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 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

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Together with Arizona and South Carolina, Florida is considered to have some of the more strict DUI laws in the country.  Soon, however, Utah will be the undisputed king of strict DUI laws in the nation.

Currently, all states require a blood alcohol concentration of 0.08 or greater for someone to be considered to be driving under the influence.  Recently Utah’s Governor, Gary Herbert, signed legislation giving Utah the strictest DUI threshold in the country.  The law reduces the DUI blood alcohol concentration threshold from 0.08 to 0.05.

Opponents of the law urged the governor to veto the bill, contending it would punish responsible drinkers and reinforce Utah’s reputation as being unfriendly to drinkers.  Governor Herbert, a Mormon, denied the bill was motivated for religious reasons.  Instead, he said the bill’s impetus arose out of concern for public safety. Continue reading

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Capable criminal defense lawyers know there are two major avenues for defending drug possession cases.  The first is to pursue traditional defenses such as investigating search and seizure issues, warrant issues, actual versus constructive possession issues and other similar traditional defenses.  The second major avenue, and one unfortunately oftentimes overlooked, is to fully investigate and develop sentencing phase “mitigation” evidence.  Effective mitigation in a criminal drug possession case, or in any criminal case for that matter, is oftentimes critical in avoiding a conviction and/or jail or prison time.

So what is mitigation evidence?  It is evidence of individual-specific circumstances generally beyond your control that significantly adversely affected your character and behavior which lead to your arrest.

Typical mitigation evidence in drug possession cases involves, among other things, showing your drug addiction arose from you initially being lawfully prescribed pain medications by a licensed physician for a medically documented injury, such as neck and/or back pain from an automobile or on-the-job accident.  The mitigation evidence generally demonstrates you were placed on an extended course of prescribed pain medications such that by the time your prescription had expired you had become addicted, through no fault of your own.  Faced with your addiction and the lack of any further prescriptions for the pain medication, your character and behavior were involuntarily altered to the extent you were left to satisfy your addiction on the “black market” or on the street.  This type of mitigation evidence often is rightfully considered by the State in arriving at a negotiated disposition of your case (in what is oftentimes referred to as “plea bargaining”) that spares you a formal felony drug possession conviction and/or jail or prison time. Continue reading

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Cesar Gonzales-Mugaburu , a 60 year old foster father who had previously opened his home to scores of disabled children, was acquitted yesterday  in a New York Supreme Court of endangering or sexually abusing several boys while they were in his care.  The verdict followed a five week trial during which eight of Mr. Mugaburu’s accusers testified against him.  Mr. Mugaburu had been denied bail and was held in jail for a year prior to his trial.

Mr. Mugaburu’s lawyer, Donald Mates, argued at trial that while Mr. Mugaburu was strict, he was not abusive.  Mr. Mates cited to the fact New York City’s child welfare agency trusted Mr. Mugaburu so much that it had placed 95 boys in his care over 20 years.  Mr. Mates further raised doubt about the credibility of the accusers, arguing they were coached.

The jury deliberated the 16 charges against Mr. Mugaburu for more than a week.  According to the The New York Times, jurors reported struggling at times to remain impartial in the case which elicited a lot of emotion.  The jury further organized the case details and created a timeline on a white board in the jury room.  The jurors even debated the definition of “reasonable doubt” and requested the judge to re-read the jury instructions providing the definition.  The case was very stressful for the jury, with one juror noting some of her fellow jurors fainted, became dizzy, developed stomach problems, and experienced insomnia during the trial.  Continue reading

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You meet a woman on an internet dating site or through a dating app such as Tinder.  You subsequently end up having what you understood to be consensual sex.  Later, however, the woman calls you complaining you forced her into having sex with you or otherwise contends the sex was non-consensual.

This is a relatively familiar scenario.  And, it’s a potentially dangerous one.  It’s dangerous because unbeknownst to you, your date may have already contacted police with her allegations and the call is part of an investigative tactic known as a controlled, or pretext, call.

In a controlled call, a sex crimes detective will have already been in contact with your accuser.  The detective will further have coached your accuser  regarding what to say to you prior to making the call.  And, most importantly, the call is recorded to collect and preserve crucial evidence to use against you in a criminal case.

Continue reading

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I’ve had numerous inquiries about registration requirements for those convicted of felonies within the State of Florida.  Many folks, and apparently even some lawyers, believe the registration requirements only apply to those convicted of sex offenses.  That is incorrect.  Thus, while it is commonly known that certain sexual offenders or sexual predators must register with their local Sheriff’s Office, it is less widely known that there are registration requirements associated with non-sex felony offenses as well.

Florida Statute section 775.13 imposes a registration requirement for anyone convicted of any felony in the State of Florida.  That section requires “convicted” felons to register with the sheriff within 48 hours of entering any county within the State of Florida.  The required registration includes being fingerprinted and photographed.   Furthermore, the registration requirement also applies to anyone convicted of a felony in any state or federal court outside the State of Florida.

Failure to register as a convicted felon in Florida is a second degree misdemeanor, punishable by up to 6 months in prison.  However, if you’ve been convicted of a gang-related offense and fail to register, that is considered a third degree felony, and is punishable by up to 5 years in prison. Continue reading