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.

Driver gets 12 years in prison for crash that killed sleeping Jacksonville teen

November 22, 2013

The man who drove his van into a Jacksonville home and killed a sleeping 17-year-old was sentenced this month to 12 years in state prison. Ismet Sijamhodzic ran a stop sign and his car left the road, driving onto the lawn and through the front bedroom of the Southside Jacksonville home, according to a report published on News4Jax. The 52-year-old man had a marijuana and prescription medication used to treat depression in his system at the time of the crash, the television station reported. Sijamhodzic pleaded guilty earlier this year to vehicular homicide, a second-degree felony with a maximum sentence of 15 years in state prison. Instead of seeking the maximum, prosecutors asked for a 12-year sentence because Sijamhodzic did not have a criminal record and because the family of the victim was in agreement that 12 years was a sufficient amount of time in prison.

Vehicular homicide is a Jacksonville Traffic Charge in which the state must prove someone was killed and the death was "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 law. In this Jacksonville Traffic Case, Sijamhodzic went right through a stop sign and hit the home with enough speed and force that the van went through the front of the home and into the teen's bedroom. While there was no intent to harm her, there doesn't need to be one in this Jacksonville Traffic Case. There only needs to be evidence that the person was driving recklessly and, Sijamhodzic and his defense team must have felt there was enough there in this Jacksonville Traffic Case that it was worth taking a deal and resolving the case. In many similar cases, the judge will hold a sentencing hearing to hear from both sides where they state their case and desired sentence. Often, the judge will then set a date for a couple of weeks following the hearing to announce the sentence.

Sijamhodzic says he still does not remember the crash. He told police he bought a Xanax from his niece and took it that day, but he thought it was a painkiller. The state chose to charge him with vehicular homicide instead of DUI manslaughter, likely because running the stop sign provided obvious proof needed in the case. Had prosecutors chose DUI manslaughter, they would have to prove that Sijamhodzic was impaired at the time of the crash, which is more difficult with drugs that can stay in your system for several days. Plus, DUI manslaughter has the same maximum sentence as vehicular homicide, so prosecutors can pick and choose which one best aligns with the fact of their case.
Our Jacksonville Traffic Attorney represents everyone from people trying to avoid points on their license after a speeding ticket to vehicular homicide.

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.

Army recruiter arrested on Clay County sexual battery charge

November 20, 2013

An Army recruiter was arrested this month on a sexual battery charge, accused of having sex with Clay County high school student. Reginald Richardson is charged with sexual battery on a person between the ages of 12 and 18, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The victim told a school official she had repeatedly refused to have sex with the 39-year-old Richardson, but eventually agreed so he would leave her alone, the newspaper reported. The alleged assaults occurred three or four times this calendar year, according to the newspaper report.

Many cases of Clay County sexual battery such as the one Richardson is charged with are second-degree felonies with a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison. But, in this Clay County Sex Crime Case, prosecutors are saying that Richardson had a "familial or custodial" relationship with the victim. Legally, that can make the crime a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. The "familial or custodial" role often applies to stepfathers, grandparents, teachers or people who have a leading role at a church, such as a pastor or youth group leader. The crux is the adult accused is said to be using his or her position as an authority figure to coerce the child or teen into having sex. Whether the defendant uses that role as a point of influence is inconsequential, according to Florida law. The mere presence of that relationship is enough to make the charge a first-degree felony.

The relationship in this Clay County Sex Crimes case is not clear, based on the newspaper report. There is also a provision of the "familial or custodial" element that applies to a person who is "in a position of control or authority as an agent or employee of government," according to Florida law. The state could be using Richardson's role in the military to quality as the custodial trigger to elevate the charge to a first-degree felony. At the time of the initial news of the arrest, an Army spokesperson said it had not received notification of the arrest from police, so it had not taken any disciplinary action against Richardson, the newspaper reported. While any felony charge can be difficult to live down, it is even worse in Clay County Sex Crimes Cases. Our system is built around an accused being innocent until proven guilty but with sex crimes, it seems an accusation is all society needs to brand someone as rapist or a pedophile. Our Clay County Sex Crimes Attorney has represented hundreds of people accused of various sex crimes and can go over the details of the investigation with you and explain the ramifications of a guilty plea or a conviction in a Clay County Sex Crimes Case that are often more permanent than in other types of crimes.

