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Police say 4th of July arrest count normal for busy holiday weekend at Jacksonville area beaches

Despite an increased police presence and some crowd control issues in recent years, police did not make more arrests than usual over the recent 4th of July holiday weekend. Ten people were arrested in Atlantic Beach over the weekend, mostly misdemeanor crimes involving alcohol - DUIs or public drunkenness, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Exact figures from Jacksonville Beach and Neptune Beach were not reported in the story but, anecdotally, officials said the weekend was a typical holiday weekend from an arrest perspective.

Generally speaking, police aren't out to make a ton of arrests on holiday weekends, especially the 4th of July when thousands of residents and visitors pack the beaches for a day and stay for a fireworks show at dusk. Police are more in the mode of controlling the crowd and making sure things do not get out of hand - similar to at other large events such as a the Florida-Georgia football game in downtown Jacksonville. But Jacksonville Misdemeanor Arrests do happen at these larger events, mostly related to alcohol. Often, it can be a person who hasn't been in trouble before, had a few too many drinks and then finds themselves in jail and before a judge the following morning.

The immediate inclination is to plead guilty, take the slap on the wrist punishment, get out of jail and move on. Unfortunately, in Jacksonville Misdemeanor Cases, that is a short-term decision that can have long-term consequences. It can never hurt to initially plead not guilty and then consult with a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney to examine the case and look at possible options. A guilty plea in first appearance court will not go away. And, instead of potentially working out something where adjudication is withheld as long as certain conditions are met, the plea stays on the person's record. And in some Jacksonville Misdemeanor Crimes, the penalties immediately increase if it is a person's second conviction of the same crime.

That is especially true in Jacksonville DUI Cases, where fines are doubled for a second conviction, maximum jail time jumps from six months to nine months, and a driver is required to have an ignition interlock device installed and the car will not start until the driver blows an alcohol-free breath into the system.Pleading guilty to seemingly minor charges can have lasting consequences. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney can help you navigate the criminal justice system, fulfill your obligation after your arrest and move on with 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 Duval County Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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

November 15, 2013

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

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

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

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

Ten St. Johns County store clerks and restaurant servers caught in sting, charged with selling alcohol to minors

April 12, 2013

Ten employees of St. Johns County businesses are facing misdemeanor charges for allegedly allowing minors to buy alcohol during an undercover operation by the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office. Police sent either a 16-year-old boy or a 17-year-old girl into local gas stations, liquor stores and restaurants and the teens attempted to purchase alcohol, according to a report in the St. Augustine Record. If they were asked for identification, the teens were instructed to provide their driver's license, which shows their actual age.

Of the 37 businesses, the teens were sold alcohol at 10 locations, the newspaper reported. Eight of the clerks checked for identification and, despite seeing the teen was at least four years too young, sold the alcohol anyway, the newspaper reported. Two employees did not check ID at all. The employees who sold the alcohol were all charged with selling alcohol to a minor, a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida. The maximum penalty is 60 days in jail, six months of probation and a $500 fine. Local law enforcement agencies conduct similar investigations at peak times during the year and jail time is rare in these types of St. Johns County Misdemeanor Cases. The purpose seems more to let people know police are watching and to encourage clerks to follow the law and prohibit minors from buying alcohol by making them aware they can be held criminally liable if they sell to someone under 21.

The operation was conducted March 29 and April 1, right at the end of spring break for local schools. This is a prime time for these types of operations, as are the next few months with graduation season upon us. Police often crack down on underage drinking and open house parties at this time of the year and parents and store clerks can be held personally criminally liable if they are associated at all with underage drinking. Just because a person is charged with a misdemeanor and is not facing a lengthy prison sentence does not mean the crime is not serious and doesn't warrant the expertise of an experience St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney. Misdemeanor convictions can affect a person's ability to get a job, and job applicants are often required to list if they have been convicted of or have pleaded guilty to a crime. In many St. Johns County Misdemeanor Cases, if a defendant agrees to complete certain conditions of probation, and does so successfully, adjudication can be withheld, meaning while an arrest will show up on a person's record, a conviction will not.

