A man from Middleburg, Florida was recently arrested for allegedly leaving his two year-old child in his car in the middle of summer.  The man was arrested for felony child neglect in Clay County, which is a second degree felony in Florida.  According to an article on news4jax..com, the man took a nap and the child got into the car and became trapped.  After discovering that the child was missing, the man and the child’s mother ran around looking for the child.  The boy was discovered in the locked car, unconscious.  The boy is currently in the intensive care unit.

If the state of Florida, child neglect is defined as a caregiver/parent/guardian’s failure or omission to provide the child with the care, supervision and services that are required to keep the child physically and mentally healthy.  This includes providing food, clothes, shelter, supervision, medication and medical services.  In this case, the man is currently charged with willfully, or by culpable negligence, neglecting a child and that neglect caused great bodily harm, permanent disability or permanent disfigurement.  This case is a tragedy for all involved, including the man arrested.  The state attorney’s office will likely not charge him with “willfully” leaving the child in the car, but can justify the child neglect charge based on culpable negligence.  If the charge is proven then the child sustained great bodily harm due to the father’s negligence.

Prosecutors assigned to any criminal case in Clay County have broad discretion in what they charge.  Assistant state attorneys can file the charge that the person was arrested for, add more charges, drop charges, reduce a felony charge to a misdemeanor or refer a defendant to a pretrial diversion program.  That is why it is so important to call an experienced criminal defense attorney as soon as possible after an arrest.  Even if you have not been arrested yet, but believe you may be, call.  Most attorneys offer free consultations, and here at The Mussallem Law Firm, we are available anytime to discuss your criminal issue.

It appears that Tiger Woods will not have a Florida DUI on his record.  According to an article on CBS news, the prosecutor assigned to the case is going to amend the charge to a reckless driving.  If Woods completes a DUI diversion program, the charge will be dropped.  Police reports from the case show that alcohol was not involved in the arrest, but prescription medications were.

Some people believe that DUI’s only involve alcohol, but the standard in Florida is whether or not the driver is impaired by ANY substance.  With prescriptions growing for controlled substance medications, such as Xanax and Oxycontin, police look for indicators of impairment beyond the “smell of alcohol”.  Even though a pill is prescribed to you, that does not mean you can safely operate a vehicle while taking it.

The DUI diversion program that Woods’ intends to participate in is not in place in every jurisdiction.  A diversion program is a program a defendant participates in and after completion, the charge is completely dropped.  The DUI diversion program in Palm Beach County demands that Woods pay a fine and court costs, complete DUI school level one, perform fifty hours of community service and complete the Victim Impact Panel put on by Mothers Against Drunk Driving.  According to the article, Palm Beach started this program about four years ago.

Jacksonville professional football player, Dante Fowler, was arrested last week in St. Petersburg, Florida.  According an article in the Florida Times Union, Fowler faces a charge of simple battery and criminal mischief.  He and the alleged victim engaged in an argument about Fowler’s driving.  Fowler then, according to a witness at the scene, began punching the alleged victim.   While the physical altercation was going on, Fowler allegedly stomped on the other man’s glasses, causing around two hundred dollars in damage.  When police arrived, Fowler was arrested and the man claimed that he did not have any injuries, despite being punched repeatedly.

Even though this arrest did not occur in Jacksonville, the laws are the same throughout the state of Florida.  Simple battery occurs when you intentionally touch someone against their will or intentionally cause physical harm to someone.  As long as the physical harm is not serious, the battery charge will remain a misdemeanor.  Felony battery can be charged in Jacksonville if the defendant causes “great bodily harm, permanent disability or permanent disfigurement”.   A battery charge can also become a felony if the victim is pregnant and the offender knew or should have known she was pregnant.  As with any criminal case, prosecutors have the discretion to file a case or not.  In the case above, it is interesting that the alleged victim reportedly was punched, more than once, by Fowler, but did not sustain any injury.

The other is called criminal mischief.  A criminal mischief is committed in Florida when a person willfully and maliciously injures or damages the property of another person.  If the damage is two hundred dollars are less, as in Fowler’s case, the charge is a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to sixty days in jail.  If the damage was over two hundred and less than one thousand, the charge would be elevated to a first degree misdemeanor.  If the damage is valued at one thousand dollars or over, it becomes a felony in Florida.

