Recently in DUI - Driving Under the Influence in Jacksonville Category

Man arrested for DUI after crash into fire hydrant floods streets in Jacksonville Beach

September 6, 2014

Police arrested a man on DUI charges, saying he ran a stop sign to trigger a series of events that left Jacksonville Beach streets flooded and several people and businesses without water service. A driver told police he was headed north on 1st Street when another car ran a stop sign and crashed into him, sending his car into a fire hydrant, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The fire hydrant burst and the water that rushed out flooded many nearby roads, the newspaper reported. Meanwhile, the driver who ran the stop sign is accused of getting out of his car and running away, the newspaper reported. He eventually stopped on the beach when confronted by police. The driver was charged with leaving the scene of an accident and a DUI causing property damage. Both charges are misdemeanors - leaving the scene a second-degree with a maximum sentence of six months in jail, and this type of DUI charge a first-degree misdemeanor that carries up to one year in the county jail.

This Jacksonville DUI charge has a slightly increased penalty because there was property damage involved. Charges increase to felonies when people are seriously injured or even killed but, for the most part, Jacksonville DUI Cases are misdemeanors. Media reports on this Jacksonville DUI Case do not indicate how police came to the conclusion the driver was impaired. Most likely, police smelled an odor of alcoholic beverages on the man once he was caught by police. During the arrest, the man was likely asked to perform field sobriety exercises, which are tailored to determine whether or not the person is too impaired to be driving. Tests include walking in a straight line and turning around; stand on one leg and also with one's legs together to test balance; touching one's finger to his or her nose and reciting numbers or letters.

If the driver does not pass those tests, he or she is typically arrested on Jacksonville DUI Charges. From there, the driver is taken to jail and asked to take a breath test. In Florida, like most states, the legal limit is .08. Drivers can refuse to take the test - just like they can refuse field sobriety exercises - but there are immediate penalties that kick in. Those, however, can be worth taking because the field sobriety and blood alcohol results are often the best evidence the state would have in a Jacksonville DUI Case. This case may be a little different because of the crash and the fact the man ran away, but that does not prove that he was intoxicated at the time of the crash. There are many state rules and regulations governing how field sobriety and breath tests must be conducted. If they are not done properly, they cannot be used as evidence in a Jacksonville DUI Case. Our Jacksonville DUI Attorney knows the ins and outs of the laws governing traffic stops and testing in DUI cases and will review your case to provide you or your loved one with the best options going forward.

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

Proposed Florida law would move to twice-daily breath tests for some with multiple DUI convictions

April 25, 2014

State legislators are considering a new program that could require people with multiple DUI convictions to take two breath tests a day to ensure they are not drinking. Right now, the state requires drivers convicted of their second DUI have a machine installed in their car that requires them to blow into it and register as alcohol-free before their vehicle with start, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The new proposal, called "24/7 Sobriety" in other states that use it, could be used as a replacement to the interlock devices in Florida, the newspaper reported.

The program will be tested in Jacksonville DUI Cases before it is rolled out to the rest of the state, the newspaper reported. The first time a person fails a breath test, he or she would go to jail for 12 hours. The second time would trigger 24 hours in jail and the third would require and appearance before a judge and further jail time, the newspaper reported. Judges could order this program as a condition of a bond or probation, the newspaper reported.

While cutting down on drinking will obviously limit people drinking and driving, it is important that people be punished for the crime they committed and that the state not get into something that is too broad. Now, in many cases if a person has been arrested for or convicted of a DUI, a judge can include conditions that prohibit the defendant from drinking, but that's certainly not in all cases. The person was arrested for DUI, meaning they were driving under the influence of alcohol. Jacksonville DUI Cases are often instances where someone made a poor decision and got behind the wheel. The "24/7 Sobriety" proposal came as there was a push to extend the interlock devices to first-time DUI offenders. That seems like a stretch and an unnecessary punishment in Jacksonville DUI Cases. In most instances, a Jacksonville DUI Arrest comes when a person simply makes a bad decision to get behind the wheel. In the majority of cases, the experience of being in jail, appearing before a judge and at least temporarily losing the privilege of driving is enough to stop the person from drinking and driving again.

