Recently in Arrested in Jacksonville Category

Police arrest 18 parents on charges related to their kids missing school

October 31, 2014

The Duval County School Board is using the criminal justice system to force parents to send their children to school and a batch of dozens of warrants was issued last week. Police arrested 18 parents and were looking for 26 more, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The parents were charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor and with failure to comply with school attendance laws, the newspaper reported. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor is a first-degree misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a year in the county jail. The failure to comply with school attendance laws charge is a second-degree misdemeanor and carries a maximum sentence of 60 days in the county jail.

Police said they chose these parents because they were 44 cases with the highest absentees rates in the county, and the data used covered more than just the current school year. The legal system is supposed to be the very last resort in school attendance cases and school officials say they tried to work with the parents but to no avail, the newspaper reported. But when they do go to the legal system, police, prosecutors and all involved make it a point to go as public as they could with it - trying to use these Jacksonville Misdemeanor Cases to set an example for other parents. And chances are it will work.

Police and prosecutors often try to make headlines to make people aware of the consequences for actions for some seemingly minor crimes, including selling alcohol to minors or hosting an open house party where underage teens are drinking alcohol.

In most of these Jacksonville Misdemeanor Cases, parents do not end up receiving significant, if any jail time. But the shaming of the headlines and the potential of a person losing his or her job because of an arrest like this could be enough for people to think twice. These Jacksonville Misdemeanor Cases on truancy charges are an example of a crime where parents can be held accountable for the actions of the children they are responsible for. Proving how much the parents knew beyond a reasonable doubt in front of a jury could be challenging, but the overall point of these types of arrests is more about changing behavior than putting people behind bars. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney has represented thousands of people charged with misdemeanors and knows there's no such thing as a minor crime when you or a loved one is the one accused.

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.

Police arrest man accused of vandalizing numerous Jacksonville Beach businesses

September 26, 2014

Police arrested a man this month, accused of painting graffiti on several local businesses in Jacksonville Beach. The man was arrested on two criminal mischief charges, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. One charge is a second-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to six months in the county jail. The second charge is a third-degree felony and carries a maximum penalty of five years in state prison.

So what makes one instance a misdemeanor and the other a felony? The amount of damage done to the property. If the damage is less than $200, as was reported in one of these Jacksonville Vandalism Charges, the charge is a second-degree misdemeanor. If the damage is between $200 and $1,000, the charge becomes a first-degree misdemeanor and carries a maximum charge of one year in the county jail. But once it becomes more than $1,000, the charge is a felony and time in state prison is now on the table. The $1,000 threshold applies to whether the damage was more than $1,000, or if the vandalism either cost more than $1,000 in labor and supplies to restore or repair. The charges also become a felony if the defendant has a previous conviction for the same offense, which does not appear to be the case in this Jacksonville Criminal Mischief Case. Now, it is highly unlikely a first-time offender will go to state prison for spray painting a building, but those are the maximum penalties he is facing in this Jacksonville Criminal Mischief Case.

The framework of charges and potential punishment escalating based on the value of the damage is common throughout Florida criminal law. There are similar scales of punishment in Jacksonville theft cases, based on the value of what is allegedly stolen. Charges begin, as Jacksonville Criminal Mischief Cases do, as second-degree felonies and move on up from there. Similar distinctions are made when it comes to Jacksonville Drug Crimes Cases. The larger amount of an illegal substance a person is accused of having, the more serious the charges and the potential penalties. In Jacksonville Vandalism Cases, the more traditional outcome is the defendant agreeing to pay the business owner for the damage that was caused, and likely do some sort of community service or other punishment that does not include time in jail or prison. One element that could change in this case is whether more charges are filed as more businesses come forward, or the defendant talks to police about past acts. In some cases, the cumulative effect will influence sentencing, and lead to a more severe punishment than if the person was simply facing one or two counts.

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.