Our St. Johns County Misdemeanor Crimes attorney has represented thousands of people on misdemeanor charges and knows if it's you or your loved one in front of the judge, there's no such thing as a minor charge. If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in St. Augustine or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our St. Johns County Misdemeanor Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

St. Johns County police make arrests at three open house parties

Shortly after school lets out and the kids are no longer worried about finals and papers, some Jacksonville-area police departments heighten their awareness of partying by teen-agers. And parents need to be aware that they can be held criminally responsible if parties with drugs or alcohol being consumed by minors happen under their watch. St. Johns County police busted three parties in the past week, according to a report in the St. Augustine Record. In one case in Fruit Cove, police came to a house and saw teen-agers in the front with plastic cups and saw them run when police arrived, some into the home, the newspaper reported. Police asked the 51-year-old homeowner about the party and he said he was asleep and didn't know it was going on. He was arrested and charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and holding an open house party in St. Johns County. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida punishable by up to a year in jail. Holding an open house party in Florida is a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in jail.

The house party charge is more commonly applied in cases like this, and was also charged in the two other busts this month, the newspaper reported. The stakes are raised if someone is hurt or killed as a result of the party. For example, if a teen drives drunk after consuming alcohol at an open house party and either seriously injures or kills him or herself, the charge against the person in control of the residence would be elevated to a first-degree misdemeanor. In that case, the person would face up to one year in jail. There were no serious injuries reported in any of these three cases, so the standard second-degree misdemeanor would apply. In order to prove a charge of holding an open house party in Duval, Clay, Nassau and St. Johns Counties, the state must show: the person had control of the house, meaning the authority to dictate what happens there; the person allowed the party to take place; minors were either drinking or doing drugs; the person knew that type of behavior was going on, or should have known it was going on and did not take reasonable steps to prevent it. There are obviously many moving parts in a case like this and it often comes down to how much the person should have known. If, as in the Fruit Cove case, the homeowner was asleep and the alcohol, for example, was brought in after he went to bed, should he have known? That's a difficult question and one that may ultimately be put in the hands of a jury.

If police come to talk to you about an open house party at your house or apartment, the best course of action is to call a St. Johns County Criminal Defense Lawyer immediately. Many people think that a misdemeanor, especially a second-degree misdemeanor, is something they can handle on their own. But an experienced St. Johns County criminal defense lawyer could be the difference in clearing your name and having a permanent stain on your criminal record. If you or a loved one is facing an open house party charge, call our St. Johns County criminal defense attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem. Our St. Augustine Criminal Attorney has represented thousands of people charged with crimes in Jacksonville and the surrounding area. Call The Mussallem Law Firm 24 hours a day, 7 days a week at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation.

Supreme Court refuses appeal, "party mom" heads to jail

January 10, 2012

It's closing time on the case of a St. Augustine mother convicted of supplying teenagers with booze and drugs at her home, which led to the deaths of two teen-agers. Last week, the Florida Supreme Court refused to hear an appeal from Diane Katz Santarelli. She must now report to serve her 364 days in the St. Johns County Jail, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Santarelli went to trial with mixed results in 2010. She was found not guilty of manslaughter - a felony and by far the most serious charge. But the jury also convicted her on holding and open house party and contributing the delinquency of minors - both misdemeanors. She was sentenced to a day less than a year in the country jail. She immediately appealed, and the judge postponed her sentence awaiting the outcome.

Santarelli was the first adult in Florida to be convicted under the states "house party" laws that hold parents legally accountable for what happens to minors if they drink or do drugs in the residence. The case garnered national attention - as much for the sensational nature as the interesting legal precedent. Public service campaigns about these potential charges usually ramp up in the spring, when high school proms and graduations are in full bloom. But there are rarely concrete examples of punishment - until now.

In this St. Augustine criminal case, several witnesses gave similar accounts of Santarelli not only providing the alcohol and drugs, but being an active participant in the parties.
These cases can be tough to prove, especially when jurors are likely aware that teens can readily access alcohol - and have for years - and may reason that if they didn't get it from the parent on the stand, they'd get it elsewhere. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Firm knows the facts it takes to get an arrest aren't always enough for a judge and a jury.

If you need a criminal defense attorney in St. Augustine or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our St. Johns County Criminal Lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.