Police arrest wrong person with same name, innocent Clay County teen spends a month in jail on sexual battery charge

Several Clay County Sheriff's deputies were disciplined and received harsh public words from their boss after a Clay County teen spent a month in jail on a crime he didn't commit. Police were investigating a claim from a girl younger than 12 that said she had sex with a boy named Cody Williams in 2012, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The girl told police what he school he went to and what he looked like, so police arrested Cody Lee Williams and, even though he was 17, he was immediately charged with a felony as an adult, the newspaper reported.

What police didn't check to find out is there are two Cody Williams at the same school and they arrested the wrong one, the newspaper reported. Sheriff Rick Beseler reprimanded the detective in charge of the case for his "incompetence" and said police should have taken a photo of the suspect they arrested to the alleged victim for confirmation before making the arrest, the newspaper reported. Once Cody Williams learned more of the facts of the case against him, he realized what may have happened, and his mother pleaded with the detective to talk to the alleged victim, the newspaper reported.

The Clay County Sheriff's Office has requested that his arrest record be expunged, but that may be a difficult proposition. If he was simply charged as a juvenile in this Clay County Sex Crimes Case, that would not have been a problem because juvenile criminal records are sealed by the court. But because prosecutors immediately charged him as an adult - without doing any investigation on their own, it appears - the arrest is more difficult to remove. When potential employers or universities do background checks in Florida, they will most likely use the Florida Department of Law Enforcement database. Those searches pull arrest data from all counties and cities across the state and drop them into a report based on the person's name and social security number. Unless the Clay County Sheriff's Office does something it doesn't do in other less-publicized cases, that arrest will always be there when someone searches Williams' name. Now, it will also show that the charges were dropped, but Williams will have to explain it every time - and also check the box on any employment application that asks if he was ever arrested for a felony. Many employers only ask about convictions, not arrests, but enough of them do the FDLE checks that Williams may find it easier to let them know what they'll find first, and explain the situation.

There are some employers that may shy away, simply because of the gravity of the Clay County Sex Crime charge - regardless of why it was dropped. It all could have been avoided if police would have followed their own policies and procedures. Our Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney knows how difficult it can be to clear your name if you are arrested for a crime you did not commit. Our Clay County Felony Attorney will sit down with you to go over the evidence police have in the case and will fight to have you exonerated, either through negotiations with the state or taking the case to trial.

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

Jacksonville police officer arrested, accused of stealing supplement from gym

A Jacksonville police officer is now facing charges himself after detectives say he stole a $49 supplement from a local gym. Jacksonville Sheriff's Office officials announced the arrest last month, saying the officer was removed from the street while the investigation was being conducted, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Surveillance video from the gym allegedly shows the officer with a bottle in his hand, ducking behind the counter and then coming back into view with nothing in his hand, the newspaper reported. The officer says he told the clerk to put the cream supplement on his account and was not trying to steal anything, the newspaper reported.

The officer in this Jacksonville Theft Case will likely be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor charge of petit theft, punishable by up to 60 days in the county jail and a $500 fine. The severity of the charge and possible punishment Jacksonville Theft Cases is determined by the value of the property the person is accused of stealing. In this Jacksonville Theft Case, the officer would be facing the least serious charge possible. People accused of theft of less than $100 can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. When the value is between $100 and $300, the charge is a first-degree misdemeanor and the penalty goes up to a maximum of one year in the county jail and a $1,000 fine.

The $300 threshold is really the key in Jacksonville Theft Cases. Once the value tops $300, the charge becomes a felony. Grand Theft in Jacksonville is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison. There are other caveats that can increase the penalty, including if the property is taken from an emergency vehicle, but the main number to know is $300. Charges in Jacksonville Theft Cases can also increase based on the person's criminal record. If someone has one petit theft conviction on his or her record, the charge is automatically a first-degree misdemeanor - even if the property in the Jacksonville Theft Case is worth less than $100. And if the person has two or more convictions, the case becomes a felony - again, regardless of the amount. In many Jacksonville Theft Cases, first-time offenders may be offered a diversionary program, where if they meet certain conditions and pay back the value of the property, the charges may be dropped. Our Jacksonville Theft Attorney can help negotiate a disposition that is hopefully favorable, and something you or your loved one can live with, complete and move on from.