Jacksonville artist arrested on felony charges for painting city utility boxes

March 26, 2014

Rarely do vandalism charges make headlines in the local media, but the arrest of a Jacksonville artist this month is igniting a debate on art versus vandalism. A local artist was painting the utility boxes in the cloak of darkness and went by the name Keith Haring's Ghost, a tribute to a late New York graffiti artist, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police subpoenaed Facebook records and other Internet footprint data to tie the actual person to the Ghost, the newspaper reported. He was charged with felony criminal mischief in Duval County. The charge is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison. Criminal mischief becomes a felony if the damage or the cost to restore the property is more than $1,000, according to Florida law. The city of Jacksonville is estimating the damages in this Jacksonville Criminal Mischief Case at $1,100, therefore bumping the charge up to a felony.

The artist admitted to police that he was, in fact, the Ghost, the newspaper reported. Police have plenty of evidence against him, the newspaper reported, including his cell phone which contains pictures of his art. Many in the community have taken to social media to come to the artist's defense, even organizing fundraisers to help pay for his defense and his family's expenses, the newspaper reported. They argue that Jacksonville has plenty of violent crime that needs police attention and arresting an artist on vandalism charges is a waste of resources. Others argue that rules are rules and there are other canvases artists can use to exhibit their work. Many of the paintings are political in nature, showing support for Jordan Davis, a black Jacksonville teen who was shot killed by a middle-aged white man in an argument over loud music. The case drew national attention when it went to trial earlier this year and the jury could not agree on the first-degree murder charge, but convicted the shooter on several other lesser charges.

Had the paintings been more innocuous, perhaps the charges would have never been filed - particularly as a felony. But police and prosecutors do not take kindly to people openly thumbing their nose at the law and often look to make an example of people in Jacksonville Criminal Mischief Cases like this, showing others that this type of behavior won't be tolerated. It will be interesting to see how far prosecutors take this case, or if discussion ends up centering on reducing the charge to a misdemeanor. Either way, this Jacksonville Criminal Mischief Case is now firmly in the media spotlight and, if attention is what the artist was looking for, he has it now.

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

Two Jacksonville Beach men arrested for posting "Townies Go Home" stickers along Beaches corridors

Jacksonville Beach police arrested two men this month for sticking "Townies Go Home" stickers on buildings, signs and other local landmarks. The stickers are a reference to recent trouble at the beach, including a Memorial Day brawl that was videotaped and went viral on the Internet, which was believed to be caused by people who lived in Northwest Jacksonville - not at Jacksonville Beach, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union.

Matthew Sugden-Kirsch and Jason Swanson were both arrested after a citizen flagged down an officer about 4 a.m. and said he saw two men on bicycles putting up the stickers, the newspaper reported. Both had dozens of stickers in their backpacks and officials have reported that hundreds have been removed from various structures since early June, the newspaper reported. Both men were charged with criminal mischief in Jacksonville causing between $200 and $1,000 in damages, a first-degree misdemeanor in Florida punishable by up to one year in the county jail. Criminal mischief is a Jacksonville Misdemeanor Crimes charge that is essentially vandalism. It's the same charge people would get for spray-painting a building or smashing a window, provided the damage is between $200 and $1,000. If the damage is more than $1,000, the charge can be upgraded to a Duval County felony and the defendant can be facing up to five years in prison. The same is true if the vandalism is done to a business and the labor and supplies to repair the damage or bring it to the prior condition was more than $1,000. It doesn't take long to get to $1,000, but apparently in this Jacksonville Misdemeanor Case, the property owners were able to just peel the stickers off if they wanted them removed. It also may be difficult for the state to prove just how many of the stickers these two men posted, or if there were others making similar statements in this Jacksonville Misdemeanor Crimes Case.

