Recently in Police Category

Prosecutors say not enough evidence to charge off-duty Jacksonville police officer in parking space argument

April 18, 2014

A Jacksonville man said an off-duty police officer pulled a gun on him during an argument about a parking spot, but prosecutors said there was not enough evidence to charge the officer with a crime. The dispute began when a 20-year-old man got out of a car to stand in a parking spot and hold it for his pregnant fiancé and her family on a busy Sunday afternoon, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Another car, driven by an off-duty police officer, backed into the space and into the man, who then slammed on the trunk of the car, the newspaper reported.

The two men exchanged words, and the alleged victim said the officer pulled out a gun, causing the man to back off, the newspaper reported. The officer said he did not pull a gun, but that the gun was on his backpack and he put it inside the backpack before walking out of the car, the newspaper reported. The officer also said he saw a man walk out of the parking space before he backed in and did not hit the man with his vehicle.
In Jacksonville Gun Crimes cases like this, it can be very difficult for the state when the only evidence comes from the people involved. There are two specific sides to the story and only these two men know what really happened. The state typically likes to have other evidence before it files a case - some sort of independent witness or, even more preferable, surveillance video from a nearby store or something where it can be shown and jurors can see for themselves what occurred. This is a common problem in Jacksonville Sex Crimes Cases, which has serious penalties, as gun crimes do.

For example, if the officer was going to be charged in this Jacksonville Gun Crimes Case, it would likely be for aggravated assault with a firearm. The charge is a felony and, if the state chooses to file the minimum mandatory portion of the charges, has a minimum mandatory sentence of three years in state prison. Even though many would jump to the conclusion that the state is protecting a police officer by not filing this case, prosecutors should be very careful when filing these serious Jacksonville Gun Crimes charges. There are two sides to every story, and there needs to be more than just the words of one person before filing charges that could significantly alter someone's life - especially when the crime was a threat and no one was injured.

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.

St. Johns County police sergeant arrested after being accused of lying on time sheets

April 12, 2014

A St. Johns County police sergeant was fired and arrested, charged with a felony after his supervisors say he was stealing money by claiming to be in two places at the same time. The sergeant was arrested after an internal investigation found he was charging for working for the sheriff's office and for an off-duty job on the same days, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. He was charged with organizing a scheme to defraud of less than $20,000 and with two counts of filing false documents as a public official. All three charges are third-degree felonies in this St. Johns County Theft Case with maximum penalties of five years in state prison on each count. It's unlikely in a case like this, but the now former sergeant could be facing up to 15 years in prison if the judge chose to run the sentences consecutively.

The sergeant had been with the department for 16 years, the newspaper reported. He was accused of patrolling a neighborhood on-duty and also being paid for patrolling at the same time in an off-duty capacity, the newspaper reported. An audit of time sheets confirmed what police called a "classic case of double-dipping," in this St. Johns County Theft Case, the newspaper reported. Not only would the officer be putting his career and his retirement on the line - public officials in Florida convicted of felonies in connection with their employment can have their pension revoked - the sheriff's office could have some problems with potential cases where this officer is a witness.

If a witness in a trial has even been convicted of a crime of dishonestly, you can bet that a St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney will bring it up at trial. Those crimes include fraud, theft, filing false documents - pretty much any crime involved with lying or stealing. If a witness has, it seriously damages his or her credibility. That rings even more true if that witness is a former police officer fired for a crime of dishonesty. Chances are, the state would not being calling him as a witness anymore, but you can bet a St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney would do so if that former sergeant was in any way, shape or form associated with a case. When police officers are involved in crimes, it does more than just alter their lives. It causes prosecutors and defense attorneys to take a close look at those cases and perhaps reevaluate strategy in terms of pursing or fighting the charges. An experienced St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly examine all of the facts or your case, and the witnesses who will be used against you, and use everything at their disposal to defend 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 St. Johns County Theft Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville police officer arrested in Clay County on domestic assault charges

March 24, 2014

A Jacksonville police officer faces three misdemeanor charges, after being accused of assaulting his wife and her father during an argument this month. Clay County police were called to his home after the officer was allegedly threatening his wife and fighting with his father-in-law, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. He is charged with two counts of domestic assault, a second-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in county jail and a $500 fine. He is also charged with resisting an officer without violence, a first-degree misdemeanor with a maximum penalty of a year in the county jail and a $1,000 fine.

