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According to reports released by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement on Wednesday, crime in Broward and Palm Beach counties took a plunge in 2013 and stayed in line with the state’s total decrease in criminal offenses.

In its 2013 Annual Uniform Crime Report, the state agency concludes that criminal activity, ranging from rapes and murders to robberies and burglaries, have steadily dropped in Florida over the past five years.

The overall crime rate fell by about seven percent in Broward County. With that said, the report relays that there were 46 more forcible rapes in 2013 compared to 2012. The biggest category of crimes to drop was robberies, decreasing by about 13 percent.

crime sceneIn Palm Beach County, the overall crime rate plunged by about three percent in 2013. Conversely, there were nearly 100 more vehicle thefts than in 2012.

FDLE computed the same number of murders in 2012 and 2013 in both counties — 80 in Broward and 74 in Palm Beach.

When you are charged with a crime in Florida, the consequences can be devastating. Criminal charges have the ability to haunt you for the rest of your life, sometimes going as far as limiting your ability to find a job, own or rent a home and even maintain or build new relationships. Even if you do not serve any jail time, a criminal conviction can still negatively impact your life.

A criminal investigation can progress rather quickly. What you may think is nothing right now could lead to your arrest tomorrow. The sooner you involve a criminal lawyer with your charges, the better the outcome for you. A South Florida Criminal Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton can thoroughly analyze every aspect of your case and begin evaluating possible defenses and strategies right away. From early on, we will look for ways to help you avoid a criminal conviction.

We handle all of the following types of criminal cases, including:

  • Sex offenses, including rape, child molestation, child pornography, prostitution, indecent exposure, child abuse and sexual assault
  • Drug crimes, including possession, sale, distribution, grow house and trafficking
  • Violent crimes, including kidnapping, burglary, assault, battery, robbery, domestic violence, murder, manslaughter and weapons charges
  • White Collar Crimes, such as Internet crimes, fraud, forgery, identity theft and RICO
  • Juvenile Offenses
  • DUI Charges, including DUI Manslaughter and DUI Serious Bodily Injury

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A Manatee High School quarterback was arrested Monday night and is facing charges of lewd and lascivious battery on a 15-year-old girl.

According to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office, the 17-year-old was arrested at 8:13 p.m. Monday. The girl apparently  reported the alleged incident to law enforcement earlier that day.

Investigators believe that the teen and the alleged victim attended a party Saturday where they both drank alcoholic beverages. The two apparently began kissing and the girl claims she told the boy to stop, according to a sheriff’s office report.

teen arrestedThe report states that the teen grabbed the alleged victim, pulled her into the bathroom, turned off the lights and locked the door. Once inside the bathroom, the girl claims that the boy tried taking her pants off but she asked him to stop.

Following his arrest, the teen allegedly admitted to having some sexual contact with the girl but denied raping her, according to the sheriff’s office.

According to a Manatee County school district spokesman, the teen will be re-assigned to an alternative school until this matter is resolved. School district officials will cooperate with law enforcement’s investigation, but will make no comments until the case is settled.

This teen’s arrest comes just a year after unprecedented legal scrutiny involving Manatee High School athletics.

A former running backs coach is scheduled for trial on June 2 involving one of seven misdemeanor charges of battery involving former female students and school employees as well as three misdemeanor charges of interfering with a student’s attendance. He has pleaded not guilty and will receive separate trials for the charges.

Former Manatee High School principal and former assistant principals are all facing charges of failure to report child abuse in the same case involving the former coach.

Lewd and lascivious battery cases are rarely witnessed first-hand by anyone other than the alleged victim and the accused, so the prosecution usually relies on circumstantial evidence and unreliable accusations of the victim. In many cases, these allegations are exaggerated or completely fabricated. When these cases involve a juvenile that is accused of touching another minor in an inappropriate way they are usually tried in juvenile court. However, depending on the age of the accused, the State Attorney’s Office could very well file these charges in adult court. Due to the serious nature of these charges and the severe potential consequences, parents should never allow their child to discuss these allegations with anyone, including prosecutors and law enforcement, before obtaining experienced legal representation.

In Florida, lewd and lascivious battery is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison when the accused is 18 years old and the alleged victim is between the ages of 12 and 15. When a juvenile who is less than 18 years old is charged with lewd and lascivious battery and the alleged victim is between the ages of 12 and 15, then the crime can be charged as a third-degree felony punishable by 5 years in state prison. Any person convicted of this crime would be declared sexual offender and be forced to comply with sexual offender registration laws in Florida and throughout the United States.

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Investigators believe that a 44-year-old convicted child abuser on probation until 2026 passed himself off as a lawyer and conned a convict’s family out of $70,000.