Another deterrent in these Jacksonville Misdemeanor Cases is if someone is arrested on a criminal mischief and has one or more previous conviction for criminal mischief, he or she can be charged with a felony - regardless of the dollar amount. In most cases, that's enough for defendants not to do it again. Misdemeanor cases can be positive learning experiences for people - enough of a taste of the criminal justice system to know you want to stay out, but not enough to put a serious damper on someone getting an education or holding down a job. These cases generally get little public attention and defendants can work them out and move on in relative anonymity. This Jacksonville Misdemeanor Case is different. The Memorial Day brawl and its aftermath were covered extensively by the local media outlets, more than one of which published or aired stories about the conflict between some Beaches residents and people they deem as outsiders who just come down to fight and stir up trouble. People will be paying more attention to this Jacksonville Criminal Mischief Case and, in some cases, that alone can lead to a higher sentence.

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

Bail and Bonds in Jacksonville, Florida: What to do if you or a loved one is arrested

November 16, 2012

When you are arrested in Jacksonville or anywhere in Florida, you are entitled and it is your right to be brought in front of a Duval County judge within twenty-four hours. That judge will determine whether or not you have to pay bail to be released from jail, deny bail or release you on your own recognizance. The term "bail" is a security (money) you post to guarantee your future appearance in Jacksonville criminal court. If a bail amount is set for your release, you have a couple of options. You or your love one can give the whole amount to the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and at the end of your case, the whole amount will be returned. When the amount of the bail set in a Jacksonville Criminal case is high, most folks cannot post the entire amount to secure the release of a loved one. In that case, bail bondsmen are utilized. Most bondsmen are the same, in that they require payment of ten percent of the entire bail amount. In return for that fee paid to the bondsman, the bond agent will guarantee the entire bail amount to the court system if you fail to appear in court. If you do not appear at your future court dates, the bond company can chase, confine and return you to the Duval County Detention Center.

When determining whether or not to set bail in any Duval County criminal case, a judge will consider a number of issues. First and foremost, he or she will look at the Jacksonville criminal charges you were arrested for. The more violent the alleged offense, the higher bail amounts generally go. The judge will consider your familial ties to the City of Jacksonville. The more family you have in the area, the better. How long you have lived in the community will be considered. Whether or not you are employed can also be a factor in determining what your bail amount will be. The judge may ask whether or not you have ever failed to appear in court in the past. Every person arrested in Jacksonville has the right to an individualized review of their bail. As a rule, bail amounts are not supposed to punish the accused person. The main purpose of bail is to insure your appearance at future court dates. Often times, bail amounts in Duval County are high. If your loved one is in jail with a high bond or no bond at all, it is important to contact a Jacksonville Bail Bond Attorney. Our Duval County Bail Reduction Lawyer will discuss your loved one's situation and advise you of your options, including filing a Motion for a Bond Reduction.

Our Jacksonville Bond Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call The Mussallem Law Firm today with any questions you have concerning a criminal matter in Duval, Clay, Nassau or St. Johns County. Our Jacksonville Criminal Law Firm handles 100% criminal cases and our experience can help you.

Jacksonville father busts peeping tom, beats him and holds him for police

October 26, 2012

A Jacksonville father finally caught a man his 15-year-old daughter had been saying was looking at her from outside the family's Jacksonville home. After the daughter said she saw a silhouette in the lawn, the father ran outside and found James Lowery standing outside, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The father tackled Lowery and hit him several times before holding him on the ground until police arrived. Lowery could not explain why he was in the lawn, but did say he drank an entire bottle of wine earlier in the evening, the newspaper reported.

He was charged with three Jacksonville, Florida misdemeanors: trespassing, disorderly intoxication and resisting an officer without violence. The trespassing and resisting charges are both first-degree misdemeanors, punishable by up to one year in the county jail. The disorderly intoxication charge is a second-degree misdemeanor and on that charge Lowery could serve up to 60 days in jail. In most cases, our Jacksonville Misdemeanor Crimes Attorney has seen sentences run concurrent, meaning Lowery is not likely to be sentenced to more than one year in jail for all three crimes - if he was to receive that much time. He was released from jail on a bond of about $9,000 for all three charges combined.

