Prosecutors were actively seeking the death penalty for a man charged with first-degree murder, but the jury’s decision to convict on a lesser charge has put an end to those plans.  The charges stem from a shooting inside a Jacksonville apartment, for which each side has a very different story, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Prosecutors said the man went to the apartment to kill the person who lived there because the man had snitched to police about drug dealers, the newspaper reported. The defendant said he went to the apartment to sell the man’s wife drugs and then the two people attacked him and he shot in self-defense. The defendant was charged with first-degree murder, attempted murder for shooting the man’s wife, and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. The only two possible sentences if someone is convicted of or pleads guilty to first-degree murder are life in prison or the death penalty. Prosecutors must indicate in advance whether they plan to seek the death penalty and did so in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case.

When a case ends up in a jury trial, the jurors often have other options than the charges the state is presenting during the trial. In Jacksonville Murder Cases, manslaughter is often one of those options, known technically as a “lesser included offense.” To meet the elements of first-degree murder, the state must be able to prove that the killing was premeditated. The jury did not buy that in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case, instead choosing manslaughter. Manslaughter is used primarily when people are involved in a fight and someone ends up being killed. By choosing manslaughter, the jury did find the defendant had some responsibility in the death. Another option would have been to find him not guilty, essentially saying the defendant acted in self-defense.

Most importantly in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case is that the manslaughter charge takes the death penalty off the table. The death penalty can only be given when someone is convicted of first-degree murder. Because there was a firearm used in this case, the defendant can still be given life in prison, though it will be interesting to see where the judge lands on sentencing. The jury also deadlocked on the attempted murder charge, so the state still has to decide if it wants to retry that one charge. The state cannot retry any of the other charges because the jury has already reached a verdict.

Four months after she drove her car onto the sidewalk and ran over a vacationing Wisconsin man, an Atlantic Beach woman was arrested on several serious felony charges.  The woman is accused of driving her Ford Expedition onto the sidewalk, hitting the man and then hitting a palm tree, a parked car and a bus before stopping the car, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. She is charged with DUI manslaughter, vehicular homicide and three counts of DUI causing property damage. Both the vehicular manslaughter charge and the DUI manslaughter charge are second-degree felonies with a maximum penalty of 15 years in state prison. The DUI with property damage charges are misdemeanors and, in this Jacksonville DUI Case, are clearly not the priority for the defendant.

The state often files both a vehicular homicide and DUI manslaughter charge in a case where a person is accused of being intoxicated during a crash where a person is killed. And the two charges sound very similar. But, when it comes to sentencing in this Jacksonville DUI Case, there is a distinct difference between the two charges. If someone is convicted of DUI manslaughter, there is a four-year minimum mandatory sentence that must be served. There is no such minimum mandatory that applies in a vehicular homicide case. This is important, especially because minimum mandatory sentences must be served in their entirety. With all other sentences, people typically serve about 85 percent of the sentence – provided he or she stays out of trouble behind bars. Part of the reason the state files both the vehicular homicide and the DUI manslaughter charges is for leverage – holding onto the DUI manslaughter and its minimum mandatory sentence, which can be used to encourage a plea to the vehicular homicide charge.

The timing of the charges in this Jacksonville DUI Case is may seem odd, but it is the norm in these types of cases. In a Jacksonville DUI Case where someone is injured or killed, police take blood from the driver for a more accurate measurement of blood-alcohol content. And while people can refuse to take field sobriety tests or a breath test in a traditional DUI where someone is pulled over, police can take blood without consent. Because of backlogs in the system, blood results from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement typically take between four and six months, much like in this Jacksonville DUI Case.  Our Jacksonville DUI Attorney represents people on all types of DUI charges, from misdemeanors on up to DUI Manslaughter, and will fully investigate your case to provide you or your loved one with the best information on how to proceed in the case.

Jacksonville police took to Facebook to help identify a pregnant woman accused of stealing glasses from a local store.  Detectives had tips within 30 minutes and, eight hours later, had arrested a woman and charged her with grand theft, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The woman, whom police said was nine months pregnant, was also charged with possession of a controlled substance because she had Xanax on her but did not have a prescription for the medication, the newspaper reported. Both charges are third-degree felonies, punishable by up to five years in state prison.

In Jacksonville Theft Cases, the key number is 300. If the property in question is valued at less than $300, the charge is a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors can only lead to time in the county jail. However, if the value of the property is more than $300, the charge can be grand theft, which brings state prison time into the picture. Charges and potential penalties in Jacksonville Theft Cases are dictated by the value of the property that is stolen, as one might expect.