The actual charges do not reflect the headlines and the takeaway from the media coverage on the Clay County arrest. In the police report, the officer's wife claims he has pointed a gun at her in the past, and those details dominate the story. But he is not charged with any crime that involves a firearm. If he was, that would be a felony and he'd be looking at the potential of serving time in state prison. But the state would have difficulty trying to prove a case that the wife was threatened with a gun, but didn't call police. Police did take the officer's gun into evidence, the newspaper reported, so technically there could be the possibility of upgrading the charges in this Clay County Domestic Violence Case, though that charge appears to be more difficult to prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Either way, the arrest itself in this Clay County Domestic Assault Case will likely result in at least a placement on desk duty while the case resolves itself and could lead to a suspension or even termination.

Though they are often used interchangeably, there is a difference between assault and battery in Clay County Domestic Assault Cases. An assault is threatening someone - yelling at the person, raising a fist - anything that would indicate there is a serious possibility of violence. Battery is actual physical contact. So in this Clay County Domestic Assault case, the officer is accused of charging at his wife and then throwing punches at his father-in-law once the father-in-law stepped in and brought him to the ground, according to the newspaper report. But the punches never connected, hence the assault charges instead of battery. Domestic battery is a first-degree misdemeanor, like the resisting charge, so it would have opened the officer up to more time in the county jail and a larger fine, but would remain a misdemeanor. Clay County Domestic Violence Cases can be difficult for the state, especially because in some instances the alleged victims end up not wanting to cooperate with police once the dust has settled. The charges, though, are very serious and our Clay County Domestic Violence Attorney can fully investigate the case against you or your loved one to help you determine the best course of action 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 Clay County Domestic Assault Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville police officer arrested, accused of stealing supplement from gym

A Jacksonville police officer is now facing charges himself after detectives say he stole a $49 supplement from a local gym. Jacksonville Sheriff's Office officials announced the arrest last month, saying the officer was removed from the street while the investigation was being conducted, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Surveillance video from the gym allegedly shows the officer with a bottle in his hand, ducking behind the counter and then coming back into view with nothing in his hand, the newspaper reported. The officer says he told the clerk to put the cream supplement on his account and was not trying to steal anything, the newspaper reported.

The officer in this Jacksonville Theft Case will likely be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor charge of petit theft, punishable by up to 60 days in the county jail and a $500 fine. The severity of the charge and possible punishment Jacksonville Theft Cases is determined by the value of the property the person is accused of stealing. In this Jacksonville Theft Case, the officer would be facing the least serious charge possible. People accused of theft of less than $100 can be charged with a second-degree misdemeanor. When the value is between $100 and $300, the charge is a first-degree misdemeanor and the penalty goes up to a maximum of one year in the county jail and a $1,000 fine.

The $300 threshold is really the key in Jacksonville Theft Cases. Once the value tops $300, the charge becomes a felony. Grand Theft in Jacksonville is a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in state prison. There are other caveats that can increase the penalty, including if the property is taken from an emergency vehicle, but the main number to know is $300. Charges in Jacksonville Theft Cases can also increase based on the person's criminal record. If someone has one petit theft conviction on his or her record, the charge is automatically a first-degree misdemeanor - even if the property in the Jacksonville Theft Case is worth less than $100. And if the person has two or more convictions, the case becomes a felony - again, regardless of the amount. In many Jacksonville Theft Cases, first-time offenders may be offered a diversionary program, where if they meet certain conditions and pay back the value of the property, the charges may be dropped. Our Jacksonville Theft Attorney can help negotiate a disposition that is hopefully favorable, and something you or your loved one can live with, complete and move on from.

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

Judge allows resisting arrest case at Jacksonville International Airport to move forward

October 9, 2013

Jacksonville Misdemeanor charges against an Illinois man arrested during a bomb threat and evacuation at Jacksonville International Airport will go forward, a judge ruled this month. Manuel Rivera is charged with resisting an officer without violence after police said he was acting suspiciously when the airport was emptied last week when another man told agents at a security checkpoint that he had a bomb, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. There was speculation from the outset that Rivera and the alleged attempted bomber were connected, but police have clarified the two men did not know each other and the man who said he had a bomb was acting alone, the newspaper reported.