Even in cases where someone is arrested a second time, it doesn't necessary mean that someone can't have a glass of wine with dinner in their own home. While there certainly is a need to make sure people are not reoffending, the issue in most cases is the driving - not always drinking on its own. The punishment for a repeat offender also again brings to light the importance of hiring a Jacksonville DUI Attorney when you or a loved one is arrested for DUI. Many people want to just plead guilty in first appearance court and start the process of making it go away, but by pleading guilty the person also exposes themselves to more severe penalties if they end up facing similar charges again in the future.

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

Clay County mother charged with DUI manslaughter in death of her daughter

April 21, 2014

A Clay County mother was arrested this month on two felony charges for the December crash that killed her 5-year-old daughter. The woman was charged with DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police said the woman was driving in the emergency lane on Interstate 295 in Jacksonville about 12:45 a.m. and swerved when the lane ended, going off the road and into the trees lining the highway, the newspaper reported. Both DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide are second-degree felonies, with maximum penalties of 15 years in prison on each charge. The DUI manslaughter, however, has a minimum mandatory sentence of four years in prison, while vehicular homicide has no such mandatory sentence.

While it may seem that DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide are basically the same charge, there are distinct elements of each crime. For a DUI manslaughter conviction in this Jacksonville DUI Case, the state must prove A) the driver was legally intoxicated and B) a person died as a result of a crash. The key to this case is the first element - proving whether the driver was drunk. The driver was hospitalized also, the newspaper reported, so it is very likely the state took blood samples to determine the level of alcohol in her system. That is likely the delay in the charges from the December crash - waiting on the toxicology results from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. It is not uncommon for a delay of three to six months in Jacksonville DUI Cases like this.

Vehicular homicide is the killing of a person "by the operation of a motor vehicle by another in a reckless manner likely to cause the death of, or great bodily harm to, another," according to Florida law. In this Jacksonville DUI Case, it would appear that this charge is there if the state feels there would be an issue proving that the driver was legally intoxicated. If the driver was driving dangerously, in this case driving in the emergency lane, a vehicular homicide charge could apply, but the state would have to prove the driver was driving recklessly.

Both charges have their challenges - both for the state and for the defense. But the filing of vehicular homicide may indicate the DUI isn't as cut and dried as one would think. Media reports did not include a blood-alcohol level. While most people think of alcohol with DUI, it also includes drug use. So if the blood test showed evidence of drugs, the issue then can become how long the drug was in the driver's system and where it could be proven to impair the driver at the time of the crash in this Jacksonville DUI 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 DUI Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Nassau County man charged with DUI after colliding with police care

April 14, 2014

A Nassau County man was arrested and charged with DUI this month after he drove into the back of a police car. The driver hit the patrol car driving on Florida 200 about 7:35 p.m. one April evening, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The police officer and his passenger were both taken to the hospital for injuries that were not life-threatening, the newspaper reported. The driver in this Nassau County DUI Case is now facing a first-degree misdemeanor, with a maximum penalty of six months in the county jail.

The level of injury to the officer and his passenger are very important in this Nassau County DUI Case. Had either suffered serious injuries, the suspect would be facing a felony charge instead of just a misdemeanor. DUI Causing Serious Bodily Injury in Florida is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison. In this Nassau County DUI Case, the two victims were taken to the hospital, but primarily as a precaution, the newspaper reported. According to Florida law, serious bodily injury is defined as "an injury to any person, including the driver, which consists of a physical condition that creates a substantial risk of death, serious personal disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ." If there is a crash with serious bodily injury, police can then test the blood of the driver to determine if the driver has alcohol in his or her system. That is not legal in an ordinary Nassau County DUI Case. In fact, if a person is stopped for suspicion of DUI, the driver does not have to submit to field sobriety exercises or to a breath test. Now, refusing the exercises will likely lead to the driver's arrest and there are other specific penalties for refusing to take a breath test - which is typically done at the jail when a person is being booked. The other side of that coin is a breath test is often one of the biggest pieces of evidence in Nassau County DUI Cases, so that would be one less piece of evidence the state has in the case. The problem is that many jurors sometimes think that a refusal is done for a reason and could be taken as a sign of guilt.

