Articles Posted in Felony Crimes

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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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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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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

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There is good news if you desire to serve in the military, but you have a previous arrest for marijuana possession.  The United States Army is issuing an increasing number of enlistment waivers to those who have smoked pot and also want to serve their country.  These waivers allow previously disqualified applicants to now enter the Army.

The increase in waivers reflects the Army’s difficulty in achieving its ever-increasing recruiting goals.  In 2016 the Army enlisted approximately 63,000 recruits.  That number increased to approximately 69,000 last year.  The Army’s goal in 2018 is to enlist 80,000 recruits.  The need for new soldiers comes as Congress has reversed trends begun in the Obama administration to downsize the military.

And, the number of waivers granted for marijuana users, while relatively small, nonetheless is increasing rapidly as well.  In 2016, there were 191 waivers granted.  That number increased substantially, to more than 500, last year.  While small compared against the total number of recruits enlisted, the increasing number of waivers granted is especially significant considering that just three years ago, no such waivers were granted.  This substantial increase is one way officials are attempting to comply with directives to expand the Army’s size.  Continue reading

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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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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