A Neptune Beach police officer has been arrested on the charge of grand theft in Jacksonville.  According to a report on jacksonville.com, the officer was stealing money while searching citizen’s cars that he pulled over for traffic infractions.  Police began suspecting the thefts after several people complained about missing money.  An undercover investigation was conducted and the officer allegedly stole just over eight hundred dollars.  During a subsequent interview, the officer allegedly admitted to the thefts.  After being arrested, the officer went in front of a judge and a one thousand dollar Jacksonville bond was issued for his release.  The case is ongoing.

The crime of theft in Florida occurs when a person knowingly obtains or uses, or tries to obtain or use, the property of another person with the intent to either permanently or temporarily deprive the other person of the property or benefit from the property.  There are different levels of the crime of theft in Duval County, depending on the value of the property stolen.  If the value of the property us under three hundred dollars, the crime is a misdemeanor, punishable by a year or under in jail.  If the value of the property stolen is three hundred dollars or over, the theft becomes a felony, punishable by prison time.

If any kind of theft case, restitution is always considered by the State Attorney’s Office.  Restitution is the payment of lost value of something that was taken from a victim.  When any person is arrested for a theft, the prosecutor assigned to the case makes contact with the alleged victim to find out how much money it will take to make that person whole.  Once that amount is determined, paying that amount is always part of a negotiated disposition in the criminal case.  Placing a defendant on probation to pay the money is a way to enforce the payment.  Prosecutors can also file a restitution order with the court, which is a document that enforces the payment of restitution civilly.  In this case with the police officer, restitution to the victims will surely be part of the case.

A St. Johns County police deputy was recently arrested.  According to an article in the St. Augustine Record, the officer was arrested for domestic battery, which is a first degree misdemeanor in Florida.  The deputy allegedly hit a woman in the face at his house.  His St. Johns County bond was set at $500.00 and he has been released.

In Jacksonville and all over Florida, a battery is committed when someone intentionally touches or strikes the victim against his or her will or intentionally causes bodily harm to another person.  The battery becomes “domestic” when the victim is a family or household member.  This includes spouses, ex-spouses, blood relatives, people who have children in common and people who reside together as if a family or who have lived together as a family sometime in the past.  A simple battery, without the domestic part, is a misdemeanor charge, punishable by up to a year in jail.  When the charge becomes domestic, punishments can be more severe.  The court may impose mandatory jail time and the defendant may have to complete a twenty-four class batterers’ intervention program.  This is an intense program that is completed while the defendant is on domestic battery probation in Florida.  If there is a violation of probation, the defendant can be placed back in jail to address the violation.

In addition to simple and domestic battery, there are also higher levels of battery in Florida.  A person commits an Aggravated Battery when they intentionally committed a battery and in the process, caused great bodily harm or permanent disability to the victim or used a deadly weapon.  The elevated battery charge becomes a felony, punishable by prison time.  If the victim of a battery is pregnant, this also converts the misdemeanor battery to a felony.  If a person has been convicted of prior misdemeanor battery charges, the State Attorney’s Office may charge any subsequent battery charge as a felony in Florida.

A Jacksonville Sheriff’s officer’s actions are being evaluated after detaining a young man for jaywalking and threatening to put him in jail.  According to an article in the Florida Times Union, the man did not obey a walk signal and the officer detained him.  After being stopped, the man began to record the interaction on his cell phone.  At first, the man did not go to the officer’s car as directed because he did not know what crime/infraction he committed.  When he did not listen right away, the officer threatened to arrest the man for resisting without violence, which is a first degree misdemeanor in Jacksonville.  The man eventually complied and was issued a citation for jaywalking and for not having a Florida ID card or a driver’s license on his person.  Once released, the man posted the video interaction with the officer on social media.

Crossing the street on a red hand is a civil infraction and you can be issued a ticket.  The problem is that the jaywalking law can be selectively enforced in Jacksonville.  It gives officers probable cause to stop or detain a citizen for a period of time.  Very often, in certain neighborhoods, people are stopped for jaywalking, blocking the sidewalk, or riding a bicycle without a light.  Once stopped, officers can say they observe a bulge resembling a weapon on the person, justifying a pat down search.  If they find no weapon, but do find drugs, that person is going to be arrested for possession of a controlled substance in Duval County, which is a felony.  But for the civil infraction, it would be illegal for the police to stop and search that person.

