Man on way to Jacksonville stopped on Interstate 95, police find bricks of marijuana in dog food bag

October 18, 2013

A Miami man is facing felony drug trafficking charges after police found 30 bricks of marijuana in a dog food bag during a traffic stop on the interstate. Police estimated the marijuana was worth $120,000 and arrested Roger Aguilera for trafficking in marijuana and possession of marijuana with intent to sell, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Trafficking in marijuana is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison. The charge also carries a minimum mandatory sentence of three years in prison. Possession with intent to sell in Florida is a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison, so obviously the trafficking charge is the one for Aguilera to be most concerned about.

The news reports do not specify exactly how much marijuana was taken, but for it to qualify as a trafficking charge in this St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case, it was a significant amount. In Florida, a person must have at least 25 pounds of marijuana for the state to charge a person with trafficking in marijuana. For other types of drugs, trafficking applies with a fraction of that amount - 28 grams for cocaine and just 14 grams for oxycodone and other prescription drugs. Aguilera was stopped in this St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case because the tinting on his windows was too dark, the newspaper reported. Once police approached the car, they said Aguilera was acting nervous and police asked to search the car, the newspaper reported. Police said Aguilar gave them permission and that's when police saw the dog food bag and found the marijuana, the newspaper reported.

It would have been interesting to see how police would have handled the situation if Aguilar had not given permission to search the car. An officer would need probable cause and just acting suspicious is not enough. The news report does say police smelled marijuana, but that was after they started searching the car. Aguilar certainly had the right to decline to have his car searched and it is reasonable to expect that conversation will get plenty of attention in this St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case. If Aguilar did not fully understand his rights, what the officer was asking of him or that he had the right to say no, there could be grounds to try to have the traffic stop suppressed. And without the traffic stop, police do not have a St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case. That may sound ludicrous because, either way, Aguilar still had more than 25 pounds of marijuana bricks stuffed in a dog food bag. But, there are certain rules and procedures police must follow. Officers cannot go around just searching cars to search cars - especially cars they pull over just because of their window tint. Our St. Johns County Drug Crimes Attorney knows those rules and procedures inside out and can investigate all aspects of the stop to determine if there could be a reason to have the stop thrown out.

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.

Woman accused of trying to hire undercover Jacksonville police officer to kill her daughter-in-law

October 16, 2013

A 70-year-old Clay County woman is charged with two felonies after allegedly trying to hire a hit man to kill her daughter-in-law. Diana Costarakis is accused of meeting twice with the person she thought was a hitman, but was actually an undercover officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police said she paid the officer $500 one day and $1,000 the following day as a down payment, the newspaper reported. The rest of the $5,000 to have the woman killed could come from the jewelry she would be wearing at the time of her death, Costarakis is accused to telling the officer, the newspaper reported.

Costarakis is charged with criminal solicitation and criminal conspiracy in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case. Both charges are first-degree felonies in this Jacksonville Criminal Case, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. In criminal solicitation and criminal conspiracy cases, the seriousness of the charge is based on the crime the person is soliciting or conspiring to commit. If the crime is a capital crime, such as murder, then soliciting and conspiracy charges are first-degree felonies. So Costarakis is looking at up to 60 years in prison if convicted and sentenced to the maximum penalty on each count. As a general rule, the solicitation felony degree is one level down from the crime the person is soliciting for. So if the base crime is an armed robbery, a first-degree felony, soliciting or conspiring to commit an armed robbery would be a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. If the conspiracy is based on a third-degree felony, the solicitation or conspiracy charge would be a misdemeanor.

The key in a Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case like this is the state's ability to prove Costarakis was expressly paying to have the person killed. Police know that and, according to the newspaper report, asked her if the daughter should be killed. Costarakis is accused of saying, "If you don't do it, I will," the newspaper reported. On the surface, that doesn't bode well - and neither do the two cash payments to the officer. Defenses to conspiracy and solicitation in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case can be that the suspect was backing out of the plan and changed his or her mind. There is no evidence to that end that has been released so far, but that wouldn't be something police would voluntarily give up. It would, however, be subject to disclosure as the Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case moves forward. Jacksonville Violent Crimes Cases often appear to be open-and-shut cases when police wrap them up in a tidy bow and present them to the media. But when an experienced Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney starts examining the case and investigating the details and tactics used by the police, an entirely different picture can sometimes emerge.

