Jacksonville driver charged with felony for her role in fatal crash

December 27, 2013

Six months after a fatal wreck on Jacksonville's Westside, the at-fault driver was arrested and charged with vehicular homicide. Tamara Miller was arrested this month after police said she was weaving in and out of traffic, driving more than 30 mph over the speed limit and ran a red light leading to the fatal crash, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Miller is charged with vehicular homicide, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in state prison.

Witness told police they saw Miller veer into a turn lane to go around stopped traffic and then go through a red light and slam into the victim's car about 8:30 a.m. on a June morning, the newspaper reported. It is not uncommon for vehicular homicide investigations to take this long in Jacksonville Traffic Cases such as this one. Vehicular homicide can be difficult for the state to prove and is not simply the default charge in a traffic accident that results in a death. For someone to be convicted of vehicular homicide in a Jacksonville Traffic Case, a death must be "caused by the operation of a motor vehicle by another in a reckless manner likely to cause the death of, or great bodily harm to, another," according to Florida Statutes.

Police told the newspaper that part of the reason for the delay in charges was the wait for investigators to be able to determine the speed at which Miller was driving at the time of the crash. That can be determined by the impact of the crash and other factors, but calculations and other testing is needed so the results are not immediately available. The investigation found Miller was traveling 76 mph on a road with a 45 mph speed limit, which will likely be a key for the state in this Jacksonville Traffic Case. Delays in charges are also common while the state waits for results of toxicology tests that would determine if the driver had any drugs or alcohol in his or her system. In this Jacksonville Traffic Case, police said there was alcohol in Miller's system, but not enough to render her legally impaired. While that detail is something police might want to release to the media, it is something a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney would likely seek to have excluded from a trial, arguing that the amount of alcohol is less that legal limits and it not relevant in this Jacksonville Driving Case.

Very few Jacksonville Traffic Cases end up in vehicular homicide charges, but when the state deems reckless driving results in injuries or death, there can be very serious consequences. In many cases, these are the first serious criminal charges a person has faced though many, like Miller in this case, have a history of traffic violations.

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

Demolition latest step after increase in meth crimes in St. Johns County

December 26, 2013

St. Johns County demolished an abandoned home this month that had been used as several times as a lab to cook methamphetamine. Contamination levels were more than 1,800 times higher than levels deemed to be dangerous and this is the second contaminated home St. Johns County has demolished this year, according to a report in the St. Augustine Record. In the last three years, more than 40 meth labs have been found in the county, leading to dozens of St. Johns County Drug Crimes Cases, the newspaper reported. St. Johns County police have been particularly aggressive in trying to eliminate the profliferation of methamphetamine in the county, including a massive bust last summer where dozens of people were arrested across the county. The makeshift labs are used to cook toxic chemicals into methamphetamine and the odor makes them difficult to hide, though people often used hotels and apartments to manufacture the drug.

The consequences for running a meth lab in St. Johns County Drug Crimes Cases are severe. Not all drugs are created equal in terms of the law and methamphetamine is one that carries major penalties. For example, there is no such thing as a misdemeanor meth charge in a St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case. If a person is busted with any amount of meth, it's a felony. Possession of methamphetamine is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in state prison. Compare that to possession of marijuana in a St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case, where it is a misdemeanor until a person has more than 28 grams. Only people convicted of felonies can be sentenced to state prison. Those convicted of misdemeanors, if sentenced to any time, serve it in the county jail. A charge of manufacturing methamphetamine ups the ante even more in St. Johns County Drug Crimes Cases. Manufacturing methamphetamine is a second-degree felony, with a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison. The fumes that are emitted during the cooking of the drug are toxic and can be dangerous to ingest, especially for children. Because of that element, the state allows for increased charges in cases where methamphetamine is being cooked when children are present.

