A man sentenced to 45 years in prison on an attempted murder charge had his sentence thrown out this month. The court found the state did not present enough evidence to convict the defendant of first-degree attempted murder, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The key element of attempted first-degree murder is that the defendant planned and intended to kill the victim, the same premeditation standard that must be proven in a first-degree murder case in which a person is killed.

In terms of a sentencing, the charge is likely not going to change much for the defendant. On the surface, it seems important. He is now serving a 45-year sentence in state prison. Attempted second-degree murder is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison, unless a firearm is used, as it was in this Clay County Violent Crimes Case. Then, the charge becomes a first-degree felony and the maximum sentence stretches to 30 years in state prison, with a 20-year minimum mandatory sentence. But, the fact that a person was shot in the act of this crime makes it a life felony – so the sentence could legally be exactly the same in this Clay County Gun Crimes Case.

In this Clay County Violent Crimes Case, two men were arguing in a parking lot outside a nightclub, the newspaper reported. The defendant is accused of pulling out a gun a shooting four times, hitting the other man once in the stomach, the newspaper reported. But those facts alone are not enough for attempted second-degree murder, the court ruled. There was no evidence presented about the shooter’s state of mind at the time of the crime (he likely did not testify at trial), and the court called the state’s only showed “circumstantial” evidence of premeditation, the newspaper reported. In this case, the conviction was not reversed by the appellate court, it was simply sent back to the lower court for a new sentencing hearing on the reduced charge. In many cases, the entire trial is thrown out and the two sides must start from scratch, but this appeal only applies to the sentence. Appellate courts are a significant part of our judicial system and help ensure the state does not overcharge defendants and meets all of the legal requirements in proving its case beyond a reasonable doubt.

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

A man who punched another man and ended up killing him was charged with manslaughter, several months after the incident. The defendant left a gun hidden in a book at the other man’s house and, when the resident found the gun, he turned it over to police, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The defendant was upset and argued with the man about getting rid of the gun, the newspaper reported. The defendant left but then came back and punched the man, who fell back and hit his head on the ground. The man was taken to the hospital and died the next day, the newspaper reported.

The defendant is now charged with manslaughter in the August killing. Manslaughter is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. Manslaughter is legally defined in the state of Florida as “the killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, with lawful justification.” Manslaughter is charged in Jacksonville Violent Crime Cases where the outcome ends up being far more severe than the intent. In this Jacksonville Manslaughter Case, the defendant was angry and threw a punch at the victim. Once he hit him, he left, according to the newspaper report. There was clearly not intent to kill the person in this case. Even if there is not a weapon involved, the state can still charge a person with murder – depending on the intent. For example, if the defendant in this case would have repeated punched the man while he was unconcscious and did not get up or stop until the man was dead, then a murder charge could apply. Manslaughter can also become a first-degree felony with a 30-year maximum sentence if the victim is a child, an elderly adult or disabled.

The man who was killed in this Jacksonville Manslaughter Case was 45 years old and there is nothing in the newspaper report to suggest he was disabled. Manslaughter is a charge that has infinitely more to do with the outcome in a case than it does the intent of the act. Had the man not fallen backward, the defendant would have likely been charged with a battery charge – a first-degree misdemeanor punishable only by time in the county jail – or at worst a felony battery with a maximum sentence of five years in state prison. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney represents people accused of all levels of violent crimes – including cases like this whether the results are far worse than intended. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate the facts of the case and lay out all of the consequences and potential outcomes so you or your loved one 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 Jacksonville Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

For the second time this year, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office has paid tens of thousands of dollars to a person who had the same name as a suspect, but was still held in jail for a crime he or she did not commit. The second settlement was announced this month, as police paid $50,000 after a teen sued following a month in jail accused of sexual battery on a child younger than 12, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police were looking for another teen with the same name at the same high school, but did not show the alleged victim a photo of the person they arrested before they locked him up, the newspaper reported. Earlier this year, the sheriff’s office settled another suit, paying $67,000 to a woman who was extradited from Louisiana on a charge and was falsely arrested twice, the newspaper reported. She, too, had the same name of a person who was wanted on various felony charges.

The two incidents were several months apart and led to suspensions for five officers and new policies that verify the identity of suspects that are arrested, the newspaper reported. The incidents underscore the importance of the multiple layers and balances in our criminal justice system. Although there is a constant rush to judgment once a person is arrested, mistakes happen. Unfortunately, as was the case here, once a person is arrested, it almost becomes up to the defendant and his or her Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney to prove innocence in order to be set free. The foundation of our system is that a person is innocent until proven guilty. But so often, that is applied at trial and the months that lead up to it are not taken into consideration.

