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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Most criminal cases, including drug cases, are resolved without a trial via a process known as plea bargaining.  In that process, both the government and the defense negotiate an agreement as to the outcome of a case, such as the length of any incarceration and/or probation and the requirement of any special conditions such as drug treatment, counseling, curfews and maintaining gainful employment.  The plea agreement is then presented to the court.  In the overwhelming majority of cases, the court approves and implements the agreement as the final judgment in the case.  A federal case in West Virginia this summer, and most recently, a state court memorandum issued in St. Johns County last week, however, may well signal the end of plea bargaining in cases in the greater Jacksonville area involving the manufacture, sale or distribution of opioids.

On June 26, 2017 United States District Judge Joseph R. Goodwin in the Southern District of West Virginia rejected a plea agreement reached between the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Defendant, Charles York Walker, Jr.    There, Mr. Walker had been indicted for three counts of distributing heroin, two counts of distributing fentanyl and one count for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.  Through plea bargaining, Mr. Walker pleaded guilty to a single count of distributing heroin and the government dropped the other charges.

Mr. Walker’s plea agreement was then presented to the court for acceptance.  To pretty much everyone’s surprise, Judge Goodwin rejected the agreement.  In doing so, Judge Goodwin first noted the defendant had a substantial criminal history and that the case facts demonstrated Mr. Walker was engaged in a “continuous drug dealing enterprise.”  Continue reading

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Has a detective either called or left their card on your door asking you to speak with them about an incident?  Or, has a detective asked if you’ll come down to the station “to clear things up”?  You’re not told you’ll be arrested.  The detective sounds reasonable and sincere.  The inevitable question to me is “should I speak with them?”  My answer almost always is a resounding “No.”  Let me explain why.

The police want to speak with you because they have evidence indicating to them you’ve committed a crime.   No matter how innocent you are, you most likely will not talk yourself out of being arrested.  Even when in doubt, the police often exhibit a “arrest now and sort it out later” mentality.  This explains why some people who are arrested subsequently have their cases dropped.

As you’ve heard repeatedly, you have a constitutional right to remain silent.  Don’t be afraid to exercise your rights.    In almost all circumstances, talking with the police will not only fail to prevent your arrest, but it will make your case worse.  I cannot tell you how many times I’ve represented people who made my job much more difficult because they naively thought they’d just go in to explain what really happened and they’d then be free to leave.  Instead, they were arrested at the conclusion of the interview and, worse yet, they inadvertently strengthened the State’s case against them in the process. Continue reading

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Last weekend ABC News reported the Pasco County Florida Sheriff’s Office recently arrested a female juvenile accused of using social media to make online threats against three schools.  According to an arrest report, the 13 year-old girl created an Instagram account with the username “Jake The Klown” and wrote a post last week claiming Gulf Middle, Gulf High, and River Ridge High schools in New Port Richey, 40 miles north of Saint Petersburg, would be attacked on Monday, October 30, 2017.  The report further states the girl told deputies the post was a prank.

The eighth grader, who is not being identified because of her age, faces a felony charge of written threats to kill or do bodily harm. An experienced criminal defense lawyer familiar with this charge, however, may be able to get the charge reduced, or even dismissed.

The crime of written threats to kill or do bodily harm is governed by Florida Statute section 836.10.  That section provides “[a]ny person who writes or composes and also sends or procures the sending of any letter, inscribed communication, or electronic communication, whether such letter or communication be signed or anonymous, to any person, containing a threat to kill or to do bodily injury to the person to whom such letter or communication is sent, or a threat to kill or do bodily injury to any member of the family of the person to whom such letter or communication is sent commits a felony of the second degree, punishable as provided in s. 775.082, s. 775.083, or s. 775.084.”  Continue reading

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As a criminal defense lawyer, I often defend charges of domestic battery.  Typically, I receive a call from either the person arrested in a domestic battery case or the alleged victim calling on behalf of the person arrested, usually her boyfriend, who is in jail.  If it’s the latter, they usually inform me they would like to have the case dropped.  Unfortunately, many times the State will proceed with the prosecution regardless of the alleged victim’s desires.

