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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Have you been charged with the crime of grand theft of electronics or other depreciating assets?  If so, you may have grounds to have your charges reduced from a felony to a misdemeanor, thereby avoiding a felony conviction, prison and/or substantial jail time.  The recent decision from the Florida First District of Appeal in Gallion v. State shows how.

There the State alleged Gallion had stolen two televisions and a stereo from the victim.  At trial, the victim provided a receipt for one of the televisions reflecting it had been purchased for $532.86 the year before Gallion stole it.  The victim provided an additional receipt showing she had purchased the stolen stereo for $699.99.  There was no evidence offered regarding the value of the other television. Except for the two receipts, there was no testimony regarding the condition of the items at the time they were stolen, or how much they may have depreciated in value after they were purchased.  Gallion was convicted of grand theft.  He then appealed.

The appellate court first stated that in a grand theft case, the State must prove the value of the stolen property is greater than $300 pursuant to Florida Statute § 812.014(2)(c)1. (The threshold value for grand theft has since been raised to $750.)  “Value means the market value of the property at the time and place of the offense or, if such cannot be satisfactorily ascertained, the cost of replacement of the property within a reasonable time after the offense.” Id. at § 812.012(10)(a)1. Further, citing to its prior decision in Carter v. State, the court observed “[t]he value of tangible personal property may be proved with evidence of the original purchase price, together with the percentage or amount of depreciation since the property’s purchase, its manner of use, and its condition and quality.”  Critically, the court further noted under Carter the State’s evidence is insufficient where it “elicit[s] no testimony regarding the condition and quality of any of the items taken or their depreciation.” Continue reading

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An internet child sex sting operation in Hillsborough County recently concluded with the arrest of sixteen men in August.  Among those arrested in “Operation Small Talk”  were a registered sex offender, a member of the U.S. Army Reserve and former Manatee County Sheriff’s Office sergeant.  Six of the men attempted to meet the fake teen in person.  Some of the men even had adult items with them such as condoms and sex toys in anticipation of having sex with the child.  Those arrested in Operation Small Talk are facing felony convictions, sex offender probation, registration as a sex offender and up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.

Then, again in October twenty-two men in the Tampa area were arrested in “Operation Social Bust” while attempting to arrange sex with detectives posing as teenage girls and boys using fake social media accounts.  Most of the suspects were charged with a combination of using computer services or devices to solicit certain illegal acts, transmission of harmful material to a minor and unlawful use of a two-way communication device.  One suspect offered money to a detective he thought was a 15-year-old child.  He then arrived at what he believed to be the child’s home with cash and condoms in his pocket. Because he arranged to pay for sex, he also faces a human trafficking charge.

During these types of operations, law enforcement officers typically pose online as young teens seeking sex with older adult males.  Sometimes the officers pretend to be the parent of a child looking for sex.  And, the undercover decoys usually also pretend to be the child themselves in some communications. Continue reading

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Have you violated your felony probation?  If you have, a recent change in the law may help you avoid a lengthy prison sentence resulting from your violation.

Until recently, section 948.06(2)(a), Florida Statutes (2015), provided if you admitted to a charged violation of probation, the court could “forthwith revoke, modify, or continue” your probation. If the court revoked your probation, then it could issue any sentence which it might have originally imposed before placing you on probation.  Therefore, if your underlying offense was a third-degree felony, you faced up to five years in prison for your violation.  If your underlying offense was a second-degree felony, at the time of sentencing you faced up to a statutory maximum sentence of fifteen years in prison. And, if your underlying offense was a first-degree felony you faced up to thirty years in prison for your violation of probation.

The good news is substantial amendments to section 948.06 took effect on October 1, 2019. See Ch. 2019-167, § 63, Laws of Florida. The new law added subparagraph (f)1. to section 948.06(2).  That section provides:

Except as provided in subparagraph 3. or upon waiver by the probationer, the court shall modify or continue a probationary term upon finding a probationer in violation when any of the following applies:

  1. The term of supervision is probation.
  2. The probationer does not qualify as a violent felony offender of special concern, as defined in paragraph (8)(b).
  3. The violation is a low-risk technical violation, as defined in paragraph (9)(b).
  4. The court has not previously found the probationer in violation of his or her probation pursuant to a filed violation of probation affidavit during the current term of supervision. A probationer who has successfully completed sanctions through the alternative sanctioning program is eligible for mandatory modification or continuation of his or her probation.