Just as Nassau County DUI penalties escalate when a person is seriously injured, they also go up when a person has multiple DUI convictions on his or her criminal record. That can make it imperative to have a Nassau County DUI Attorney representing you. Many people choose to plead guilty at first appearance court to get out of jail and move on, but that is generally not in their long-term best interest. Our Nassau County DUI Attorneys can discuss the consequences of a plea versus fighting the charge, and will make sure you have all of the information you need at your disposal.

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

Jacksonville corrections officer arrested on suspicion of DUI

March 10, 2014

A Jacksonville corrections officer was arrested last week, accused of driving under the influence. Police say the man was pulled over about 2:45 a.m. because he was driving with one of his headlights out, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Once the officer approached the vehicle, police said he seemed intoxicated and was subsequently arrested on a DUI charge, the newspaper reported. The officer, who works at the jail, was placed on limited duty until his Jacksonville DUI Case is resolved, the newspaper reported.

In Jacksonville DUI Cases, there are specific procedures and protocols officers must follow in making arrests, which can make DUIs highly technical cases. As is common in most Jacksonville DUI Cases, this investigation centers on a traffic stop. In many Jacksonville DUI Cases, the officer will have a driving pattern he or she has observed - the person is speeding, swerving, or otherwise driving recklessly. In this Jacksonville DUI Case, there is not one. The headlight was the cause of the traffic stop. Officers must have a valid reason for pulling someone over in the first place and a headlight is an allowable reason, as officers can say it is a safety issue. Once the person is pulled over, police must then have a reason to begin a Jacksonville DUI investigation. Some of the typical language in police reports includes a driver having the odor of alcoholic beverages, slurred speech or watery eyes.

No specifics were given in the Jacksonville DUI Case involving this corrections officer, but the point is the officer must have a reasonable belief that the driver is intoxicated. If that is met, the officer will typically ask the driver to perform field sobriety exercises. The exercises are designed to determine if a driver is too impaired to be behind the wheel. A Jacksonville DUI Officer will likely ask the driver to walk in a straight line and turn around; stand on one leg; stand with his or her legs together to test balance; and recite the alphabet or a series of numbers in order (Rhomberg Alphabet). Each individual test has various indicators of impairment and, if a driver scores poorly, he or she will be arrested for DUI. Once the arrest is made, the driver will be booked into the jail and asked to take a breath test. Now, both the field sobriety exercises and the breath test are technically voluntary - though refusal to do either will buy the driver a night in jail. But, refusing to take them also limits the evidence against a driver in a Jacksonville DUI Case. Our Jacksonville DUI Attorney knows the ins and outs of the detailed rules governing DUI arrests and can thoroughly examine your case to determine if the arrest was legal, and what the best options are for you or your loved one.

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

Woman convicted of killing Jacksonville man in DUI crash back in prison after son finds her partying on Facebook

January 6, 2014

A woman on a suspended prison sentence for DUI causing a death is now back in prison after she allegedly left a trail of her partying on Facebook and the victim's son called the cops. Alicia Marie Carmack was initially sentenced to 25 years in a Mississippi state prison in 2009, though the judge suspended 15 years of it and she was eventually released after just four years because of good behavior, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. As part of the condition of her release, Carmack was forbidden from leaving Gulfport, Miss., without permission, and was also barred from drinking alcohol or even being in bars, the newspaper reported.