Even small amounts of a drug can have major consequences in St. Johns County Drug Crimes Cases - it just depends on the drug. Our St. Johns County Drug Crimes Attorney can advise you of the consequences and thoroughly investigate for case to determine the best option 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 St. Johns County Drug Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Former Clay County information technology director accused of stealing county property

December 23, 2013

A former director with the Clay County Clerk of Courts is now facing charges, accused of stealing county equipment and selling it a local pawns shop. Michael Hamilton was arrested this month on three felony charges, shortly after he was fired for suspicion of misconduct, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. More charges could be coming, as he is a suspect in the disappearance of dozens of computers and other electronic equipment over the past few months, the newspaper reported.

For now in this Clay County Theft Case, Hamilton is charged with grand theft, dealing in stolen property and false verification of ownership. Grand theft is a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of five years in state prison; dealing in stolen property is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison; and false verification of ownership will also be a second-degree felony in this Clay County theft case. The punishment and felony degree in Clay County Theft Cases is mostly determined by the value of the property that the defendant is accused of stealing. This Clay County Theft Case falls between might seem to be thresholds on the false verification of ownership. It's a third-degree felony if the property is values at less than $300, but at more than $300 it crosses into a second-degree felony. The firewall system Hamilton is accused of stealing in this Clay County Theft Case is valued at $2,000, but he only received $200 for it at the pawn shop, the newspaper reported. The pawnbroker value does not determine the actual value when it comes to criminal charges.

There are often two paths police can take when they think someone is a part of a larger crime scheme, as Hamilton is suspected of in this Clay County Theft Case. They can wait until they have all of the pieces lined up and then make the arrest, or they can pounce on the first thing they find and try to piece the rest together before the case resolves. It appears they have gone for the latter in this Clay County Theft Case. Police may be telling him they will recommend leniency with the court if he confesses to all he took and they wrap up the investigation. If Hamilton chooses not to talk to police, which is his right, the case may be in the system longer, and could result in several more charges if police can prove it was Hamilton behind the rest of the stolen property in this Clay County Theft Case. In a case like this when a defendant knows there is a bigger investigation ongoing, a Clay County Theft Attorney can help sort through the case - and be there when the suspect speaks to police, if he or she decides to do so.

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

Jacksonville Sheriff's Office unaware a convicted felon was working at the jail

December 20, 2013

A man who was working as a correction officer for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office was arrested this month, accused of stealing identities of inmates and filing false tax returns under their names. Harold Walbey has pleaded not guilty to a variety of tax and identity theft charges in federal court and faces up to 57 years in prison, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. He is accused of filing $257,000 is fake tax returns and making more than $100,000 through the operation, the newspaper reported. An interesting twist in Walbey's Jacksonville Felony Crimes case came shortly after his arrest, when the newspaper - not the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office - discovered that Walbey had been convicted of a felony in 2001 while working for the sheriff's office and that his employer did not know.

Walbey started with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office in 1990, resigned, and returned to the agency in 1992, the newspaper reported. In 2001, while working for the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, he was charged with child abuse in Washington County, a rural county in the Florida Panhandle, the newspaper reported. Walbey pleaded guilty in 2002 and was sentenced to a year of probation, the newspaper reported. According to Jacksonville Sheriff's Office policy, Walbey could have faced discipline - even termination - for a felony arrest, let alone a felony conviction. Officers are supposed to report any arrest to their employer within 24 hours, but Walbey did not do so, the newspaper reported. Fast forward to 2013. Walbey retires in February and is collecting a city pension, the newspaper reported. Months later, he is arrested on these latest Jacksonville Felony Crimes charges and it comes to light the sheriff's office has had a convicted felon working with inmates for more than 10 years. It is extremely rare that a law enforcement agency would hire a convicted felon, and most departments have strict policies against the practice.