As police tried to clear the area near the airport, an officer saw Rivera carrying a bag in a parking garage and ordered him to stop, the newspaper reported. Rivera dropped the bag and pulled away. Police took the bag and checked for explosives and other contraband, but did not find any, the newspaper reported. Rivera was arrested for resisting an officer without violence, a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by up to one year in the county jail. Typically, a resisting arrest charge comes when someone is running from police, or gives officers a hard time when he or she is being questioned by authorities. In many Jacksonville Misdemeanor Cases, the resisting charge is on top of other charges, For example, a person may turn and run when police show up a party. When police eventually catch the person, officers find marijuana in his or her pocket. Then, the defendant could be charged with resisting arrest and marijuana possession. It's more uncommon to see resisting arrest as the sole charge, but it does happen in Jacksonville Misdemeanor Crimes Cases.

There are two types of resisting charges. There's resisting without violence, as Rivera is charged, and also resisting with violence. When violence is involved, the charge becomes a third-degree felony in Duval County punishable by up to five years in state prison. In this situation at the airport, police were in the heat of a potentially dangerous situation and had to take everyone and everything seriously. The public may not argue with them arresting people on Jacksonville Misdemeanor Crimes to eliminate the threat and sorting it out later. Well, later is now here. There's a fine line between resisting arrest and not following the instructions of an officer that doesn't have a legal basis for stopping you. Now that the airport threat has been eliminated and police know Rivera was not involved, it will be interesting to see how the case plays out.

Our Jacksonville Misdemeanor Attorney has represented thousands of people charged with misdemeanors and, just because there isn't significant prison time on the horizon, doesn't mean the charge isn't serious for the defendant. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney takes every single case seriously and will help you work through the case to get back to your 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 Jacksonville Misdemeanor 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.

Bond reduced for Jacksonville lawyer, police union president charged in alleged gambling ring

March 18, 2013

A well-known Jacksonville police union president and the alleged mastermind of a $300 million gambling racket are among several suspects who had bond reduced and posted enough money to get out of jail while awaiting trial. The case, which involves gambling at internet cafes where the proceeds were purported to be going to a veterans' charity, rocked the state last week and even led to the resignation of the lieutenant governor, who was questioned by the FBI about the consulting work she did for the charity, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union.

The Jacksonville ties to this Theft Case are abundant: local Fraternal Order of Police President Nelson Cuba and his second-in-command are accused of laundering money and racketeering; Jacksonville attorney Kelly Mathis is accused of being the mastermind in the scheme and Jerry Bass, commander of the Allied Veterans of the World, was also arrested, the newspaper reported. All face multiple fraud, racketeering and gambling charges - all felonies in Florida. They were arrested while in South Florida for a conference and spent three nights in jail while the court sorted out the conditions upon which they could be released.

Defense attorneys in the case were upset about the way the bond hearings were handled, the newspaper reported. Once a person is arrested in Florida, they are entitled to a bond hearing within 24 hours of being arrested. In this case, the hearing was continued without a decision until Thursday, despite the fact the men were arrested Tuesday, the newspaper reported. Once they were set, criminal defense attorneys then said they were too high -- $1 million for Mathis and $500,000 for Cuba. In most cases, the suspects are able to use a bondsman who will post the bond if the suspect pays 10 percent - so that would have been $100,000 for Mathis and $50,000 for Cuba.

But, as in many Jacksonville Theft Cases like this, the court holds what is called a Nebbia Hearing to determine if the person has enough legitimate funds to post the bail. This is done to prevent people from using stolen or ill-gotten funds to get released from jail. The court ultimately sliced the bonds in half for both men and determined they had access to legitimate funds that could be used for the bail. Both men were released on Friday, the newspaper reported. Both had conditions placed on them, including that they surrender their passport and not leave the state - both of which are common in criminal cases. The ability to bond out, especially in this case, could be significant for the suspects. More than 50 people have been arrested in this multi-state investigation and an eventual trial could be a couple of years off. In some cases, defendants end up waiting behind bars for two or three years before they are able to go 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 Duval County Theft Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville police officer deemed at fault for traffic crash that injured three people

March 13, 2013

A Jacksonville police officer will appear before an internal police review board to face possible discipline for running a stop sign and causing an accident that injured three people. The officer also suffered minor injuries, but was not hospitalized following the crash last week, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The injuries to the three people were not thought to be life-threatening, the newspaper reported. The officer was in his patrol car and on-duty, but not responding to a call at the time, and would be considered at-fault for running the stop sign, according to the newspaper report. Not only will the officer face work-related discipline, he or she could also be exposed to a traffic ticket for running the stop sign, perhaps even a careless or reckless driving ticket in Jacksonville.