Continue reading

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Have you been arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) of marijuana?  If so, depending on the facts of your particular case, it may be possible to have your charges reduced or even outright dropped.  This is because the State’s burden of proving you were actually impaired by marijuana, as opposed to having merely used it, is far more complicated than showing you were impaired from the use of alcohol in the typical DUI case.

Florida legalized the use of marijuana for certain medical purposes in 2016. However, while the state has legalized marijuana for medical use, it continues to be illegal for recreational use.  And, regardless of whether you have a medical prescription for marijuana or you use marijuana for recreational purposes, you can be charged with DUI of marijuana if you have any amount of cannabis in your system. Further, when it comes to DUIs, Florida law doesn’t use terms like ‘driving drunk” or “driving high.” Instead, Florida makes it illegal for you to drive under the influence of a substance to the extent your “normal faculties” are impaired whether that substance is alcohol, marijuana, prescription drugs or a combination of these substances.

The critical difference between an alcohol DUI case and a marijuana DUI case is that THC, the chemical responsible for producing the marijuana “high”, can remain in your system for a long time after it is no longer psychoactive and therefore not having any effect on you. For example, if you smoke marijuana, the “high” generally peaks after about 10 minutes and lasts only from about 1 to 3 hours.  Nonetheless, even though you are no longer “high”, you can have a positive THC test several hours, days or even weeks after you used marijuana.  And that positive test will used by the State in an attempt to prove you were DUI of marijuana even though its effects had long worn off. Continue reading

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The Florida First District Court of Appeal recently discussed the admissibility of similar act evidence in crimes involving child molestation in Newman v. State of FloridaIn Newman, Appellant was charged with lewd or lascivious molestation of his eight-year-old adopted daughter. At trial, the State presented evidence that when the victim was eight years old and they lived in Arkansas, Appellant took her and one of her brothers on a trip to Florida. They stayed in a hotel, sharing a room with two beds. The victim testified during their first night, Appellant get into his bed naked while she slept in the other bed and her brother slept on the floor.  On the second night, Appellant went to bed naked again.  This time, he told the victim to get into his bed and let her brother sleep in the other bed.

The victim fell asleep in Appellant’s bed, wearing a nightgown.  She was later awakened by him rubbing her vagina over her underwear with his hands and repeatedly saying the word “sexy.” On the third night, Appellant again went to bed naked, directed the victim to sleep with him, and then rubbed her vagina and forced her to touch his penis while saying “sexy.” Appellant was subsequently arrested for lewd or lascivious molestation.

Prior to trial, the State filed a notice it intended to introduce similar fact evidence of other crimes, wrongs, or acts Appellant had committed against the victim’s sister, another one of his adopted children. At the Williams rule hearing, the victim’s sister testified when she was around twelve Appellant woke her up during the night while everyone was sleeping and showed her how to use a “purple thing that would vibrate.”  In the process, he touched and penetrated her vagina with his fingers because she “wasn’t doing it right.” He did those things for several nights and then never again. During the incidents, her siblings were nearby sleeping. Continue reading

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Have you been arrested for carrying a concealed firearm?  If so, you may be able to have your case dismissed through a new diversionary program recently created by the State Attorney for the Fourth Judicial Circuit.

Diversionary programs (also known as pre-trial intervention) are primarily designed for first-time offenders who meet specific criteria.  Only the State Attorney can admit you into a diversionary program.  A judge or your defense lawyer cannot.

Once accepted into a diversionary program you must sign a deferred prosecution agreement which contains specific requirements such as community service hours, restitution, and/or counseling.  Upon successful completion of the program, your charges are dismissed.  Any failure timely to complete the conditions of the program results in your case proceeding as it would have prior to your participation in the program. Continue reading

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Were you found in violation of your community control for not answering your door when your probation officer came by to conduct a curfew check?  If so, you may be able to avoid revocation of your community control and a resultant prison sentence.