But the victim's son spent a little time on Carmack's Facebook page and found photos of her drinking in bars and on a trip out of state, the newspaper reported. Once authorities were alerted, Carmack was sent back to prison and will be there at least another six months, the newspaper reported. Carmack hit a stopped car from behind, triggering a four-car crash that killed James Harris, a Jacksonville retiree driving to Louisiana to visit his daughter, the newspaper reported. Laws vary from state to state, and may be different from Mississippi to Florida, but one thing holds true across state lines: Judges do not take kindly to people who violate their probation, especially if they feel they gave the defendant a break and the benefit of the doubt in the first place. Carmack has yet to be resentenced in the case, but will be in coming months - and could be in prison another five years.

It is not uncommon to have a long list of conditions when a defendant is put on probation, especially in a Jacksonville DUI Case where the defendant may not have a criminal record, but the judge may feel the person has a drinking problem. In this case, Carmack was not allowed to drink. Could she have been busted without the use of Facebook? Perhaps. But she made it much easier to be caught by posting photos for anyone to see on the popular social networking site. Probation is serious business and it takes a significant amount of discipline and staying out of trouble to avoid a violation. It's a prime reason why some defendants even choose a longer time in prison that doesn't come with probation afterward, because they feel they'll end up back in prison on a violation. Our Jacksonville DUI Attorney can thoroughly investigate your case and, should you choose not to go to trial, help negotiate a sentence that you or your loved one can adhere to and more often than not avoid returning to jail or prison.

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

Meteorologist pleads guilty to DUI, will be on probation for one year

December 18, 2013

Popular television meteorologist Tim Deegan resolved his Jacksonville DUI case this month, pleading no contest to the charge and agreeing to a year of probation and a six-month driver's license suspension. Deegan was arrested in November after police pulled him over for running a four-way stop in Jacksonville Beach and found empty beer cans and a half-full beer in his car, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Deegan's blood-alcohol level in this Jacksonville DUI Case was more than double the legal limit of .08, which allowed the state to charge him with an enhanced charge of DUI with a blood alcohol level of more than .15. As part of the plea agreement, the charge was reduced to a standard DUI.

The penalties in this Jacksonville DUI Case are fairly routine. Probation includes a course where defendants learn from a panel of people whose lives have been impacted by people driving under the influence and community service. Most Jacksonville DUI Cases either resolve very quickly, as was the case here, or drag on for months and even years. When cases resolve quickly, there is often a reason that is tied to the person's employment - perhaps they are suspended from work until the case resolves. Deegan had not been on the air since his arrest and First Coast News declined comment to the newspaper about his job status, according to the newspaper report. Timeline aside, some employers may set a guilty plea as a condition of return, especially to a job where the person is a public figure, to show an example that he or she owned up to the mistake and took responsibility.

Most defendants want to just admit to the crime and move on, which is understandable. But that should never be done in first-appearance court without at least having a Jacksonville DUI Attorney review the case. There are very specific rules and procedures an officer must follow in a Jacksonville DUI Case, and not every arrest is done properly. Everything from the reason for the stop to the probable cause to ask for a driver to do field sobriety exercises to the way a breath test is administered is critical in a Jacksonville DUI Arrest. While there are penalties for refusing field sobriety exercises and a breath test, the absence of either of those pieces of evidence can significantly reduce the amount of evidence the state has in trying to prove its Jacksonville DUI Case. In a case like Deegan's Jacksonville DUI Case, it's a little more difficult to argue when there's a blood-alcohol level of .18, though it's certainly not insurmountable. Our Jacksonville DUI Attorney has represented hundreds of people charged with DUI - many who took a breath test and many others who refused. Our Jacksonville DUI Attorney is well-versed in all of the procedures that apply in DUI arrests and will fully examine the case for you or your loved one. If a quick resolution is important for your or your employer, we will work to handle it expeditiously so you or your loved one can get back to work and life as soon as possible.