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

Nassau County man sentenced in 2010 vehicular homicide case

February 28, 2014

A Nassau County man who continues to maintain that his actions were not the ones that ultimately killed six people in a 2010 traffic crash will now likely spend the rest of his life in prison. Pedro Ocasio-Alcazar was sentenced this month to 60 years in prison - 10 years for each person who died in the crash, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. He was facing up to 15 years on each count of vehicular that a jury convicted him of in January.

Police said Ocasio-Alcazar was speeding and weaving in and out of traffic in Nassau County when his car side-swiped a car with six people inside, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. That car then slid into the median and was hit by an oncoming truck that killed six people - including four children, the newspaper reported. Ocasio-Alcazar argued he wasn't the one who caused the deaths and maintains he should have never been charged. So just how far does a driver's responsibility extend in a Nassau County Traffic Case such as this one?

To charge vehicular homicide, the state must prove a death is "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. It appears fairly obvious that Ocasio-Alcazar was driving recklessly in this Nassau County Driving Case. But to just what degree appeared to be the issue. Nassau County Traffic Homicide cases present significant challenges to both sides. It's not as cut and dried as a homicide case where there is a gun or knife involved and clearly some action the led to the death of another. No one is arguing that the driver got behind the wheel with the intent to kill six people. And most drivers who end up charged in Nassau County Traffic Homicide cases do not have much experience in the criminal court system. They may have a few traffic tickets, but nothing that comes close to the amount of time they are now facing.

This Nassau County Traffic Case gets more into the blame and fault that one might see in a civil court case - not in a Nassau County Criminal Defense Case. Jurors were essentially asked to speculate and determine if the driver's actions were so egregious that another driver could not be expected to avoid the crash and that the root cause of the deaths was Ocasio-Alcazar. The jurors decided that he was and a judge appeared to agree - issuing what amounts to a life sentence for the 42-year-old defendant. Our Nassau County Traffic Attorney represents drivers cited or charged with the entire range of traffic crimes, from traffic homicides on down to standard speeding tickets.

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

Two arrested when police find alleged meth lab in St. Johns County home

February 27, 2014

A St. Johns County man and woman are charged with child neglect and felony drug charges after police said they found a methamphetamine lab where a child lived. The two were arrested last week after police were called to investigate a strange smell coming from the home, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police say the smell got stronger once the woman answered the door, the newspaper reported. Police found several items used to make meth and also alleged the drug had recently been produced inside the home.

The suspects are now facing multiple charges in this St. Johns County Drug Crimes case, which could even be enhanced further by the fact the child was in the home. As of now, the charges include child neglect, producing or manufacturing meth, possession of meth, keeping or maintaining a drug dwelling and possession of drug paraphernalia. Production of meth is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in state prison, and the drug paraphernalia charge is a misdemeanor, which only exposes the person to time in the county jail - not state prison. The three other charges are all third-degree felonies, and all have a maximum sentence of up to five years in state prison. So, as of now, the maximum penalty in this St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case is 26 years behind bars. One charge that hasn't come yet, but is certainly possible given the facts that have been reported, is producing or manufacturing meth in the presence of a child. That St. Johns County Drug Crime becomes a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison - more than anything either suspect is charged with now combined. This could be something the state chooses to file later, or there may be facts of the case - such as the child being dropped off after the production was complete - that prevent the state from charging it that way. Because meth is essentially the product of several harmful chemicals and emits toxic fumes when it is cooked, laws are very strict in St. Johns County Drug Cases involving meth - especially when children are involved. The odors also make it much more difficult to hide, especially when people are cooking the drug in hotels and apartment complexes where other people are often present.

In St. Johns County Drug Crimes Cases, the severity of the charges is determined by the type of drug and the amount. And meth is one drug that carries among the most serious penalties. Any amount of the drug is a felony, and there are multiple charges that almost always come down when police find a meth lab - as these suspects have learned. Our St. Johns County Drug Crimes Attorney has represented people facing all types of drug charges, from possession of marijuana on up, and knows the ins and outs of the laws and procedures police must follow to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt.

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 schools bookkeeper faces multiple felony theft charges

February 25, 2014

A former bookkeeper with Clay County schools was arrested last week, charged with several felonies and accused of stealing $57,000 from the school district. The bookkeeper resigned last year while she was being investigated and said she did not intentionally take any money, instead pointing to poor paperwork and recordkeeping, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Law enforcement sees it differently and the state charged her last week with grand theft, uttering a forged instrument and running a scheme to defraud.

