Prosecutors announced this month that they have charged a 15-year-old boy with first-degree murder in the killing of a store clerk.  The boy is accused of demanding money from a convenience store clerk and then shooting him when the clerk wasn’t moving fast enough, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. After the shooting, the boy got into a stolen car driven by a 16-year-old boy who led police on a high-speed chase into another county, the newspaper reported. The 15-year-old boy is also charged with armed robbery with a firearm and aggravated assault with a firearm, the newspaper reported. All three are serious felony charges, but the main charge in this case is first-degree murder.

In a typical St. Johns County Murder Case, there are two possible sentences if someone pleads guilty to or is convicted of first-degree murder: life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty. However, the sentencing possibilities are different in this case because the defendant is only 15 years old. He can still be charged as an adult in this St. Johns County Murder Case, but he cannot be sentenced as an adult would be. For example, the death penalty is not an option when juveniles are convicted of murder. Also, there must be some chance for release, even if it ends up being denied. The state prosecutor told the newspaper it would likely be 40 years before the release would be considered, assuming the boy either pleaded guilty or was convicted by a jury. So he could be sentenced to life in prison, with the condition that he could apply for release in 40 years, or whatever length of time the judge deems appropriate.  Courts have gone back and forth on life sentences for juveniles and the laws have been driven recently by the U.S. Supreme Court. Justices have struck down life sentences for juveniles, but have left it up to individual states to determine the lengths of sentences – even though the federal courts have ruled that 70-year sentences for juveniles are too long and essentially amount to a life sentence.

On serious felony charges, such as murder and armed robbery, it was highly unlikely the state would ever choose to prosecute the case in juvenile court. But even in adult court, there are still sentencing guidelines that differentiate between boys and men.  Our St. Johns County Juvenile Crimes Attorney has represented hundreds of teens on a variety of charges, from misdemeanors on up to serious felonies in adult court, as this boy is charged with. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate the case against you or your loved one and provide information so you can make the best decision on how to proceed with the 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 Duval County Juvenile Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A man is suing the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, saying police should have known he was not the person they were looking for when they arrested him in a 2013 theft case.  The issue began with a Clay County Theft Case of a man caught trying to steal cologne, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The man was 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds, but it turns out gave police the name and ID of a different man, the newspaper reported. That man was six inches shorter and 70 pounds lighter and had reported his ID stolen to police, the newspaper reported. But when the real suspect didn’t show up for court, an arrest warrant was issued in the name of the man the suspect gave police.

The man went to police, tried to explain the mistake and prove that he wasn’t the guy, but officers wouldn’t listen. The man was promptly arrested and booked into the jail. Clay County Theft Charges were eventually dropped, but it took three months for the man to have his name cleared. This is the third time in the last two years that Clay County officers have arrested the wrong person in a criminal case. Police are supposed to have new policies and procedures in place to prevent this from happening, but this incident appears to have happened before the changes were made.

In many Clay County Misdemeanor Cases, instead of being immediately arrested and taken to jail, defendants are given a notice to appear in court. That’s what happened in this Clay County Theft Case. The defendant was caught with about $200 worth of cologne taken from a store, which would be petit theft, a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in the county jail. But, instead of giving police his real name and ID, he gave a different one. But, once the warrant was issued and the other man turned himself in to explain himself, police should have checked the warrant and arrest report, which would have told them they had the wrong person. It is human nature for people to try to explain themselves to police, especially when they are completely innocent as the man was in this Clay County Theft Case. But police don’t always listen and, in many cases, assume the person is lying and don’t think that they could be the ones who made a mistake.  There are checks and balances in our criminal justice system for this exact reason. Unfortunately, when mistakes like this happen, the most effective way to have the wrong righted is with a Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney. Once an arrest has been made, it’s often the defendant that has to prove his or her innocence to get out of jail – the exact opposite of how our system is supposed to work.

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

State and local police say they’ll be out in full force on a well-travelled Clay County highway after a string of serious accidents in recent weeks.  Patrol officers and others are out along the highway, checking speeds and watching for drivers who run red lights in the area, according to a report on News4Jax.com. While nothing has been reported yet in the local news media, expect a news release in the upcoming weeks about the number of violations and tickets issued in the area due to the increased patrols.

Police can’t be everywhere and by no means can they prevent every traffic accident that may occur. But the presence of police officers will undoubtedly make drivers slow down. How many times have you seen a string of brake lights on the highway, only to see a highway patrol officer in the median a few hundred yards up? If drivers do not feel there are consequences for exceeding the speed limit, they likely will.  And while Clay County Traffic Violations are far less serious than misdemeanor and felony crimes, they can have a major financial impact on drivers. On top of the financial considerations, drivers can also lose their license if they continue to get caught speeding or of other moving violations. In Florida, traffic tickets are scored on a point system. When those points accumulate, they can have serious consequences for drivers.