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

Driver gets 12 years in prison for crash that killed sleeping Jacksonville teen

November 22, 2013

The man who drove his van into a Jacksonville home and killed a sleeping 17-year-old was sentenced this month to 12 years in state prison. Ismet Sijamhodzic ran a stop sign and his car left the road, driving onto the lawn and through the front bedroom of the Southside Jacksonville home, according to a report published on News4Jax. The 52-year-old man had a marijuana and prescription medication used to treat depression in his system at the time of the crash, the television station reported. Sijamhodzic pleaded guilty earlier this year to vehicular homicide, a second-degree felony with a maximum sentence of 15 years in state prison. Instead of seeking the maximum, prosecutors asked for a 12-year sentence because Sijamhodzic did not have a criminal record and because the family of the victim was in agreement that 12 years was a sufficient amount of time in prison.

Vehicular homicide is a Jacksonville Traffic Charge in which the state must prove someone was killed and the death was "caused by the operation of a motor vehicle by another in a reckless manner likely to cause the death of, or great bodily harm to, another," according to Florida law. In this Jacksonville Traffic Case, Sijamhodzic went right through a stop sign and hit the home with enough speed and force that the van went through the front of the home and into the teen's bedroom. While there was no intent to harm her, there doesn't need to be one in this Jacksonville Traffic Case. There only needs to be evidence that the person was driving recklessly and, Sijamhodzic and his defense team must have felt there was enough there in this Jacksonville Traffic Case that it was worth taking a deal and resolving the case. In many similar cases, the judge will hold a sentencing hearing to hear from both sides where they state their case and desired sentence. Often, the judge will then set a date for a couple of weeks following the hearing to announce the sentence.

Sijamhodzic says he still does not remember the crash. He told police he bought a Xanax from his niece and took it that day, but he thought it was a painkiller. The state chose to charge him with vehicular homicide instead of DUI manslaughter, likely because running the stop sign provided obvious proof needed in the case. Had prosecutors chose DUI manslaughter, they would have to prove that Sijamhodzic was impaired at the time of the crash, which is more difficult with drugs that can stay in your system for several days. Plus, DUI manslaughter has the same maximum sentence as vehicular homicide, so prosecutors can pick and choose which one best aligns with the fact of their case.
Our Jacksonville Traffic Attorney represents everyone from people trying to avoid points on their license after a speeding ticket to vehicular homicide.

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.

Jacksonville television news personality arrested on DUI charge

November 4, 2013

A popular Jacksonville meteorologist was arrested last weekend, charged with a DUI at Jacksonville Beach. Tim Deegan, chief meteorologist for First Coast News, was arrested Saturday evening and released from jail the following morning, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Details of the arrest were not immediately available, but this is another example of how a mistake that many people make ends up being a news story when it happens to a public figure.

Unless his blood-alcohol is more than double the legal limit of .08, Deegan is likely facing up to six months in jail, though jail time is rare when a person is charged with their first DUI. Jacksonville DUI Cases, though, are in many cases reduced to reckless driving charges or even dropped outright because there are strict procedures in DUI arrests that in some cases are not followed. For example, for an officer to pull a driver over in the first place, he or she must see a traffic violation such as speeding or the driver swerving and failing to stay in his or her lane. Once the officer comes to the driver's window, the officer must notice signs of impairment before opening a Jacksonville DUI investigation. Signs of impairment that police often cite in Jacksonville DUI cases include the odor of alcoholic beverages, slurred speech or red or watery eyes. If the officer believes the driver may be intoxicated, the officer will ask the person to perform field sobriety exercises.

The exercises are designed to determine if a suspect is too impaired to be driving. The officer typically asks the suspect to walk in a straight line and turn around; stand on one leg; stand with his or her legs together to test balance; move their arms to touch their finger to their nose and recite the alphabet or a series of numbers in order (Rhomberg Alphabet). Each phase of the test has various indicators of impairment and, if a suspect does poorly enough overall, he or she will be arrested on a Jacksonville DUI Charge. Drivers can also choose not to take the field sobriety test, but that will also likely lead to their arrest on a Jacksonville DUI Charge. The suspect will then be driven to the police station to be booked and to take a breath test. Suspects can also decline the breath test, but refusing to take it means the person will be spending the night in jail. That night is sometimes worth it because it takes one more piece of evidence away from the state in the prosecution of the case.