Traffic violations can quickly get very costly and drive up other costs, including auto insurance rates. And by simply paying the ticket and moving on from a Jacksonville Traffic Case, a person is admitting guilt and accepting the penalties. Just a few tickets in a short period of time can result in a person having their license suspended and driving privileges taken away. Duval County Traffic violations are scored on a point system, depending on the ticket that is issued. Speeding tickets have a wide range of points, based on how far over the speed limit the ticket is written for. A reckless driving ticket will assess you four points, while leaving the scene of an accident can cost a driver six points. As the points accumulate, they can add up to big trouble, including:

12 points in a year: 30-day license suspension
18 points in 18 months: 3-month suspension
24 points in three years: 1-year suspension

When penalties ratchet up as quickly as they do in traffic cases, saving yourself a few points here and there can be the difference in keeping your license or having it suspended. Just like in a Jacksonville Criminal Defense case, having a Jacksonville Traffic Attorney can in some cases help minimize some of the potential damage to your driving record and your bank account. In a city as large and spread out as Jacksonville, the inability to drive can affect one's ability to make it to and from work, which can then really hit someone's finances. In some cases, people will end up driving anyway on a suspended license, which will escalate problems even further if the driver is caught. Driving when your license has been suspended or revoked is a criminal charge, which then exposes people to time in the county jail.

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

Jacksonville police officer charged with theft for allegedly taking a purse she was thought was lost

February 19, 2013

An officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office was charged with theft in Duval County last week after she allegedly stole a purse that she thought was brought to a police substation after someone found it in the parking lot. But, the purse was really brought by an FBI agent as a decoy after police were given a tip that Cheryl Cummings was stealing items from the substation, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Cummings was then allegedly seen on surveillance video taking the purse to her car, where it was for several days before the purse disappeared, the newspaper reported.

She was charged with Jacksonville petit theft, a second-degree misdemeanor in Florida punishable by up to 60 days in jail, six months of probation and a $500 fine. She has been a police officer for more than 15 years and has been on light duty working at this substation on Jacksonville's Westside for medical reasons, the newspaper reported. After Cummings was contacted about this Jacksonville theft investigation, she allegedly brought in a missing wallet and told an internal investigator she had taken it home and was trying to find the owner.

While the investigation continues, Cummings will be assigned to other duties and stripped of her police powers, the newspaper reported. In terms of strictly legal issues, Cummings' crimes are not major and it is rare for someone to be jailed their first time arrested for petit theft in Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties. But this is a case where Cummings' career could play in role in sentencing and could hurt her. Police officers are held to a higher standard when it comes to breaking the law - right or wrong, they are. And while she was never charged or disciplined, Cummings was also investigated on a theft charge in 2004 involving taking money for fixing someone's credit report, the newspaper reported. That could play a role as her employment status is being sorted out.

Not having it on her record, though, is huge - especially in a Jacksonville Theft Case. Theft cases are one of the few where a case can be escalated to a felony based on a person's record. Normally, thefts of less than $300 are misdemeanors, but if the value of the property is more than $300, the charge is a third-degree felony - punishable by up to five years in state prison. However, that all changes if someone already has two theft convictions or pleas on their record. Then, the state can file the crime as a felony - regardless of how much money the property is worth. In Cummings' case, it is possible the state could try to charge her with a crime for the wallet she brought in, and there may be other cases that surface. Once police and internal investigators dig into a Jacksonville Theft Case like this, in many instances they'll find a pattern or behavior that's been ongoing for some time.

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

Former Jacksonville police officer pleads no contest to soliciting a prostitute on duty

December 31, 2012

A disgraced former Jacksonville police officer pleaded no contest last week to the Jacksonville criminal charge of soliciting a prostitute while on duty and in uniform earlier this year. As part of his sentence, David Sumlin was put on Duval County probation for four months and was ordered to complete 100 hours of community service, according to a report on First Coast News. The plea came just one month after he was arrested in Northeast Florida on two counts of soliciting for prostitution, a relatively short turn-around for a criminal case. Both charges are second-degree misdemeanors punishable by up to 60 days in jail. As part of the agreement last week, the state dropped one count and Sumlin pleaded no contest to the second.