When an officer has the legal right to detain you, you cannot just walk away.  Resisting an officer without violence is a first degree misdemeanor in Florida, punishable by up to one year in jail.  In order to be convicted of resisting in Jacksonville, the state attorney’s office must prove that the person resisted, obstructed or opposed the officer who, at the time, was engaged in the execution of legal process or the lawful execution of a legal duty.  For example, if a police officer is dealing with a situation and an onlooker intervenes, they can be arrested for this crime if the officer claims their intervention impeded the investigation.  Even talking can be interpreted as resisting.

A Jacksonville man has been arrested for Lewd or Lascivious Exhibition on a child after a week-long search.  According to an article on News4Jax.com, last week, an eight year-old child told police a man came up to him in a car and asked it the child had seen the man’s cat.  While showing a picture of the cat to the boy, the man allegedly masturbated his penis after pulling his pants down.  The day after, the boy claims to have seen the suspect’s car and had his mother take a picture.  Police generated a sketch of the suspect from the child’s memory and posted it on the television and social media.  The suspect’s car was also posted.  News4Jax reports that the man’s boyfriend saw the pictures and confronted the suspect.  The suspect went to the police station and was interviewed.  He did not leave.  The man was arrested on this Jacksonville sex charge.

The man faces a lewd or lascivious exhibition charge in Jacksonville.  In order to prove the charge, the state attorney’s office has to show that the man intentionally masturbated, intentionally exposed his genitals in a lewd or lascivious manner or intentionally committed a sexual act that did not involve physical contact with the alleged victim.  Examples of this could be bestiality or simulations of sexual activity.  If the suspect is eighteen years-old or older and the alleged victim is under sixteen, the charge is considered a second degree felony punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.

A $100,003 bond was set in Duval County for this case.  Accused sex suspects, in Jacksonville and all over Florida, are considered especially dangerous by prosecutors and the judiciary.  Even though there is no allegation of touching in this case, the man must post a very high bond to be released to fight his charge.  In cases involving any type of sex accusation, there very often is no physical evidence to corroborate the alleged victim’s statement.  But it is that statement that leads to an arrest and being held in jail, all while the suspect has the presumption of innocence.  The state attorney’s office has to prove the charge beyond all reasonable doubt and until they do, the accused is considered innocent under the law.

A teacher’s aide with the Duval County Public School system has been arrested on two counts of child abuse.  According to an article on Jacksonville.com, the woman was arrested in Jacksonville on Mother’s Day for the two felony charges.  In the arrest and booking report, police say they were called out to a “domestic dispute” and spoke with the alleged victim’s, the aide’s children.  They told police that the woman became angry because all she got for Mother’s Day was a card.  They claim the woman began to throw things around the room and hit the child with a metal broom multiple times on the arms and legs.  The children also claim the woman punched one in the mouth and pulled her hair.  Police said they observed welt marks on the child, along with a swollen lip and bruises.  The evidence technician was called to the scene and photographed the alleged injuries.

In Florida, there are different levels of child abuse.  Child abuse, in Jacksonville and all over the state, is defined as intentionally inflicting physical or mental injury on a child, committing an intentional act that could reasonably be expected to result in physical or mental injury on a child or actively encouraging another to commit an act that could result in the child being harmed.  While we all know what physical injury is, mental injury is defined by Florida statute.  It is injury to the intellectual or psychological capacity of a child evidenced by substantial impairment in the ability of the child to function normally.  “Basic” child abuse is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison if the State can show that great bodily harm, permanent disability or disfigurement is caused by the abuse.  Aggravated child abuse is more serious in the eyes of Florida law and is a first degree felony.  Aggravated child abuse is when a person commits an aggravated battery on a child, willfully tortures, maliciously punishes or willfully cages a child or knowingly commits child abuse causing great bodily harm, disability or disfigurement.  If convicted of this aggravated form, the maximum a defendant is facing is thirty years in prison.

