Recently in Violent Crimes in Jacksonville Category

Appeals Court throws sentence in attempted first-degree murder in Clay County shooting, says man should be sentenced again

January 2, 2015

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.

Man killed during Jacksonville fight; defendant charged with manslaughter

December 29, 2014

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.

Man charged with killing his parents agrees to plea deal, state takes death penalty off the table

December 23, 2014

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.

Woman arrested, accused of intentionally driving her car into a blood donation center

November 7, 2014

Police arrested a woman for driving her car into a blood donation center, a crash that shut the business down and sent nine people to local hospitals with injuries. None of the injuries were life-threatening, and the driver was among those taken for treatment, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The woman is accused of pulling up toward the entrance, pausing, and then driving through the entrance and another 40 feet into the crowded business, the newspaper reported. The car knocked over counters and other structures in the building and part of the roof collapsed, the newspaper reported.

The driver was charged with aggravated battery with a deadly weapon and criminal mischief causing more than $1,000 worth of damages to a business. The aggravated battery charge is a second-degree felony with a maximum penalty of 15 years in state prison, while the criminal mischief charge is a third-degree felony that carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. Aggravated battery with a weapon is more commonly charged when someone uses a firearm or a baseball bat, something that is more targeted or used directly at one person. But a vehicle can be used as a weapon and this charge would qualify - assuming the act was intentional. Witness speculated that the woman had argued with the staff about being told she could not donate plasma for money, but all of those details would need to surface through the investigative and discovery process as the case moved forward.

One element of this Jacksonville Aggravated Battery Case that could change is the number of charges the driver is facing. Right now, she is facing one count of aggravated battery. In many Jacksonville Violent Crimes Cases, the state will charge people with one count for each of the people who are injured in the incident. In this Jacksonville Aggravated Battery Case, that could mean eight charges, bringing her prison time exposure on those charges from 15 years up to 120 years. Would the state be likely to seek several decades in prison for the defendant in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case? Probably not. But this would be an example of how the state could use additional charges as leverage to help speed up the case or encourage the defendant to plead guilty and avoid taking the case to trial with the whole string of charges. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney has represented hundreds of people charged with battery, some for simple fights and others involving weapons and serious prison time. Each case has its own set of facts and our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate the case against you or your loved one and fight for the best outcome in 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 Jacksonville Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Woman accused of trying to hire undercover Jacksonville police officer to kill her daughter-in-law

October 17, 2014

A 70-year-old Clay County woman is charged with two felonies after allegedly trying to hire a hit man to kill her daughter-in-law. Diana Costarakis is accused of meeting twice with the person she thought was a hitman, but was actually an undercover officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police said she paid the officer $500 one day and $1,000 the following day as a down payment, the newspaper reported. The rest of the $5,000 to have the woman killed could come from the jewelry she would be wearing at the time of her death, Costarakis is accused to telling the officer, the newspaper reported.

Costarakis is charged with criminal solicitation and criminal conspiracy in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case. Both charges are first-degree felonies in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case, punishable by up to 30 years in prison. In criminal solicitation and criminal conspiracy cases, the seriousness of the charge is based on the crime the person is soliciting or conspiring to commit. If the crime is a capital crime, such as murder, then soliciting and conspiracy charges are first-degree felonies. So Costarakis is looking at up to 60 years in prison if convicted and sentenced to the maximum penalty on each count. As a general rule, the solicitation felony degree is one level down from the crime the person is soliciting for. So if the base crime is an armed robbery, a first-degree felony, soliciting or conspiring to commit an armed robbery would be a second-degree felony, punishable by up to 15 years in prison. If the conspiracy is based on a third-degree felony, the solicitation or conspiracy charge would be a misdemeanor.

The key in a Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case like this is the state's ability to prove Costarakis was expressly paying to have the person killed. Police know that and, according to the newspaper report, asked her if the daughter should be killed. Costarakis is accused of saying, "If you don't do it, I will," the newspaper reported. On the surface, that doesn't bode well - and neither do the two cash payments to the officer. Defenses to conspiracy and solicitation in this Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case can be that the suspect was backing out of the plan and changed his or her mind. There is no evidence to that end that has been released so far, but that wouldn't be something police would voluntarily give up. It would, however, be subject to disclosure as the Jacksonville Violent Crimes Case moves forward. Jacksonville Violent Crimes Cases often appear to be open-and-shut cases when police wrap them up in a tidy bow and present them to the media. But when an experienced Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney starts examining the case and investigating the details and tactics used by the police, an entirely different picture can sometimes emerge.