A no contest plea means that the defendant is choosing not to fight the charges, but is technically not pleading guilty. In the end, it doesn't really matter because the defendant is adjudicated guilty so all of the same penalties apply and as they would if he pleaded guilty in this Jacksonville misdemeanor crimes case.

Police had been tipped off that Sumlin had been soliciting prostitutes while he was on duty and officers set up a sting with a decoy prostitute to catch Sumlin in the act, the television station reported. Conservations with the confidential informant were recorded, so any evidence would likely be played in court if Sumlin opted to take the case all the way to trial. Sumlin, an eight-year veteran of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, resigned from his position shortly after being arrested in November. In terms of punishment and time behind bars, Sumlin's crime is not overly serious, as evidenced by the fact that the maximum punishment is only two months in jail for each count. But, it terms of longer-term consequences, Sumlin will be paying for this crime for some time. He has already lost his job and will likely have a tough time finding another position in law enforcement.

In most misdemeanor cases in Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties, a defendant is sentenced to some form of Florida probation and will generally have to complete community service. The sentences are set up to provide some sort of punishment and incentive not to commit a similar crime, but to also allow people to recover and continue productive lives after making a mistake. But if a person fails to meet the conditions of their probation, they are then opening themselves up to a Jacksonville Probation Violation and can be sentenced to maximum time they would have faced. People can move on after a misdemeanor if they complete probation, but defendants must work to get there.

Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney has represented thousands of clients charged with misdemeanors. Many have negotiated deals with the state for community service and probation, completing their sentence and moving on with their lives. Others have been exonerated completely. Our Jacksonville misdemeanor crimes attorney will thoroughly investigate your case and advise you of your 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 Duval County Misdemeanor Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

State charges felonies in Jacksonville graffiti, vandalism ring

December 26, 2012

Police in Duval County wrapped up an eight-month investigation and are pursuing Jacksonville felony charges against at least five men charged with spray painting buildings and railroad cars near a historic neighborhood. Seventy charges have been filed against 11 different people, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Fives arrests have been made since October, the newspaper reported. One man is charged with more than 20 felonies, including Jacksonville burglary, criminal mischief causing more than $1,000 worth of damage and interfering with a railroad train. All charges are third-degree felonies, punishable by up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine. That means one person alone is facing more than 100 years in prison and up to $100,000 in fines for spray-painting and damaging property.

While decades behind bars for these crimes are pretty unlikely in this case, police don't conduct eight-month investigations to see people get slapped on the wrist. Authorities must believe there is a serious graffiti and vandalism issue in Jacksonville and they'll be looking to these cases to send a message that significant penalties can be levied for these crimes. This is likely a case where the penalties could be more monetary in terms of paying back the businesses and property owners for the damage that was caused, assuming it can be proven, as opposed to stacking years of prison time on the defendants in this case.

Police told the newspaper it costs railroad companies about $3,000 to paint and clean up a rail car once it has been hit by graffiti. A string of vandalisms in Jacksonville's Riverside neighborhood last summer caused about $30,000 worth of damage and local business owners have been fighting back by painting over the graffiti quickly, the newspaper reported. But painting over the vandalism takes time and money -- expenses business owners have to come out of their own pocket for, the newspaper reported.

Restitution for the property owners will likely be a key point in any plea negotiations, if they are taking place. The graffiti is often publicized on local websites and the artists "tag" their work with their code names, essentially putting a signature on their crimes. It gives them credit among the subculture of graffiti "artists," but it doesn't appear to leave much room for a defense if the law comes calling, as it has in this case. Graffiti and vandalism seem like minor charges, Jacksonville misdemeanors that teen-agers pick up while doing things teen-agers eventually come to regret. But these charges are felonies and with burglary charges added, likely for breaking into a railcar to paint it, the charges are serious and have some serious consequences attached.