Police claim the man has now vanished. State agents looked to arrest him this week on charges of grand theft and practicing law without a license.

The man is on probation for aggravated child abuse after serving two years behind bars.

moneyAccording to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the man promised he could free a prison inmate currently serving a 27-year sentence for a 1999 kidnapping in less than 90 days.

The inmate’s relatives hired the suspect after meeting him through an uncle, whom the suspect represented on a traffic ticket last fall, according to police.

The suspect allegedly told the family that he had arranged a deal with prosecutors who agreed to have the inmate’s case vacated.

The family apparently paid the man a total of $70,000.

According to reports, the suspect claimed his law partners were real-life attorneys who actually represented him in 2007 on a sexual battery on a minor charge that was later reduced as part of a plea deal.

The suspect promised that the inmate would be released in 90 days, according to the warrant.

The family became suspicious of the suspect and contacted the attorneys that the man had listed as his partners.

One of the attorneys contacted his former client asking for an explanation, and the suspect allegedly told him he was working undercover as part of a FBI investigation into corruption into the State Attorney’s Office.

FDLE agents became aware of the man’s activities and uncovered that he had offered his legal services to another man facing criminal charges, but the man refused to sign the paperwork.

Various occupations require people to obtain licensure before they can practice in that specific profession. Licenses are required for many occupations, including attorneys, nurses, engineers, physicians, social workers, real estate agents, accountants and many others. Anyone without a proper license who attempts to engage in one of these professions commits the crime of practicing without a license.

As this case shows, practicing without a license is usually accompanied by additional charges, such as theft or fraud. The charges this man is facing are quite serious. When the value of stolen property is between $20,000 and $100,000, a person can be charged with a second-degree felony for grand theft. This crime is punishable by up to 15 years in Florida state prison and $10,000 in fines.

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Marion County sheriff’s deputies allegedly removed 212 grams of methamphetamine Thursday from a house in the 100 block of Southwest 87th Place south of Ocala.

The discovery was apparently made when the caretaker of the home arrived to drop off some mail, according to a MCSO report. The owner of the house does not live at the home.

Deputies claim that when the owner opened the back door of the property, he saw someone run into the front bedroom. The man told police that he confronted the person, who apparently told him that someone else was in the camper in the backyard.

Illegales_Methlab_(USA)The property owner allegedly witnessed a man in the camper cooking meth. The caretaker called 911, and the man in the camper fled.

The Unified Drug Enforcement Strike Team arrived at the scene and reported finding 212 grams of meth in paint cans.

Authorities said the investigation is ongoing.

Also known as “crystal meth,” “crank,” “ice” or “chalk,” methamphetamine is a highly addictive drug that is not only extremely dangerous, but one which has grown increasing popular in Florida and throughout the United States. Florida law enforcement and prosecutors combined have recently cracked down on those who produce meth or maintain a meth lab because of the potential danger of the drug and the side effects, which can be fatal.

Characteristically, the term manufacturing brings to mind visions of large scale factory-type operations that generate massive quantities of illegal drugs. However, meth labs are actually extremely portable, so much in fact, that most labs can fit inside the trunk of a car. Trailers, campers and even motel rooms have become popular locations for meth lab operations.

Whether you are a first-time offender or a repeat offender, manufacturing, trafficking or distributing methamphetamines can lead to lengthy prison sentences. Pleading guilty to manufacturing charges or simply relying on a public defender is never a good idea when decades of your freedom are on the line and the stakes are this high. A Drug Crimes Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton can relentlessly challenge every angle of the prosecution’s case against you. We can challenge the arrest, the search, the seizure and any warrants and statements.

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San Francisco 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick is currently being investigated for a possible sexual assault that occurred earlier this month in Miami, according to a report.

Reports indicate that the investigation is in its beginning stages. No charges have been filed yet.

The Special Victims Unit is apparently looking into the allegations.

According to Miami police, they are investigating a “suspicious incident” that also involves 49ers receiver Quinton Patton and Seahawks receiver Ricardo Lockette.

Colin_Kaepernick_(cropped)The report alleges that the three players and an unnamed woman were drinking and smoking marijuana from a bong at Lockette’s apartment at the Viceroy Hotel on April 1 when the woman, who claims she had a prior sexual relationship with Kaepernick, felt light-headed and went to lie down in a bedroom.

The woman apparently told police that Kaepernick joined her in the bedroom and undressed her, but the two did not have sexual relations. Patton and Lockette allegedly “peeked” into the bedroom and she told them to leave.

The report states that the woman woke up in the hospital the next morning with no further memories from the night before and was unaware of how she ended up in the hospital.