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

State drops murder charge against 98-year-old St. Johns County woman found mentally incompetent

October 13, 2014

Prosecutors have finally dropped murder charges against a 98-year-old woman who was found mentally incompetent to stand trial over a year ago. In doing so, Amanda Stevenson now has access to her retirement benefits that had been suspended due to pending charges and those funds can be used for a private long-term care facility where she can live, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The back and forth in this St. Johns County Murder Case highlights the fact that a case doesn't just end once a person is found to be mentally incompetent to face the charges.

Stevenson was charged with second-degree murder in the 2011 shooting death of her nephew, with whom she had an ongoing dispute, the newspaper reported. A year later, Stevenson, who suffers from dementia, was found incompetent, but remained in jail while state agencies went back and forth as to who would be able to take care of her. In May, she was finally released from jail and placed in a mental health facility under the care of the state Department of Children and Families, the newspaper reported. In the motion dropping the charges, two doctors agreed that Stevenson was not going to regain mental competency, likely because of the stage of her dementia and her age, the newspaper reported. In many St. Johns County Murder Cases where mental competency is at issue, the person will be periodically evaluated to determine if competency can be regained - possibly through counseling or medication. The murder charge was punishable by up to life in prison. At 98, practically any sentence amounts to life in prison in this St. Johns County Murder Case.

But, as all of the legal wrangling was working itself out, her retirement benefits were frozen until the charges were formally dropped, the newspaper reported. Different pension and retirement plans operate differently. In terms of social security, payments are only supposed to be suspended when a person is convicted of a felony, not simply charged. But many state plans, for retired teachers or other state workers for example, and disability payments can be suspended once a person is jailed on charges. Part of the argument is that state and federal disability benefits are used to pay for living expenses and, if the person is incarcerated, the state is paying to take care of the person - regardless of whether or not the person has been convicted. Mental competency can be a serious issue, especially in St. Johns County Murder Cases, and the courts have complicated standards as to when a person is mentally able to stand trial - and when he or she is not. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney can have your loved one evaluated by a mental health professional and present those findings to the court, if deemed necessary.

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

Clay County police say not enough evidence to charge in pushing incident with husband of School Board member

September 16, 2014

Criminal charges will not be a part of a long-running feud between a Clay County School Board Member and a longtime critic. Police were investigating an incident where the opponent was videotaping people coming out of a Clay County Commission meeting, when the opponent alleges the Board Member's husband shoved the camera into his face, knocking him into a row of chairs and breaking his camera, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Police investigators talked to both parties and witnesses, and also reviewed the video as part of their decision not to charge the husband in this case, the newspaper reported.

In making decisions on whether to file criminal charges in Clay County Battery Cases, police and prosecutors must look at all of the facts and how the case would be presented to a jury. As the police spokeswoman says in the Times-Union article, "Just the fact that there is a video, isn't necessarily proof of an assault." That statement rings particularly true in Clay County Criminal Cases where there is an ongoing dispute, such as this one. Detectives and prosecutors aren't typically looking to get involved in disputes such as this - and are oftentimes used to elevate the profile of one of the parties and make the other look bad, as appears to be the case here.

If charges would have been filed, they likely would have been misdemeanor battery charges. While the victim said he injured his back, those injuries would not likely rise to the level of a felony charge. In fact, in some Clay County Battery allegations such as this, the victim is planning on filing a civil suit to get some money out of the alleged attacker and the criminal suit would be used as part of the case. It's important to know that just because criminal charges are not filed, it does not mean there won't be some sort of fault found in a civil case. The standard of proof needed in a criminal case - beyond a reasonable doubt - is far higher than what is needed in a civil case to find someone liable for injuries and costs. If you know police are investigating you or a loved one for an alleged crime, the first thing to do is contact a Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney. An attorney can be with you during any interviews with police and help advise you of your rights during the investigation.

