Bill Roelke is dedicated to defending men and women throughout Jacksonville and nearby areas. He understands the tactics necessary to defend against misdemeanor and felony charges.
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The First District Court of Appeal recently issued an opinion concerning whether merely being around drugs is sufficient to convict someone for possession.  Based on the facts in that case, the answer is “no.”

In that case officers found illegal drugs while investigating a shootout between two cars that had left a gas station. Among other things, the officers found a cocktail shaker cup stuffed with marijuana lying next to a fence at the gas station’s property line.

At about the same time in another part of town, other officers stopped a car with three occupants that had been part of the shootout. Mr. McKire was in the back seat of the car heavily bleeding  from a gunshot wound. He was transported to the hospital. Continue reading

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An internet child sex sting operation just concluded with the arrest of 17 men.  Dubbed Operation DUVAL (Disrupting Underage Virtual Abuse Locally), the undercover operation was initiated by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office with the assistance of several Northeast Florida law enforcement agencies.

During the operation, law enforcement officers posed online as young male and female teens looking to have sex with older adult males.  Sometimes the officers posed as the parent of a child looking for sex.  Other times, the undercover decoys pretended to be the child themselves.

Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams was quoted in an article in the Florida Times-Union as saying the suspects traveled from as far north as North Carolina and as far south as Orlando to have sex with someone they believed to be a 13 or 14 year old boy or girl.  The suspects range in age from 19 to 67. The 17 suspects’ charges range from traveling to meet after using a computer to seduce a child to solicitation of a child via computer to engage in sexual activity and unlawful use of a two-way device.  At least one of the suspects’ cases is in federal, versus state court where the overwhelming majority of these types of cases are filed.  Continue reading

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A political disagreement on Facebook between strangers in Tampa last month ended with one of them being arrested.  Brian Sebring, 44, was arrested in connection with an incident involving Alex Stephens, age 46, the alleged victim.

Both men have prior criminal records.  Sebring previously had pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery charges and attended an anger management class.  Stephens has a felony record and served time in state prison for among others, robbery and cocaine possession. His latest term ended in 2016.

The incident apparently began over a comment Sebring made to a friend’s post about Donald Trump.  Stephens apparently commented too and noted that, as a convicted felon without the right to vote he nonetheless wanted to share his political opinion. Sebring replied that if people wish to voice their political opinion, they shouldn’t’ engage in criminal activity and instead be productive members of society. Continue reading

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Violation of probation is a serious charge.  Judges generally don’t like it when you’ve failed to comply with requirements ordered by them.  And, the punishment can be severe, including up to the maximum penalty you might have received for the underlying charge for which you are on probation.

The good news is if you have been deemed to be in violation of your probation, you often may have some defense to the charge. Two such defenses are that your violation was neither willful nor substantial.  The applicability of these defenses to a charge of violation of probation was demonstrated in a recent Duval County case.

Alfred James Scott, who had no prior criminal record pled guilty to one count of sale of marijuana.  He was sentenced to a ninety-day suspended sentence, followed by twenty-one months of probation.  The suspended sentence was conditioned upon Scott securing a full-time job, which Scott represented he would obtain at Home Depot. Continue reading

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During the phase of a Florida criminal case known as “discovery”, the State discloses the evidence and witnesses it would use against you or your loved one at trial in a document titled “State’s Discovery Exhibit.”  Sometimes in that document, the State lists “jail calls” as some of its evidence.  Whenever I see that, I cringe.

As a general rule, lawyers or loved ones cannot call into a Florida detention facility to speak with an inmate.  Rather, the inmate must initiate the call.  And, inmate calls are recorded.  The parties to the call are warned the call is recorded.  Furthermore, those recordings are reviewed for both security concerns and for incriminating evidence.  And, if you think you’ll avoid scrutiny by speaking a foreign language, you’re wrong.  Foreign language calls are translated and reviewed too.

Despite being warned that all conversations during jail calls are being monitored, in many cases jail calls provide damaging evidence against the caller.  There are several reasons this occurs.  First, the caller may not truly hear or appreciate the warning that all calls are recorded.  Second, oftentimes the caller is upset at being arrested and makes statements they later regret.  Finally, sometimes the caller has been incarcerated for long enough that they let their defenses down and say things that come back to haunt them.  Continue reading

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Have you been served with a Petition for Injunction for Protection against Stalking, sometimes referred to as a “restraining order”?  If so, you nonetheless may be able to avoid entry of a final injunction and the associated collateral consequences, stress and stigma.

