The rate that children are being treated as adults in our criminal justice system has plummeted since State Attorney, Melissa Nelson, has taken over the office.  According to an article in the Florida Times Union, the rate that minors are prosecuted as adults has fallen by forty three percent.  The dramatic drop has been attributed to new policies instituted in the prosecutor’s office.  Juvenile justice in Duval, Clay and Nassau Counties was a large part of Ms. Nelson’s platform when she ran for the office.

Prosecutors in the state of Florida have the discretion to charge a juvenile as an adult.  If charged, the child faces the same punishment that an adult would facing the same criminal charges.  If a child is found guilty in adult court, the sentencing judge could sentence the child to adult sanctions, such as sending the child to adult prison.  In Florida, a boy can be housed among men if he was charged in adult court.  Sentencing judges also have the option to impose juvenile sanctions, such as committing the child to a juvenile program.  Regardless of the sentence, if convicted in adult court, the record will stay with the child for the rest of their life.

In order to treat the child as an adult, the state attorney’s office has to file a piece of paper with the court system.  Once filed, there will be a capias (bench warrant) issued and the child will be arrested again.  Often times, there will be an adult bond set on the charges, even if the child has been released by the Jacksonville juvenile court.  The child will be taken to adult jail in Duval County, where there is a special wing for the children being treated as adults.  If the family can, they will bond the child out while the case is pending in adult court.  If not, the child will remain incarcerated in adult jail awaiting their fate.

A fireman working in Jacksonville has been arrested for solicitation of a child via computer and unlawful use of a two-way communication device out of St. Johns County.  According to a report in the Florida Times Union, the man allegedly engaged in an online discussion with a child he was told was fourteen years-old.  The discussion, according to the police, turned sexual, with the firefighter allegedly sending pictures of himself to the “girl”.  A St. Johns County arrest warrant was issued and he was arrested shortly after.

This arrest was out of a sting called Operation Cruel Summer.  Periodically, police departments all over Florida conduct online trolling operations and make several sex crime arrests.  Local law enforcement will usually post an online profile on a website, such as Craigslist.  The men will begin a chat with a detective posing as a child and the “child” will eventually reveal his or her age.  Some of the men continue the conversation, whether via email, text or messaging.  Some men will ask for pictures and send pictures of themselves.  Some clothed and some not.  Often times, the “child” will ask the men to meet up at a location, usually their house.  This house has been procured by the police and is full of officers waiting to pounce on the suspect as soon as he comes to the door.

The charges that come out of these stings can vary, but the most common are what the firefighter has been charged with.  Solicitation of a child via computer is a third degree felony and is considered a “sex” crime in Florida.  If convicted, at a minimum, the man will be a sex offender for the rest of his life.  Any person who uses a computer service to seduce, solicit lure a person believed to be a child to commit a sex act is guilty of this offense.  The maximum time in prison for this St. Johns County sex case is five years.  The other felony charged is unlawful use of a two-way communication device, which also is a third degree felony.  Although punishable by the same amount of prison time, this is not considered a sex crime in Florida.  Any person who uses a two-way communications device, such as email or text, to facilitate or further the commission of ANY felony commits this crime.

A Jacksonville Sheriff’s officer has been arrested for domestic battery in Duval County, making him the tenth employee of the office arrested in 2017.  According to an article in the Florida Times Union, the officer allegedly bit his wife’s wrist and finger during an argument.  Police say they observed bite marks on the wife and made the arrest.  The officer was released on his own recognizance and has another pending court date.

When a call comes into Jacksonville 911 alleging a domestic disturbance, someone is going to jail.  In order to make any arrest, the officer has to have probable cause.  Probable cause means more likely than not, a crime was committed by the person being arrested.  Unfortunately, Jacksonville police do not always have probable cause to make an arrest in every domestic battery call, even though they almost always make an arrest.  In the case above, there were bite marks as well as the testimony of the alleged victim.  It is unclear whether or not the officer gave his side of the story.  He, as well as every other citizen, has the absolute right to remain silent.

The officer was released on his own recognizance, also referred to as ROR in Jacksonville.  This means he was released without having to post a bond.  This is not always the case, especially with domestic violence charges in Duval.  Judges have to consider whether the accused is a flight risk as well as considering whether or not the  person is a danger to the community or the alleged victim.  The judge in the offier’s case added the condition that he have “no victim contact”.  No contact means no contact, even through a third person.  If it is proven the officer did have contact with his wife, he could be placed back in jail while his case is pending.

It is a terrible jolt when you or someone you love is arrested in Duval, Clay, Nassau or St. Johns County.  There is a feeling of helplessness, but you don’t have to handle it alone.  Our Jacksonville Arrest Attorney, Victoria “Tori” Mussallem, is here for you at all hours, every day.