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

Jury rejects manslaughter charge, instead convicts man of battery in deadly fight

August 25, 2014

A jury did not find enough evidence to convict a man of manslaughter in the death of another partygoer, but instead found him guilty of a lesser charge of felony battery. The man was accused of punching another man repeatedly while the man was already on the ground after a series of fights broke out during a bonfire, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The victim was rushed to the hospital but died from his injuries, the newspaper reported.

Police said another man initially punched the victim in the face and the man fell to the ground, the newspaper reported. That's when the man who went to trial this week jumped in, the newspaper reported. The reduction from manslaughter down to battery is very significant for the defendant. Manslaughter is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in state prison. Felony battery, however, is a third-degree felony with a maximum penalty of five years in prison. He is scheduled to be sentenced next month, and it will be interesting to see if the judge - who was on the bench for the entire trial - goes toward the maximum because of the reduced charge. In Florida, manslaughter is the "killing of a human being by the act, procurement, or culpable negligence of another, without lawful justification" and "cases in which such killing shall not be excusable homicide or murder."

In this Jacksonville Battery Case, the jurors likely had a difficult time with who threw the fatal punch or punches that night. The state felt it knew, however, and charged the man who initially knocked the man to the ground with battery - not manslaughter. The state tried to prove that the defendant continued to hit the man once he was on the ground, and at that point it became more than just a fight. In most Jacksonville Felony Cases that result in someone's death, prosecutors will charge the defendant with some type of charge that acknowledges the killing. Usually it's manslaughter or first- or second-degree murder. But that doesn't always mean the proof is there. In this Jacksonville Battery Case, it was not - according to a jury of the defendant's peers. In Jacksonville Criminal Defense Trials, the judge will read the jury the requirements of the charges - and lesser included charges the jury can use as alternative.

Jacksonville Felony Cases hinge on what the state can prove beyond a reasonable doubt. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate your case and then lay out the options so you or your loved one can make the best decisions 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 Criminal Defense Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Originally facing death penalty, Jacksonville man sentenced to 35 years in murder case

August 11, 2014

A Jacksonville man who prosecutors had been looking to execute pleaded guilty to a lesser charge this month. The man had been facing a first-degree murder charge for allegedly killing his mother in 2010 their Jacksonville home, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Instead, the state backed away from the initial charge and allowed the man to plead guilty to second-degree murder, the newspaper reported. Following the plea, the defendant, now 25, was sentenced to 35 years in prison, the newspaper reported.

While a murder charge is obviously very serious, and the 35-year sentence illustrates that point, there is a significant difference between first-degree murder and second-degree murder. In Jacksonville Murder Cases, there are only two options for sentencing in a first-degree murder case: life in prison or the death penalty. The judge has no latitude at all. But when the charge is second-degree murder, the judge can sentence the defendant anywhere from 25 years in prison to life in prison. In this Jacksonville Murder Case, the judge went toward to lower end. If the man stays out of trouble in prison, he will likely be released in 30 years, so at age 55 - a significantly better result than life in prison, which would have been the best possible outcome if the first-degree murder charge stuck.

In this Jacksonville Murder Case, the state initially filed the paperwork to seek the death penalty, but later backed off. It is another instance that looks like the state is using the death penalty as a bargaining chip in negotiations. There are various aggravating factors the state must prove in order to use the death penalty - and there are legal issue specific to the degrees of murder. For example, for a charge to be first-degree murder, there must be some form of premeditation - even if for just a moment. Aggravating factors for the death penalty include whether the murder was "especially heinous, atrocious, cruel or depraved." In this Jacksonville Murder Case, the defendant was accused of beheading the victim and removing her eyeballs, so that likely would have qualified. The death penalty is, and should be, reserved for the worst of the worst and used sparingly. Either a Jacksonville Murder Case is a death case or it's not. The death penalty should not be hung over a defendant's head to pressure a plea to another charge.

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.