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

State drops murder charge against 98-year-old St. Johns County woman found mentally incompetent

October 14, 2013

Prosecutors have finally dropped murder charges against a 98-year-old woman who was found mentally incompetent to stand trial over a year ago. In doing so, Amanda Stevenson now has access to her retirement benefits that had been suspended due to pending charges and those funds can be used for a private long-term care facility where she can live, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The back and forth in this St. Johns County Murder Case highlights the fact that a case doesn't just end once a person is found to be mentally incompetent to face the charges.

Stevenson was charged with second-degree murder in the 2011 shooting death of her nephew, with whom she had an ongoing dispute, the newspaper reported. A year later, Stevenson, who suffers from dementia, was found incompetent, but remained in jail while state agencies went back and forth as to who would be able to take care of her. In May, she was finally released from jail and placed in a mental health facility under the care of the state Department of Children and Families, the newspaper reported. In the motion dropping the charges, two doctors agreed that Stevenson was not going to regain mental competency, likely because of the stage of her dementia and her age, the newspaper reported. In many St. Johns County Murder Cases where mental competency is at issue, the person will be periodically evaluated to determine if competency can be regained - possibly through counseling or medication. The murder charge was punishable by up to life in prison. At 98, practically any sentence amounts to life in prison in this St. Johns County Murder Case.

But, as all of the legal wrangling was working itself out, her retirement benefits were frozen until the charges were formally dropped, the newspaper reported. Different pension and retirement plans operate differently. In terms of social security, payments are only supposed to be suspended when a person is convicted of a felony, not simply charged. But many state plans, for retired teachers or other state workers for example, and disability payments can be suspended once a person is jailed on charges. Part of the argument is that state and federal disability benefits are used to pay for living expenses and, if the person is incarcerated, the state is paying to take care of the person - regardless of whether or not the person has been convicted. Mental competency can be a serious issue, especially in St. Johns County Murder Cases, and the courts have complicated standards as to when a person is mentally able to stand trial - and when he or she is not. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney can have your loved one evaluated by a mental health professional and present those findings to the court, if deemed necessary.

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

Jury can't agree in murder trial of Jacksonville Beach man accused of shooting his wife; new trial expected

October 11, 2013

A Jacksonville judge was forced to declare a mistrial last month in the case of a Jacksonville Beach man charged with first-degree murder in the shooting death of his wife. Michael Morris is charged with shooting his wife seven times in the foyer of their home during an argument when both had been drinking, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Morris' neighbor, an off-duty police officer, took Morris into custody and would not let the man back in his home after Morris said he wanted to use one of his 40 guns to kill himself, the newspaper reported.

The issue in this Jacksonville Murder Case isn't really the crime itself, but rather the charge. The state charged Morris with first-degree murder, meaning the crime was premeditated. Now that doesn't mean Morris needed to have plotted the shooting weeks or months in advance, but that in that moment when he pulled out his gun and shot several times he intended to kill her. With first-degree murder charges, there are only two possible sentences: life in prison or the death penalty. Because the state was not seeking the death penalty in this Jacksonville Murder Case, a conviction would have resulted in an automatic life sentence for Morris. But Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorneys argued that Morris should have only been charged with manslaughter. Manslaughter is also a first-degree felony, but the maximum penalty is 30 years in prison. That would still essentially be a life sentence for Morris, 67, but the judge has discretion he or she doesn't not have in a first-degree murder case. Manslaughter is basically a charge for when someone dies as a result of negligence or as part of another criminal act where there was no intent to kill. For example, manslaughter is commonly charged if two people get into a fight and the one is killed, perhaps from hitting his or her head on the concrete.