In the Clay County Sex Crime Case involving the teen, the sheriff requested that that teen’s record be immediately expunged so there is no sign of an arrest on his criminal record. That can be the most difficult piece of a wrongful arrest – getting potential employers or others who do a background check to look past the arrest. Whenever you or a loved one is being questioned by police about a crime, it is important to speak with a Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney. It’s human nature to want to talk to the police and explain yourself – especially if you are wrongly accused. But an experienced Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney can help you navigate the system and potentially limit jail time and even avoid charges when police have the wrong person.

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

A man accused of shooting and killing his parents will not face the death penalty on the two murder charges. The state and the man’s attorneys reached a deal this month where he will plead guilty to two counts of first-degree murder, receive to life sentences for both crimes and the state will withdraw its initial intent to seek the death penalty, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. In this Jacksonville Murder Case, both sides avoid a lengthy, expensive trial and the sentence is locked in.

Because he was charged with first-degree murder, there were only two possible sentences: life in prison or the death penalty. One interesting piece of this plea deal is the state did not come down at all on the charge. In many recent Jacksonville Murder Cases, the state would charge first-degree murder, file a notice to seek the death penalty, then agree to let the defendant plead guilty to second-degree murder. Because second-degree murder does not carry a mandatory life sentence, those pleas left the door open for some chance of a sentence that would allow the defendant to eventually be released. That was not done in this Jacksonville Murder Case, likely because the defendant pleaded guilty to killing two people and, according to the newspaper report, has a criminal record with other aggressive crimes that include an assault he did jail time for. It also would not help in the eyes of the jury that the defendant is accused of killing his parents after he was kicked out of the home for repeated drug use, according to the newspaper report.

The overwhelming majority of criminal cases are resolved in a plea before they go to trial. Part of the reason many Jacksonville Murder Cases go to trial is the state is not seeking the death penalty, but will not come off the first-degree murder charge. So the defendant could plead guilty and get a life sentence or take the case to trial and the worst thing that can happen is a life sentence. There’s no reason not to go to trial. In most Jacksonville Felony Cases, sentences are more severe following a trial than they are as a result of a plea agreement, so there is an inherent cost to taking a case to trial. In this Jacksonville Murder Case, there was the possibility of the death penalty, which ended up being enough for the man to agree to spend the rest of his life in prison. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney has worked on thousands of cases through the years, thoroughly investigates the charges and consults with the client before working on a resolution with the state. Any decisions on taking the case to trial or working out a deal with a better sentence are up to the client, with our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney laying out the options so you or your loved one can make an informed decision.

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 high-ranking official with the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue department has been reassigned following his arrest on a DUI charge. Police found the man behind the wheel of a car in a ditch in Clay County, according to a report from First Coast News. The crash came after reports of a man weaving in and out of traffic and, when police arrived, they found an open bottle of vodka on the seat, the television station reported. Police said the man’s eyes were “glassy and bloodshot” and that he struggled with field sobriety exercises. The man’s blood-alcohol levels from two separate tests were .313 and .339 – well above the legal limit of .08. As is the case with most public officials, he has been put on desk duty until the case resolves.

The man was charged with DUI, a misdemeanor typically punishable by up to six months in jail. However, there is a clause in state law for Clay County DUI Cases such as this where the blood-alcohol level is more than .15. In this case, the maximum penalty rises to nine months in jail and the fines jumps from between $500 and $1,000 to between $1,000 and $2,000. While every case is different, DUI cases can really be looked at it in two categories: DUIs that begin with a traffic stop and those that start with a traffic accident. In this Clay County DUI Case, police are already investigating the accident and come across a driver that appears to be intoxicated. There aren’t many choices or decisions to be made at that point from a drivers’ perspective. The driver did agree to perform field sobriety exercises, the television station reported, and the results at least partially led to his arrest.

In Clay County DUI Cases with a traffic stop, there are even more procedures that must be followed precisely for the arrest to be legal. First, an officer must have a reason to pull a driver over – typically it is for speeding, not staying in a lane, having a burned out taillight, etc. Once the stop is made, the officer must then have probable cause to believe the driver is impaired. The “glassy and bloodshot” eyes from this DUI case are common reason, as are the smell of alcohol and the driver slurring his or her words. From there, the driver will be asked to preform field sobriety exercises, a series of tests that measure balance, speech and the ability to comprehend and follow directions. If the driver does not pass, he or she is arrested and taken to jail for a breath test. Drivers can refuse the field sobriety exercises and the breath test, though they will almost certainly be jailed overnight. Not taking the tests can limit the evidence in a Clay County DUI Case, but there are short-term consequences. Our Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney knows each and every detail of the procedures that must be followed in Clay County DUI Cases and will thoroughly investigate your case to determine if all of them were followed correctly in the DUI 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 DUI Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A former St. Johns County office manager is now facing decades in prison, charged with two felonies after being accused of stealing more than $100,000 from her employer. The woman worked for a real estate management company and is accused of keeping more than $100,000 in rent that was supposed to be deposited into the company bank account, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. In this St. Johns County Theft Case, the woman is also accused of forging business checks that she made payable to herself and her family, along with using business credit cards for personal use and illegally establishing credit accounts the business did not authorize, the newspaper reported.