Jacksonville DUI Cases are very technical in nature and the officer must follow procedures precisely or the judge may have no other choice but to throw out the arrest, leaving the state with little to work with in its case. Our Jacksonville DUI Attorney has defended hundreds of DUI cases and will thoroughly investigate all aspects of the arrest to determine if every procedure was followed properly.

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 DUI 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.

South Florida cops arrested accused of making female DUI suspect have sex to avoid arrest

August 16, 2013

Two South Florida police officers are now on the wrong end of the arrest docket, accused of using their power for sex and a strange enjoyment of being kicked in the testicles. A veteran officer of the Lauderhill Police Department allegedly pulled a car over with two women inside who were leaving a strip club about 4 a.m., according to a report in the Miami Herald. The officer, Franklin Hartley, said he was going to arrest them, but inside had them drive and follow him behind a business, the newspaper reported. He called another officer, Thomas Merenda, to meet him there, too, according to the newspaper.

Hartley is accused of telling the woman she could be arrested as he kissed and fondled her, eventually ordering her to have sex - which she did, the newspaper reported. Merenda then allegedly took his turn, fondling the women, and asking one to punch or kick him in the groin, which Hartley assured the women Merenda enjoyed. Hartley is charged with two counts of unlawful compensation, while Merenda faces one count. The second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, is for public officials receiving an improper benefit - generally money or a special favor, but it also applies to sexual favors in this case. Both also face a misdemeanor battery charge, the newspaper reported. Both men turned themselves in to police last week and are out on bond - and on unpaid leave from the police department - while the cases resolve.

Allegations of police using their power for sex are not entirely uncommon, though they do not often result in criminal charges. The officers in this Florida Sex Crimes case, through their attorneys, have proclaimed their innocence. But the state says investigators found a pair of orange panties at the scene one of the women said belonged to her, and have GPS records from both officers' vehicles placing them in the parking lot for about 90 minutes during the time of the alleged assaults, the newspaper reported. Now, officers do park their cars for extended periods of time and catch up on writing reports and such, but the timing appears to be suspicious.

Other Florida DUI Attorneys will be closely watching how this case plays out against these two officers. Drivers, especially women, who have DUI cases in which either Hartley or Merenda was the arresting officer will no doubt be paying attention. Regardless of how the criminal case turns, the ethics and credibility of both officers can now be questioned in court and there could soon be cases where defendants say they were arrested because they would not comply with demands for sexual favors. The case is already ugly for this South Florida police department, and has the potential to get much worse. But the reality is officers must be beyond reproach when it comes to making arrests. Decisions should be made on the law alone and defendants should all be treated the same way. When they are not, it is fair game for a Florida DUI attorney to question the officer's motive in defending his or her client.

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

20-year-old now charged with DUI manslaughter in fatal New Year's Day wreck

Police arrested a man on multiple Jacksonville DUI felonies this week, six months after a passenger in his car, a 20-year-old University of North Florida student, was killed in a New Year's Day crash. Sean Franke is facing several felony charges, including DUI manslaughter and two counts of DUI causing serious injury, according to a report by Action News Jacksonville. Franke allegedly drove his pickup truck off the road and into a pole, killing one passenger and injuring two others and himself, the television station reported. Franke and the two surviving passengers were hospitalized with injuries.

The most serious charges Franke now faces in this Jacksonville DUI case are DUI manslaughter and the two counts of DUI causing serious bodily injury. DUI manslaughter is a second-degree felony in Florida, punishable by up to 15 years in prison, while DUI causing serious bodily injury is a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison on each count. So Franke could get up to 25 years on those charges alone, and also faces misdemeanor DUI charges. The long delay in charging a DUI manslaughter case is not uncommon in Duval County DUI cases. In any DUI that results in an injury, police can test the blood of the driver without consent as long as certain requirements are met. This differs significantly from a traditional DUI when a driver is pulled over because police suspect a driver is impaired. In a standard Jacksonville DUI case, a driver can refuse to submit to a breath test or field sobriety exercises, though it can result in an automatic one-year driver's license suspension. But when there are serious injuries or a death involved, the driver has no choice. In this Jacksonville DUI case, the driver was hospitalized, too, and may or may not have even been conscious when his blood was taken. Blood tests are also much more accurate when reading blood-alcohol level to determine if it is higher than the legal threshold of .08.

