Recently in Child Abuse in Jacksonville Category

Jacksonville man arrested on child neglect and drug charges after toddler found naked near retention pond

April 10, 2014

After a naked toddler found wading in a retention pond was brought to safety, police arrested the father on child neglect and drug charges. Police showed pictures of the boy and neighbors directed them to a home with the front door wide open, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police found the father asleep on the couch and found marijuana and a pipe in the kitchen, the newspaper reported. The man told police he thought the boy was in his crib, which he likely was before getting out, opening the front door and walking out of the house.

The man is charged with Jacksonville child neglect, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia. In Jacksonville Child Abuse / Neglect cases, child neglect is a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of five years in state prison. Both drug charges are first-degree misdemeanors punishable by up to one year in county jail. While the drug charges are separate charges, the mere presence of the drugs likely also played a significant role in the state choosing to file the Jacksonville Child Neglect Case as well. It is conceivable that the father did fall asleep and did not hear the child climb out of his crib and then open the front door and walk outside. Without the drugs, that sounds like an honest mistake. But add drugs to the equation and people immediately think the father did not wake up because he was under the influence of drugs and the case sounds far more sinister.

In many Jacksonville Drug Crimes Cases, a defendant may be offered pretrial intervention where he or she can take some substance abuse awareness courses, pass a series of drug tests, along with meeting a variety of other conditions and have the charges dropped. Whether the state would do that in a case that also includes Jacksonville Child Abuse Charges is unknown, but the additional charge could be the deal-breaker. Obviously, the more important charge for the defendant to address is the child neglect charge, because it is a felony. A felony conviction can restrict a person's right to vote and have a firearm, not to mention significantly narrow the number of professions or employers for whom a person could land a job.

This could be a Jacksonville Child Abuse Case where prosecutors would drop the felony charges if the person agrees to plead guilty to the two misdemeanors, It's highly unlikely the defendant will escape punishment in this Jacksonville Child Abuse case and, in some cases, it's in the client's best interest to plead to a misdemeanor and avoid the chance of a felony conviction. Our Jacksonville Drug Crimes Attorney can look at all of the charges you or your loved one are facing, have an idea of how other similar charges worked out in Jacksonville and the surrounding area, and help you make the best decision about how to proceed with your case.

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

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

February 27, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

February 21, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

Dismissed Clay County teacher reaches deal to avoid prosecution on child abuse charge

A Clay County middle school teacher accused of putting a student in a choke hold has accepted a plea deal on a Clay County child abuse charge that would end the case, provided he meets certain conditions. Michael Ford was charged in April with child abuse without causing great bodily harm, accused of putting a 13-year-old student in a choke hold and pushing him into a railing, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Ford was fired by the Clay County School Board and was facing a third-degree felony in Florida, punishable by up to five years in state prison.

The state now has agreed to place Ford in a pre-trial diversion program, where he has to meet a variety of requirements. If he does, the state will not proceed with the Clay County Child Abuse Case against him. This is fairly common in drug cases for first-time offenders and seems to be a reasonable conclusion to this Clay County Child Abuse case. Ford does not have a criminal record, according to media reports at the time of his arrest, and was charged with a crime for the first time at age 42. The circumstances that led to his arrest were clearly part of his job as a middle school gym teacher and, quite frankly, may have been handled best internally without getting the court system involved. But, schools do have an obligation to protect students and it was likely with an abundance of caution that they called police.

Ford's obligations in order to have the charge dropped likely include anger management classes and the standard requirements of not picking up and further arrests and passing regular drug tests. Ford is also appealing the school board decision to fire him, the newspaper reported. His job status may have been part of the motivation to take the state's plea offer in an effort to resolve the Clay County Child Abuse Case as quickly as possible. It's highly unlikely the board would reinstate Ford while he still has Clay County felony charges pending. But now, he has the agreement in place to put the case behind him and at least accepted some responsibility, which may help in the minds of the board. Pre-trial diversion (also referred to as Duval, Clay and Nassau County PTI) can be very beneficial for people charged with a crime, especially when they are first-time offenders. It can be a means to quickly resolve cases and get the defendant back to his or her normal life as quickly as possible. Unfortunately in our legal system, getting a case to trial takes time. It's highly unlikely Ford's case would be wrapped up in two months without this plea agreement. From all media accounts regarding the case, Ford will likely have little problem meeting the pre-trial diversion requirements in this Clay County Child Abuse case and can focus on trying to get his job back.