Jacksonville prosecutors charge another 12-year-old with murder

August 4, 2014

A 12-year-old Jacksonville boy was arrested on a murder charge last week, bringing back discussion of a similar decision in 2010 that drew national headlines and attention. This time, a 12-year-old was arrested for killing a homeless man, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Prosecutors have not said whether the boy will be charged as a juvenile or as an adult. If he is charged as an adult with first-degree murder, as then-12-year-old Cristian Fernandez was, it would leave the only possible sentence as life in prison. The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against mandatory life sentences for juvenile, adding yet another layer of complexity to this Jacksonville Murder Case.

Prosecutors do have the power to charge the boy as a juvenile in this Jacksonville Murder Case. There are varying levels of punishment in Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Case, from community service and house arrest on up to what amounts to a prison for teens. Clearly this 12-year-old would be on the most severe end of the scale, given the charge he is facing. He is accused of walking up to a homeless man in a parking lot and shooting him in the head, though police have not released information on a possible motive, the newspaper reported.

After months of negotiating and highly publicized hearings, Fernandez eventually pleaded guilty to manslaughter as a juvenile, the newspaper reported. The teen, now 15, will be released from juvenile prison when he turns 19 and placed on probation. The two cases are far from identical, but the common thread is obviously the defendant being 12 when he's arrested. In the current Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Case, the newspaper reported police made the arrest based on information from a 16-year-old already being held on charges of armed robbery and stealing a car, so there are credibility issues that could come up. There were issues in the Fernandez case, including the police interview with the boy that was ruled inadmissible - so it must be emphasized that every case is different and has its own unique set of challenges. Those challenges and issues would become more evident as the Jacksonville Murder Case moves forward.

Prosecutors in Clay, Duval and Nassau counties frequently charge juveniles as adults in Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes cases that are far less serious than murder, so it would be difficult to see a scenario where the boy is charged as a juvenile. Eventually, Fernandez was treated as a juvenile. Eventually. But it started as first-degree murder as an adult, which is probably closer to where this Jacksonville Murder Case will begin, too. Our Jacksonville Juvenile Crimes Attorney represents children and teens charged with all types of crimes, with cases in both juvenile and traditional court. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate the charges and work for a resolution that allows the juvenile to move on from his or her mistake and not have it hanging over them for the rest of their 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 Duval County Violent Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

State corrections officer arrested in Clay County road rage case

A Florida Department of Corrections officer was arrested this month, accused of punching another driver in what police described as a road rage incident. Police said the man got out of his car, walked up to another driver and punched the driver in the face, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The alleged victim did not have any visible signs of injury, but did tell police that his chin hurt from the punch, the newspaper reported. The suspect was taken to the Clay County jail and charged with battery. Battery in Clay County is a first degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to one year in the county jail.

There was nothing in the media reports that indicate what the alleged victim in this case did or did not do to warrant that alleged reaction from the defendant. But in most Clay County Battery Cases, there are two sides to every story. A Clay County Battery is a misdemeanor crime in which someone hits or otherwise makes physical contact with someone else during an altercation. A felony battery would be if someone uses a weapon, such as hitting someone with a bat or a bottle, or there is a more serious injury. People often confuse assault and battery in Clay County Misdemeanor Cases and use the two terms interchangeably. They are two completely different crimes.

According to Florida law, an assault is "an intentional, unlawful threat by word or act to do violence to the person of another, coupled with an apparent ability to do so, and doing some act which creates a well-founded fear in such other person that such violence is imminent." In a Clay County Misdemeanor Case, assault is a second-degree misdemeanor, with less severe penalties than a Clay County Battery Case. The maximum penalty for a second-degree misdemeanor is six months in jail. The corrections officer could have more trouble with his employer than with the criminal justice system itself. Employers, especially the state, can have strict penalties on discipline for people when they are arrested. For Clay County Battery charges, there are often programs the state will often agree to that would have the charges dropped if certain conditions are met. In many Clay County Battery Cases, it could be anger management and other courses that a defendant could take, especially if they don't have a prior criminal record. It's unlikely that a corrections officer has a criminal record, so he would likely qualify.