While it may seem obvious that alcohol was involved in a crash with a truck full of 19-and 20-years who were out for New Year's, assumptions alone are not enough to prove a person's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. The delay was getting the blood results back from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the television station reported. Franke turned himself into police when the charges were finalized and is being held in jail on a $205,000 bond. Charges and potential penalties in Jacksonville DUI cases increase significantly when people are injured and even more so when someone is killed. Our Jacksonville DUI attorney has represented hundreds of clients on Jacksonville DUI charges and knows the series of specific steps police must follow to properly investigate a DUI so charges can stick. In many cases, they do not.

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

State drops DUI charge against former Nassau County Commissioner

Nearly one year after a Nassau County Commissioner proclaimed her innocence while being arrested for DUI, the state has dropped the charge against her. Instead, Stacy Johnson pleaded guilty last month to reckless driving, saying she was texting while driving the night of her arrest, but she was not intoxicated, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Johnson stepped down as chairwoman of the county commission days after her 2012 arrest, but stayed on the commission. She did not seek reelection and is now no longer an elected official.

Johnson was extremely critical of police in video from her Nassau County DUI arrest that was released and broadcast on local news sites, claiming the arrest was a political setup. Johnson said prosecutors offered to drop the charge shortly after her arrest if she agreed to resign her seat immediately, but she refused, the newspaper reported. She eventually pleaded guilty to reckless driving, paid a $208 fine, but did not receive any points on her license, the newspaper reported.

Police received a call about Johnson's car allegedly swerving and almost hitting another vehicle and she was pulled over in her driveway by three officers, the newspaper reported. Johnson said she had one glass of wine, but police said she was unsteady on her feet and that they smelled an odor of alcohol beverages when speaking with her. Johnson refused to perform field sobriety exercises or take a breath test, the newspaper reported. The refusal to take the breath test resulted in a one-year driver's license suspension and mandatory DUI school, the newspaper reported, and prosecutors said those punishments are the reason they agreed to drop the DUI charge.

Either you have enough evidence to proceed with a criminal case, or you don't. In this Nassau County DUI case, it appeared the state did not. Yet Johnson's case dragged out for more than a year before the state finally agreed to drop the charges. There appeared to be very little evidence in the Nassau County DUI Case against Johnson. She sounds coherent and appears to be speaking clearly on the police video, though she is clearly upset by the arrest. Because she refused, there are no results of field sobriety exercises, nor is there a blood-alcohol level to bring into evidence. The refusal did cause her to lose her license for a year. By accepting a driver's license, a Florida driver consents to taking a breathalyzer test and, if he or she refuses, there are automatic penalties that kick in. Even if the charges end up being dropped completely, there's usually some form of negative impact on anyone arrested for DUI. In the end, Johnson was cleared of the DUI charge, but still paid the price in the court of public opinion.

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

Jacksonville police officer picks up another DUI arrest following traffic crash

A Jacksonville police officer who's been busted for drinking and driving before in her tenure on the force was arrested last week and charged with five counts of DUI causing property damage. Diane Jones was not on duty when she allegedly hit a car in a shopping center parking lot, then allegedly rammed in one on a nearby road, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Jones then returned to the same parking lot and allegedly hit a third car before bumping into another car twice while trying to park her vehicle, the newspaper reported.

Jones' problems didn't end there. Police said she refused to get out of her car and was pulled out by police when she reached for something underneath her seat, the newspaper reported. She then refused to submit to field sobriety tests and, once she was taken to a local hospital, refused to allow her blood to be taken, the newspaper reported. Had any of the crashes resulted in serious bodily injuries, Jones would have had no choice but to have her blood drawn. But since no one was hurt, she could still legally refuse.