Many domestic battery cases result in misdemeanor charges where the range of penalties include up to one year in the county jail. Some domestic battery situations, however, result in felony charges.  This article will discuss the four most common felonies I typically encounter while representing people involved in a domestic dispute.

The first of these charges is felony battery.  Felony battery is defined by Florida Statute section 784.041(1) as intentionally touching or striking another person against their will which causes great bodily harm, permanent disability, or permanent disfigurement.  The crime of Felony Battery is a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison, five years of probation, and a $5,000 fine.  Continue reading

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On September 29, 2017 the First District Court of Appeal made new law concerning the type of signage posted on your property that can prevent warrantless investigation of the occupants.  The case is State of Florida v. Crowley; Case No.:  1D16-3380.

In Crowley, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Officers received an anonymous tip someone was growing and selling marijuana from their home.  An officer decided to visit the home and talk to the occupants. Upon his arrival at the home, the officer approached up the front walkway to the front door which bore a conspicuous “No Soliciting” sign.  Ignoring the sign, the officer knocked on the door.  Robert David Crowley opened the door and spoke with the officer.  Mr. Crowley did not ask the officer to leave the premises.  The officer inquired about a supposed lost friend.  While speaking with Mr. Crowley the officer detected a strong odor of marijuana emanating from inside the home.

After the conversation ended, the officer obtained a search warrant and returned to search Mr. Crowley’s home.  The search produced seventy-seven marijuana plants, drug paraphernalia, and a firearm.  Mr. Crowley was then arrested and criminally charged.  Continue reading

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The Florida Times Union just reported on a road rage case on Thursday in St. John’s County.  According to the article, a newly licensed teen driver was with her mother and teenage brother when the vehicle behind them honked, flashed its lights and the driver gestured and yelled at them.  The second vehicle then rammed the young driver’s car three times.  The incident was witnessed by others who reported it to police.  The offending driver subsequently was arrested and charged with three counts of aggravated battery, a third degree felony punishable by up to five years imprisonment and one of leaving the scene of a crash, a second degree misdemeanor punishable by up to 60 days in the county jail.

This rather egregious example of road rage is not uncommon in Florida.  Furthermore, the number of road rage incidents involving guns is on the rise.  A study by the nonprofit news organization The Trace found there were more than 1,300 gun-related road rage incidents nationwide from January 2014 to December 2015.  And, the study found Florida reported 146 incidents during that time frame.  That is the most in the country.

In a recent interesting case reported in the Palm Beach Post, a priest was driving his red corvette (I’m not making this up) on the Florida Turnpike when he “brake checked” a pickup truck closely following his vehicle.  When the pickup driver then tried to go around the priest’s ‘vette, the priest allegedly pointed a handgun at the driver (again, I’m not making this stuff up).  When questioned by police, the priest reported the pickup driver had pulled up beside his vehicle whereupon someone rolled down a window, started screaming and then threw a drink at his vehicle.  While the priest confirmed he had a gun in his vehicle, he contended it was not loaded and it was under the passenger seat during the entire incident.  Nonetheless, the priest was arrested and charged with two counts of assault with a deadly weapon, a third degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison. Continue reading

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The purpose of a bail in Florida criminal proceedings is to ensure the appearance of the criminal defendant at subsequent proceedings and to protect the community against unreasonable danger from the criminal defendant.  Under Florida law, when determining whether to release the defendant on bail or other conditions and what the amount of bail should be, the court must consider numerous statutorily delineated criteria.  They are: (1)  the type of offense charged; (2) the extent of evidence of guilt; (3) the defendant’s ties to the community; (4) the defendant’s criminal history, if any, and any previous incidents of flight or failure to appear; (5) any danger to the community posed by defendant’s release; (6) whether defendant’s offered bond funds are derived from unlawful activities; (7) whether defendant is already on release pending resolution of another criminal proceeding or completion of a sentence; (8) the street value of any drug or controlled substance related to the criminal charge; (9) the nature and probability of intimidation and danger to victims; (10) whether there is probable cause to believe the defendant committed a new crime while on pretrial release; (11) whether the crime charged is for a gang-related offense or one for which defendant would have to register as a sexual offender or predator; and (12) any other factors the court considers relevant.