For example, if the property is valued at less than $100, the charge is a second-degree misdemeanor. The maximum punishment is 60 days in county jail and a $500 fine. If the value is between $100 and $300, the charge bumps up to a first-degree misdemeanor, which can bring up to one year in the county jail and a $1,000 fine. Misdemeanor theft charges are called petit thefts. There are other factors that can be considered, including the defendant’s criminal record – specifically as it relates to theft charges. For example, a person who is charged with theft and has also previously pleaded guilty to or been convicted of petit theft is automatically charged with a first-degree misdemeanor – even if the value is under $100. Along the same lines, if a person is arrested for petit theft and has two or more prior theft convictions, he or she can be charged with felony grand theft – regardless of the value of the property in question.  Our Jacksonville Theft Attorney represents people accused of all levels of theft and knows all of the various factors that can affect the severity of the charges. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate the case against you or your loved one and provide you with the information you need to make a decision on how to proceed with the case.

A Jacksonville man was sentenced this month to more than 20 years in prison on a second-degree murder charge, even though he was not the one that pulled the trigger.  In fact, the man and his 27-year-old cousin were armed and in bulletproof vests when they went to a Southside apartment complex to commit a robbery, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. But, while the man’s cousin was inside the apartment, a fight broke out and the cousin was shot in the head, the newspaper reported. The defendant was then charged with second-degree felony murder and conspiracy to commit armed robbery, the newspaper reported. Both charges are first-degree felonies.

In Florida, a person can be charged with felony murder if someone dies during the commission of a felony. So the act of the original felony can allow someone to be charged with murder. In this case, the defendant was not even in the apartment at the time his cousin was killed. But it was the act of planning the robbery, to the point of becoming armed and wearing a bulletproof vest, which was a felony on its own and allowed for the felony murder charge to be filed. So in proving this case beyond a reasonable doubt, the state must only prove two things: That the defendant was committing a felony and that someone was killed. A jury convicted the defendant this summer on the felony murder and the conspiracy to commit armed robbery charges. He was sentenced to 22 years on the murder charge and 15 years on the armed robbery. The judge chose to run the sentences concurrently, meaning he will serve them both at the same time and only serve the 22 years. If the judge chose to run the sentences consecutively, then he would have to serve both sentences and be in prison for 37 years. Concurrent sentences are far more common, but there are certain Jacksonville Gun Crimes that require judges to issue consecutive sentences when guns are fired and minimum mandatory sentences apply.

The man who shot the cousin was not charged at all in the case. Prosecutors ruled the shooting was in self-defense. State law allows people to respond with deadly force if someone enters their home, or if they feel they are in danger of great bodily harm or death.  Our Jacksonville Robbery Crimes Attorney will fully investigate the charges against you or your loved and sit down to go over a range of options so you can make the best decision going forward in the case.

A veteran Jacksonville police officer was arrested and charged this month, accused of giving her son inside information in a potential felony drug case against him.  The charge stems from an ongoing investigation into what police say is a massive Jacksonville Drug Crimes Case that involves large quantities of cocaine being brought to Jacksonville from Texas, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police arrested an officer and charged her with attempting to help her son elude police, the newspaper reported. Her son is accused of being in the drug operation at the direction of his father and the officer’s ex-husband, the newspaper reported. Police said the defendant is accused of alerting her son that police were onto him, telling him not to drive one of his cars that police knew about and talking with his girlfriend about helping him escape, the newspaper reported. She was placed on administrative leave from her position in the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office and charged with aiding escape. The charge is a third-degree felony, punishable by up to five years in state prison.

By all indications, the father is who police believe is the one leading the organization. In many Jacksonville Drug Crimes Cases, police go after some of the more minor players and attempt to squeeze information out of them that leads to prosecutors being able to prove the case against the biggest fish beyond a reasonable doubt. In most cases, that information comes with an offer for a lighter sentence or a reduction in charges. There’s an interesting dynamic in this Jacksonville Drug Crimes Case, and it might be difficult for a person to give police information about his father. But, for an ex-wife to talk to police to potentially save her son – that scenario seems a little more likely.  As for the officer who was arrested, employers operate under different rules than the criminal justice system. That is especially true in law enforcement. Internal policies usually dictate that persons who are convicted of or plead guilty to a felony cannot serve in law enforcement. But even if this case doesn’t go that far, it’s possible her days of a police officer are over. While police are held to different standards, it’s one thing if an officer gets in trouble away from the job – such as a DUI in a personal car. This however, involved the use of police information to assist someone who was under investigation, which is a serious no-no in law enforcement circles.

Our Jacksonville Drug Crimes Attorney represents people charged with all levels of drug crimes – from misdemeanor marijuana possession charges on up to felony charges of trafficking in cocaine.