And despite the obvious beating Lowery took from the father -- police described it in the newspaper as "minor injuries" but the jail mug shot shows a different story - the father is not expected to face any criminal charges in Jacksonville. First of all, Lowery was on the man's property committing a crime and the father could argue he was doing what he could to keep Lowery there until police arrived. The law allows a certain amount of discretion for people to use the necessary amount of force to remove someone from their property, especially if the person was committing a crime. Though Lowery is not facing a prowling charge, not yet anyway, the evidence released to date points to the fact he was likely up to no good. More importantly, though not clearly spelled out in the law, is the fact that the state would have an extremely difficult time convincing a jury to convict the father of a crime in this case. That's where common sense comes into play when prosecutors are determining charges. It's highly likely that most jurors could see themselves doing the exact same thing to Lowery is they caught him in the lawn looking at their daughter. Heck, many of them might be thinking the dad let Lowery off easy.

There's a fine line of how much force can be used in situations such as this, and most of it is up for interpretation - be it from prosecutors, a judge or, in some cases, a jury. Our Jacksonville Misdemeanor Attorney has seen many cases where someone in a similar situation to the father was charged with a crime. In this case, the state appears to be making the right call in not pursing charges against the father.

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

Five Clay County charged after teen killed leaving a house party

October 19, 2012

Four months after a Clay County teen was hit by a car leaving a beer pong party, five people were charged for their role in hosting the party and providing the alcohol. Hollee Marie Krueger, 19, was killed after she stepped into the road while walking home from the party, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Tests done at the hospital where she was pronounced dead showed Krueger's blood-alcohol level was .16, more than twice the legal limit. Last week, police announced Clay County criminal charges for the two people, both age 20, who lived in the house. They were charged with holding an open house party where alcohol is served to minors. They are among the first to be charged locally under the law that was passed by the state legislature last year. Three others, two 21-year-olds and a 22-year-old, were charged with buying or giving alcohol to minors.

All five are facing Clay County second-degree misdemeanor charges and could face up to 60 days in jail and a $500 fine. They were booked into jail and their bonds were set between $50,000 and $60,000, the newspaper reported. In terms of jail time and the fine, the charges may seem rather minor. Most of the cases discussed on this blog are cases where people are at least facing time in prison. But this is significant because it is part of an overall effort from the state and law enforcement to crack down on underage drinking. Police have been conducting stings for years when they send a teen into a store to buy alcohol, checking to see if the person at the register checks for ID. But in many cases, teens are getting the alcohol elsewhere - not directly from the store itself. The new law is designed to make homeowners and people who are of age think twice about being responsible for underage people drinking.

To prove the criminal case in Clay County, the state would have to show that a reasonable person should have known there was underage drinking going on at the time. The party, where about 15 to 20 people were playing beer pong in a garage, was advertised on Facebook, the newspaper reported. Unlike some cases where parents may be asleep while teens are drinking in another part of the house, it appears that the people who lived there were part of the party and knew what was going on. People do not always have to be the ones actively committing a crime to be charged with one. None of these five are the ones who hit and killed Krueger. In fact, that driver is not facing charges. But these five are now facing charges, and state officials have said part of the reasoning is to let other parents and people of legal drinking age that there are serious consequences for letting teens drink.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Clay County 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.

Jacksonville newspaper fights to keep reporter from being subpoenaed in illegal taping case

October 17, 2012

A Jacksonville newspaper reporter is a key player in the illegal taping case involving Florida Lt. Gov. Jennifer Carroll and the paper is trying to block prosecutors from questioning the reporter. Carletha Cole, a former aide to Carroll, is charged with secretly recording a conversation she had with Carroll's former chief of staff and giving a tape of the meeting to the reporter, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The Times-Union posted the recording on its website and Cole was eventually charged with a Florida third-degree felony and faces up to five years in prison. In the state of Florida, both parties must be aware of any recording and provide consent that allows them to be recorded. Journalists have some protection when it comes to being subpeonead in cases they are reporting on, but that state says in this case reporter Matt Dixon is crucial to the case. Dixon is the one Cole gave the tape to - which is how the secret recording ended up going public - and the newspaper reported that investigators say they have email records that show Dixon and Cole discussing the recording.