In Edwards v. State, Mr. Edwards was on community control with numerous conditions.  One of those conditions required him to be at his residence every day between 10:00 p.m. and 6:00 a.m.  Edwards’ probation officer, Christine Ashcraft, performed two curfew checks on Edwards. The first was on April 7 at 5:00 a.m. Before approaching Edwards’s house, Officer Ashcraft called the phone number in Edwards’s file, which was his sister’s cell phone. No one answered, and Officer Ashcraft left a voicemail.

Ashcraft then approached the house and noticed the door was slightly open. She knocked and called into the house.  No one responded. Ashcraft heard the television on inside, but didn’t see anyone inside. After a few minutes, Officer Ashcraft again called the number in the file. This time, Edwards’s sister answered. Officer Ashcraft told Edwards’s sister she was at the house to conduct a curfew check on Edwards.  The sister informed Ashcraft she was not at the house. After speaking with Edwards’s sister, Officer Ashcraft waited another few minutes to see if anyone would come to the door. No one did. After spending a total of approximately ten minutes at the house, Ashcraft left. Continue reading

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Have you had a permanent injunction for protection against domestic violence, dating violence or repeat violence entered against you?  Did you know that even though your injunction supposedly is “permanent” you can nonetheless get it dissolved under certain circumstances?  The recent First District Court of Appeal case of James Hobbs v. Lesley Hobbs illustrates how it can be done.

Mr. and Ms. Hobbs  lived in Pensacola.  In June of 2000, while separated and going through their second divorce, Mr. Hobbs stopped by his former residence and found Ms. Hobbs in bed with another man. Mr. Hobbs pushed Ms. Hobbs. She pushed back and punched him in the face. Mr. Hobbs left the home. He returned a few hours later with a police officer to retrieve a gun he kept at the home.

Ms. Hobbs petitioned for an injunction for protection against domestic violence. She described the incident at her home and alleged Mr. Hobbs had stalked her. The petition for injunction was granted. Ms. Hobbs soon moved away from the area. Continue reading

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Have you been arrested for possessing or trafficking drugs?  Were the drugs found in a home or other place you do not own?  If so, you may not be criminally liable for those drugs, as discussed in a recent court decision.

In Dion Johnson v. State of Florida, Mr. Johnson was visiting someone else’s house when SWAT team members executed a search warrant. Many people frequented the house and there were others present at the time of Mr. Johnson’s visit.

Mr. Johnson was in the living room when the officers appeared.  They found drugs in the bedrooms, including what was determined to be substituted cathinones, drugs related to amphetamines. The only item found in the house with any direct connection to Mr. Johnson was a cell phone. The one photograph found on the phone showed approximately six baggies on top of the kitchen counter in the house. The baggies contained unidentified items, but they were tied similarly to the baggies containing the drugs found in the bedrooms. The photograph was taken two days before the search warrant was executed. Continue reading

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The First District Court of Appeal just made it more difficult for the State to prove you committed  the crime of carrying a concealed weapon.  In Stanley John Kilburn v. State of Florida, Mr. Kilburn was charged with carrying a concealed weapon. Kilburn filed a motion to suppress, contending he was illegally searched.   The trial court denied his motion. Kilburn then pleaded no contest to the charge while preserving his right to appeal the trial court’s denial of his motion to suppress.

At the hearing on Kilburn’s motion to suppress, Deputy Beach of the Escambia County Sheriff’s Office testified when was patrolling a hotel parking lot one morning, he noticed a pickup truck parked with the driver’s door open. He also noticed the truck had a cloudy license plate cover.

Deputy Beach parked and approached the truck to discuss the license plate cover with Kilburn and to give him a verbal warning about the license plate cover. Deputy Beach testified he “was just going to have a talk, it wasn’t — it really wasn’t even investigatory at that point.” Continue reading

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