It's impossible to know just how deadlocked the jury was in this Jacksonville Murder Case. For someone to be convicted of any crime in the state of Florida, the jury must be unanimous in its decision. So even just one person who disagrees - and stands his or her ground - can force a mistrial. In some Jacksonville Criminal Defense Cases, a mistrial opens the door to further negotiations and perhaps a plea agreement. In many Jacksonville Murder Cases, though, it adds to the defendant's resolve, thinking the jury was close to finding the person not guilty. Our Jacksonville Trial Attorney knows every trial carries a significant risk. And although the charge is obviously very serious, that actually doesn't hold as true in Jacksonville Murder Cases. If the only possibility is life in prison whether the person pleads guilty or goes to trial, why not take the case to trial? The risk factor in other cases varies tremendously and, having represented thousands of defendants on charges ranging from misdemeanors to life felonies, our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney can lay out the options for you or your loved one to make the best decision going forward.

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

Judge allows resisting arrest case at Jacksonville International Airport to move forward

October 9, 2013

Jacksonville Misdemeanor charges against an Illinois man arrested during a bomb threat and evacuation at Jacksonville International Airport will go forward, a judge ruled this month. Manuel Rivera is charged with resisting an officer without violence after police said he was acting suspiciously when the airport was emptied last week when another man told agents at a security checkpoint that he had a bomb, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. There was speculation from the outset that Rivera and the alleged attempted bomber were connected, but police have clarified the two men did not know each other and the man who said he had a bomb was acting alone, the newspaper reported.

As police tried to clear the area near the airport, an officer saw Rivera carrying a bag in a parking garage and ordered him to stop, the newspaper reported. Rivera dropped the bag and pulled away. Police took the bag and checked for explosives and other contraband, but did not find any, the newspaper reported. Rivera was arrested for resisting an officer without violence, a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in the county jail. Typically, a resisting arrest charge comes when someone is running from police, or gives officers a hard time when he or she is being questioned by authorities. In many Jacksonville Misdemeanor Cases, the resisting charge is on top of other charges, For example, a person may turn and run when police show up a party. When police eventually catch the person, officers find marijuana in his or her pocket. Then, the defendant could be charged with resisting arrest and marijuana possession. It's more uncommon to see resisting arrest as the sole charge, but it does happen in Jacksonville Misdemeanor Crimes Cases.

There are two types of resisting charges. There's resisting without violence, as Rivera is charged, and also resisting with violence. When violence is involved, the charge becomes a third-degree felony in Duval County punishable by up to five years in state prison. In this situation at the airport, police were in the heat of a potentially dangerous situation and had to take everyone and everything seriously. The public may not argue with them arresting people on Jacksonville Misdemeanor Crimes to eliminate the threat and sorting it out later. Well, later is now here. There's a fine line between resisting arrest and not following the instructions of an officer that doesn't have a legal basis for stopping you. Now that the airport threat has been eliminated and police know Rivera was not involved, it will be interesting to see how the case plays out.

Our Jacksonville Misdemeanor Attorney has represented thousands of people charged with misdemeanors and, just because there isn't significant prison time on the horizon, doesn't mean the charge isn't serious for the defendant. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney takes every single case seriously and will help you work through the case to get back to your life.

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

New trial ordered in Jacksonville "Stand Your Ground" case that garnered national headlines

October 7, 2013

A Jacksonville mother sentenced to 20 years in prison after being convicted of firing a warning shot to ward off an abusive husband will now get a new trial. The 1st District Court of Appeal threw out the 2012 conviction of Marissa Alexander last month, citing an issue with what the jury was told about what to consider regarding self-defense, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. This adds another chapter to the case that has been the subject of protests and rallies by politicians and civil rights leaders who claim the punishment for Alexander did not fit the crime.

Alexander was convicted of three counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon in Jacksonville for going to the garage and getting a gun, then firing one shot into the ceiling to stop her threatening husband, the newspaper reported. The other two charges were filed because two children were present during the incident. According to Florida's 10-20-Life law, Alexander faced a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years if she was convicted in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case - which she was in March 2012. Up to the trial, the state was offering to waive the minimum mandatory sentence for Alexander if she agreed to plead guilty to the Duval County criminal charges and accept three years in prison. She refused and, once she was convicted, the judge had no choice but to give her 20 years. The decision by the appellate court could have wide-ranging effects on Jacksonville Gun Crimes cases, and others in which a self-defense claim could be used.