The judge has already denied one request to keep someone from questioning in the case. That was Carroll herself after Gov. Rick Scott tried to keep attorneys from questioning her. But the judge denied the request last week, saying Cole has a right to defend herself. The judge did want criminal defense attorneys to specifically say why they need to speak with Carroll and detail the purpose of the questioning. It will be interesting to see if the judge makes a similar ruling on the newspaper reporter. Media companies will always fight having one of their journalists questioned, fearing the precedent it could set in having reporters dragged into every case they write about, simply for doing their jobs. Newspaper executives say potential whistleblowers could shy away from giving information to a news organization if they know that reporter may end up on the witness stand talking about the information he or she gave.

In most Jacksonville criminal cases, it is unlikely a reporter will end up having to testify. In many cases, it appears to be more for show than anything. It's likely part of the strategic back-and-forth between the state and the criminal defense team. If the defense wants to put the lieutenant governor on the stand, the state will try for the reporter. This case is an example of some of the preparations and behind-the-scenes work an experienced Jacksonville criminal defense attorney does on a case before it ends up in a trial - if it ever does. Both sides are always looking for an edge, especially as it gets closer to trial or a plea negotiation.

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.

Undercover sting cracks down on unlicensed contractors in Jacksonville

October 5, 2012

An undercover investigator posing as an unsuspecting homeowner helped bust 11 unlicensed contractors last month, part of a series of similar operations across Florida. All of the unlicensed contractors were charged with soliciting contracting work without state licenses, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The crime is a Jacksonville first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in the county jail and a $1,000 fine. The investigation was a joint effort between the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, the Department of Business and Professional Regulations and the Northeast Florida Builders Association, the newspaper reported. The proposed jobs varied, but included a new patio, converting a bathtub into a shower and electrical work.

In Jacksonville criminal cases and stings like this, most times the defendants do very little time in jail - if any at all. Unless one of the defendants has a previous conviction for the same charge, or a lengthy criminal record with some similar crimes, these types of cases typically work out for a sentence of probation. These types of stings are designed more for the public than they are looking for serious time behind bars. Police are trying to send a message to other contractors that they are watching and that the crimes will be taken seriously. The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office paraded all 11 mug shots to local media outlets and they were plastered all over television and the internet shortly after the bust. It can be more about letting people know the law is out there. The same can be said for prostitution stings. Jacksonville police usually conduct at least one a year, generally putting an ad on the Internet for an escort service. As in the contracting case, the men's booking photos are distributed and broadcast locally, likely leading to a divorce or two over the years.

But just because the prison sentence isn't as long as a Jacksonville Drug Crime or Gun Crime, doesn't mean it is not extremely serious. This Jacksonville misdemeanor crime could stay with these contractors for quite some time. It may affect their ability to get a license, if they do ever intend to get one. Some of the defendants may be hesitant to plead guilty for that very reason.

Our experienced Jacksonville Misdemeanor Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, has represented people in similar types of stings and knows this is often people's first time dealing with the criminal justice system. It can be intimidating and lead people to do whatever they can to get rid of the crime immediately. But that's not always the best move in the long run. An immediate guilty plea could cause serious damage in terms of future employment. Our Jacksonville Criminal Attorney will help a defendant understand all of his or her options, but then lets the client make the ultimate decision.

If you or a loved one needs an Experienced Misdemeanor Attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County Misdemeanor Attorney is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

George Zimmerman out of jail on bond in Florida - again

The drama meter is well into the red already in the George Zimmerman Florida second-degree murder case, and the only issues in the court's hands thus far are where Zimmerman will be before the case goes to trial. Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, is charged with murder in the shooting death of Trayvon Martin, a teen-ager with whom Zimmerman had an altercation with in his Sanford neighborhood. Zimmerman is claiming he was protecting himself under Florida's lenient and controversial "Stand Your Ground" law, which says someone does not have to retreat if they reasonably believe their life is being threatened. Jacksonville's elected State Attorney has been appointed as the special prosecutor in the nationally-watched case, which has reporters from across the country and all of the major television networks covering every significant hearing. This week was the second bond hearing for Zimmerman. He was initially out on $150,000 bond, but that was revoked after the judge found Zimmerman's wife lied in the first hearing about how much money the family had received in donations to its legal defense fund. This time, according to the Florida Times Union, the judge set the bond at $1 million and added restrictions that Zimmerman cannot leave Seminole County without permission from the court. He had been allowed to live out of state in a secure, undisclosed location, but the judge now perceives Zimmerman to be more of a flight risk.