The multiple charges come in because of the manner in which these Clay County Theft Crimes were allegedly committed. For example, police say the woman forged receipts and paperwork that made it look like she paid for school expenses with her own money, though in reality she use a school credit card, the newspaper reported. That likely led to the charge of uttering a forged instrument, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. In Clay County Theft Cases, the uttering charge that is always a third-degree felony is more the exception than the rule. In most all other Clay County theft cases, the charge and the potential penalty are based on the value of the property the suspect is accused of stealing. Theft itself can be a misdemeanor or run all the way up to a first-degree felony.

The same escalating scale applies in the scheme to defraud charge the woman is also facing in this Clay County Theft Case. According to Florida law a scheme to defraud is" a systematic, ongoing course of conduct with intent to defraud one or more persons, or with intent to obtain property from one or more persons by false or fraudulent pretenses, representations, or promises or willful misrepresentations of a future act." Because she is accused of taking $57,000, she can be charged with a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in state prison. She narrowly exceeded the threshold - anything from $20,000 to $50,000 is a second-degree felony with a maximum sentence of 15 years in state prison. A scheme to defraud that the state says netted less than $20,000 is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.

The scheme to defraud charge in a Clay County Theft Case is often used to bring several charges under one umbrella. Similar charges were filed earlier this year against a Clay County Clerk of Courts employee accused of stealing and pawning computer equipment. Our Clay County Theft Attorney is experienced in all types of theft cases and has represented people facing a variety of theft charges.

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.

Child neglect charge against Jacksonville teacher dropped, but district terminates her anyway

February 21, 2014

Even though her child neglect charge was not related to her students and she completed a pretrial intervention program to have the charge dropped, a Jacksonville kindergarten teacher was still fired because of the arrest. The teacher was arrested in June 2013 after she and her husband left their 9-month-old granddaughter in a van by herself while they went into a grocery store, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The teacher told her supervisor about the arrest, which is required by school district policy, but word never travelled to the proper authorities inside the district, the newspaper reported. District officials said they learned of the arrest during a routine update of arrest records for all employees, the newspaper reported, and that's why it took so long to fire her.

School officials said the teacher accepted responsibility by entering the pretrial program and district policy requires employees to be fired if they have a felony on their record. The teacher is contesting the termination, the newspaper reported. Her attorney is arguing that the crime did not involve a student and, because the charge is dropped, the felony rule does not apply in her case, the newspaper reported. The teacher does not have a previous criminal record, the newspaper reported.

The case exemplifies the difference between punishments levied by Jacksonville Criminal Justice System and by an employer - regardless of whether that employer is private or public. Crimes must be able to be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. That is not the case for employers. Public employees, such as teachers and police officers, do have more rights in their employment than would someone working for a private company, but the employer still has more discretion than the legal system. A similar scenario played out in Clay County earlier this year, when a school bus driver was fired for alleged abuse of a student, but prosecutors chose not to file charges.

There are many options in Jacksonville Felony Crimes Cases for people who have not been in trouble before. There are pretrial diversion programs (referred to as Jacksonville PTI) when people have a series of classes or steps they must complete before the charge is dropped. The programs are there so people can take their punishment and move on with their lives, so one false move doesn't bring everything else to a screeching halt. If you or a loved one is arrested, a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney can work to negotiate an agreement where the charge can be dropped if certain conditions are met. No agreement can guarantee an employer will accept it, but a dropped charge is definitely more likely to be accepted than a felony conviction.

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

Jacksonville man goes to trial on murder charge, found guilty of much lesser charge

February 20, 2014

A Jacksonville man was charged with first-degree murder as the state alleged he was one of four people involved in the killing of a local man. A jury of his peers, however, did not fully agree and found Corey Bright guilty instead of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. So instead of looking at a mandatory life sentence, Bright was sentenced this week to 20 years in state prison, the newspaper reported.