A Jacksonville man convicted of second-degree murder and two other serious felonies was sentenced this month to 35 years in state prison.  The man and his roommate arranged to meet another man for a drug deal, but instead planned to rob the person, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The altercation escalated and the 21-year-old defendant ended up shooting the robbery target, who died at a local hospital. The defendant was initially charged with first-degree murder, armed robbery and carrying a concealed firearm. Earlier this year, he pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of second-degree murder, as well as the other two charges.

The difference between first-degree murder and second-degree murder in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case is extremely important, especially given the way the sentencing turned out. In Jacksonville Murder Cases, there are only two possible punishments in a first-degree murder case – life in prison or the death penalty. The judge would not have any discretion in the sentencing. The state was not seeking this death penalty in this Jacksonville Murder Case. But in some cases, the state looks to charge with first-degree murder to force the defendant’s hand in terms of pleading guilty and not going to trial.  Second-degree murder carries the possibility of a life sentence, as does the first-degree felony armed robbery charge, but the life sentence is not mandatory. The judge could have given a sentence between 25 years and life in prison. It’s a minor detail in a case like this, but the carrying a concealed weapon is a third-degree felony with a maximum sentence of five years in state prison.

There is a second defendant in this case who is also charged with murder, though the defendant sentenced to 35 years is the one that is accused of pulling the trigger in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case. It’s rare for a person who is less culpable to receive a longer sentence, so in all likelihood he is looking at about 35 years or less. What is not known, and now does not matter, is whether the co-defendant had agreed to testify against the alleged shooter in exchange for a lighter sentence. That frequently happens, but the person agreeing to cooperate is sentenced after the other case is done – strictly to ensure the cooperating witness holds up his or her end of the bargain.  Our Jacksonville Gun Crimes Attorney will thoroughly investigate the case against you or your loved one and lay out all of the information so you can make the best decision going forward.

One man has been arrested, but there could be more on the way as Jacksonville police investigate what could be a massive cocaine ring.  Police arrested a 20-year-old Jacksonville man on a charge of conspiracy to traffic in cocaine, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Records indicate that his father, uncle and another man are listed as co-conspirators in the case, meaning they are at least three of the other people involved in the alleged conspiracy to traffic in cocaine, the newspaper reported. No other arrests have been made in the case, but records indicate police suspect the men are involved in bringing large quantities of cocaine from Texas to Jacksonville, and then distributing it here, the newspaper reported. When police arrested the son, he had a small amount of marijuana on him and two bags of oxycodone pills, the newspaper reported. For that, he was also charged with misdemeanor possession of marijuana and trafficking of opium or a derivative. The marijuana charge is a misdemeanor, while the trafficking charge is a first-degree felony, punishable by up to 30 years in state prison.

Although this Jacksonville Drug Crimes Case does appear to involve the sale of drugs, trafficking charges in Jacksonville Drug Crimes Cases are based solely on the amount of the drug the person is accused of having. And how much of the drug makes it a trafficking charge varies dramatically by the type of drug. For example, the marijuana charge is a misdemeanor because the man is accused of having less than 20 grams of the drug. But for oxycodone, trafficking charges can begin at just four grams of the drug – just a handful of pills. If the person has between four and 14 grams, there is a minimum mandatory prison sentence of three years. If the amount is between 14 and 28 grams, there is a 15-year minimum mandatory sentence. More than 28 grams and it is 25 years. To compare, possession of marijuana does not become a trafficking charge until the person is caught with 25 POUNDS of the drug – or 300 plants. And in terms of the Jacksonville Drug Crimes Case police are now investigating, cocaine is treated much closer to opium than it is marijuana, so the man and the others suspected in the ring are likely looking at the possibility of decades behind bars if arrests are eventually made and charges are ultimately filed.  Our Jacksonville Drug Crimes Attorney represents people on all types of drug crimes – from misdemeanor marijuana possession on up to felony trafficking cases.

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 Drug Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A Jacksonville man was sentenced to 20 years in state prison for a DUI crash that killed one person and seriously injured two others.  The crash occurred in 2013 when a man was driving the wrong way on a Jacksonville interstate and crashed head-on into a vehicle with three people inside, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The driver was convicted earlier this summer of DUI manslaughter and two counts of DUI causing serious bodily injury, the newspaper reported. In Jacksonville DUI Cases, DUI Manslaughter is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. The charge also carries a minimum mandatory sentence of four years in state prison, but the minimum was far exceeded by the judge in this Jacksonville DUI Case. Each count of DUI causing serious bodily injury is a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of up to five years in state prison.