Zimmerman posted bond two days later and, now that he is out again, expect the case to be delayed. It might not stall as much because of the high-profile nature of the case, but it will no doubt have an impact on when the case goes to trial. It's one of the best weapons in the state's vast arsenal and, trust our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer who knows, the state is not afraid to use it. When a person is out of jail and knows they have a significant chance of going to jail or prison, they really don't have a ton of motivation to speed things along. But, if someone is in jail, they usually either want to get out if they can by being found not guilty at a trial or want to get the sentence moving so they know what they're facing and can ride it out.

So the state does what it can to keep people in jail. Pure and simple. That's likely why prosecutors went on a fishing expedition through Zimmerman's jail phone calls after the first bond hearing. And they caught a whopper. They found Zimmerman and his wife orchestrating a lie about money that had been raised for Zimmerman's criminal defense. The judge accused Zimmerman of trying to game the system and referenced it several times in the second bond hearing. Typically, a person can be released from jail by posting 10 percent of the posted bond. So, in Zimmerman's case, that would be $100,000. Some bondsmen take less in high-profile cases such as this, and those negotiations are between the client and the bondsman.

Criminal cases are a constant back and forth struggle for an edge. Because of discovery rules, all evidence is on the table for both sides to see before a trial. So the strategic aspects - who has the upper hand in negotiations, whether the state files a minimum mandatory sentence, if the defendant is already out of jail - are all part of the power struggle. Our Jacksonville Criminal Bond Reduction Attorney can file motions to have a bond reduced, which could result in a hearing similar to the one for Zimmerman. 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 Bond Attorney is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Court ruling could allow police to search cell phones without a warrant in Florida

A ruling this month from an appellate court in Daytona Beach would allow police to search a suspect's cell phone without first obtaining a warrant. The state argued that law enforcement should be allowed to look at the contents of the phone that they can access and should not need to get a warrant first, according to a report by First Coast News. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed. The ruling opens up a serious gray area in the law, one that is becoming more and more important as technology continues to advance. A federal court that covers the Jacksonville area has already ruled that a suspect does not have to give police their code or password to unlock their phone if they do not want to.

Phones are not just phones in today's day and age. These phones often contain a person's pictures and videos; social media accounts and contacts of family and friends. Many people use their phones as a second computer and if a police officer was able to just scroll through the phone, he or she could see all recent Internet searches and sites visited, which could even include financial information. Of course, all of this type of information is available to police - if they get a warrant first. A Jacksonville criminal warrant to search a person's home or computer must be approved by the prosecutor's office and then signed by a judge. If police can satisfy a judge there is probable cause to conduct the search, then the cops can look at whatever they want. Those safeguards are there for a reason: so police cannot go on massive fishing expeditions and just conduct searches willy nilly on anyone they choose. This decision from the state court would be a step in the wrong direction in terms of protecting people's rights. A smartphone is no different from a computer these days and should be treated that way by the courts.

If you are contacted by the police conducting a criminal investigation in Duval, Clay or Nassau Counties, it is crucial that you know your rights. You have the right to remain silent and you have a right to speak to an experienced criminal defense attorney. You also have the right to say no if the police ask to search your car, your home, your computer and, for now it seems, your cell phone. If police have a warrant, they can do what they want within the bounds of the warrant itself, but our experienced Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney has seen many searches where police have overstepped the scope of the search that was approved by the court. If you are being investigated for a crime, our Jacksonville criminal attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem can walk you through your rights and advise you how far police are allowed to go without a Duval County warrant. When police say "anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law," they aren't messing around. The same goes for anything they find during a search of your car or even your cell phone.