Bright and three others were accused of ambushing a 22-year-old man because they were upset with the man's alleged domestic abuse toward his girlfriend, the newspaper reported. Witnesses said two of the men pulled out guns and started shooting, the newspaper reported. All four suspects were charged with first-degree murder and faced a mandatory life sentence if convicted. What the state was likely trying to do is charge all four with first-degree murder and hope at least one of the men who didn't fire the shots would speak out, be a witness for the state and point the finger at the shooters to help have his own charges significantly reduced. That does not appear to have worked in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case. Another suspect pleaded guilty in December to second-degree murder and faces up to life in prison when he is sentenced. The other two are still charged with first-degree murder and are awaiting trial, the newspaper reported. Now, it is possible the suspect who pleaded guilty could be working with the state, and that his sentencing is being delayed until the other two cases are resolved. In Bright's case, it appears the jury thought he was involved and used a weapon, but likely felt the state could not prove beyond a reasonable doubt that Bright was indeed responsible for the man's death.

That can be the danger in overcharging crimes, or using the initial charge to attempt to get the suspect to plead guilty to a lesser charge - something that likely is more fitting of the crime in the first place. When a jury is read instructions before it starts deliberating in a Jacksonville Criminal Case, there are often other charges known as "lesser included offenses." For example, if someone like Bright is charged with first-degree murder, there is a list of other charges the jury can decide to find the defendant guilty of, if jurors don't think the initial charge was proven beyond a reasonable doubt. In many Jacksonville Gun Crimes cases, jurors believe the suspect is guilty of something - perhaps just not the most serious charge the state could possibly file - and will look to the lesser included charges as a compromise. But, in many Jacksonville Gun Crimes Cases, the state's game of hardball works. Some defendants feel they have too much to lose with a mandatory life sentence on the line in a trial, and try to plead guilty to second-degree murder in hopes of someday being released. The decision to plead or take a Jacksonville Gun Crimes case to trial is an individual choice that should be based on the facts of the case and the suspect's personal situation. What is the right call for one person may be more than another is willing to risk.

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

Thirty-one people arrested on a range of charges in Clay County undercover drug sting

February 18, 2014

More than 30 people are now facing drug charges in Clay County, following an undercover investigation and a string of arrests. Clay County police said their six-month investigation yielded 31 arrests so far, with a few more likely on the way, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police used undercover narcotics detectives to buy drugs from suspected dealers in Green Cove Springs, Middleburg and Orange Park, the newspaper reported. Police reported to the media that 109 pounds of marijuana were taken off the streets, and a list of charges also shows that other drugs, including cocaine and prescription narcotics such as hydrocodone, were seized as well.

Clay County Drug Crimes charges always hinge on two important facts: the type of drug in question, and the amount that a person is accused of having in their possession. For example, a person can be charged with drug trafficking in a Clay County Drug Crimes Case even if there is no evidence of the person actually selling or trying to sell the narcotic. Trafficking is charged simply when the amount reaches a certain threshold - which varies dramatically based on the drug. For example, one of the men arrested in this Clay County Drug Case is charged with trafficking in hydrocodone - a first-degree felony that could land him in state prison for the rest of his life. Trafficking in hydrocodone starts at just four grams of pills, literally a handful of pills, and carries a minimum mandatory sentence of three years in state prison and a fine of $50,000.

Now compare that with marijuana, where a charge does not become trafficking until a person is alleged to have more than 25 pounds in his or her possession. That Clay County Drug Charge is also a first-degree felony with a minimum mandatory sentence of three years in prison, but the fine is $25,000 - half of what it would be for a Clay County Drug Case involving prescription drugs. For marijuana, hydrocodone and all other illegal drugs in Clay County Drug Trafficking Cases, there are further weights and benchmarks that trigger various minimum mandatory sentences and fines - which take any discretion out of the hands of a judge and make the sentence required by law. Clearly, not all drugs are treated equally when it comes to Clay County Drug Cases. Our Clay County Drug Crimes Attorney knows the ins and outs of how the law is applied based on each individual substance, and can help you or your loved one understand the possibilities 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 Clay County Drug Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Man arrested after driving upwards up 100 mph to elude Atlantic Beach police

February 14, 2014

Speeds were so high that police called off the chase for an Orlando man driving erratically and topping 100 mph to get away from officers. The vehicle, though, was spotted a short time later and when the suspect tried to run on foot, he wasn't nearly as elusive, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The man, who lives in Orlando, was eventually caught and charged with Duval County resisting arrest, along with fleeing and attempting to elude a law enforcement officer with disregard for safety and property.