Now, Walbey runs the risk of losing his city pension for his latest Jacksonville Felony Crimes case. If a person is convicted of a felony that involves gaining a profit through use of his or her official powers, the pension can be revoked. That would be up for debate in this case. It's cut and dried if Walbey paid inmates for their information, but if he just stole them from a computer system, that could be more of a gray area. But the point some are making is valid - if police would have known a little more about Walbey in 2001, he may have been fired at the time and this conversation about his Jacksonville Felony Case and his pension would not be taking place. Jacksonville Felony Crimes convictions not only have serious implications in terms of a person's freedom, but can be a huge factor in someone keeping a job or being able to find employment in the future. Our Jacksonville Felony Crimes Attorney can explain your options and help you or your loved one 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 Felony Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Meteorologist pleads guilty to DUI, will be on probation for one year

December 18, 2013

Popular television meteorologist Tim Deegan resolved his Jacksonville DUI case this month, pleading no contest to the charge and agreeing to a year of probation and a six-month driver's license suspension. Deegan was arrested in November after police pulled him over for running a four-way stop in Jacksonville Beach and found empty beer cans and a half-full beer in his car, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Deegan's blood-alcohol level in this Jacksonville DUI Case was more than double the legal limit of .08, which allowed the state to charge him with an enhanced charge of DUI with a blood alcohol level of more than .15. As part of the plea agreement, the charge was reduced to a standard DUI.

The penalties in this Jacksonville DUI Case are fairly routine. Probation includes a course where defendants learn from a panel of people whose lives have been impacted by people driving under the influence and community service. Most Jacksonville DUI Cases either resolve very quickly, as was the case here, or drag on for months and even years. When cases resolve quickly, there is often a reason that is tied to the person's employment - perhaps they are suspended from work until the case resolves. Deegan had not been on the air since his arrest and First Coast News declined comment to the newspaper about his job status, according to the newspaper report. Timeline aside, some employers may set a guilty plea as a condition of return, especially to a job where the person is a public figure, to show an example that he or she owned up to the mistake and took responsibility.

Most defendants want to just admit to the crime and move on, which is understandable. But that should never be done in first-appearance court without at least having a Jacksonville DUI Attorney review the case. There are very specific rules and procedures an officer must follow in a Jacksonville DUI Case, and not every arrest is done properly. Everything from the reason for the stop to the probable cause to ask for a driver to do field sobriety exercises to the way a breath test is administered is critical in a Jacksonville DUI Arrest. While there are penalties for refusing field sobriety exercises and a breath test, the absence of either of those pieces of evidence can significantly reduce the amount of evidence the state has in trying to prove its Jacksonville DUI Case. In a case like Deegan's Jacksonville DUI Case, it's a little more difficult to argue when there's a blood-alcohol level of .18, though it's certainly not insurmountable. Our Jacksonville DUI Attorney has represented hundreds of people charged with DUI - many who took a breath test and many others who refused. Our Jacksonville DUI Attorney is well-versed in all of the procedures that apply in DUI arrests and will fully examine the case for you or your loved one. If a quick resolution is important for your or your employer, we will work to handle it expeditiously so you or your loved one can get back to work and life as soon as possible.

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

Police say Jacksonville mailman made up story about sick girlfriend, received thousands from people on his route

December 16, 2013

A Jacksonville mail carrier could face decades behind bars, accused of lying to residents on his mail route and talking them into giving him more than $33,000 over the last four years. Gregory Niebel allegedly repeatedly asked for money from residents for his girlfriend's medications and told the people he'd be paying them back when she received a large settlement from a lawsuit, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. But a U.S. Postal Service investigation found Niebel's girlfriend was not sick, but healthy in Brevard County and using the money for living expenses because Niebel told her he didn't want her to have to work, the newspaper reported.

The key to the Jacksonville Theft Case against Niebel is the fact that he allegedly told the residents the payment were loans and that he would be paying them back. The scheme to defraud charge would still be there for asking for money under false pretenses, but theft is more difficult to prove if a person does not have any expectation of getting the money or items returned. The resident who prompted the investigation gave Niebel close to $20,000, and nine others gave between a few dollars and into the thousands, the newspaper reported. He's facing nine different charges in this Jacksonville Theft Case, the most serious being operating a scheme to defraud, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. The remaining eight charges are Jacksonville theft charges and range from second-degree misdemeanors on up to third-degree felonies with a maximum sentence of five years in prison on each count. In all, Niebel could be sentenced to upwards of 35 years behind bars in these Jacksonville Theft Cases.