She is now charged with two serious felonies in this St. Johns County Theft Case – grand theft with a value of more than $100,000, and an organized scheme to defraud over $50,000. Both are first-degree felonies punishable by up to 30 years in state prison, so she is facing a combined total of 60 years behind bars. The defendant was fired from her job after she was accused of falsifying documents and a four-month investigation led to the eventual charges, the newspaper reported. The defendant has not spoken to investigators in this case and has been released on bail as the case progresses.

The punishment scale in St. Johns County Theft Cases is relatively simple. The more someone is accused of stealing, the more serious the charges. St. Johns County Theft Charges start as second-degree misdemeanors with a maximum sentence of up to 60 days in jail if someone is accused of taking something with a value less than $100. The charges escalate from there, with anything with a value between $100 and $300 remaining a misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a year in the county jail. The key threshold in most St. Johns County Theft Cases is $300. Anything higher becomes a felony. Felony degrees increase with value, but cap at $100,000. Anything more than $100,000 is a first-degree felony. In this St. Johns County Theft Case, the woman is accused of stealing more than $141,000 from her employer.

The scheme to defraud charge is a little different. Charges are more serious with lower amounts, likely because of the intent and organized nature of such a crime. In this case, though, the maximum threshold of $50,000 was met by almost threefold, based on how the case has been charged. Our St. Johns County Theft Attorney represents people facing all levels of theft charges, from misdemeanors on up to first-degree felonies seen in this case. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney will investigate your case and help you 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 St. Johns County Theft Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

All of the men involved in a 2013 Clay County Sex Crimes sting involving minors have now been sentenced after they either pleaded guilty or were found guilty at trial. Sentences range from three years in state prison on up to 10 years, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. As a part of the sting, people the men thought were teens were actually undercover detectives and posted ads on Craiglist and in other areas to arrange meetings, the newspaper reported. The main charge for all of the men involved was traveling to meet a minor for the purpose of engaging in an illegal sex act. The charge is a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in state prison.

Several of the men were also facing other charges. For example, at least one of the men brought drugs to the encounter he thought was with a teen, so he also pleaded guilty to possession of a controlled substance and possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana, the newspaper reported. But in all cases, the most serious was the Clay County Sex Crimes Case. Police agencies conduct similar stings fairly regularly and a media report such as this will surface a couple times a year. These stings were popularized by the Dateline NBC series “To Catch a Predator,” where the men were caught on camera coming to a home to meet what they thought was a teen. Despite the popularity of the series and the inherent risk involved, police continue to catch people when they conduct the stings.

When there are multiple arrests in Clay County Sex Crimes Cases such as these, the sentencing scale is set early in the proceeding. This is not like a Clay County Drug Crimes sweep where prosecutors may be using testimony from one person against another to try to get information on the source of the drugs. All of these men were caught independent of one another, so their testimony is not important to cases other than their own. The result of each case was not published in the newspaper report, but typically in these cases, defendants who enter a plea and accept guilt in a case receive a lighter sentence than those who take a case to trial.

Regardless of the prison sentence, all of the men will have to register as sex offenders following their release from prison. As registered sex offenders, they will be required to check in with police at least twice a year and within 48 hours of moving residences. Once they move, surrounding neighbors will be notified with the sex offender’s name, address and charge he pleaded guilty to or was convicted of. Clay County Sex Crimes have lasting implications, and our Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney will make sure you or your loved one understands all of the implications and can make a decision about whether or not to take the case to trial.

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

St. Johns County police raided a St. Johns County home this month after the residents were accused of manufacturing methamphetamines in the home. Detectives found meth, many materials used to make the drug, and venting system used to route the toxic fumes from making the drug outside of the home, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police also removed two small children from the home because of the dangerous fumes that are emitted when producing the drug, the newspaper reported. Two of the people charged live in the home, the newspaper reported. They are facing a several felonies, including child neglect, manufacturing methamphetamines, possession of methamphetamines and manufacturing methamphetamines in the presence of a minor. The final listed charge, manufacturing methamphetamine in a structure where a minor is present, is by far the most serious. It is a first-degree felony with a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison. The charge also carries a minimum mandatory sentence of five years in prison.

Among the other charges in this St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case, child neglect and possession of methamphetamines are both third-degree felonies with a penalty of up to five years in state prison and manufacturing methamphetamines is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison. A third person who did not live in the home is also facing charges, but not for child neglect or the first-degree felony regarding children in the home. Charges and potential penalties in St. Johns County Drug Crimes Cases vary dramatically based on the type of drug involved. Methamphetamines charges carry serious penalties, based primarily on the harm that can be done to people near where the drug is being produced. For example, meth labs are often found in apartment complexes or hotels – places where there are several other people or families separated only by a wall. In those St. Johns County Drug Crimes Cases, authorities will evacuate nearby rooms or apartments until the areas can be decontaminated. The toxic element and the two small children will be difficult to overcome in this St. Johns County Drug Crimes Case.