Resisting arrest in Jacksonville is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in the county jail, and that charge like stems from the foot chase. Where the suspect faces much more serious consequences is on the fleeing and eluding charge. There are varying degrees of severity on this charge and this Jacksonville Felony Crimes Case falls right in the middle. A simple fleeing and eluding an officer - essentially not pulling over or stopping when asked - is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
If, when doing so, the person "drives at high speed, or in any manner which demonstrates a wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property," the charge becomes a second degree felony, as it is in this Jacksonville Traffic Case. Second-degree felonies have a maximum penalty of 15 years in state prison. If the driving has a wanton disregard for safety and causes a serious bodily injury or death - including to the officer the person is driving away from - the charge escalates to a first-degree felony. That charges carries a minimum mandatory sentence of three years in prison and a maximum of 30 years.

In this Jacksonville Traffic Case, the driver is charged with the Florida second-degree felony. He is accused of turning his car around in front of four lanes of traffic on a bridge, making an illegal U-turn and running a stop sign - just missing other vehicles along the way. Once police saw him on foot, the driver still tried to run away, unsuccessfully tried to hide in some bushes and has to be Tasered for officers to get handcuffs on him. The more a suspect tries to run or drive away from officers, the greater the chance the suspect will end up facing even more serious charges than he or she would have in the first place. Simply stopping when police tell you to stop can end up saving plenty of headaches - and Jacksonville Felony Charges - down the road.

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.

Substitute Clay County school bus driver fired, state not filing charges in alleged choking incident

February 12, 2014

A substitute school bus driver in Clay County was fired this month for what some say was a choking incident with a 10-year-old student. The driver was fired after she was accused of putting her hand on the throat of a 10-year-old boy who refused to put away a cell phone on a ride home from school, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. While she is no longer employed, the larger issue would be criminal charges. Prosecutors have chosen not to file criminal charges in this potential Clay County Child Abuse case, the newspaper reported.

There is an important distinction in Clay County Criminal Court Cases on discipline that employers can levy and what is provable beyond a reasonable doubt in front of a jury. Prosecutors have the final say on when charges are filed in a Clay County Criminal Case. For example, once an arrest is made, the state has 40 days to determine whether the or not to file formal charges in a case. And, once charges are filed, the state has six months to take the case to trial, unless the defendant waives that provision and allows the deadline to be extended. There are several factors the state must consider when they are looking to file charges in a Clay County Child Abuse Case. In this case, the newspaper reported there were no video cameras on the bus, so law enforcement would have had to rely solely on statements from witnesses, as well as those from the suspect and the alleged victim. The stories from the boy and the driver, not surprisingly, differed significantly about exactly what happened and police said witness accounts were somewhere in between, the newspaper reported. That was apparently not enough for prosecutors, who appeared to make the right call in this potential Clay County Child Abuse Case. In order for a person to be convicted by a jury in any Clay County Criminal Case, that jury must be unanimous. If just one person on the jury does not agree with a guilty verdict, there is not a conviction.

If the jury cannot agree and is unable to come to a consensus, the result is a hung jury and a mistrial is declared. From there, the case essentially starts over from scratch. The state can decide to drop the charges, negotiate a plea agreement or take the case to trial again. If the Clay County Criminal Case ends up in trial a second time, an entirely different jury is chosen to hear the case. If you think you may be investigated in a Clay County Criminal Case, it can be beneficial to speak with a Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney before you speak with police. You have a right to remain silent and consult with an attorney, but must know that any statements you make to police can be used against you.

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

Former Jacksonville corrections officer arrested, accused of paying teen for sex act

February 10, 2014

A retired Jacksonville corrections officer was in jail himself this month, accused of paying a minor for a sex act. The man, who retired after 30 years with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, was arrested after police said he took a teen to a wooded area and paid her $20 to perform oral sex, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The retired officer, 52, is charged with lewd and lascivious battery by encouraging or enticing a person under the age of 16 to engage in sexual activity. The charge is a second-degree felony with a maximum penalty of 15 years in state prison. He is out on bond, with one of the conditions that he not have contact with minors under the age of 18, a common condition in a Jacksonville Sex Crimes case such as this - provided the person is out on bond.

