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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To date, the following eleven states have legalized recreational use of marijuana:  Washington, Oregon, California, Alaska, Nevada, Colorado, Illinois, Michigan, Maine, Vermont and Massachusetts.  As those and other states and cities relax their drug laws, the highly trained dogs used by their police departments to sniff out narcotics can’t be relied on to smell the right thing.

It generally costs a law enforcement department about $6,000 to purchase a working dog and thousands more to train it.  The drug dogs are usually trained to detect numerous drugs, including marijuana, cocaine, heroin, ecstasy and methamphetamine.  So, when a dog alerts, it simply indicates the presence of one of those five drugs.  In those states where marijuana has been fully legalized, a drug dog’s alert could mean it smells only marijuana.  Since marijuana is legal in those states, the dog’s alert would not give rise to probable cause to search a person or their vehicle for illegal drugs.

Thus, in several states where marijuana is fully legalized, including California, Oregon, Maine and Vermont, most newly acquired drug dogs are not being trained to alert to the smell of marijuana.  And, some other states where recreational marijuana use is not legal have started to omit marijuana from the scents dogs are trained to detect. Continue reading

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On March 26, 2019 United States District Judge Brian J. Davis sentenced 68 year old Mohammad Abdul Malek to 10 years in federal prison for attempted enticement and coercion of a minor to engage in sexual activity. Malek, a Ph.D. level engineer, was employed as a federal civilian employee at Kings Bay Naval Base and was living in St. Mary’s Georgia prior to his arrest.

To implement an investigation into child sexual exploitation, on August 22, 2019 a Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office detective posted an ad in the “community / activity partners” section of Craigslist.  The ad stated “Looking 2 learn “(Atlantic)” “Hey, I’m looking 2 learn something new. . . I’m totally bored here visiting my granny!  HMU if ur real.”

The detective assumed the persona of a 13 year old female.  Malek responded only hours after the ad was posted to the internet, stating “I can teach you love making. . . .”  Malek later claimed to be 50.  The undercover persona replied that she was “almost 14.”  Malek initially responded “You are too young.”  Unfortunately for him, however, Malek subsequently engaged in more dialog from August 23 through August 26 involving approximately 780 text messages with the undercover persona.  Continue reading

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If you’ve been served with a Petition for Injunction for Protection against Stalking, sometimes referred to as a “restraining order”, there’s good news for you.  A recent case from the First District Court of Appeal has made it harder to get a stalking injunction.

In Venn v. Fowlkes, 43 Fla.L.Weekly D2455 (Fla. 1st DCA 2018) Mr. Venn filed a Petition for Protection Against Domestic Violence against Ms. Venn with whom he shared a child from their 15 year relationship.  Mr. Fowlkes’s Petition alleged Ms. Venn stalked and harassed him 24/7 at his work and home, and harassed him by filing a child support case. The allegations included that Ms. Venn called Mr. Fowlkes numerous times without leaving a message; knocked on the door of his house and ran; created problems at the restaurant where he works; claimed to have many pictures of him and his wife; called and bothered Mr. Fowlkes’s brother; claimed to be in fear of Mr. Fowlkes; and told a third-party that she would “get the crackers on [him].”  Claiming to be “tired of [Ms. Venn’s] games, [her] stalking, [and her] harassment through the child support case,” Mr. Fowlkes’s Petition requested the trial court to stop it immediately by granting him an injunction.

At the injunction hearing, Mr. Fowlkes testified the allegations in his petition were true and correct.  He provided no further substantive testimony. Ms. Venn objected to the injunction and testified she had legitimate reasons for visiting Mr. Fowlkes’s workplace and home. For example, Ms. Venn informed the court she had gone to the restaurant several times with the parties’ minor daughter, at the daughter’s request and after Mr. Fowlkes had invited the daughter to eat there. Ms. Venn also acknowledge placing something in Mr. Fowlkes’s mailbox related to her child support case against him. Ms. Venn contended Mr. Fowlkes’s petition was filed in retaliation for her having filed a child support case against him. Continue reading

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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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