Unless a person has a long history of DUI convictions, Jacksonville DUI Cases are typically misdemeanors. That changes when there are serious injuries involved. Another element that changes in Jacksonville DUI Cases involving injuries is the mean by which police can check the blood alcohol level of the driver. In a traditional DUI case when a driver is pulled over by police, the driver may choose not to do field sobriety exercises or to take a breath test. Those decisions will result in an arrest, but they do limit the amount of evidence the state has to prove the case beyond a reasonable doubt. However, when there are serious injuries, police are legally allowed to take the blood of the driver – whether he or she provides consent or not. That is one reason there is less ambiguity in Jacksonville DUI Cases with serious injuries or death – and a reason why many of the cases do not end up in trial. The state simply needs to prove that the driver was intoxicated at the time of the accident that caused serious injury or death and the blood test proves that one way or the other. But one reason cases like this do end up in trial is because the state may have ended negotiations or offered a sentence so severe that the defendant chose to just take the case to trial. The sentence in this Jacksonville DUI Case, though, is likely more than what the state was offering before the trial.   There are strict policies and procedures that must be followed when police make stops and arrests in Jacksonville DUI Cases. Our Jacksonville DUI Attorney knows those procedures inside and out, and will thoroughly investigate your case to determine if they were properly followed.

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.

Jacksonville police are investigating a recent crash as a hit-and-run after a pedestrian was killed on the Arlington Expressway.  Police said the pedestrian was killed in the early morning hours, but did not release any information about the person, according to a report on First Coast News. Police said they did not have any information about the car involved in the crash, but they are investigating the case as a hit-and-run, the television station reported. The area near the crash does not have any marked crosswalks, the television station reported. It is possible that a driver could be involved in a fatal crash but not be charged or even ticketed – if there was nothing he or she could do to avoid the crash.

But, even if a driver is not at fault in a Jacksonville Traffic Case, he or she brings serious felony charges into play by not stopping and attempting to render aid. State law requires drivers to stop when they are involved in any type of traffic crash, call police and wait for authorities to arrive on the scene. If a person is injured, the driver, “shall render to any person injured in the crash reasonable assistance, including the carrying, or the making of arrangements for the carrying, of such person to a physician, surgeon, or hospital for medical or surgical treatment if it is apparent that treatment is necessary, or if such carrying is requested by the injured person,” according to Florida law.

Leaving the scene of an accident causing death, which would be the most likely charge in this Jacksonville Traffic Case, is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in state prison. Even more important, if a person is convicted or pleads guilty to this Jacksonville Felony Charge, a minimum mandatory sentence of four years in state prison applies. So if a jury finds the defendant guilty, the judge could not give a sentence of less than four years, even if he or she wanted to. And a minimum mandatory sentence also means the defendant must serve every single day of the four years – as opposed to the 85 percent of the sentence most people serve, provided they stay out of trouble behind bars. One moment of panic that leads a person to drive off can have serious consequences in a Jacksonville Traffic Case.  Our Jacksonville Traffic Attorney represents people on minor traffic infractions on up to first-degree felonies.

Police in St. Johns County were called in this month to seize and break down a methamphetamines lab in a St. Johns County hotel.  There was no information published in local media reports on any arrests involving the bust, according to the report on News4Jax. St. Johns County Drug Crimes involving methamphetamines can have serious ramifications, and will almost certainly be felony charges. The severity of charges, which dictates the likely punishment in St. Johns County Drug Crimes Cases, is based primarily on two things: the type of drugs the person is accused of having and the amount of the drug police can prove the person had in his or her possession.

St. Johns County Drug Crimes Cases involving meth are typically felonies. The charges for manufacturing methamphetamines are typically second-degree felonies punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. Those charges are upgraded to a first-degree felony with a 30-year maximum penalty if the drugs are produced in the presence of minors. The charged are enhanced because the fumes emitted during the process of cooking the meth are toxic and can be extremely dangerous, especially to children. Typically when meth labs are discovered in hotels or apartment complexes, immediate neighbors are evacuated so the rooms can be decontaminated. Even possessing the chemicals used to make meth can be charged as a second-degree felony, though it certainly improves the state’s case if the drugs are found in the vicinity of where the chemicals are found.

When it comes to the amount in St. Johns County Drug Crimes Cases, a person can be charged with trafficking in meth if he or she has just 14 grams of the drug. For comparison, possession of marijuana is not even a felony until the person is accused of having more than 20 grams. Trafficking in meth is a first-degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in state prison, and minimum mandatory sentences also apply. Many people think that someone can only be charged with drug trafficking if the person is caught selling drugs. That is not the case. In St. Johns County Drug Cases, the amount of the drug is the only thing that can constitute a trafficking charge – even if the drugs are only for personal use.  Our St. Johns County Drug Crimes Attorney represents people accused of all types of drug crimes. From misdemeanor marijuana possession on up to trafficking in cocaine, our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate the charges and lay out the options for you or your loved one so you can make an informed decision on how to proceed.