Details are limited in the case - the newspaper reported much of the police report is redacted because this Jacksonville Sex Crimes Case involves a juvenile. There's no information how the suspect was caught, who reported the incident, or even if it was part of an undercover sting conducted by police. The area where the incident was reported is often a part of town where police will send an officer on the street who appears to be a prostitute and then arrest the man once a deal is agreed upon to pay for sex. That's less common in cases involving juveniles, but there has been plenty of attention paid to teens and human trafficking in the news recently, so it is possible. Either way, the charge will be tough for the officer to live down - regardless of whether he eventually pleads guilty or is convicted at trial. More than any other type of crime, there is an almost immediate rush to judgment against people accused in Duval County Sex Crimes. People assume that once an accusation is made, the person is guilty. When in reality, Jacksonville Sex Crimes Cases can often be the cases where there is the highest rate of false accusations.

In many Jacksonville Sex Crimes Cases, it is the victim's word against the word of the accused. Many of the cases do not have either physical evidence or witnesses - it's just one person's word against another. And there are serious consequences. If a person pleads guilty to or is convicted of a Jacksonville Sex Crime, he or she will have to register as a sex offender forever. Our Jacksonville Sex Crimes Attorney has represented hundreds of people accused of Jacksonville Sex Crimes and will thoroughly investigate your case to help you decide your 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 Jacksonville Sex Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

State reexamining thousands of Florida drug cases after crime lab chemist accused of removing evidence

February 7, 2014

A drug scandal involving a Florida Department of Law Enforcement chemist is not only a black eye for the state, it could be a major headache for prosecutors across Florida. The state is now examining all 2,600 cases since 2006 involving this chemist, accused of taking prescription pain pills and replacing them with over-the-counter medication, according to a report on News4Jax. The issue was first discovered when pills turned up missing in the Escambia County Sheriff's Office and investigators later determined that the cases were all handled by the same chemist, the television station reported. Now, all of the cases are under review and prosecutors are being notified of which cases to examine, the television station reported. All of the cases are west of Duval County, but the issue shows how fragile the cases can be in Jacksonville Drug Crimes Cases, and how one bad apple can affect so many cases.

When drugs are found on a person in a Jacksonville Drug Crimes Case, the substance is often sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement to determine for sure whether what appears to be cocaine or hydrocodone, for example, is indeed cocaine or hydrocodone. This is done as part of proving the case, and also because there are cases where someone is selling counterfeit drugs and there's an entirely different charge for that sort of Jacksonville Drug Crime. However, if there is no longer evidence of the drug and no way to prove that it is actually a controlled substance, would the state need to drop the charges? It brings up an interesting legal argument and makes it difficult to proceed when there is no evidence. One comparison is in a Jacksonville DUI Case when the traffic stop is not admissible into evidence. There are specific rules and procedures police must follow in Jacksonville DUI Cases and if an officer isn't specifically trained in those procedures, mistakes can happen. And when the traffic stop is gone, there goes the state's evidence in the case.

The same could be true in these Florida Drug Crime cases. Police say this chemist worked about 2,600 cases for 80 law enforcement agencies in 35 Florida counties. If the evidence no longer exists, the state could have a difficult time proving these cases beyond a reasonable doubt. Our Jacksonville Drug Crimes Attorney represents people facing all types of drugs charges, and will thoroughly investigate your case to ensure as procedures and policies were followed.

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

Tickets from red light cameras now for real at several Jacksonville intersections

February 5, 2014

Tickets are now being issued from red-light cameras at three busy Jacksonville intersections, adding to the list of places drivers can be forced to pay fines in these automated Jacksonville Traffic Cases. The cameras have been up for some time, but tickets cannot be issued immediately when the camera are installed, according to a report on News4Jax. Actual tickets can only be issued after the camera has been installed and active for one month. The tickets began on violations at the end of January and carry a $158 fine, according to the news report. Drivers have been receiving warning notices in the mail if they have been caught running the lights at these three intersections, but the fines in these Jacksonville Traffic Cases are what really matter.

Jacksonville Traffic Cases can be expensive, and the real cost comes down the road, when the points assessed to a driver's license start to add up. Red light camera tickets are a little different, and that's why some have criticized the cameras as simply a money grab for the counties that install them. Unlike any other moving violation in a Jacksonville Traffic Case, red light camera tickets do not have points that count against a person's driver license - IF the $158 fine is paid within 30 days. But, in order for a driver to protest a red light camera ticket in a Jacksonville Traffic Case, the driver must let that 30-day window expire for the ticket to become a traditional traffic ticket. By that point, though, the fine has jumped by more than $100 and the driver faces three points on his or her license.