People have a tendency to be at their worst behind the wheel and these Clay County Battery Cases are becoming more and more common. Our Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney has represented hundreds of people charged with misdemeanors and can help try to dispose of the case quickly so you or your loved one can get on with 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 Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Appellate court orders new trial in St. Johns County road rage incident

A woman sentenced to 33 years in prison last year for driving her car into several people has the opportunity for a new trial - this one before a jury of her peers. A state appellate court threw out the 2013 convictions from a bench trial in front of the judge and ruled that if there's another trial, it should be in front of a jury, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The overwhelming majority of cases that go to trial are jury trials, but the defendant can waive that element if he or she chooses. The court ruled in this St. Johns County Road Rage Case that the defendant did not understand the difference, nor did she know the potential benefits of a jury trial, the newspaper reported. The case could end up in a plea agreement, too, but the bottom line for the defendant in this St. Johns County Traffic Case is the convictions have been thrown out.

The defendant was accused of hitting a bicyclist with her car, hitting someone riding a scooter and several other vehicles, including a police car, the newspaper reported. Police said she also drove at another officer who was standing in the road, attempting to stop her, the newspaper reporter. She convicted of six counts of aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, two counts of aggravated battery with a deadly weapon, aggravated battery on a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon, aggravated assault on a law enforcement officer with a deadly weapon, aggravated attempt to elude causing serious injury and resisting arrest with violence. The defendant's attorney argued the defendant was insane at the time of the incident, but the judge disagreed, finding her guilty on all counts and sentencing her to 33 years in prison.

The major benefit to a jury trial in a St. Johns County Felony Case is it brings more decision-makers into the fold. For example, a jury must be unanimous in its decision. So if there is one person on the six-member jury that does not vote to find the person guilty, there cannot be a conviction. When a jury cannot agree, it is called a hung jury and a mistrial is declared. That means the case starts over - just as it will in this St. Johns County Traffic Case. When it's simply a trial in front of the judge, the judge is the only person determining guilt or innocence. The sentencing would have been up to the judge regardless, so that element is not in the jury's control. Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Attorney looks at each case individually, investigating the case and the defendant's personal situation and that analysis guides the recommendation she gives to the defendant on how to proceed with his or her 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 St. Johns County Felony Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jury needs just four minutes to find man not guilty of Nassau County arsons

A Nassau County jury took just four minutes to set free and man accused of setting a string of well-publicized fires in an apartment complex. The man went to trial on two counts of arson, and was found not guilty of both counts, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The defendant was charged with two counts of second-degree arson, both second-degree felonies with a maximum penalty of 15 years in state prison on each count. The charges were filed shortly after police went public with the news of about 10 early morning fires set at an apartment complex over a several month period, the newspaper reported. At the same time, police publicly offered an $11,000 reward for information that led to the arrest and conviction of a suspect in these Nassau County Felony Crimes, the newspaper reported.

The defendant's ex-girlfriend called police and named the man as the one who set the fires, the newspaper reported. He was initially charged with three counts of arson, but one was dropped before a trial, as were two burglary counts. But the state chose to press forward with two Nassau County Felony arson charges. It backfired. Nassau County Criminal Defense attorneys for the defendant outlined the volatile relationship between the man and his ex-girlfriend and said she concocted the story to try to get the reward money, the newspaper reported. The jury resoundingly sided with the defendant and returned a verdict in a matter of minutes. The verdict allowed the man to walk free - he'd been in jail for 10 months waiting for his trial, the newspaper reported.

Typically, it is difficult to place too much emphasis on the length of deliberations because you never know what jurors are discussing in terms of the case. But with a four-minute verdict, it's clear they did not have much to discuss and were in pretty clear agreement in this Nassau County Felony Crime case. And a jury coming back that quickly brings up a legitimate question of why the state decided to take the case to trial in the first place. State prosecutors have an important role in the checks and balances of the Nassau County Criminal Justice System. Police make arrests and prosecutors make the decision on which cases to file. Shouldn't there be some look into the accuser in a Nassau County Felony Case like this to determine what hard evidence the state has against the defendant and if the accuser has any motive at all to make up the story? Our Nassau County Criminal Defense attorney knows that, in many cases, the only way to clear a defendant's good name is to take the case to trial. Our Nassau County Criminal Defense Attorney will thoroughly investigate your case and help you make an informed decision on how best 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 Nassau County Felony Crimes Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Jacksonville man prosecutors initially charged with murder accepts deal to plead guilty to criminal mischief charge

A man charged with felony murder after the state said his actions led to a driver running over and killing a man in a Jacksonville parking lot was credited with time already served in jail after pleading guilty to a significantly reduced charge. The defendant was charged in connection with the murder after police said he was punching and fighting a man who was trying to leave a Jacksonville night club and continued to punch the man as he tried to drive off, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. The driver took off and hit and killed a person in the parking lot, the newspaper reported.