In Jacksonville Theft Cases, the degree of the charges - and the range of punishment - is determined by the value of the property a defendant is accused of stealing. For example, three of the charges Niebel is facing are second-degree misdemeanors, punishable by no more than six months in the county jail. That charge is petit theft of property worth less than $100. The charge becomes a first degree misdemeanor if the amount is between $100 and $300 and carries a maximum penalty of one year in the county jail. When the value reaches $300, that's when the Jacksonville Theft Case becomes a third-degree felony and puts time in state prison on the table. The charge remains a third-degree felony until more than $20,000 is stolen. Charges are also based on individual incidents, not the entire operation. So if Niebel, for example is accused of taking $350 from one person and $500 from another, he'd be facing two felonies, even though both would be part of the same overall scheme. In many Duval County Theft Cases, the state may offer a sentence far below the maximum penalty as long as the defendant agrees to pay the money back, depending on the severity of the crime and if the victims agree to that type of sentence.

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.

Man arrested for armed robbery while returning $3 loan to Clay County gas station clerk

December 13, 2013

A man who came back to a Clay County gas station to pay off a $3 debt ended up handing himself to police for an arrest on an armed robbery charge. A gas station clerk was telling a police officer about her "good deed" by loaning a man in an old truck $3 for gas and that he even left his wallet for collateral, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. As the woman described the man, the officer realized the description was similar to that of a man accused of robbing a local sandwich shop the night before, the newspaper reported. When Brian Jeffers returned to the store to pay off his debt an hour later, police were waiting for him and arrested him for armed robbery in this Clay County Theft Case, the newspaper reported.

Jeffers is facing up to life in prison on the armed robbery charge, which is a first-degree felony. In this Clay County Theft Case, Jeffers is accused of walking into the restaurant and keeping his hand in his coat pocket like he was carrying a gun, then demanding cash and coming around the counter to grab about $200, the newspaper reported. It is not clear from the newspaper report whether or not Jeffers had a gun during the robbery, though, according to Florida law, it does not matter in terms of his charges. A person can be charged with armed robbery by threatening to use a weapon, as long as it would be reasonable for the victim to assume that the suspect had a gun. If someone points his or her finger inside a coat pocket insinuating he or she is armed, that can qualify as an armed robbery. The charge often applies in bank robbery cases if a person passes a note indicating he or she has a gun and is demanding money.

The same is true if a person uses a toy gun or an air gun in a robbery. The Clay County Theft Case becomes an armed robbery if the victim is reasonable in thinking the gun is real, and the fact that it is not in fact a deadly weapon does not matter. Armed is in the eye of the alleged victim in Clay County Theft Cases, whether a person has an actual gun or not - though there are plenty of arguments a Clay County Theft Attorney can make to try to have the crime reduced to a robbery, which has a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. Our Clay County Theft Attorney has represented hundreds of people charged with various theft crimes and is experienced in the elements the state must prove to qualify a robbery as an armed robbery.

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

Bill proposed to help provide judges with clarity for sentencing juveniles in Florida

December 11, 2013

A Clay County legislator has again filed a bill to bring the state's sentencing of juveniles in line with two Supreme Court rulings that have altered that landscape in recent years. One 2010 ruling eliminated life sentences for juveniles in cases other than murder and a second two years later banned mandatory life sentences for juveniles, even in murder cases. In the wake of those two cases, many of the 265 juveniles now sentenced to life in Florida prisons have been in limbo as judges sought guidance on the issue, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union.

State Sen. Rob Bradley, for the second straight year, has introduced a bill to clean up the law. The proposal is revised slightly this year and would set a maximum penalty of 35 years for juveniles who are found guilty of crimes that do not involve a death. Parole hearings could also be set every 25 years to discuss an early release - but not for juveniles convicted of murder. Those sentences would not be subject to further consideration. The proposal for Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes cases would still allow for juveniles to been sentenced to life in prison for murder. However, there would be a special hearing for the judge to consider the defendant's likelihood of rehabilitation and his or her personal and family background before a life sentence can be issued. A sentencing hearing of sorts is held in almost every other case but, in Florida, people convicted of first-degree murder can only be sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty. Juveniles cannot be sentenced to death and it was the mandatory nature of the life sentence that the Supreme Court overruled.