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

Man charged in Clay County burglary for taking items from a car while owner had his back turned

November 18, 2013

Police arrested a man accused of taking a wallet and cellphone out of a car while the driver was renting a movie from an outdoor kiosk. Christopher Tate turned himself in after seeing his picture on the news in connection with the crime, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Tate is now charged with Florida burglary from an unoccupied structure and grand theft. Both charges are third degree felonies, punishable by up to five years in state prison, so Tate could be looking at up to 10 years in prison.

In Clay County Theft Cases, taking something valued at less than $300 is a misdemeanor punishable by no more than a year in the county jail. The crime becomes a felony at $300 and then exposes the defendant to up to five years in state prison. In this Clay County Theft Case, the phone Tate is accused of taking was valued at $600, which made the case a felony. The other charge Tate is facing in this Clay County Theft Case is burglary. While the two terms are often used interchangeably, there's an important distinction to be made in between a robbery and burglary in Clay County Theft Cases. A burglary is taking something from a building or a car. In most Clay County Theft Cases, burglary is a third-degree felony. It can become a second-degree felony if the suspect is accused of going into a home with people inside, or if the person has a weapon on his or her person.

A robbery is a Clay County Theft Crime where someone is accused of taking something directly from another person by using or threatening violence to force the victim to hand over the money or other property. Robbery is viewed much more seriously by the court in Clay County Theft Cases. At the bare minimum, robbery is a second-degree felony. If the defendant has a weapon, the crime is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison. If the defendant is accused of showing the weapon in the course of the robbery, he or she could be sentenced to up to life in state prison. Burglaries and robberies are both serious Clay County Theft Crimes, but they are not treated equally by the court system. Our Clay County Theft Attorney is experienced in defending both types of crimes and will 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 Clay County Theft Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Arrests down this year for Jacksonville's annual Florida-Georgia football game

November 15, 2013

Police arrested fewer people and issued fewer criminal citations during this year's Florida-Georgia game than they did last year. They were 32 arrests in Duval County, including two on felonies, compared with 38 arrests in 2012, three of which were felonies, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police also issued 64 criminal citations, down significantly from the 111 handed out last year, the newspaper reported.

Criminal citations are issued for minor Jacksonville Misdemeanor Crimes such as possession of alcohol by a minor. When a citation is issued, the person will be given a date to appear in court on the alleged violation, but will not have to spend the night in jail. The annual Florida-Georgia football game brings partiers downtown from all over, including those who park their RVs near the stadium start on Wednesday for a Saturday game. Police could likely make hundreds of arrests in and around the downtown entertainment district, but appear to focusing more on keeping people safe rather than making arrests. People, especially college students, often make poor decisions when alcohol is involved and it can be unfortunate when someone ends up with a criminal record for a minor scuffle at a football game. Anything from a Jacksonville battery charge for a fight to DUI to even indecent exposure can be a potential charge if things get out of hand.

And while the initial thought is often to just pay the fine or plead guilty and get it over with, that can end up being a decision that sticks with a person forever, even if it is just a Jacksonville Misdemeanor Case. By paying a fine, you are admitting guilt. That goes for a minor in possession of alcohol, just as it does for a speeding ticket in Jacksonville Traffic Cases. Even if it involves coming back to Jacksonville to appear in court, the decision can pay big dividends in the long runs. Jacksonville Misdemeanor Attorneys know the system and can help a defendant to have adjudication withheld, which means a conviction or plea would not appear on a person's record if they meet certain requirements. Students go to college to help them find a job when they leave and a poor decision on a celebratory weekend shouldn't get in the way of their career prospects.
Our Jacksonville Misdemeanor Attorney has represented thousands of people on misdemeanor crimes and will thoroughly examine the case to help you or your loved one deal with the issue and move 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 Misdemeanor Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.