Jones has been in legal trouble with drinking and driving before, and it's very likely her days as a Jacksonville police officer are now numbered. She received a 20-day suspension and was ordered to undergo treatment in 2007 after she was investigated for DUI by the Florida Highway Patrol, the newspaper reported. Then, in 2011, a citizen took video of her police car being driven recklessly and police found her drinking at a neighbor's house, the newspaper reported. Jones said she started drinking after driving and there was not enough evidence to prove she was drunk while driving. She was, however, fired from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office until an arbitrator ruled she must be reinstated, the newspaper reported. Jones was most recently assigned to a position taking reports over the phone and did not have a patrol car, the newspaper reported.
It's unclear how many DUI convictions Jones has on her record, but it's very possible she has none. Jacksonville arrests and investigations are not automatic convictions and that fact is significant in this Jacksonville DUI case. Had Jones been convicted in 2007 and in 2011, she would now be facing a felony charge. In Jacksonville DUI cases, if a person has two DUI convictions and is arrested on suspicion of DUI again, the charge can be considered a felony and punishable by up to five years in state prison. As it stands now, Jones is looking only at Duval County misdemeanors and potential time in the county jail - up to six months if it's her first conviction, up to a year if it's her second.
Consequences and penalties ramp up quickly in Jacksonville DUI cases so it's crucial that people do not plead to charges that cannot be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. The temptation is for people to plead guilty in first appearance court and start the clock on the coming driver's license suspensions, but that is a short-term decision that can have serious long-term consequences.

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

Clay County sheriff's deputy charged with DUI, breath tests show no alcohol in his system

A veteran Clay County Sheriff's Office deputy was suspended following his arrest last month on a DUI charge following a traffic crash. James Avery was arrested by the Florida Highway Patrol after the 1:15 a.m. crash after he was allegedly mumbling his speech, unsteady on his feet and appearing to be very tired and drowsy, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Avery was arrested and charged with driving under the influence in Clay County, a misdemeanor punishable by up to six months in jail.

But Avery does have one piece of evidence that is in his favor for now. When police asked him to take a breath test, he did and it came back that he had no alcohol at all in his system, the newspaper reported. Police ordered him to submit a urine sample, which was sent to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement laboratory for analysis, the newspaper reported. It's unclear whether Avery submitted to that test as a condition of his employment or if his willingly did so as a part of the criminal investigation to prove that he was, in fact, sober at the time of his arrest. If the test was part of his employment, one would expect his Clay County DUI Attorney to argue that the test be thrown out in the criminal case.

A urine test could show drugs in a Clay County DUI suspect's system that would contribute the person driving under the influence. When someone is arrested on a Clay County DUI charge, the automatic assumption is the person was under the influence of alcohol. And our Clay County DUI attorney would agree that alcohol is the substance involved in the vast majority of DUI cases. Alcohol is more commonly detected, mostly because it is used more and is legal. The odor and signs of impairment also make it easier to spot for a police officer. If someone is on, for example, prescription narcotics, there isn't an odor an officer would immediately be able to pick up on when the driver opened his or her mouth to speak. A fair question in this case is: Why police would arrest Avery if the breath test came out .000? One reason is officers may have suspected he was on something else. Another procedural answer is the arrest occurs after the officer declares the driver has failed field sobriety exercises. Many people think breath tests are administered at the side of the road. They are not in Clay County DUI cases. The breath tests are given inside the jail as part of the booking process. So the driver has already been handcuffed and hauled downtown because the officer suspects there is enough evidence to charge the driver with a Clay County DUI. A breath test void of alcohol does not mean the person won't spend the night in jail and be charged with a DUI.

Our Clay County DUI attorney has represented hundreds of people charged with DUI, including those who have blown .000 on a breath test. Our firm is well-versed in the requirements to make a proper DUI arrest and can fully investigate the case of you or your loved one. 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 DUI Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.