In every Jacksonville Criminal Defense Case, the jury is read a series of instructions right before they are sent back to deliberate. These instructions include the elements of the charges they are to consider and the standard for conviction on this particular crime. The jury in this Jacksonville Weapon Crimes case was told that in order to find Alexander not guilty by reason of self-defense, that Alexander must prove beyond a reasonable doubt that she was battered by Gray and that's why she felt she was in imminent danger and got the gun. The appellate court ruled burden of proof should have been on the prosecution to prove Alexander was not acting in self-defense. It's a subtle point, but one that can be essential going forward with self-defense claims. The language used to the jury in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case is fairly standard and will now require a change to stay in accordance with the ruling. And you can bet appellate attorneys are looking at other Jacksonville Gun Crimes Cases to see if a similar statement was made to the jury that could be brought up in hopes of getting the conviction tossed. Now that there's an opportunity for all parties to reconsider their decision, including Alexander on going to trial with a 20-year sentence hanging over her head, it will be interesting to see how negotiations and this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case play out.

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.

Investigator for Medical Examiner's Office accused of stealing jewelry off of dead bodies

October 4, 2013

A forensic investigator with the Medical Examiner's Office faces three felony charges amid allegations he was taking jewelry off of dead bodies and pawning the items for cash. Christopher Allen was arrested at work in September after a four-month investigation by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The investigation stemmed from a complaint when family members noticed several pieces of jewelry missing from a deceased woman earlier this year, the newspaper reported. Allen had allegedly pawned more than 60 pieces of jewelry at local pawn shops in the last year, and many of the items were things he would have had access to through work, the newspaper reported.

In these Jacksonville Theft Cases, Allen is charged with falsifying a document as a public official, giving false verification of ownership of pawned items and dealing in stolen property. Dealing in stolen property in Duval County is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison, while other two are both third-degree felonies with maximum sentences of five years. In all, he is facing up to 25 years in prison for these Jacksonville Theft Crimes. Allen has not been charged with theft yet, which could be a second shoe to drop in the case. Though, in Florida, theft is often a less serious charge than dealing in stolen property. If the Jacksonville Theft Case involves property that has a value of less than $300, it is a Petit Theft and the charge would be a misdemeanor, not a felony. The maximum jail time on a misdemeanor is one year in jail and a person cannot be sent to state prison on a misdemeanor conviction. If the property is valued between $300 and $20,000, the charge is a third-degree felony that carries a maximum penalty of five years in state prison.

But selling the items changes the charges in Duval County Theft Cases and severely ups the ante. And the cases can be much easier to prove, especially if the property is taken to a pawn shop. If it is, the person selling the items must provide identification and, in many cases, leave a thumbprint that serves as another form of identification. The other element of the crime is that the person had to either know the property was stolen or should have known the property was stolen before selling it. In this Jacksonville Theft Case, if Allen was indeed the one taking the items himself, he obviously would have known they were stolen. Depending on the nature of the crime and the defendant's record, Jacksonville Theft Cases can be cases where a defendant is offered some sort of pretrial intervention program that can include probation and restitution costs for what was stolen. The nature of Allen's crime may make that difficult, but it can be an option for others charged in Jacksonville Theft Cases.

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

Judge issues life sentence but rare parole eligibility for man who was 17 at time of Clay County double murder

October 2, 2013

A Jacksonville man was sentenced to life in prison for his role in a Clay County double murder, but he could be released after 25 years in an increasing common sentence for judges waiting for direction on a U.S. Supreme Court decision. Derrell Emery Jr. was convicted of first-degree murder and second-degree murder, Clay County Murders he was charged as an adult for even though he was 17 years old at the time, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Emery and Todd Bradshaw went to a house where a man they knew was housesitting, the newspaper reported. They allegedly planned on robbing the man, but when the man fought back, he was shot and killed. Police arrived and when Emery and Bradshaw tried to run, both were shot by police, the newspaper reported. Emery was shot in the ankle, but Bradshaw was killed by police. Prosecutors argued Emery was criminally responsible in both Clay County Murders because he was involved in the robbery that eventually caused both of the murders, the newspaper reported.