Florida State section 784.0485 provides for an injunction for protection against stalking.  Stalking is defined as when a person “willfully, maliciously, and repeatedly follows, harasses, or cyberstalks another person.”  To “harass” means “to engage in a course of conduct directed at a specific person which causes substantial emotional distress to that person and serves no legitimate purpose.”  A “course of conduct”, in turn, is a “pattern of conduct composed of a series of acts over a period of time, however short, which evidences a continuity of purpose.”  In determining whether an incident causes “substantial emotional distress,” courts use a “reasonable person” standard, and not a subjective one.

A July 11, 2018 opinion from the First District Court of Appeal in Paulson v. Rankartillustrates how a party subject to a temporary stalking injunction may avoid it becoming permanent.  There, Mr. Paulson and Ms. Rankin were neighbors. Ms. Rankin filed a petition alleging Mr. Paulson was stalking her by complaining to code enforcement and animal control about her outdoor lights and barking dogs keeping him awake at night.   She also alleged Paulson was watching her sunbathe on her deck from his property and was examining utility meters on her street.  Rankart further alleged she was afraid Paulson might get angry and drunk and shoot her dogs.  She claimed to suffer from anxiety and depression, which she said was exacerbated by Paulson’s alleged conduct.  Continue reading

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Did you know there is a law in Florida that requires your drug possession / possession of controlled substances case to be dropped under certain circumstances, even if it is undisputed you possessed the drugs?  Well, there is.

In 2012, the Florida Legislature determined it was in the interest of public safety and welfare to provide an incentive to persons aware of another’s drug overdose to seek medical attention for that individual.  As a result, the Legislature enacted the “911 Good Samaritan Act.”  The Act, codified as Florida Statute section 893.21, provides anyone “acting in good faith who seeks medical assistance for an individual experiencing a drug-related overdose” is immune from prosecution for drug possession if the evidence “was obtained as a result of the person’s seeking medical assistance.”

In plain language, this means is if you’re present during, or aware of, another individual’s drug overdose and you call 911 or otherwise seek medical assistance to help them, and during the process of helping them law enforcement discovers drugs in your possession, you cannot be prosecuted for possessing those drugs.  A recent case in Duval County shows the breadth of this protection.  Continue reading

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Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) are antidepressants that affect the levels of serotonin, a neurotransmitter, in the brain.  SSRIs are often the first choice of health care providers for the treatment of depression and anxiety.  That class of medicines affect a chemical imbalance in the brain of people suffering from anxiety and other disorders.  The SSRIs include citalopram (Celexa), escitalopram (Lexapro), fluoxetine (Prozac), fluvoxamine (Luvox), fluvoxamine CR (Luvox CR), paroxetine (Paxil), paroxetine CR (Paxil CR), and sertraline (Zoloft).

According to statistics, SSRIs and other antidepressants have been prescribed with greater frequency over the last several years.  The use of these drugs in the United States is approximately three times that of other Western countries.

Many people stop taking their SSRIs for various reasons.  But if you stop your medication, you’re supposed to do so very gradually.  If you don’t, you can suffer major side effects.  And, if you’ve been arrested for DUI after stopping treatment with an SSRI, you may be able to show your behavior and conduct at the time of your arrest were not due to impairment by alcohol, but rather by a phenomenon termed “SSRI Withdrawal Syndrome.”  Continue reading

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In my last blog entry I discussed how to determine whether there is an outstanding warrant for your arrest.  In this entry, I’ll discuss how best to clear, or get rid of, an outstanding arrest warrant.

The Duval County Sheriff’s Office Department of Police Services has a special Warrants Unit.  The Warrants Unit is responsible for the storage and computer entry of all capiases, custody orders, injunctions for protection, arrest affidavits, writs of attachment and warrants issued by the State Attorney’s Office.

Unlike warrants, capias information which generally pertains to warrants issued by a court are electronically provided by Clerk of the Court directly to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office’s electronic warrant (e-Warrant) computer system on a daily basis. Continue reading

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If you have an outstanding warrant in Florida it is usually a good idea to deal with it sooner rather than later.  It is not only a psychological relief, but it is also much more convenient and less embarrassing to resolve an outstanding warrant voluntarily than to be caught off guard and taken to jail without any forewarning or preparation.

As a threshold matter, you may suspect there is a warrant for your arrest but you may not be absolutely certain.  If that is your situation, you have several options to use in trying to determine your warrant status.  First, you can visit The Florida Crime Information Database website.  The database contains Florida warrant information as reported to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) by law enforcement agencies throughout the state and authorized for release to the public.

Beware, however, the database does not reflect every warrant pending in the state.  Therefore, if your name does not appear on the database that does not definitely mean there is no pending warrant for your arrest in Florida.  Further, even if your name does appear in the database, you should verify the warrant with your local law enforcement agency, as the warrant may no longer be active.  Also, although unlikely, there is a possibility that a warrant contains your name or other identifying information due to the use of false information by the true subject of the warrant.  Continue reading