State prosecutors came out firing with the felony murder charge, along with a charge of burglary with an assault or battery. Both are first-degree felonies with maximum penalties of up to 30 years in prison, so the man was facing up to 60 years in state prison on these charges. Felony murder can be charged when a person is killed during the commission of another felony, according to state law. So, in this Jacksonville Felony Case, the state alleged the defendant's beating of the driver led to the driver driving away recklessly to escape, which led to the driver running over the man who was killed. It seemed like a stretch at the time in 2012 when he was charged and now it appears that it was. Instead, the state agreed to file a criminal mischief charge - a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison and likely to do with damage to the vehicle. The defendant, who bonded out of prison late last year once the bond was reduced to a more manageable amount, was sentenced to the more than a year he had already served in prison awaiting the trial, so his punishment in terms of jail time is complete.

Felony murder is typically used in Jacksonville Violent Crimes Cases when someone is, for example, shot during a robbery gone bad and all of the suspects in the crime - not just the shooter - are charged. The Jacksonville Murder Charge that was just dropped had too many variables and the defendant seemed too far removed from the actual death for the charge to stick. Even the driver in the case, was who legally drunk and convicted of DUI, spent less time in jail, the newspaper reported. He was sentenced to six months in jail and was released last year, the newspaper reported. In some highly publicized cases like this, unfortunately, the state comes out strong with little to back it up. By giving it a little time, sadly with someone sitting behind bars, the state in some cases realizes the overcharge and comes back with a more realistic charge. Our Jacksonville Criminal Defense Attorney has over a decade of experience in Duval County and can help assess the potential outcomes in the case and allow for you to make an informed decision for you or your loved one.

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

Florida Supreme Court overturns death sentence in Jacksonville murder case

March 31, 2014

A Jacksonville man convicted of a 2008 murder should have been sentenced to life in prison, not sent to death row, the Florida Supreme Court ruled last week. The court found that the murder of a convenience store clerk did not meet the standards the state applies when considering sentencing a person to death, according to a report in the Florida Times-Union. Instead, Michael Yacob will be sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole, the newspaper reported.

In Jacksonville Murder Cases, there are only two possible sentences in a first-degree murder case: life in prison or the death penalty. There are 16 types of circumstances that would allow the state to seek the death penalty in a Jacksonville Murder Case, including if it was committed during the commission of another felony. That was the only aggravating factor used to justify the death penalty in this Jacksonville Murder Case and the Supreme Court ruled the case lined up with other cases whether the court has overturned the death penalty when a robbery was the only piece of the crime that was used to pursue the death penalty, the newspaper reported. Other factors that can be used in seeking the death penalty include if the victim was younger than 12, if the crime was committed by a convicted gang member or sexual predator, or if it was especially "heinous, atrocious or cruel," according to state law. By design, what the legislature and courts are saying is the death penalty is reserved for the worst of the worst and should only be applied in extreme circumstances.

Locally, however, the state is often using the threat of the death penalty as a bargaining tool in getting people to plead to guilty to some sort of murder charge - usually second degree murder - to avoid a trial and take the death penalty off the table. Yacob is the fifth person in recent years sentenced to death locally who has had his sentence reversed, the newspaper reported. If the state is seeking the death penalty in a Jacksonville murder case, there are two phases to the trial. It starts with the initial trial and, if the person is found guilty of first-degree murder, a penalty phase follows. This is where both sides present their case and the same jury that decided the first phase makes a recommendation on the death penalty. And, unlike any other phase of Jacksonville Criminal Trials, the decision does not have to be unanimous. Ultimately, the judge makes the final decision, but rarely strays from the jury recommendation, which was 10-2 in favor of the death penalty in Yacob's Jacksonville Murder 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 Murder Attorney, Victoria "Tori" Mussallem, is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.