While the regulations would apply for people convicted of the most serious of crimes, most defendants in Jacksonville Juvenile Crime Cases never see the inside of a prison cell. The system is designed to provide punishment, but also to keep in mind that brushes with the law can happen to juveniles and those mistakes should not have a lifelong effect. For common Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes such as burglary, vandalism and drug possession, common penalties include community service and probation. As conditions of probation, a Jacksonville Juvenile Crime defendant may have to meet periodically with a probation officer, submit to drug tests and stay out of further trouble. There are also varying degree of incarceration available to judges in Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Cases, from house arrest all the way up to what amounts to a juvenile prison. Our Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Attorney can work for your loved one to try to ensure that the case stays in the juvenile court system and that a sentence won't keep him or her from moving on from a poor decision.

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

State sex offender registry adds ability to search for offenders enrolled in colleges

December 9, 2013

The Florida policy of publicizing the crimes of sex offenders even more than convicted murders took another step this year by adding the ability for people to search sex offenders enrolled in state colleges and universities. This is one more impediment from encouraging convicted sex offenders to move past their crimes and get the education and training needed to move on and start or further a career. An analysis of the newly collected data found Jacksonville had the most sex offenders enrolled and that Florida State College at Jacksonville had the highest number in the state, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union.

Right now, the college does not make admissions decisions based on a person's criminal history, the newspaper reported. Security officers are notified when a sex offender registers for classes and they them meet individually with each offender and go over where they can and cannot go on campus, including a child care center that is off-limits, the newspaper reported. Other colleges statewide publish the names of every offender taking classes and include a link to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement profile that shows what the person was charged with and convicted of, the newspaper reported. Already, anyone who is convicted of or pleads guilty to a Jacksonville Sex Crime must register with their local police department and check in at least twice a year. Whenever the person moves residences, neighbors in the surrounding area are notified of the move, and the crime that made the person a sex offender. There are also restrictions on where a registered sex offender can live, including proximately to schools and playgrounds.

Jacksonville Sex Crimes carry such a stigma in our society that there is rarely anyone from a legislative standpoint that will say something goes too far in identifying sex offenders. Adding the college enrollment search function seems a little much. If someone is living on a college campus, in a dorm or an apartment off campus, everyone living there is already notified the person is a sex offender. All of the information is already available online if one searches by name or proximately to the address, this search function just makes it easier to determine if sex offenders are taking classes at commuter schools like FSCJ. The board is scheduled to discuss the findings next month and it will be interesting to see if enrollment policies or notification changes are made. A Jacksonville Sex Crime carries its own form of a life sentence, even if a person has done his or her time. Our Jacksonville Sex Crimes attorney knows the ramifications that pleading guilty to a sex crime can have on the rest of a person's life and can advise you or your loved one on the best steps 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 Sex Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

St. Johns County teen arrested for bringing a gun to school

December 6, 2013

A student at St. Augustine High School was arrested last month for allegedly bringing a gun into school and now faces criminal charges as well as significant discipline from the St. Johns County School Board. A concerned student told teachers the teen might have a gun and the staff alerted a deputy assigned to the school, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. When approached, the student said he did have a gun in his bag, which was underneath his desk, the newspaper reported. The accused student never displayed the gun, nor did he threaten any students, teachers or other staff with the weapon, the newspaper reported.

In Florida, the state makes the guidelines for facing criminal charges in all cases including this St. Johns County Gun Crimes Case but, in the case of guns in schools, also has a law that determines the length of an expulsion. Any student bringing a firearm into a school or school event is automatically expelled from school for one year. Now, the school district has the discretion to place the student in an alternative school or a disciplinary program, but the student cannot return to his or her school for at least one full year. The term is for a full calendar year, not just a school year, which is the length of time many think of when it comes to school discipline.

