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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A 2016, report by ProPublica and the New York Times found frequent false positives and user errors by law enforcement administering the most popular drug field tests. Precise error rates are difficult to ascertain, as some test results can be affected by variables such as the weather, user error and lighting conditions. Some studies have shown error rates ranging from 1 in 5 to 1 in 3 false positives.

The ProPublica report also found the most commonly used field tests failed to include warnings about the high false-positive rate, despite United States Justice Department directives to do so. And, disturbingly, the report found more than half of those wrongly charged after a false positive pleaded guilty, leaving many with personally and professionally devastating felony convictions.

Even though the 2016 ProPublica-New York Times report was published and received nationwide attention, police departments across the country, including those in Florida, continue to use the flawed field kids.  A recent article in The Florida Times-Union underscores just how problematic drug field testing can become.  Continue reading

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Imagine that while driving your car, you are stopped by the police for having an expired tag or for speeding.  The officer approaches and tells you the reason for your stop.  He / she then asks for your license, registration and insurance card.

The officer then asks you to step out of the car.  After you do, you’re patted down and drugs, a gun or other contraband are found on you.  The officer then searches your car and finds more of the same.  You’re then arrested and charged with possession of a controlled substance, drug trafficking or as a felon in possession of a firearm.  What can you do?  The answer in short:  sometimes plenty.

The above is a common scenario for what should otherwise be a simple, routine traffic stop where you’re issued a ticket and then go on your way.  Fortunately, a skilled and knowledgeable criminal attorney can oftentimes not only lessen the effects of this incident on you, but perhaps obtain reduced charges or even an outright dismissal of your charges.    Continue reading

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Your medical history can often be used to obtain reduced charges, or even dismissal of your DUI case.  A case from Washington State recently reported in USA Today provides a classic example of how your medical history can be highly relevant to your DUI case.

The incident began when Carol Carlson drove her car to a local ferry terminal.  Ms. Carlson appeared confused according to the toll both attendant and other ferry workers.  She then ran over a curb and drove the wrong way on a one-way street.

When confronted by a trooper, Ms. Carlson allegedly stated she’d had two glasses of wine.  The trooper reported Ms. Carlson’s eyes to be bloodshot and her breath to have an odor of alcohol.  The trooper then asked her to perform field sobriety exercises.  Ms. Carlson performed poorly according to the officer.  Continue reading

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Most people are aware Google scans emails to develop advertisements targeted to users’ particular interests.  In fact, the notion Google will scan your content to tailor your advertising has been well known; the company’s terms of service notify users their emails are being analyzed. However, most people are not aware Google also scans both emails and search requests on its site to detect and report child pornography.

Google’s online set of “program policies” for its Gmail service includes “a zero-tolerance policy against child sexual abuse imagery.”  That policy states: “If we become aware of such content, we will report it to the appropriate authorities and may take disciplinary action, including termination, against the Google accounts of those involved.”

Consistent with that policy, since 2008 Google has actively scanned images that pass through Gmail accounts to determine whether they match up with known child pornography.  More specifically, Google has been using “hashing” technology to tag known child sexual abuse images, allowing it to identify duplicate images in Gmail accounts or in search results, even if the images have been altered.  Each offending image effectively is assigned a unique ID Google’s computers can recognize without someone having to view them again. And, Google also incorporates encrypted “fingerprints” of child sexual abuse images into a cross-industry database. This technique enable companies, law enforcement and charities to better collaborate on detecting and removing these images, and to take action against anyone involved with producing or viewing the materials.  Continue reading

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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