If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Duval, Clay or Nassau County, call The Mussallem Law Firm at (904) 365-5200 for a Free Consultation. Our Duval County Misdemeanor Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville police officer resigns after he's charged with soliciting a prostitute while on duty

November 26, 2012

A veteran Jacksonville police officer resigned last week after he was arrested on two counts of soliciting for prostitution in Duval County. David Sumlin, an eight-year veteran of the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, was charged last week with two counts of soliciting for prostitution. The charge is a second-degree Jacksonville misdemeanor and punishable by up to 60 days in jail, six months of probation and a $500 fine. Sumlin was on-duty, in uniform and in a patrol car when the alleged crimes occurred, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The police department learned of Sumlin's behavior two months ago and spoke with a known prostitute who said she had negotiations with Sumlin about having sex with him, according to the newspaper report. Police then used her as a decoy on two separate occasions, the second last week in which Sumlin agreed to pay $20 for sex, the newspaper reported.

Sumlin, 49, resigned from the sheriff's office the next day and his law enforcement career is all but over. In cases like this with Jacksonville misdemeanor charges, the punishment from the judicial system tends to dwarf the other penalties Sumlin faces, both professionally and personally. An Duval County arrest like this, especially in his patrol car, is difficult to live down. But, from the perspective of a Duval County Misdemeanor Crimes Attorney, there could be a significant benefit to fighting the charges and making sure the state can prove its case.

An Experienced Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney would at least have a listen to the recordings police made in the case which document the conversation between Sumlin and the woman he thought was a prostitute. If Sumlin does agree to pay her $20 for some sort of sex act, then the case may be a tough one for Sumlin, but it would be worth hearing who was driving that conversation. Soliciting for prostitution cases can be very difficult for the state to prove, unless actual money changes hands as a part of the deal. Police regularly conduct undercover stings where they have either a male posing as someone looking for a prostitute or a female officer undercover as a prostitute. The decoy operation never gets to the point where a sex act takes place, but in some cases there can be doubt as to what constitutes an actual agreement. Another factor in these types of Jacksonville criminal cases is the state is likely to make an offer that does not include any jail time, unless a defendant has a lengthy criminal record. And most of the men involved just want the case over with sooner rather than later, so they'll plead guilty, avoid jail time and try to move on with their lives. Depending on their chosen profession, it might not be that easy.

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 Sex Crime Lawyer, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Unarmed man killed after being shot six times by Jacksonville police officer in routine traffic stop

Davinian Williams, an unarmed man, was shot and killed by a Jacksonville Sheriff's Officer during a routine traffic stop in the Arlington area of Jacksonville, according to a report on News4Jax. The officer fired seven shots at Williams, six of which hit their target. Williams was pulled over for what the officer described as erratic driving, which is a common justification police officers give to stop a vehicle. The area was known for drug trafficking, another common justification. Williams was described by police as a "career criminal" due to his long Jacksonville arrest history. Despite all these factors, he had no weapon on him or in his vehicle and showed no aggression towards the officer. The officer claims he ordered Williams to stop "fidgeting" and, when he failed to comply, opened fire. Powder cocaine and crack cocaine were found in Williams' socks, likely the reason he was "fidgeting."

While the officer has been placed on paid administrative leave while the shooting is being investigated, likely nothing will come of the killing on the officer's end. Police officers are given extreme deference in their decision making and they only have to be in fear for their safety to exercise deadly force. They do not have to see a weapon of any kind. Their decision to use force only hinges upon fear. Looking at the factors surrounding the shooting, when the officer pulled Williams over, the first thing the officer probably did was run the tags on his vehicle. From this information he would find out to whom the vehicle is registered and could then run a background check. Before the officer even approached the vehicle, he potentially knew the owner's Jacksonville criminal history. Police often use a victim's prior arrest record to establishing the "fear" necessary to justify a homicide by an officer, and in some cases rightly so. You must not forget that police officers are still human, and when pulling someone over in a high crime area, and with the knowledge that the person they are about to confront has a criminal record, they are likely already on edge.

So what is the takeaway from a story like this? The officer was a three year veteran of JSO, not a very long time as a cop. Williams was seen "fidgeting" in the car. Was he going for a gun, hiding crack, or just nervous? It doesn't matter, because now he is dead. All the officer had to establish was that he thought Williams was going for a weapon, and he is now justified to use force. And cops shoot to kill. Of the seven shots fired, six hit Williams. If you are ever pulled over, regardless of your criminal history, but especially if you have a record, always comply with the officer's orders. If you have nothing to hide, then nothing should come of it. And even if you are breaking the law, as Williams was by possessing illicit drugs, no arrest is worth your life. The officer cannot just search your car without a reason. Officers will often cite the odor of marijuana in the car as a reason to search a vehicle. If a Jacksonville police officer asks if he or she can search your car, you are allowed, under our Constitution, to say "no".