In Florida, there are two possible sentences for someone convicted of first-degree murder: life in prison without parole or the death penalty. But last year, the U.S. Supreme Court put a wrinkle in Florida law by ruling juveniles could not be sentenced to life without the possibility of parole, even in Clay County Murder Cases. This ruling came two years after a decision banning life sentences for juvenile on every crime but murder. In the most recent opinion, the Supreme Court argued the life sentence is cruel and unusual punishment. So even though parole does not even exist in Florida, some judges are adding it to the sentences people who were juveniles at their time of their crimes. This is done as a way to try to comply with the Supreme Court ruling, though there has not been direction on what would constitute a proper sentence going forward. Florida abolished parole in 1983 and people who are convicted must serve at least 85 percent of their sentence. No one sentenced to life can be released but, for example, someone sentenced to 10 years must serve at least 8-1/2 years. Laws have been proposed to add parole specifically to comply with the Supreme Court ruling on juveniles, but they've gone nowhere as lawmakers are reluctant to appear soft on crime, according to a previous report in the Florida Times-Union. The Supreme Court case provides a challenge for judges in cases such as this Clay County Murder case, but there is plenty of time for further directions. The first few defendants sentenced in these cases will not become eligible for parole for another 24 years.

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

Airport police officer arrested accused of sexual battery in Clay County

September 30, 2013

A police officer at Jacksonville International Airport was arrested on a sexual battery charge in Clay County and has been placed on leave from his position. Police said the defendant molested her for nearly a year and the two had "non-consensual sex" several times, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The report does not say how old the woman is that the 46-year-old man is accused of sexually battering, but the accuser appears to be an adult and not a child - based on the charges. It's unclear if there is any sort of work connection to the relationship, but police said the incidents happened in a home and not on airport property, the newspaper reported.

An accusation alone in a Clay County Sex Crimes Case can be enough to tarnish a reputation and be extremely difficult to recover from. Perhaps more than any other type of crime, our society tends to immediately convict someone when a sex crime claim is brought out. In reality, Clay County Sex Crime Cases can be among the most difficult for the state to prove. In many cases, there is little, if any, physical evidence to draw on. And there are generally only two people who know what really happened - the defendant and the alleged victim. In most Clay County Sex Crimes Cases, sexual battery involving two adults is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The charge can vary based on other factors, including if the defendant is accused of using force or a weapon during the alleged crime. Clay County Sex Crimes Cases like this one are usually the types of cases that tend to end up in trial more frequently. The way Florida Sex Crimes laws are established, many defendants are reluctant to plead guilty to a sex crime because of the lasting implications. Though trials can be risky, many Clay County Sex Crime defendants end up taking that gamble.

If someone pleads guilty to a Clay County Sexual Battery charge, he or will be designated a sexual offender. That means restrictions will be placed on where the person can live, including how close he or she can live to a church or school - even if the case does not involve a child. Moreover, any time the person changes residences, neighbors are notified that a sex offender has moved in and the nature of the crime is listed. More than any other crime, including a murder, sex crimes are extremely difficult to recover from. And any plea deal or agreement will come with lifelong consequences. Our Clay County Sex Crimes Attorney has represented hundreds of defendants accused of sex crimes and can explain the provisions that come with being classified as a sex offender to let you or your loved one decide the best way to proceed with a 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 Clay County Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Bricks of cocaine wash ashore in St. Johns County

September 27, 2013

Heavy rains not only flooded local streets, but they also washed more than a dozen bricks of cocaine from the Atlantic Ocean onto beaches in St. Johns County. A man found two individually wrapped packages about 30 feet from one another near a St. Augustine boat ramp and called police, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police fanned out and conducted their own search, finding a total of 16 packages between St. Augustine Beach and Crescent Beach - each weighing about two pounds, the newspaper reported. The drugs have a street value of about $500,000, the newspaper reported.