On the criminal side of this St. Johns County Juvenile Crimes case, the third-degree felony charge has a maximum penalty of five years in prison. The age and criminal history of the student were not available in the newspaper report, but they will both play a significant role in the punishment the student receives in this St. Johns County Gun Crimes case. In some St. Johns County Juvenile Crimes Case, a teen will be charged as an adult, and that is more likely in crimes when a gun is involved. In other St. Johns County Juvenile Crimes, the case will stay in the juvenile court system. When it does, there are varying degrees of incarceration for juveniles, from house arrest to minimum security detention facilities to what amounts to a juvenile version of the state prison. The point of juvenile sanctions should be to play a role in getting the student or teen on the right track. The school expulsion makes sense for the safety of the students and teachers at the school, especially given the rash of school shootings over the past several years. Our St. Johns County Juvenile Crimes Attorney will work to help negotiate a disposition that will allow the teen to continue some form of education and an opportunity to get on a track to graduate.

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

Jacksonville police arrest wrong man in theft case, he's finally released after nine months in jail

December 4, 2013

A Jacksonville man spent nine months in jail for a robbery he didn't commit, and it took those nine months for prosecutors to pay enough attention to the case to figure it out and release him from jail. Joshua Angel was arrested in September 2012, the night two men robbed a man in a wheelchair of $20 using a toy gun, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Angel was charged with robbery in Jacksonville and, because he has a criminal record, the state was planning to charge him as a habitual offender, exposing him to 30 years in prison, the newspaper reported.

This Jacksonville Theft Case is a perfect example of why eyewitness testimony in Jacksonville Criminal Defense Cases is inherently flawed, as is the way it is often obtained by police. In this case, the victim called police immediately after the robbery at a gas station that ended in him being knocked from his wheelchair and gave police a description of the two suspects, including their approximate ages, clothing and any tattoos they had, the newspaper reported. Police canvassed the area and found Angel at a different gas station nearby and pulled him out of a group of people, even though he was eight inches taller than the description, had exponentially more tattoos and slightly similar clothing, the newspaper reported. Officers then told the victim they found someone matching the description, showed him the side of Angel's face and the victim, who was not wearing his prescribed eye glasses, told police he was the guy and Angel was arrested.

Angel was furious with police and proclaimed his innocence, but he was still arrested in Duval County and, most likely, his record didn't do him any favors. Police had what they needed. But the way the identification was conducted has some questioning the tactic and it's a common criticism in Jacksonville Criminal Defense Cases. By bringing the person there and saying he matches the description, police are inherently suggesting they think they have the guy. And it takes a lot for a victim, especially one who is probably shaken up and angry an hour after being robbed, to tell the police they are wrong. Study after study consistently shows the unreliability of eyewitness testimony. Two people can see the exact same thing and describe it differently, especially in the heat of the moment. Other evidence in the case also pointed away from Angel. Most notably, the victim ended up with the toy gun that was used and, when it was tested for fingerprints, there were no ties to Angel. Angel's attorneys had to hire a an expert to examine the surveillance video to prove that it wasn't Angel for prosecutors to even look at the case - something that should be done before criminal charges are filed. Angel was eventually released in June, but he had to prove his innocence to get out. So much for innocent until proven guilty in this Jacksonville Criminal Defense 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 Theft Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Former forensic investigator gets 90 days in jail for stealing jewelry from dead bodies

December 2, 2013

A Jacksonville man facing decades in prison for stealing and then pawning jewelry he removed from dead bodies was sentenced to 90 days in county jail. Christopher Allen was forensic investigator with the Medical Examiner's Office and faced five felony charges after an investigation pinned him as the person responsible for missing jewelry, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The most serious was one of two dealing in stolen property charges, which was charged as a first-degree felony, and can be when a person is the one organizing and plans the thefts and the sale of the property. In Allen's Jacksonville Theft Case, he was accused of acting alone so that charge would fit. As a first-degree felony, Allen faced up to 30 years in state prison on that charge alone and a total of 60 years with all five counts.