While speeding tickets have varying point levels based on how much the driver exceeds the speed limit, many other common violations are worth 3 points. Reckless driving carries a 4-point penalty and a person caught leaving the scene of an accident faces 6 points. When the points add up they can lead to:

– A 30-day license suspension for 12 points in one year
– A 3-month suspension for 18 points in 18 months
– A 1-year suspension for 24 point in a 3-year period

If a driver simply pays his or her fine on the ticket, he or she is admitting guilt and accepting the points that come with the violation. Those points are on your driving record and will also likely cause car insurance rates to rise. In some Clay County Traffic Cases, an attorney can appear on your behalf in an effort to get the fine or points reduced.
Our Clay County Traffic Attorney has represented hundreds of drivers on traffic cases and can help you make a decision on whether the ticket is worth fighting – based on the circumstances, including your past driving record.

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 Clay County Traffic Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A girl who claimed to have been pulled over by people pretending to be police officers has been arrested, accused of making the entire story up.  The high school student, 18, is now charged with filing a false police report, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The charge is a first-degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in the county jail. Even though she is still in high school, because she is 18 her case will go through adult court and not juvenile court. Clay County Criminal Cases can only be handled in juvenile court if the defendant is 17 years old or younger. The state can choose to charge younger people as adults, but the system does not work in reverse, even if the defendant is in high school.

Police said the girl called police about being stopped by two men who had flashing police lights and then tried to get into her car, the newspaper reported. Police investigated the case and continued to ask questions of the girl, who stuck by her story, the newspaper reported. Eventually, at the last of the series of interviews, police said the girl admitted the story was false and shared what really happened, the newspaper reported.

In Clay County Misdemeanor Cases like this, part of the motivation for police in publicizing the case is to let people know there are consequences for lying to police and wasting taxpayers’ time and resources investigating false claims. While the maximum penalty for the Clay County Misdemeanor Case the woman is charged with is the year in county jail mentioned above, that shouldn’t be what to look for in terms of the sentencing. In Clay County Misdemeanors Cases such as this, prosecutors are typically more interested in a sentence that has a form of punishment and also helps make the police department whole for the investigations. Options may be some form of community service, combined with repaying the sheriff’s office for all or part of the tax dollars spent during the investigation.  These types of sentences are common in Clay County Misdemeanor Cases, especially those that involve atypical cases and people who may not have a long history of criminal conduct. Our Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney has represented hundreds of people on misdemeanor cases and knows the types of negotiated sentences that both work for the state and allow the defendant to accept responsibility, complete the assigned punishment and move on with his or her life.

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

State prosecutors dropped the first-degree murder charges against a woman inside a home where two people were killed when police raided the suspected meth lab.  Instead, the woman pleaded guilty to two counts of second-degree murder, one for the detective who was shot and the other for the man who shot the detective and was then killed by police, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The woman also pleaded guilty to two more drug charges and was sentenced last month to a combined 30 years in state prison, the newspaper reported. Had the state not reduced the first-degree murder charge, she would have been sentenced to mandatory life in prison. The only two sentences possible for first –degree murder are life in prison and the death penalty.

The interesting piece of this Clay County Murder Case is that four people were charged with murder but never fired a shot. One was sentenced to two life sentences and another received 50 years in state prison. The fourth, who was 16 at the time and living in the house with his mother (who received 50 years), has not yet been to trial. Florida law, which applied in this Clay County Murder Case, allows the state to charge a person with murder if he or she was committing a felony at the time when a murder occurred. Because the people inside the home were either making, selling or in possession of methamphetamines, the charges could apply. Police said they smelled cooking methamphetamines when they approached the home, the newspaper reported. So the people inside the home were all charged with both the murder of the police detective and the man who shot him, and was subsequently shot by the police.

Felony murder can also be charged in Clay County Murder Cases where, for example, a store clerk has a heart attack when a gunman is robbing the store. The only elements that need to be proven are: the defendant committed a felony and someone was killed. It is unusual for the state to charge first-degree murder, as it did in this Clay County Murder Case, but within the bounds of the law.
Under Florida law, you don’t have to be the one who pulls the trigger to be facing a murder charge. Our Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney can explain the variables that can induce different charges, and fully investigate the case against 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 Clay County Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A St. Johns County man was arrested this week, the same day a child under the age of 12 told police they were molested by the man.  Detectives interviewed the suspect the same day and then arrested him, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The man is now charged with two counts of capital sexual battery on a person under the age of 12. Both counts have a mandatory sentence of life in state prison without the possibility of parole. So, unless the state ends up reducing the charges as part of a plea agreement, the man can only face life in prison if he pleads guilty to or is convicted of either count in this St. Johns County Sex Crimes Case.