Similar bricks of cocaine washed to shore in St. Johns County earlier this year and police haven't said if they are related, the newspaper reported. In that St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case, $7.5 million in cocaine was found. Proving the source of the drugs in this case to the point of actually being able to make arrests and bring St. Johns County Drug Crimes charges could be difficult, but it's the next step in the case. St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case can be very serious and, as in all drug cases, the charges and penalties are based on two main factors: the type of drug and how much of it the suspect is accused of having. A person can be charged with drug trafficking even if there is no evidence of the suspect selling the drug or arranging to have it sold. In this St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case, even one of the bricks would be enough to face a trafficking charge, which is a first-degree felony punishable by up to life in prison. Because the amount falls between 400 grams and 150 kilograms (about 330 pounds), there is a 15-year minimum mandatory prison sentence that would apply. Again, that penalty is for just one of the bricks in this St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case, not all 16 of them.

Trafficking amounts vary based on the type of drug and, with cocaine, start at 28 grams. Compare that with marijuana, which is a misdemeanor possession up until 28 grams, when possession becomes a felony. Trafficking penalties start at 25 pounds - more than 400 times the amount where trafficking begins in St. Johns County Drug Crimes Cases involving cocaine. Cocaine charges are very serious and often trigger minimum mandatory sentences - even with what may seem to be a minimal amount of the drug.

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.


Jacksonville man sentenced to 10 years for DUI manslaughter in crash that killed his friend

September 25, 2013

A 20-year-old Jacksonville man was sentenced to 10 years in prison for the traffic crash that killed his friend in 2012. David Gallagher was sentenced on the DUI manslaughter charge that he pleaded guilty to in June, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Gallagher lost control of the car he was driving about 3:20 a.m., swerved off the road, hitting a mailbox and a parked truck, the newspaper reported. Gallagher suffered non-life threatening injuries. His passenger, though, died at the scene.

Part of Gallagher's sentence also includes 300 hours of community service to Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the newspaper reported. That could be done during Gallagher's time in prison, for example. If he is transported to local high schools to talk about the consequences of driving drunk and underage, as he was the night of the accident. The penalties and charges in Jacksonville DUI cases are ultimately based on how much damage a person causes to property or to other people while he or she is driving intoxicated. For example, take a common DUI where a person is pulled over for one reason or another and then arrested for suspicion of driving under the influence. That DUI is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in jail. There are other serious consequences that can come with it, including fines, a driver's license suspension and mandatory educational classes, but the jail exposure is only six months on a driver's first DUI. A Jacksonville DUI crash that involves property damage, either another vehicle or running into a fence or building, is still a misdemeanor, but the jail exposure jumps to one year. When injuries to people come into play, stakes increase dramatically. A Jacksonville Driving Under the Influence causing serious bodily injury is a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison. A Jacksonville DUI manslaughter, which is a DUI causing a death, is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. The charge also carries a minimum mandatory sentence of four years in prison. In Gallagher's Jacksonville DUI Case, the judge went closer to the maximum, sentencing his to 10 years.

While many misdemeanor charges in Jacksonville DUI cases can be reduced or bring not guilty verdicts at trial, that is far less likely in charges involving injury or death. The biggest reason is people can refuse a breath test in a Jacksonville DUI case. While that comes with a penalty, it significantly reduces evidence in a Jacksonville DUI Case. But, if there is an injury or death, police can take a suspect's blood without consent and test it for alcohol content. If it comes back that the person was above the legal limit of .08, there's not much the defense can do. That's why Jacksonville DUI Manslaughter Cases do not go to trial as often as misdemeanor DUIs and often result in guilty pleas. Our Jacksonville DUI Attorney has represented hundreds of people charged with DUI and knows all of the intricate details police must follow when making a DUI arrest. Our Jacksonville DUI Attorney will thoroughly investigative the case against you or your loved one to determine if there are areas to contest, especially in terms of the traffic stop.

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

Police arrest 14 in Clay County prostitution sting

September 24, 2013

Fourteen people, all but two of whom were women, were arrested last week after an undercover police investigation broke up a string of prostitution operations in Clay County. The investigation began after complaints from neighbors and led to three massage parlors and an escort service, all four of which featured women allegedly offering sex for money, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. At the massage parlors, undercover detectives asked for a massage and women later offered to perform sex acts for between $40 and $80, the newspaper reported.