It's unclear from the newspaper report just how much jewelry Allen was accused of taking from the bodies in this Jacksonville Theft Case, but records showed he pawned 62 pieces of jewelry in a year's time, the newspaper reported. In all, he was charged with official misconduct, two counts of dealing in stolen property (one being the more serious organized stolen property) and two counts of giving false verification of ownership of pawned items. Allen and prosecutors negotiated an agreement where he would plead guilty to official misconduct and organized dealing in stolen property, allowing the remaining charges in his Jacksonville Theft Case to be dropped. Allen received 90 days in jail, but will be out this month because he was already in jail for 74 days since his arrest, unable to post bond.

The newspaper report depicts Allen as a hardworking law enforcement officer who fell on tough financial times and made some poor decisions to try to get out. His past undoubtedly played a role in a comparatively light sentence in this Jacksonville Theft Case. This appears to be the first time Allen, 48, has ever been arrested. He will have to forfeit his law enforcement powers, pay more than $1,000 in restitution, another $600 in court costs and serve three years of probation. But when you're looking at up to 60 years in prison for a Jacksonville Theft Case, especially one that tends to anger people as much as stealing from dead bodies at a morgue, that's a very favorable disposition. When it comes to sentencing or negotiation in Jacksonville Criminal Defense Cases, a defendant's criminal history is a huge factor. Sentencing guidelines are based on the current charges and a person's record - if he or she has one. You generally only get one crack at a deal like the one in this Jacksonville Theft Case, but it's an opportunity for people to turn things around and become productive members of society, instead of sitting 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 Theft Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Congressman's cocaine arrest in D.C. helps illustrate Florida's punitive drug laws

November 29, 2013

The Florida Congressman who pleaded guilty to cocaine possession in Washington, D.C., this month for possession of cocaine would have faced much more severe penalties had he been busted in his home state. Congressman Trey Radel, who represents the Fort Meyers area, pleaded guilty to misdemeanor cocaine possession and faces a maximum of 180 days in jail and a $1,000 fine, according to a report in the Miami Herald. Radel bought cocaine from an undercover agent after the person Radel had been buying from was arrested and gave authorities Radel's name, the newspaper reported. Radel is now on a leave of absence from his Congressional role, but compared to how his case would have been handled in Florida, Radel is fortunate he was not busted in the Sunshine State.

In Jacksonville Drug Crimes Cases, and all Florida Drug Crimes cases, possession of any amount of cocaine is a felony. Any amount whatsoever. There is no such thing as a misdemeanor cocaine possession charge, as there is in Washington. In Jacksonville drug crimes cases, possession of cocaine is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Outside of marijuana, nearly all Jacksonville Drug Crimes and Florida Drug Crimes are felonies and not misdemeanors. When it comes to prescription narcotics, it's the same thing. All charges are felonies. And, what can be even more devastating in Jacksonville Drug Crimes Cases, are the minimum mandatory sentences that kick in - even on amounts as small as a few pills.
While there are some instances with first-time offenders that people can enter drug treatment and have the adjudication withheld if the defendant meets certain criteria in probation, those are details that would have to be negotiated and could drag the case out.

If Radel was to just immediately plead guilty, as he did in Washington, he would have lost his voting rights and right to carry a gun - both rights that can eventually be restored but are automatic when someone pleads guilty to or is convicted of a felony in the state of Florida. Another penalty, which is not as well known, that any plea or conviction to any Jacksonville Drug Crime results in an automatic two-year suspension of a person's driver's license. Professionally, there's no doubt this may be difficult for Radel to overcome. But from a legal perspective, he's fortunate he was busted in Washington and not charged with a Florida Drug Crime. Our Jacksonville Drug Crimes Attorney has represented hundreds of people on drug crimes charges in Clay, Duval, Nassau and St. Johns counties. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney knows all of the ancillary consequences of pleading guilty to a crime and can advise you of the ramifications, and thoroughly investigate 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 Duval County Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Former day care owner gets 20 days in prison over the next 10 years for role in child's drowning

November 27, 2013

A day-care owner pleaded guilty to a reduced charged in the drowning death of a child and will have to spend two days in jail for each of the next 10 years as part of her punishment. Jan Buchanan pleaded guilty to culpable negligence and must report to jail on the birthday and on the anniversary of the death of a 2-year-old who drowned in a pool at her home, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Buchanan was originally charged with Duval County aggravated manslaughter of a child, a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in state prison. The charge was reduced to a second-degree felony with a maximum of 15 years in prison but, given the negotiated sentence, the actual charge isn't as big of a deal.