Even without the manufacturing element, charges involving methamphetamines carry far more severe penalties than those for a drug such as marijuana. There are various thresholds for charges based on the amount of a drug a person has in his or her possession. Just 14 grams of methamphetamine can be a first-degree felony for drug trafficking, while the same amount of marijuana is a misdemeanor. Our St. Johns County Drug Crimes Attorney is well-versed in the penalties and charges that vary based on the type of drug charge you or your loved one is facing. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney will fully investigate your case and explain the consequences and charges so you or your loved one 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 Drug Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

A long-running Jacksonville aggravated battery case that drew national media attention because of a 20-year minimum mandatory sentence ended last month with a plea deal. The defendant pleaded guilty to three counts of aggravated battery for firing what she says was a warning shot into the ceiling because she was afraid of her estranged husband, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police said there were two children nearby, which led to the three charges, the newspaper reported. The woman was facing 60 years in prison, but the agreement reached last month calls for her to do three years in prison. Because of time served over the delays and other turns in this case, she will be released in January.

This deal ends a highly-publicized case that drew local and national discussion about warning shots and minimum mandatory sentences. The defendant was initially found guilty of all three counts by a jury in 2011. Because of Florida’s 10-20-Life law, and the fact the defendant fired a weapon, a minimum mandatory sentence of 20 years applied and the judge had no discretion in the sentence. The conviction was overturned on a technicality and the case came back to Jacksonville. But one major element had changed. Interpretation of the 10-20-Life and minimum mandatory laws had since changed. Prevailing legal opinion now is that each charge carries a minimum mandatory 20-year sentence. So instead of 20 years, the defendant, now 34, was looking at 60 years in state prison if convicted again.

The three-year sentence is a similar plea deal to what the defendant initially rejected right before her 2011 trial, the newspaper reported. Under Florida’s 10-20-Life law, if someone pulls a gun during the commission of a felony, there is a minimum mandatory 10-year prison sentence that can apply. If a firearm is discharged, the sentence is bumped up to 20 years. If someone is shot, the minimum mandatory is life. Now, prosecutors ultimately have the discretion to waive those penalties, as they eventually did in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case. But once the case goes to trial, the sentencing decision is out of everyone’s hands – even the judge’s. The threat of minimum mandatory sentences is often used in bargaining by the state to get people to plead guilty to charges and take shorter prison sentences, rather than face a mandatory 60-year sentence, or whatever the charge may be. Minimum mandatory sentences are definitely a card the state holds and our Jacksonville Gun Crimes Attorney can explain all of the details and consequences so you or your loved one can make an informed decision about a pending 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 Gun Crimes Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

St. Johns County police have located the vehicle they think was involved in a hit-and-run crash that killed a cyclist last month. Police said they received a tip that the vehicle was under a tarp at a home in St. Johns County, according to a report on News4Jax.com. Police are not releasing the type of vehicle, but did say initial investigations make them confident this vehicle was involved, the television station reported. The case began when a 26-year-old man was found dead in a local road near a bicycle that looked like it was hit by a car, the television station reported.

No arrests have been made in this St. Johns County Traffic Case. The television station reported that police interviewed people at the home where the vehicle was found, but did not file any immediate charges. Any criminal charges would be for the driver, which means police need to be sure they have the right person who was driving the car at the time of the accident. When charges are issued, the most serious will likely be leaving the scene of an accident causing death. If a driver is involved in a crash where someone is seriously injured, the driver is required by law to stop the vehicle, attempt to render aid, call 911 for help and stay at the scene of the accident until authorities arrive. None of those appears to have happened in this St. Johns County Felony Case. The charge of leaving the scene of an accident causing death is a first-degree felony with a maximum penalty of 30 years in state prison. The charge also carries a minimum mandatory sentence of four years in state prison. Minimum mandatory sentences are important for people to understand in plea negotiations because every day of the sentence must be served. In most St. Johns County Felony Cases, defendants serve 85 percent of their sentence if they stay out of trouble in jail or prison. So a 10-year-sentence, for example, is more like 8-1/2 years.

A similar charge – including the minimum mandatory sentence – would apply if the driver was under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the crash. That charge becomes difficult to prove if the driver is not located immediately after the crash. Drivers has serious responsibilities to stop when an accident occurs and people who have no previous criminal record can face lengthy prison sentences for not following the traffic rules. Our St. Johns County Felony attorney has represented people facing all types of criminal charges and will fully investigate your case, review your options and provide you with information to 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 Felony Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.