In each of the aide’s child abuse charges, the judge issued a $15003 Jacksonville bond for each.  If she used a Duval County bondsman, she will be required to pay ten percent of that amount and will have to post collateral to cover the rest.  Monetary bonds are placed on people charged with crimes to encourage them to make future court appearances.  When the case is over, the bond is discharged.

Last week, an inspector at the Jacksonville Electric Authority was arrested for charges of employee theft and being a public servant that falsified official documents. According to an article in the Florida Times Union, the employee is accused of lying on his time sheet, billing for hours he did not work.  Police say the man spent many hours doing personal things and billing the public utility for that time.

The man was released on his own recognizance by the judge in first appearance court.  In Jacksonville and all over Florida, when you are arrested, you will be brought in front of a judge within twenty-four hours to address your release.  The judge will decide whether or not you are a danger to the community and whether or not you pose a flight risk.  The judge will consider how long you have lived in the county, your criminal history, if any, your family living in the county, your employment, etc.  Most of the time, judges will set a bond, which is an amount of money you will have to pay to be released.  If a bond is set, you can pay the whole amount directly to the jail and will be the whole amount back at the conclusion of your case.  If you cannot afford to post the full amount of Jacksonville bond, you can use a bondsman.  They will take ten percent of the bond amount and post the rest with the jail for you.  In this case, the judge released the JEA employee on his own recognizance, which means he did not have to pay any money to get out of jail.  However, the judge also required that the employee report to Jacksonville Pretrial Services.  This is a jail release program where you have to report upon being released from jail and you will be randomly drug tested while your case is pending.  The employee has to report to Pretrial Services until he completes the MilePost class, which is an anti-theft class.  Once that is completed, the man just has to report to his court dates as directed.

Employee theft in Florida, when the value stolen is $300 or more and less than $5000, is considered a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.  In this case, police say the man appropriated ill-received payment (about $4500 worth) to himself for work he did not do for the utility company.  The other Duval County criminal charge is called “official misconduct”  It is against the law in Florida for a public worker, with corrupt intent to obtain a benefit to falsify any official record or official document.  In this case, the man is accused of falsifying his time sheets.

Controversial Jacksonville preacher, Kenneth Adkins, has been sentenced after being found guilty of several child sex charges in Brunswick, Georgia.  According to an article on News4Jax, Adkins was sentenced to thirty-five years in prison followed by sex offender probation for his natural lifetime.  Adkins was accused of having sexual contact with both a teenage girl and boy.  Per the article, Adkins criminal defense attorney argued that the teenage boy was sixteen at the time of sexual contact.  This is relevant because the age of consent in Georgia is sixteen.

This is in stark contrast to Florida’s age of consent.  In Florida, and many other states, eighteen is the minimum age that a person can consent to sex.  Consent is defined as intelligently, knowingly and voluntarily consenting to the contact and cannot be coerced.  Ages of both the accused and the alleged victim are extremely important to the various sex charges in Jacksonville.  For example, sexual battery, or rape, in Jacksonville is defined as oral, anal or vaginal penetration by any means without consent.  If a person eighteen years of age or older commits a sexual battery on another adult, the crime is considered a second degree felony punishable by up to fifteen years in prison.  If the accused is eighteen or older and the alleged victim is twelve or older and less than eighteen, the sex crime is elevated to a first degree, punishable by up to life.  The same elevations apply to lewd or lascivious crimes in Florida. Lewd molestation is when someone intentionally touches, in a lewd or lascivious way, the breasts, genitals, genital area or buttocks or the clothes over them of a person under sixteen years of age.  If the accused is eighteen or older and the alleged victim is less than twelve years of age, it is considered a life felony.  If the accused is an adult and the alleged victim is twelve or older but less than sixteen, the level is dropped to a second degree felony.

No matter the ages, when someone is convicted of a sex crime in Florida, they are looking at being a sex offender or predator for their entire life.  Restrictions will be placed on where they can live, where they can work and who they can associate with.  In addition to the registration, they are subject to being on sex offender probation, which is the most stringent probation by far in our state.  Sex offender probation in Florida includes intensive psychosexual counseling, periodic polygraph examinations, restrictions of where you can live, restrictions on where you work, restrictions on where you go and restrictions on being around any minors, including natural born children.