The practice of requiring money bail for pretrial release is common in the majority of jurisdictions in the United States.  But, a series of recent lawsuits and an increasing body of research has raised concerns about its effectiveness and potential to discriminate based on race and income.

On April 29, 2017 a federal judge in Houston ordered Harris County to stop the pretrial detention of people arrested on misdemeanor charges because they cannot afford bail.  The ruling occurred in a case where a woman arrested for driving without a license spent more than two days in jail because she could not make her $2,500 bail.  In a 193 page order, Judge Lee H. Rosenthal wrote “Harris County’s policy is to detain indigent misdemeanor defendants before trial, violating equal protection rights against wealth-based discrimination and violating due process protections against pretrial detention.”  The judge pointed to statistics indicating 40 percent of those arrested for misdemeanors in the county had been detained until their cases were resolved.  Continue reading

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In the past year there have been numerous local undercover operations wherein detectives pose as underage females seeking sex on the internet.  Many of the ads are posted on Craigslist or similar sites.  They typically begin with a posted ad stating the poster is home alone, bored and looking for something to do.  The initial ad sometimes also states the poster is a female anywhere from 12 to 14 years old, although sometimes their purported age is not disclosed until later.

After making initial contact with the poster, a texting dialog usually follows.  It can be brief or run for several hours or even days.  The poster will send and also ask for a photo.  During the dialog, sex is discussed.  A time and place to meet is also established.  When the responder arrives to meet the poster, they are then detained by numerous officers, interviewed without a lawyer present, arrested and their vehicle is then taken and subject to forfeiture.  They are then transported to the jail and face a high bond, sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of dollars, in order to get out while their case is pending.

According to a recent article in The Florida Times-Union, a few weeks ago yet another one of these stings, designated “Operation Cruel Summer” occurred in St. John’s County.  The operation involved the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the State Attorney’s Office, sheriffs’ offices from St. Johns, Putnam, Duval and Okaloosa counties as well as police departments from St. Augustine Beach, Orange Park and Gainesville. It resulted in the arrest Friday of 17 men ages 19 to 60 years old. Continue reading

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In 2002 actor Bill Cosby met Andrea Constand at his alma mater, Temple University in Philadelphia, where she was on the staff of the women’s basketball team.  Later, in the beginning of 2004, Cosby invited Constand to his home to discuss her career options. While she was there, Cosby gave her pills to relax her before lying on the couch with her and engaging in sexual acts. At the time Cosby was 66 and Constand was 30.

About a year later Constand told her mother about the incident with Cosby and that it was non-consensual.  They reported the matter to police, who suggest they record Cosby on a phone call.  In the call, Cosby admitted performing “digital penetration” but refused to identify the name of the pills he gave Constand.  The case was then referred to Pennsylvania authorities.

In February 2005 Montgomery County District Attorney Bruce Castor announced he would not  charge Cosby. In describing the case against Cosby as weak, Castor cited the yearlong delay in Constand’s report to her mother, Constand’s continued contact with Cosby after the incident and the fact that other accusers who had also come forward had never filed formal complaints with law enforcement.

In March 2005 Constand civilly sued Cosby for sexual battery and defamation.  During that case Cosby gave four days of deposition testimony about his affairs with young women over 50 years. The case ultimately resulted in a confidential settlement.  Continue reading

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On May 10, 2017 United States Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a Memorandum to all federal prosecutors titled Department Charging and Sentencing Policy.  The new policy requires federal prosecutors to charge and pursue the most serious, readily provable offenses, i.e., those that carry the longest guidelines sentence, including mandatory minimum sentences.

The new policy rescinds any previous inconsistent policies of the United States Department of Justice, including the Department Policy on Charging Mandatory Minimum Sentences and Recidivist Enhancements in Certain Drug Cases (August 12, 2013) and Guidance Regarding section 851 Enhancements in Plea Negotiations (September 24, 2014).

Simply put, the new policy generally requires prosecutors to seek whatever charges would lead to the most years in prison for any and all federal offenses.  But, it is expected to have the most impact upon those arrested for possessing or selling drugs. The policy, however, does allow prosecutors to seek permission on specific cases to not strictly follow it if authorized  by supervisors. But, non-adherence to the new policy is expected to be infrequent.  Continue reading