If you or a loved one ever gets into a situation like this, comply with the officer, and call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County Criminal Lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.


State Attorney drops DUI charges against former Jacksonville police officer

April 25, 2012

The state has dropped DUI charges against a former Jacksonville police officer, now that blood tests show he was not impaired at the time of the crash. Michael Rolison's career with JSO is still likely over though. He had 12 years with the agency but resigned the day after the crash, telling News4Jax he was given the option of resigning or being fired. Employers don't always have to be lined up with the courts when it comes to employee arrests in Jacksonville. Police agencies are particularly sensitive in that regard - especially when an officer in arrested for DUI in his patrol car, wearing his police uniform. Rolison was on his way home from work about 2 a.m. last November when his car crossed the center line on a St. Johns County road and crashed into another vehicle, according to the television news report.

As the Florida Highway Patrol investigated the crash, the trooper smelled alcohol on Rolison, and found a bottle cap in the car that matched a beer bottle found outside the car near the crash, News4Jax reported. Those factors led police to start a DUI investigation. Normally, field sobriety exercises would be next up. In this case, they could not be performed. Both Rolison and the 18-year-old whose car he hit were hospitalized following the crash. At the hospital, Rolison initially refused to submit to a blood test, but then decided to after meeting with internal investigators from the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, according to the news report. The blood sample was submitted to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and came back with no evidence of drugs or alcohol in Rolison's system. The results came back months ago, but Rolison's criminal defense attorney was waiting on records from the hospital he could then give to the state to tie everything together legally, the television station reported.

Last week, the state then dropped the charges of DUI and DUI causing property damage, citing a lack of evidence, according to the news report. For Rolison, the damage is likely done. He admits to News4Jax that he violated department policy by having a beer in his uniform after his shift. His criminal record is now clear. But what about his reputation if he tries to find another law enforcement job? That remains to be seen. The first step in a situation like this is to find an experienced Florida criminal defense lawyer that will delve into your case and look for ways to have the charges reduced or dropped. DUI charges are often knocked down, typically because of a technical issue - an error in the way the defendant was pulled over, a lack of reasonable suspicion before asking for field sobriety tests, etc. In Rolison's case, there's no technicality. There's just no evidence.

Our Jacksonville DUI attorney has represented hundreds of DUI suspects and is experienced in the intricate procedures police must follow in these cases. If you or a loved one needs a criminal defense attorney in Jacksonville or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Duval County DUI lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Sheriff's deputy fired after sexual battery arrest in Clay County

March 12, 2012

A Clay County sheriff's deputy was fired last week, immediately after his arrest on a rape charge. A woman told police about the alleged assault that happened March 8. Two days later, Deputy Jacob Middleton, 26, was arrested and fired, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Very few details on the case were released, though the woman said she did know Middleton prior to the incident and that she went to his apartment that evening. Middleton was released from jail on a $50,000 bond, the newspaper reported.

Organizations like the sheriff's office have little tolerance for any arrests - especially a sex crime and especially for a rookie cop still in his probationary period. Middleton had been with the department since September. Clay detectives are also the ones investigating the case, so they know as much about what actually happened as anyone - excluding Middleton and the alleged victim. The quick firing could mean they have a good idea Middleton is guilty and can be convicted. Or it could mean he's not worth the bad headlines for a few months while the case plays out. One certainty is sexual assault charges can be difficult for the state to prove, depending on how much physical evidence is available. In many cases there will be evidence of sexual contact, but one side will be saying it was consensual sex, while the other says it was rape. Then, it's her word against his.

Depending on the severity of the charge the state ultimately files, Middleton could be looking at life in prison. That's unlikely, since he's been released on a $50,000 bond - but a significant prison sentence is indeed a possibility. Moreover, any plea or conviction would brand him as a sexual offender and Middleton would have to register and have his picture broadcast whenever he moves his residence.

Our Clay County sex crimes attorney has represented dozens of men accused of sexual assault. The charges are life-altering and require an experienced criminal defense attorney who won't be afraid to ask the tough questions and examine every detail of the case to present to a jury.

If you or a loved one needs a sex crimes attorney in Orange Park or the surrounding area, call The Mussallem Law Firm, PA at (904) 365-5200 for a free consultation. Our Clay County criminal lawyer is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.