Buchanan was the only adult in the home and took seven kids under the age of four swimming in the yard, the newspaper reported, Once they were done, she brought the children inside and was tending to an infant. She lost sight of the 2-year-old for between 10 and 15 minutes, then found a sliding door open and the boy in the pool, the newspaper reported. Buchanan, who was in the process of renewing her state child care license, had the charge of operating an unlicensed day care dropped. Other parameters of the plea deal include 10 years of probation, during which Buchanan cannot operate a child care center. As part of the plea in this Jacksonville Felony Case, she also must give $2,000 a year to Safe Kids, an organization that promotes water safety, the newspaper reported.

This is the state's way of trying to make a public relations move and make people forget that a woman who was charged with a crime and facing 30 years in prison is only serving 20 days in jail for a Jacksonville Felony Case. The child's parents supported Buchanan and remain friends with her, so it they were not likely to be on board for a lengthy prison sentence. And while the state doesn't need to run everything by a victim or victim's family, prosecutors generally prefer to have them in agreement with a sentence when possible - particularly if the case is going to end up going to a trial. From the perspective of a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney, it appears to be a deal you'd have to go along with - excessively personal or not. The state can structure it and spin it any way it wants, but the bottom line is Buchanan is looking at less than three weeks in jail as opposed to three decades in prison. Sometimes it takes a creatively structured agreement, or simply letting the state have its day, to get the best deal in a Jacksonville Felony Case. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney leaves no option off the table when it comes to negotiating on behalf of her clients in Jacksonville Felony Cases, or any case in the criminal justice system.

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

Jacksonville man's conviction overturned because of improper testimony from police officer

November 25, 2013

A judge has ordered a new trial for a Jacksonville man convicted of six counts of aggravated assault after a judge ruled an officer's testimony crossed the line and may have influenced the jury. Randal Ratledge was convicted at trial earlier this year, accused of firing one shot into the air and another into a group of neighbors in August 2012, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. No one was hurt and Ratledge has said he didn't remember the incident and his Jacksonville criminal attorney argued Ratledge had a bad reaction to a sleeping pill.

During the trial, an officer testified that Ratledge told the officer "he made a mistake and did not want to talk about the incident," the newspaper reported. Immediately after the comment was made, Ratledge's Jacksonville Trial Attorney asked for a mistrial, but the judge denied the request and Ratledge was eventually found guilty by the jury, the newspaper reported. But the job of a Jacksonville Trial Attorney does not end there. Following a trial, there are other measures a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney can take to work to get a new trial in the case. In this Jacksonville Gun Crimes case, the attorneys focused on the officer's testimony and found previous cases that showed similar testimony resulted in the conviction being thrown out. The issue was that by saying what Ratledge said, the officer violated Ratledge's Fifth Amendment right against incriminating himself.

Typically, these issues are handled in appellate courts and can come a year or more after the trial. Attorneys routinely file motions for new trials following a case. In this Jacksonville Gun Crimes case, the judge saw the error and ordered a new trial before Ratledge was sentenced to prison. He was facing a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years in state prison and up to 120 years - 20 years for each of the six counts. At 56, much more than the minimum 20 years could end up effectively being a life sentence for Ratledge. Ratledge had been in jail awaiting sentencing, but will now have a hearing next month to determine if he can be released on bond until the second trial - or until the case resolves, whichever the case may be. It seems likely that there will be another trial - there's nothing of consequence the state lost in terms of evidence. They'll have to make sure the officer doesn't say something similar on the stand, but prosecutors can essentially run the same case. This Jacksonville Gun Crimes case is a prime example of how a Jacksonville Trial Attorney's work continues after the actual trial is complete - even after a conviction would seem to end 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 Jacksonville Gun Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.