As soon as a police officer orders you to stop or puts the handcuffs on, you are detained.  You have the absolute right to be silent.  Exercise that right.  Absolutely EVERYTHING you say can be used against you in court.  You will be eventually be transported to the Duval County Jail and be processed.  Once you reach the your floor of the jail, you can make collect phone calls.  Most of the time, you will not be able to bond out of jail in Duval County until you go in front of a judge.  This is called first appearance court, or J-1 for short in Jacksonville.  When you go in front of the judge, you will be sitting with everyone who was arrested in the last twelve to twenty-four hours.  The judge will read the arrest and booking report and make two determinations.  First, he or she will determine whether or not there was probable cause to arrest you.  This means more likely than not, a crime was committed.  Second, the judge will determine your conditions of release.  Most of the time, the judge will impose a monetary bond that you will have to post to bond out of jail in Jacksonville.  If you can afford to pay the whole amount of the bond, at the conclusion of your case, the entire amount will be returned to you.  You can also utilize a bail bondsman.  You, or your loved ones, must give the bondsman ten percent of the bond amount and they will vouch for the rest.  You must also provide some type of collateral, such as a car title, for the amount above the ten percent.  When your case is disposed of, you get the collateral back and the bondsman keeps the ten percent.

Often times in Jacksonville, the bonds are set extremely high.  Higher than most every other county around.  If your loved one’s bond is set too high for you to meet, there is hope.  Contact a Jacksonville Bond Reduction Lawyer immediately.  We can move the court to lower the bond at any time, presenting evidence of your ties to the community, employment information and family situation.

The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office arrested two minors earlier this week after a fight at Ribault High School, according to an article in the Florida Times Union.  A fourteen year-old and thirteen year-old boy were arrested for battery on a school official, which is a felony in Jacksonville.  A third child, a seventeen year-old, is also facing being arrested on this battery charge.  The fight was captured on a video that was posted on a social media site.  There was a fight among the minors and when the assistant principal tried to break it up, he was allegedly battered by the three children.

When any minor juvenile is arrested in Duval or Clay County, they are taken to the Juvenile Detention Center on 8th Street in downtown Jacksonville.  The Department of Juvenile Justice analyzes the charge and the child’s prior arrest history of lack thereof.  The child is assigned a score that determines whether or not they will remain detained.  If their score is less than “12”, the child is released to the parents or guardians.  If the child scores 12 or over, they are held overnight and will be in front of a judge within 24 hours to determine ongoing detention.  If your child is arrested, contact an experienced Juvenile Arrest Lawyer in Jacksonville as soon as possible.  Even if your child is held overnight, they can still be released by the judge the next day if the proper arguments are made to the Court.

These children have been charged with battery on a school official in Duval County.  A school official is defined as any person who is an employee of a school district, a private school, any state university or any other entity of the state system of public education.  Basically any person who works in a school.  A battery in Florida is defined as intentionally touching a person against their will or intentionally physically harming a person.  This is normally a first degree misdemeanor, but becomes elevated to a felony if the alleged victim is a school official.  It is classified as a third degree felony.

A local former church director was recently arrested for a sex charge allegedly involving an underage girl.  According to an article from First Coast News, the man was arrested for capital sexual battery, which is punishable by mandatory life in prison if he is convicted as charged.  In addition to this life charge, the former director is also charged with showing obscene material to the minor child.  This is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.  Police believe there may be more victims that have yet to come forward.  The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office interviewed the man and he allegedly admitted to the one minor in this case and alluded to the fact there may be others.

The first, and most serious charge, is capital sexual battery in Jacksonville.  If a person is convicted of this charge, the judge would have to sentence that person to life in prison.  A judge would have no discretion.  Capital sexual battery is when an adult commits a sexual battery on a child under twelve years of age.  “Sexual Battery” is defined as any oral, anal or vaginal penetration, or touching of, by sexual organ of the perpetrator or by an object.  The other sex charge is showing obscene materials to a minor.  A person cannot knowingly sell, rent, loan, give a way, distribute, transmit or show any obscene materials to a minor.  “Obscene” is defined as material that the average person would, taken as a whole, appeal to prurient interests, depicts in an offensive way sexual conduct and taken as a whole lacks any serious literary, artistic, political or scientific value.  “Materials” are any book, magazine, periodical, pamphlet, newspaper, photo, video, etc.

The Sheriff’s office, according to the report, interviewed the man in this case and he allegedly confessed to the crime and possibly admitted to others.  When someone is accused of a sex crime in Duval County, the police follow a protocol.  A call comes into the police, usually through 911, and a patrol officer goes to the scene.  The alleged victim, or victim’s parents, talk to the patrol officer.  A sex crime detective is assigned at some point after and a Child Protection Team forensic interview is scheduled.  The child is taken to the interview and without the parents being present, the child is interviewed.  That forensic interview is usually videotaped.

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, 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, 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.

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