unless someone is arrested in Duval County and detained right there at the time of the fight, there may not be any arrests in the case. In this Jacksonville Battery Case, prosecutors would need someone to sit on the witness stand and testify to the fact that the defendant, whoever it may be, was the one that threw the punches and kicked the man in the video. Prosecutors don't have that in this case. They don't have police saying they were called to the scene and found a defendant there or saw him running away or anything close. The investigation will remain suspended until a witness comes forward that will provide police with enough information so authorities can make an arrest in this Jacksonville Fighting Case, the newspaper reported.

The potential defendants know who they are and this would be an ideal time to consult with a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney. An Jacksonville defense attorney can discuss what is likely to happen next and, if charges are filed, can lay out potential scenarios and options for a defense strategy.

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

Former Jacksonville firefighter convicted of rape, attempted murder

August 9, 2013

A former Jacksonville firefighter was convicted this month of several violent felonies after grabbing a woman downtown and beating and raping her in an alley. Daniel Evans was convicted of Jacksonville sexual battery, kidnapping and attempted felony murder, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Evans faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced next month. In the trial, the victim testified she could not identify Evans as her attacker because she kept her eyes closed the entire time, the newspaper reported. But the state had some physical evidence, including Evans' DNA on the victim's clothes. Evans also left one shoe at the scene and it matched the shoe he was booked into jail with after police found him hiding in some bushes near where the attack occurred, the newspaper reported.

There were also two witnesses that saw the attack from a nearby parking garage and called police, the newspaper reported. Evans was convicted of grabbing the woman as she left a downtown Jacksonville bar about 2 a.m., and police found his car parked right outside that same bar, the newspaper reported. So despite the fact the victim could not identify Evans, there was what appeared to be a mountain of evidence against him in this Jacksonville Sex Crimes Case. His Duval County Criminal Attorneys argued the state hadn't proven it was Evans in the alley and it was too dark for any of the witnesses to make a positive identification, but the jury did not agree, the newspaper reported.

He was fired from the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department immediately following his arrest in 2012, the newspaper reported. Because the beating occurred during the commission of another felony - the rape and/or the kidnapping could both be used as the felony - Evans was also charged with attempted felony murder. Felony murder can be charged when someone dies during the commission of a felony. Attempted felony murder can be a little more difficult for the state to prove but, in this Jacksonville Sex Crimes case, police said the victim lost consciousness and one of the witnesses said he thought the victim was dead when he saw her in the alley after Evans ran away, the newspaper reported. In Jacksonville Sex Crimes cases like this, prosecutors will typically stop negotiating once the defense takes the deposition of a rape victim, so a decision has to be made rather early on whether to take the case to trial or not. It would not be surprising if the state did not even have an offer in this particular Jacksonville Sex Crimes case, given the severity and nature of the crime. While the judge does have latitude in the sentencing in this case, Evans will be doing significant time on these charges - possibly life in prison.

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.

The difference between thefts, burglaries and the varying penalties in Clay County property crimes

August 7, 2013

The regular rundown of Clay County property crimes published in the Florida Times-Union can be an entertaining read of the things people steal. The most recent installment includes copper tubing from linked propane tanks at a Winn-Dixie, a backflow preventer from the water line of a business, a lawnmower and a motorcycle, the newspaper reported. The items are compiled by the Clay County Sheriff's Office and are pulled from reports from the victims, so they may have arrested people in some of the Clay County Theft Cases and not in others.

Punishments vary dramatically depending primarily on what the person is accused of stealing and where they allegedly stole it from. Theft is taking something that is out in the open: a bicycle from a parking lot, the copper tubing from the propane tanks. The punishment for theft is predominantly determined by the value of the property or the financial amount of any physical damage caused. Stealing something valued at less than $300 is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to a year in county jail. But once that amount exceeds $300, the charge becomes a felony and the defendant is now looking at up to five years in state prison. Burglary to a conveyance is stealing from something that is not a building or a residence. The most common example is a vehicle. For example, the recent Clay County crimes report shows power and hand tools stolen from a dump truck and a purse taken from an unlocked vehicle. This Clay County Theft Crime is a third-degree felony, also punishable by up to five years in prison.