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 Warrant Attorney is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville man arrested for shining laser at police airplane

A Jacksonville man was arrested in Duval County last week, accused of shining a laser light into the window of a police airplane. The man was charged with misuse of a laser pointing device, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Believe it or not, the crime is a third-degree felony in Jacksonville, punishable by up to five years in prison. The pilot said he saw a green light flash into the cockpit four times and was able to pinpoint the house where it was coming from. When police arrived at the house and began talking to the suspect's wife, they heard him run through the house and eventually found him hiding in a bathtub. He told police he didn't think the laser extended that far. The Federal Aviation Administration has had several complaints about lasers being pointed at pilots, the newspaper reported, so there is a possibility of more charges on the way. Police have not said whether or not the same man is a suspect in the other Duval County criminal cases, or if the lasers were pointed from the same general area in Jacksonville. Laser lights can be very dangerous for pilots, obstructing their vision and possibly causing a serious accident.

And it certainly doesn't help the man's case that it was a police plane that caught him. Police agencies don't take too kindly to this type of behavior and could be looking to make an example of him. He may have picked the wrong plane to mess with. Is he likely to spend five years in prison for this crime? Probably not. It sounds like a joke, but misuse of a laser pointing device is among a handful of seemingly off-the-wall crimes that can be charged in the state of Florida. There is molesting a crab trap, even molesting a vending machine (both are misdemeanors in Jacksonville). You can be charged with a DUI even if you are driving a riding lawnmower or even a golf cart. The charges are funny until they are yours. Then they become serious, especially when serious prison time is involved. Anytime you are charged with or being investigated for a crime, it is a good idea to speak with a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney right away. You may not have heard of a particular charge, but there's no doubt our Jacksonville criminal defense attorney has. We understand the severity of a criminal conviction - especially a felony - and will fully investigate any case, whether it's a murder charge, a drug crime or even misuse of a laser pointing device.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County criminal defense lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Phone calls from the jail lead to revocation of George Zimmerman's bond in Florida

George Zimmerman is now back in jail awaiting trial on second-degree murder charges in the death of Trayvon Martin, a case in the national spotlight and being prosecuted by assistant state attorneys from the Jacksonville circuit. Zimmerman had been out, released on a $150,000 bond, until prosecutors sifted through jail phones between Zimmerman and his wife when he was locked up the first time awaiting a bond hearing, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. A judge found last week that Zimmerman and his wife conspired to hide money that had been raised for his criminal defense, a tactic used to try to get a reduced bond that would be easier for him to meet, the newspaper reported.

The plan backfired, once Duval County prosecutors pulled the phone calls, and asked the judge to revoke Zimmerman's bond. The judge sided with the state and gave Zimmerman 48 hours to report to jail. He was booked into the jail Sunday. His criminal attorneys have told various media outlets the case will not be ready for trial until sometime next year. That means Zimmerman has at least six months behind bars. Police have said he will be in a separate cell and isolated from other inmates, the newspaper reported.

The takeaway here is to never, ever, say anything about your case on a jail telephone. Never. There are warnings posted by the phone, and played at the start of phone calls, that the calls are being recorded. Many people don't think the state will actually sit down and listen to them. But they will. And, in many cases, that is where the state gets it best evidence. Maybe it's another witness who is mentioned that police didn't know about. Or it's the location of stolen goods. Or even that confession that police have been unable to squeeze out of him or her. In this case, it was about the money the state was suspicious about from the very beginning. The bond revocation is no doubt a win for the state in this case. First, it adds some urgency for Zimmerman and his team. The state always would rather have a defendant in custody to help move the case along. If the defendant is out, especially is he or she has a decent idea they will be doing some time, there is really no incentive to resolve the case. Second, and far more important, is the fact that the judge made a decision against Zimmerman, based on his belief that Zimmerman was engaged in an attempt to lie to the court. That will be brought up repeatedly by the state, you can count on it. Any crack in Zimmerman's credibility is huge because his word is the crux of his defense.

Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch captain, shot Martin in February after he says Martin was beating him up after Zimmerman confronted him about acting suspicious in a Sanford neighborhood. Martin's family has questioned who the aggressor was in the case, as have several national civil rights leaders who've held protests in the weeks since the shooting. The case has sparked racial tensions: Martin, 17, is black; Zimmerman, 28, was born to a white father and a Hispanic mother. The state will undoubtedly argue that if Zimmerman was found to have been lying on jail phone calls, how can a jury believe him when he talks about how Martin was killed? Without the jail phone calls, Zimmerman would still be out on bond. And he'd have a better chance of winning if the case does indeed go to trial. It's not a deal breaker, but it certainly does not help. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Lawyer always specifically instructs every client not to talk about their case on the phone. To anyone. There's nothing positive that will come out of it.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County criminal lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Police encounters in Jacksonville - officer contact

As a Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney, I constantly review arrests in Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties. When evaluating any criminal case, I first look at when the police officer initially makes contact with my client, also referred to as "police-citizen encounters". In Florida, there are three levels of these encounters. The first is called a consensual encounter, where you can wither voluntarily comply with the officer's requests or ignore them. Because you are free to leave during a consensual encounter, your constitutional rights are not in play. The second level of police contact is called an investigatory stop. In order to detain you, the officer has to have a well-founded suspicion that you are involved in criminal activity. To determine whether you are detained, the courts apply the standard of whether a reasonable person would feel free to leave even though a police officer is talking to them. Factors to consider are: did the officer activate his squad car lights, where did the officer park when approaching you, what words did the officer say when making contact with you, how many officers approached you, were their guns drawn or were the officers touching their weapons, if at night, did the officer shine a light on you. This evaluation is very important because if an officer does not follow the law, anything he or she found on you could be suppressed because your constitutional rights were violated. The third level of police encounters is when you are actually arrested. In order to be arrested in Jacksonville or anywhere in Florida, the police must have probable cause to believe you committed or are committing a crime.

If you are facing criminal charges in Northeast Florida, it is important to discuss your case with an experienced criminal defense attorney. Your future is worth it. Our Jacksonville Criminal Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem has represented thousands of people charged with crimes in Jacksonville, Clay County, Nassau County and St.Johns County. Contact The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Jacksonville Law Firm is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Study shows Jacksonville arrests are down, but Duval jail population on the rise

March 19, 2012

A new report by the University of North Florida shows that while arrests are decreasing, the number of people in the Duval County Jail is going up. The report, according to an article in the Florida Times-Union, says since 2005, arrests are down 27 percent, but the daily jail population has increased 14 percent. One major factor, according to the report, is the State Attorney's Office and its handling of cases. The number of jury trials each year is up 400 percent since Angela Corey was elected to the office in 2008, according to the newspaper.

Criminal trials can slow the system tremendously because people are waiting longer for their cases to resolve - as are people peripherally involved in the case, such as a co-defendant who has pleaded guilty but it testifying for the state. Cases that may not have been filed under a previous administration are being filed now, according to the report. From a criminal defense attorney perspective, that alone will drive the trial count up. More and more defendants are unwilling to take a deal and plead to something they don't think they should have to plead to, which in turn increases the number of trials. Some of the offers by the state also are so steep that there's little for a person to lose by pushing the case to trial.

In any profession, the best people and companies are the ones who adapt to the change around them. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Firm understands the landscape and makes adjustments accordingly. And we are not afraid to take a case to trial. Our Jacksonville trial firm has certainly been a part of that 400 percent increase in trials since 2009, and will continue to be when it is in the best interest of our clients. Some Duval County criminal lawyers do not have the experience or desire to take a case to trial if needed, and the state attorneys know who these lawyers are. If you are facing criminal charges, you deserve an experienced trial attorney to guide you in your decisions. You can negotiate, the state attorney can drop your Jacksonville criminal charge or you can make the government prove the charge against you in a trial.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County criminal lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.