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

Child care operator charged after Jacksonville toddler drowns in pool

A Jacksonville day care operator was arrested on a manslaughter charge last week after a 2-year-old boy drowned in a pool on her property last month. The charges were announced three days after the boy died, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Jan Marie Buchanan was charged with aggravated manslaughter of a child, a first degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison. She is also charged with operating a child care center without a license, though she was in the process of seeking a license, the newspaper reported. Operating a child care without a license is a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a year in the county jail, so the manslaughter charge is obviously the key charge in this Jacksonville Child Abuse Case. Buchanan was being held in the Duval County jail on a $250,000 bond, meaning it would take $25,000 for her to be released awaiting a trial.

Buchanan told police she had been swimming with the seven children in her care and then brought them all inside, the newspaper reported. She went to go change an infant and, while she did, the boy made it outside through a six or seven-inch opening by a sliding glass door. The lock to the gate to the pool was broken and the alarm that sounds when anyone enters the pool had been turned off due to rain the night before, the newspaper reported. The facts sound as if Buchanan normally took necessary precautions to protect the children in her care, but that this was a perfect storm of events that led to the death of the young boy. This is not a Jacksonville Child Abuse Case where a day care operator is hitting or physically abusing children. And while a license likely would not have prevented the boy's death, the lack of a license was probably a significant factor in the state filing the charges - and could be a reason they may choose not to negotiate.

The boy's parents have been supportive of the day care on their Facebook pages, but did not comment to the newspaper once charges were announced. It will be interesting to see if these charges end up being reduced at all in this Jacksonville Child Abuse Case. While the victim or, in this case the family of the victim, doesn't drive the bus in terms of the level of charges, prosecutors definitely keep their victims' wishes in mind when making filing and charging decisions. As time and reality sets in, the family may be more willing to see her prosecuted. Or the state may decide, as they say in many cases, that they are looking out for the victim and are the only ones who can see to it that justice is served.

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

Clay County gym teacher charged with child abuse

April 15, 2013

A Clay County junior high school teacher was arrested on a felony child abuse charge last week, accused of putting a 13-year-old student in a choke hold during a confrontation. The incident began when gym teacher Michael Ford, 42, accused the student of breaking a chair, which the student denied, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Ford is accused of threatening that the student would end up in the hospital if Ford's truck was spray-painted and, after the student swore at the teacher, Ford then put the student in a choke hold and shoved him against a railing, the newspaper reported.

Ford was charged with child abuse without causing great bodily harm in Florida, a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison. Had the student suffered a serious injury or permanent disability or disfigurement, Ford could have been charged with a second-degree felony and would have been facing up to 15 years in prison. Ford was released on bail following his arrest in this Clay County Child Abuse case and has been on paid leave from the Clay County schools since April 3, a day after the alleged incident, the newspaper reported. While it's not entirely uncommon for a teacher to be disciplined and even terminated for inappropriate behavior or losing his or her temper with a student, criminal charges are rare. There are three types of acts that would qualify as child abuse. In this Clay County Child Abuse case, the state will likely try to prove that Ford committed "an intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury to a child."

Now, a possible defense for Ford in this Clay County Child Abuse Case is that he used enough force to detain and make his point with the student and intentionally did not hold on long enough or hard enough to injure the child. If he was trying to hurt the student, the defense may argue, Ford would have - especially since he's a grown man and the student is only 13. Regardless, Ford's teaching days in Clay County are likely over just because of these allegations. He has been with the district since, 2004, but was disciplined in November for making inappropriate comments to students, the newspaper reported. From the perspective of a Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney, there is a significant difference between what the school district chooses to do and what is proper in a court of law. Employers can factor in the example the teacher is setting, precedent from similar issues, etc., when making a decision on keeping an employee. The standard is far higher in a criminal courtroom. The Clay County Child Abuse Charges against Ford must be proven beyond a reasonable doubt for him to be found guilty as charged.

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.