On their own, these prostitution cases would be Clay County Misdemeanor Crimes. Prostitution and soliciting for prostitution are both second-degree misdemeanors, punishable by no more than 60 days in jail. But in these cases, it's not just the prostitution itself that has some of those arrested looking at serious time behind bars and Clay County Felony charges. For example, one of the women arrested also allegedly had cocaine on her at the time. She's charged with a misdemeanor for prostitution, but a third-degree felony for possession of a controlled substance that could land her up to five years in state prison. And, strangely, some of the women arrested at the massage parlor are facing Clay County Felony charges, simply based on the way they went about offering sex acts. Some of the women are charged with unlicensed practicing of a health care professional - essentially offering massages without being licensed as a massage therapist. That charge, too, is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in prison. One of the men is also looking at a Clay County Felony, charged with deriving support from prostitution, a third degree felony also punishable by up to five years in prison. Essentially his role is what's commonly known as a pimp, providing the women for a sex act and taking a cut of the money she earns.

The difference between a Clay County Misdemeanor and Clay County Felony can be huge - even if the crimes seem to be very similar. It is possible that the state could choose to reduce some of the felonies for practicing health care without a license down to a prostitution misdemeanor. But they may be looking to send a message, and felony convictions are certainly one way to do that. Either way, if the women do not have long criminal records, they could be eligible for what's known as a withhold of adjudication, meaning the outcome will not show on the person's record as pleading guilty, provided certain conditions are met. Our Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney has represented hundreds of people on misdemeanor and felony charges, and can explain all of the potential consequences. Our Clay County Criminal Lawyer can negotiate on your behalf to try to get a resolution that you or your loved one is satisfied with, or take the case to trial, however you choose to proceed in 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 Clay County Misdemeanor Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Stolen prescription pad has police on the lookout for people trying to get narcotics with fake orders

September 20, 2013

Clay County police are investigating to determine if more people have been using a stolen prescription pad to try to receive narcotic pain medication. Kristina Mosley was arrested last week and police say more charges could be on the way soon, according to a report from Action News Jacksonville. Mosley was charged with making an altered or forged prescription, which is charged in this Clay County Drug Crimes case as a misdemeanor. There's also a felony charge of obtaining a prescription by fraud that, as a third-degree felony, is punishable by up to five years in prison. In this Clay County Drug Crimes case, it appears that the fraudulent prescription was caught before Mosley allegedly received the narcotic, or she would have likely been charged with the felony. Mosley has other serious criminal problems as well, namely, a charged of trafficking in prescriptions drugs. The crime is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison.

This Clay County Drug Crimes Case could be seen as the latest step in the county's continued push to fight the sale and abuse of prescription pain medication, the television station reported. But from the perspective of a Clay County Drug Crimes Attorney, it is also based on a significant opportunity for police to implicate more people in the crime. The pad was stolen from a hospital and if the police now have access to the person who would know how the pad was obtained and who had control of its distribution. Mosley. And now she is looking at up to 30 years in state prison - and a potential minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years. Police are likely banking on her opening up to try to reduce her own sentence and it may work in the state's favor. The news of the stolen prescription pad has pharmacists - at the urging of police - calling doctors to verify prescriptions, just to be sure they are authorized, the television station reported. It would not be surprising if police were working with some of the local pharmacies to allow the customer to purchase the narcotics and then have police waiting outside the door to make the arrest. That way, the felony charge would apply and the person would be facing five years in state prison. As with negotiations of any kind, negotiations in Clay County Drug Crimes Cases are all about leverage. A person looking at prison time is often more likely to work with police than someone facing a misdemeanor and a little time in the county jail. That's magnified when it comes to someone like Mosley looking at 30 years in this Clay County Drug Crimes Case.

Our Clay County Drug Crimes Attorney has represented clients charged in all facets of drug cases. From possession, to those accused of selling small amounts, to those alleged to be the mastermind of the enterprise. Our Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney understands how prosecutors work to secure evidence and testimony in these Clay County Drug Crimes cases, and can advise you on your options and how the case could play out.

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.