Burglary to a structure or dwelling is entering a building, business or home to take an item or items. In most instances, this is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The second-degree felony would also apply to a theft from a car - if there was someone in the car when the alleged theft occurred. Armed burglary is not only what would initially come to mind, someone walking into a home or business with a gun and stealing things from inside. In Clay County Theft Cases, armed burglary also applies when a person steals a gun. So someone can walk in unarmed, take a gun and thus become armed, and the armed burglary charge applies. Armed burglary is a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison. Our Clay County Theft Attorney has represented people on all of the above charges, from minor thefts to armed burglaries - and everything in between. Our Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney knows the ins and outs of each of the charges and the elements the state needs to prove each of them beyond a reasonable doubt.

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

Man struggles with police in Jacksonville pawn shop; his gun goes off and hits officer in arm

August 5, 2013

A Jacksonville man is facing six counts of attempted murder after he allegedly unsuccessfully tried to grab an officer's gun during a struggle, then his own gun went off inside a pawn shop, hitting an officer in the arm. Edward Garvin was charged with six counts of attempted murder, because there were six people in the store at the time, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. He was also charged with aggravated battery, resisting an officer with violence and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

The attempted murder charges may be a bit of a stretch in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case, but it will be interesting to see how aggressively the state pursues those charges. Police don't take kindly to people trying to steal their guns and seeing one of their own shot - and neither do prosecutors. What is clear by media reports is police had been looking for this family in connection to a string of burglaries and related pawn at nearby pawn shops, the newspaper reported. Garvin's wife and daughter were both arrested at the scene and charged with one count each of burglary and armed burglary, along with two counts of dealing in stolen property. A store clerk recognized the family as the one police had contacted local pawn shops about and called police to the store, the newspaper reported. All three are being held in the Duval County jail while the case is pending. Armed burglary is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison. Burglary and dealing in stolen property are both second-degree felonies punishable by up to 15 years in prison. In an armed burglary case, the law states that a person is either armed or becomes armed during the burglary. For example, if someone breaks in to a home and steals a gun, they can be charged with armed burglary - that may or may not be the case in this Jacksonville Firearm Crimes case.

Police are now likely sorting through the family's alleged criminal operation in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case, figuring out who is the mastermind and who will provide them with that information. Edward Garvin is already facing the most serious charges - thanks to trying to fight the police inside the store, so it would make sense that prosecutors would be willing to reduce charges or offer lower sentences for his wife and daughter to bring him down. But, given the paper trial of documentation needed these days to pawn things, police may not need any help and could aggressively go after all three in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes 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 Jacksonville Gun Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Judge rules woman was mentally competent during St. Johns County road rage episode, finds her guilty on 14 counts

August 2, 2013

Despite conflicting opinions on the defendant's mental competency, a judge found a woman guilty of all 14 felony counts related to a 2010 St. Johns County road rage incident. Andrea Zampatti allegedly rammed her Land Rover into a bicyclist, ran a scooter of the road and crashed into two St. Johns County Sheriff's deputies and a truck, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Several people were injured, but no one was killed in the series of accidents, the newspaper reported. Zampatti was initially ruled mentally incompetent to stand trial and spent five months in a state mental hospital, but has since been released on bond, the newspaper reported. Zampatti's St. Johns County defense team continued to argue that she was mentally ill at the time of the crash, which led to her behavior, but the judge ruled last week that she was mentally competent at the time.

She was found guilty of 14 felonies in this St. Johns County Aggravated Battery case. Two charges - aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon and aggravated fleeing or eluding a law enforcement officer causing death or serious injury - are first degree felonies in Florida punishable by up to 30 years in state prison. She was found guilty of five second-degree felonies, which carry a maximum of 15 years in prison, and seven third-degree felonies, each punishable by up to five years in state prison. The judge has the option to sentence the maximum on each of the counts, which would be 160 years in this St. Johns County Aggravated Battery Case, but it's rare that a sentence would be that severe.

In the vast majority of criminal cases, a trial is done in front of a jury of one's peers. In some cases, particularly complex cases where there are a mental health concerns, the defense can request that the trial be done just in front of the judge. These trials are known as bench trials. If the St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney requests the bench trial, the state must also agree for it to go forward. In any St. Johns County Criminal Case, there are certain strategies and techniques that a criminal defense attorney will look at in order to provide the best representation of his or her client. The hallmark of our criminal justice system is a defendant having a trial in front of a jury of his or her peers, but that may not always be in the client's best interest. Our St. Johns County Aggravated Battery attorney will fully investigate the case of you or your loved one and then lay all of the options and potential consequences out on the table so you can make an informed decision 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 Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.