That's a risk counties are likely hoping drivers won't take. They are hoping drivers see the evidence on the photo, figure they can't win, and just write the check for the $158 to move on. Any many probably will, especially because the risk of points can be expensive in the long run. Points can lead to soaring car insurance rates, and could eventually lead to a license suspension. In Florida:

- If a driver has 12 points in one year, his or her license is suspended for 30 days
- If a person gets 18 points in 18 months, a 3-month suspension is issued
- Drivers lose their license for one year for 24 points in a three-year span

Fighting a Jacksonville Traffic Case in court can often lead to points and fines being reduced. But, if drivers are not facing points on a red-light camera tickets, many may not think it's worth it to fight the ticket and bring points into play.

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.

Fifteen arrested in Nassau County undercover drug sweep

February 3, 2014

After months of undercover investigations, police announced they've arrested 15 people in a Nassau County drug sweep. All 15 are charged with felonies in these Nassau County Drug Crime Cases, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police made the arrests last month and said there are still four people wanted for Nassau County Drug Crimes connected with the investigations, the newspaper reported.

This roundup differs slightly than others in Northeast Florida, in that every one of the 15 is charged with selling drugs. In many cases, there are a few people included on possession charges, possibly people who were buying drugs at the wrong time, or had other drugs on them when police arrested them. In all, the group of 15 faces 30 felony counts, the newspaper reported. It's unclear whether the people involved in these Nassau County Drug Crimes cases are connected to one specific drug ring, or if they are a part of separate drug operations up and running throughout the county. Charges include sale or delivery of marijuana, sale or delivery of cocaine and sale or delivery of a controlled substance. Some of the drugs involved in these Nassau County Drug Crimes cases are Ecstasy and prescription pain pills, the newspaper reported.

The felony degree and maximum punishment in a Nassau County Drug Crimes case is partially determined by the drug in question. For example, sale or delivery of marijuana is a third-degree felony with a maximum punishment of five years in state prison. Sale or delivery of cocaine, on the other hand, is a second-degree felony with a maximum penalty of up to 15 years in prison. There are other factors in Nassau County Drug Crimes cases that can enhance the penalties, and one major factor is included in a few of these recent charges. Similar to real estate, location matters when it comes to Nassau County Drug Crimes cases. If someone is charged with sale of marijuana and that sale is within 1,000 feet of a church or a school, that third-degree felony becomes a second degree felony. The same enhancement can be used in sale or delivery of cocaine, only the second-degree felony turns into a first-degree felony. First-degree felonies carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison. Our Nassau County Criminal Defense Attorney has represented people on a variety of Nassau County Drug Crimes, from misdemeanor possession of marijuana, on up to sales similar to these cases in this recent sweep.

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

Clay County mom arrested after drugs found in her son's system

January 31, 2014

Police arrested a Clay County mother, alleging her young son who died in December had drugs in his system that caused his death. Kathern Powell was arrested more than a month after the medical examiner ruled the boy's cause of death was a homicide caused by acute bronchopneumonia following drug toxicity, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. She was charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child and culpable negligence. In most cases, aggravated manslaughter is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. But the degree changes when a child, elderly person or a law enforcement officer is involved. Because this Clay County Manslaughter Case involves child, Powell's charge is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in state prison.

Powell allegedly found the boy face down in his crib and tried to wake him up in the shower before the child's father and grandfather both attempted CPR, the newspaper reported. The boy was taken to the hospital and died a week later, the newspaper reported. Subsequent tests found opiates in his blood and urine, the newspaper reported. Police have not released Powell's role in the case, nor have they discussed what drugs were involved or how the child ingested them, the newspaper reported. Those details will obviously be the key to this Clay County Manslaughter Case.

In a recent, Jacksonville Manslaughter Case, a mother pleaded guilty to the same charge after policed alleged she had drugged her child before to get him to fall asleep. That mother was sentenced to 15 years in prison, likely because the court found she had done it before. Past activity such as this when it involves a child can drastically affect a sentence in a Clay County Manslaughter Case. It is one thing for a child to get into drugs or any other substance if it's in a drawer or in the reach of a child, but it's quite another to intentionally give a child illegal drugs to try to get he or she to stay or fall asleep. The details will be important in this Clay County Drug Crimes case. If there is not a trial in this Clay County Manslaughter Case, it may not be until the sentencing hearing until those details emerge. At that point, or at trial, the defense will have its chance to explain the events, and provide information or mitigation to the judge in asking for a favorable 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. Clay County Drug Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.