On this serious of a St. Johns County Sex Crimes charge, there is less discretion for the prosecutors compared with other crimes. For example, in cases with a minimum mandatory sentence, the minimum mandatory piece does not come into play until the state files it with the court. So, for example, the state can negotiate a 10-year prison sentence on a case that has a 20-year minimum mandatory sentence, as long as the plea is completed before the case goes to trial. Once a case with a minimum mandatory sentence goes to trial, the judge has no choice but to impose the sentence. So even if the judge would want to issue a three-year sentence, if the minimum mandatory is 20, then 20 years is the minimum.  But, in this St. Johns County Sex Crimes Case, the charge would have to be reduced to something such as attempted sexual battery for the sentence to be anything less than life. The charge would then be a first-degree felony, which has a maximum sentence of 30 years in state prison.

In this St. Johns County Sex Crimes Case, though, it might not make too much of a difference. The defendant in this case is 55, so if he ended up pleading to a lesser charge and getting a 30-year sentence, he’d still be spending most of the rest of his life behind bars. The procedure is similar to St. Johns County Murder Cases. If a person is charged with first-degree murder, he or she can only be sentenced to life in prison or the death penalty. That’s while you’ll see many defendants work on a plea to second-degree murder. They may still get a life sentence, but it is not required by law, and for many defendants it is worth the risk over taking the case to trial where the only options are life in prison and death.  Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney represents people charges with all types of crimes, and can explain to you or your loved one the details of which charges carry which sentences so you can make the best decision 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 St. Johns County Sex Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A Jacksonville man convicted of killing a firefighter’s wife will spend the rest of his life in prison.  The man was facing the possibility of the death penalty, but the judge issued the life sentence last week, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The man was convicted in April of first-degree murder, rape and armed robbery, the newspaper reported. Days after the conviction, the jury reconvened to address the issue of the death penalty.

In Jacksonville Murder Cases, and across Florida, there are only two possible sentences when someone is convicted of or pleads guilty to first-degree murder: life in prison without the possibility of parole or the death penalty. If the state is seeking the death penalty, once the trial is over the jury reviews the case and then makes a decision one way or the other on the sentence. Jurors vote individually and the results are then read in court for the judge. This is the most prominent circumstance where a jury does not have to be unanimous. To convict a person of a crime, or the completely exonerate a person, all of the jurors must be in agreement. If a jury cannot reach a unanimous decision, the judge declares the case a mistrial. From there, prosecutors must decide if they want to take the case to trial again, or continue negotiations with the defense.

But, at the death penalty phase in a Jacksonville Murder Case, jurors just take a vote and let the chips fall where they may. In this Jacksonville Murder Case, the jury recommended life in prison, not the death penalty. The judge chose to follow the jury’s recommended, which happens in virtually every Jacksonville Murder Case involving the death penalty.  A case that will head to the U.S. Supreme Court next year could require all states to have the jury make a unanimous decision on the death penalty before a person could be sentenced to death. Florida is one of only three states that only requires a majority vote from the jury to recommend the death penalty.  Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney represents people accused on any type of crime, from misdemeanors on up to murder charges. Our Jacksonville Violent Crimes Attorney knows the various sentencing laws and the minimum mandatory requirements, and can explain those to you or your loved one so you have a better understanding of what to expect and can make an informed decision 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 Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A St. Johns County Commissioner was cleared of a felony charge brought against him in North Carolina.  He was charged with obtaining property by false pretense, accused of taking $500 from an account he used to share with his ex-girlfriend and former business partner, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The man said he mistakenly transferred the money from the wrong account and fixed it right after he realized the mistake, the newspaper reported. A warrant for the man’s arrest was issued Monday and, by Thursday, after the man drove to North Carolina to talk to police and turn himself in, the charge had been dropped. The man’s attorney said the arrest warrant was issued without police even trying to get the man’s side of the story, which would have explained that the transaction was a simple mistake, the newspaper reported.