Four teens arrested in slew of St. Johns County car break-ins

September 18, 2013

St. Johns County police have arrested four teens in a rash of recent thefts from unlocked cars that have become prevalent over the past several months. A family member of one of the suspects tipped police to the location of some of the stolen property, and police are still investigating whom all of it belongs to, according to a report on News4Jax. Two suspects are likely facing more severe penalties than the other two -- and this has nothing at all to do with their involvement in the cases versus the other suspects.
It is based solely on age.

Two of the suspects are 17 and will most likely have their cases heard in juvenile court, whereas the other two suspects - at 18 and 19 - would appear in traditional, adult court. In St. Johns County Juvenile Crimes Cases, penalties are often far less severe with an eye toward punishment, but also making sure a youthful mistake does not end up being something that stays with the defendant his or her entire life. Juvenile defendants can be arrested and incarcerated just like adults, but the difference is they are taken to a special youth jail. In St. Johns County Juvenile Crimes cases like this, it would be more common to see the teens put on some sort of probation or monitoring system as opposed to sending them away to any type of prison. Another difference for the 17-year-old defendants in this St. Johns County Juvenile Crimes Case is the role of the parents in the resolution of the case. Parent play a major role in juvenile crimes cases and are required to be in court. They are ultimately the ones responsible for any restitution the defendant must pay back in theft cases such as this, and must also pay for any costs to monitor the child, such as probation.

While a person's criminal record plays a major role in all criminal cases, it is especially critical in St. Johns County Juvenile Crimes Cases. Judges and prosecutors are far more likely to forgive a transgression of youth and allow a teen to be punished just enough to learn from his or her mistake. But when the same teens continue to end up in court, the powers that be have less incentive to be lenient and are led to believe the message is not getting through. And even though a St. Johns County Juvenile Crime may not sound that serious, it is imperative that it is handled properly to make sure the blemish doesn't continue to haunt your loved one as her or she gets older and enters the workforce. Our St. Johns County Juvenile Crimes Attorney has represented hundreds of juvenile clients and can help your loved one get a mistake behind them and move on to a productive life.

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.

After two juries can't decide, third trial begins for Jacksonville man accused of killing pregnant woman

September 16, 2013

A Jacksonville man is on trial for the third time, accused of stabbing his ex-girlfriend's pregnant roommate in 2010. Andrew King is on trial facing two counts of first-degree murder -one for the death of 22-year-old Felicia Burney and the second for the death of her unborn child, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. King is also charged with one count of Jacksonville armed burglary with assault or battery, the newspaper reported. If King is convicted on one or both of the murder charges, he will be sentenced to life in prison - there is no other option for a judge in a first-degree murder case, other than the death penalty. The state is not seeking the death penalty in this Jacksonville Murder Case.

The state's argument in this Jacksonville Murder Case is that King blamed Burney for his failed relationship with her roommate, Danielle Butler, the newspaper reported. King had been arrested a month prior for kicking in the door to the home and because he used to live there, prosecutors argued he knew his way around the house in the dark, the newspaper reported. But King's Duval County criminal defense team says King was framed by Butler, who was angry with Burney over an incident with Butler's 2-year-old son, the newspaper reported. Burney allegedly watched the boy while Butler worked and went to school, but Burney was talking about moving to be closer to family and King's attorneys said Butler was upset she would have to find and pay someone to watch her child.

There are enough moving parts in this Jacksonville Murder Case where two juries, so far, have been unable to agree on whether King is guilty. In a Jacksonville Murder Case, as with any criminal trial, the jury must be unanimous in its decision - either to convict someone or to find the defendant not guilty. It only takes one person on either side to hang a jury, and it's not known how far apart the first two juries were, nor do we know which side the majority was leaning toward. King has long proclaimed his innocence and his attorneys said he is not interested in any sort of plea agreement in the case. The only thing the state could do is reduce the charge, seeing that a plea to first-degree murder is a plea to life in prison. The rationale is understandable. King likely feels he's been close to being found not guilty twice by now. The state likely feels the same way. If the trial is not resolved after the third time in this Jacksonville Murder Case, it may be time for the state to take another look at the charges. But, it also seems King is not pleading to anything - and he has the right to take a 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 Jacksonville Murder Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.