Woman gets 14 years in prison for child neglect after not stopping her granddaughter's molestation

January 18, 2013

A grandmother was sentenced to 14 years on prison after pleading guilty to child neglect in Jacksonville, one of several family members charged after her granddaughter was molested by a known sex offender. Patricia Woloszynowski, 63, was the third person to be sentenced - and the third who was not directly involved in the molesting the pre-teen girl, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union.

Robert Young, 53, was found guilty of lewd and lascivious acts on a minor and will be sentenced next week. Woloszynowski owns a home on Jacksonville's Westside and was living there with her daughter, son-in-law and granddaughter, the newspaper reported. The family then allowed Young, convicted on sexual battery on a child in 1991, to live in the home and sleep in the same bed as the granddaughter. The girl's father has already received six life sentences and her mother was sentenced to 30 years. Prosecutors said the family ignored the abuse because they were unemployed and Young was paying their bills and driving them around in his car, the newspaper reported.

This Duval County Child Neglect case is an example of how a person does not have to commit the actual crime in question to be found guilty of another crime. Family members were charged with various counts of Jacksonville sexual battery, molestation and child neglect and child abuse for ignoring the molestation and allowing it to happen. They were responsible for the well-being of the child and failed in that responsibility, according to the state.

In some ways, the law is similar to the felony murder law in the state of Florida. Florida law allows for someone to be charged with murder if they are committing a felony when someone is killed. For example, if someone robs a gas station and the clerk dies of a heart attack, the armed robber could then be charged with murder. The same is true in the case where the family members turned a blind eye to Young's molestation. Woloszynowski was originally charged with five counts of Duval County sexual battery on a defendant younger than 12 and one count each of lewd or lascivious molestation and child neglect, but worked a deal to plead only to the child neglect charge. The judge reluctantly allowed the plea because of her age and the fact she did not have a criminal record, the newspaper reported.

And the case shows that what some people may see only as an immoral act can also be interpreted as an illegal act by the criminal justice system. And penalties can be severe, regardless if you are the person who committed the actual crime. If you suspect police want to talk to you about an indirect role you may have in any crime, you should contact a Jacksonville criminal defense attorney immediately.

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

Law in Georgia makes it a crime to remain silent about possible child abuse

Child abuse charges are serious accusations in Jacksonville and every city in the country. Allegations of violence against children are often felony charges that carry not only possible prison time, but a lifetime of having a "violent" criminal history. The state of Georgia has made it a crime to fail to report signs of child abuse on children. According to an article in The Florida Times Union, people who work with children (coaches, volunteers, scout leaders) must call the police if they suspect someone is abusing a child. If the person fails to report within twenty-four hours, that person is facing a misdemeanor charge and up to one year in jail.

While there is no specific law like this in Florida that applies to all people who work with children, teachers and doctors must report suspected child abuse to the police of the Florida Department of Children and Families. When representing a client on child abuse charges in Duval County, the case often starts with a call from a professional to the authorities. The Department, also referred to as DCF, gets involved and interviews the child. DCF will then call the police and the officer will question the child or take the child to the First Coast Child Protection Team to be interviewed. After the interview is conducted, the police will attempt to call the suspect. If you are accused of child abuse charges in Duval, Clay or Nassau County, call a Jacksonville Child Abuse Attorney immediately. Even before you speak to the police. Anything you say to them can and will be used against you.

Child abuse in Jacksonville is defined as the intentional infliction of physical or mental injury on a child, committing an intentional act that could be expected to result in physical or mental injury to the child or actively encouraging anyone to commit an act that could cause injury to a child. If convicted of this child violence charge in Florida, the maximum punishment is five years in prison. There is also an elevated abuse charge called Aggravated Child Abuse. This Jacksonville abuse charge is committed when someone commits a Jacksonville aggravated battery on a child, willfully tortures, maliciously punishes, or cages a child. You can also be convicted of this Duval County crime if your abuse of the child causes great bodily harm or permanent disability or disfigurement. If you are convicted of an Aggravated Child Abuse in Florida, you are facing up to thirty years in prison because the charge is a first degree felony.

Our Child Abuse Attorney in Jacksonville, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem is experienced in defending people accused of committing crimes against children. She aggressively defends people charged with all crimes. Call The Mussallem Law Firm today at (904) 365-5200 for a FREE CONSULTATION. Our Duval Abuse Attorney is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.