But, instead, the man had to go prove his innocence – the complete opposite of how the criminal justice system is supposed to work. Police and prosecutors are supposed to have a good idea they’ll be able to prove a case beyond a reasonable doubt before they get an arrest warrant. That was clearly not the case here. Felony degrees and potential sentences vary from state to state, but any St. Johns County Felony in Florida has a maximum sentence of five years in state prison. The case made headlines in Northeast Florida because of the man’s public position, but it is something he’ll now have to explain – even though the arrest warrant should have never been issued in the first place.  The case sounds like a personal dispute between the man and his former girlfriend and business partner – a fight that the criminal justice system has no place in. Prosecutors and police are supposed to be able to recognize that and not allow the criminal justice system to be used like this. Presumably, if the decision to drop the charges was made this quickly after the arrest warrant was issued, it could have been handled just as quickly by picking up the phone and calling the man or his attorney before issuing the warrant.  Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney represents people on all types of criminal charges. Oftentimes, arrest warrants are issued for people to turn themselves in on, rather than police hunting someone down and arresting them like you’d see in the movies. A St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney can go with you to turn yourself in – and help drive the conversation about what you say to police, if anything.

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

A Jacksonville man who shot into a home and accidentally wounded a 3-year-old boy was found guilty on multiple charges.  The man was found guilty on four counts of attempted second-degree murder and one count of shooting or throwing deadly missiles. Attempted second-degree murder is punishable by up to life in prison. Shooting or throwing deadly missiles a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. Because of the Florida’s 10-20-Life Law, his sentencing is predetermined in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case.

If a person is convicted of or pleads guilty to showing a gun during the commission of a felony, there is a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years in state prison. If the gun is fired, that minimum sentence becomes 20 years. If someone is hit, it can become life in prison. In this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case, police said the man had an ongoing dispute with someone inside the home and fired several shots into the residence. Because there were four people inside the home at the time, the man was charged with four counts of attempted second-degree murder. The man will be sentenced later this month to at least a 20-year minimum mandatory sentence on each of the four attempted murder charges. With four counts, the man is looking at a minimum of 80 years in state prison. That amounts to essentially a life sentence for the 30-year-old defendant.

Interpretation of the minimum mandatory sentencing law changed in recent years. While in most Jacksonville Gun Crimes Cases, the judges would issue the sentenced concurrently, appellate courts have ruled the sentences should be issued consecutively. For example, four 20-year sentences served concurrently would mean the person serves the sentences at the same time and does a total of 20 years. But, if they are served consecutively, the person would be required to serve four 20-year sentences, for a total of 80 years in prison. That is a significant difference in the punishment and could be a major deterrent in taking a Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case to trial. Prosecutors can waive the minimum mandatory sentences when negotiating a plea agreement, but one the case goes to trial there is no discretion. Judges are bound by the sentencing law and cannot legally give a different sentence.  Our Jacksonville Gun Crimes attorney knows when minimum mandatory sentences apply and will provide you or your loved one with that information and fully investigate the case so you can make a decision on how to proceed.

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

A Georgia man is now facing up to 30 years in prison, following his arrest for allegedly selling methamphetamines.  Police received a tip the man would be meeting someone at a store in Nassau County to make the transaction and detectives watched as the deal was conducted, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The man had twice delivered methamphetamines to an informant who was working with police, the newspaper reported. Because there are multiple sales involved in this Nassau County Drug Case, and likely audio or video recordings of more than one crime, the potential sentence in this case could be severe.

In Nassau County Drug Crime Cases, charges and sentences are determined by two main factors: the type of drug the person is accused of possessing or selling, and the amount of the drug found on their person. While some drugs, such as marijuana, have relatively minor penalties until you get into larger amounts, others are felonies from the word go. That certainly applies to methamphetamines, which have among the most severe penalties of any substance in Nassau County Drug Crimes cases. Federal agents were involved in this case, likely because of the drugs crossing state lines, so it may be handled in federal court with different sentencing guidelines. In Florida, drug trafficking is the most severe drug charge – in terms of the amount a person is accused of possessing. And while in this Nassau County Drug Crimes Case there is evidence of an actual sale, there does not need to be any physical transaction for a trafficking charge – that is based solely on the amount.

Trafficking in marijuana begins at having 25 pounds of the drug, according to Florida law. For methamphetamines, trafficking begins at just 14 grams. Trafficking charges in Nassau County Drug Crimes Cases also include minimum mandatory sentences, which guarantee a certain amount of prison time if a person is convicted or pleads guilty to the charges. For example, if a person is convicted of having between 14 and 28 grams of methamphetamines, there is a minimum mandatory sentence of three years in state prison. If the amount is between 28 and 200 grams, it bumps up to a seven-year minimum mandatory sentence. Any amount more than 200 grams of methamphetamines carries a minimum mandatory sentence of 15 years in state prison. And while in most sentences, defendants end up serving about 85 percent of the sentence if they stay out of trouble, every single day of a minimum mandatory sentence must be served.  Our Nassau County Drug Crimes Attorney represents people on all types of drug charges, from possession on up to trafficking.

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