If you or someone you care about is under investigation or has been arrested or charged with sexual assault in Miami-Dade County, a fundamental piece of an effective defense strategy is to hire an experienced criminal lawyer to represent you. A Miami-Dade County Sex Crimes Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton can investigate every shred of evidence against you and develop a powerful and aggressive line of defense in order to achieve the best possible outcome for your case.

People charged with sexual assault or other types of sex crimes face harsh judgments from the public and the media and must face hostile prosecutors. Unfortunately, most people are quick to jump to conclusions in these cases and are all too willing to believe the worst about those accused of sexually motivated crimes. At Whittel & Melton, we know firsthand that not all people accused of sex offenses are actually guilty of the charges stacked against them. We believe that those accused of sexual offenses deserve a fair trial and the best possible representation.

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A Rock Harbor woman was arrested Monday night after police claim she used a belt in an attempt to strangle a 10-year-old boy.

According to reports, a second child witnessed the alleged incident and called a relative for help. The relative then called the Sheriff’s Office who responded to the residence at the 95.3 mile marker of the highway around 10:30 p.m.

When deputies arrived at the scene they allegedly found a 31-year-old woman who was so intoxicated she could hardly speak. Police claim the relative who reported the incident said the woman has ongoing issues involving alcohol.

woman_in_handcuffsBoth children relayed the same story to police, claiming that the woman placed a belt around the 10-year-old boy’s neck and began tightening it. They apparently told police that the woman said she was going to kill the boy while she attempted to strangle him.

The woman was charged with aggravated battery on a child and was taken to jail.

A charge for aggravated battery on a child in Monroe County can have severe consequences on your life. A conviction for this felony can lead to significant time behind bars and costly fines. While these penalties are serious, perhaps even more damaging is the lasting havoc these charges can wreak on your family life and personal reputation. In order to successfully fight these charges and protect your future, you must work with a criminal defense attorney who can safeguard your rights. A Monroe County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can help you aggressively fight these allegations.

In order to be convicted for aggravated battery on a child, prosecutors must prove certain elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Many of these elements can be difficult to prove, as there is often little to no evidence to clearly support these claims. As former prosecutors, we are very familiar with the tactics that the prosecution uses to present their case and can put this knowledge to work for you. Just because you have been arrested for a crime, this does not automatically mean a conviction will follow. There are many viable defense options that can combat these false or exaggerated charges and result in a positive outcome.

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On Friday, a federal judge sentenced a south Florida doctor to more than six years in prison for her involvement in writing prescriptions for thousands of painkillers to addicts and drug dealers.

She was convicted of money laundering.

In July of 2013 a jury acquitted the 43-year-old woman and a 74-year-old man on charges that their roles in a chain of South Florida pain clinics led to the deaths of nine patients. They both faced up to life in prison and $2 million in fines.

pillsThe doctors and their defense team fought to prove that they were unaware of the conspiracy and were practicing medicine in line with state standards, which allow licensed physicians to dispense opioid pain pills without fear of punishment.

However, the jury convicted the pair of money laundering for their role in the “pill mill” scheme.

A U.S. District Judge sentenced the female doctor to 78 months in prison, while the man received 18 months. Both must also pay $10,000 in fines.

The woman’s lawyer says they plan to appeal the conviction.

The two doctors’ trial ended a four-year operation that targeted a slew of South Florida pain clinics that resulted in racketeering charges against 32 people in 2010.

The clinics owner is currently serving more than 17 years in prison and his brother and co-owner is serving more than 15. Both brothers testified on the government’s behalf.

At one point in time Florida had 90 of the top 100 oxycodone-purchasing physicians in the nation and 53 of the top 100 oxycodone-purchasing pharmacies.

The majority of these pills were pushed up the East Coast and sold at high markups in rural communities reaching from northern Alabama to western Pennsylvania. Interstate 95 was actually nicknamed Oxy Alley by dealers who frequently drove hundreds of miles to South Florida to buy cheap pain pills.

Florida law enforcement has been trying hard to crack down on the epidemic of prescription drug abuse within recent years. However, the restriction on painkillers has led to more heroin abuse.

Deaths from heroin rose 89 percent in Florida, from 62 in 2011 to 117 in 2012, according to a report by the National Institute on Drug Abuse. According to reports, the heroin problem in south Florida has reached epidemic proportions.

Money laundering is a very serious federal crime that entails taking unlawfully obtained money and working to incorporate it so it appears to come from a lawful source. In general, money laundering involves a string of various financial transactions and multiple bank accounts. Today’s technology only makes these cases that much more complex, oftentimes complicating paper trails and making many Internet transactions harder to trace.

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The pastor of a Brandon evangelical Spanish-speaking church was arrested this morning after being accused of molesting three females in the congregation.

Detectives claim the abuse went on for a couple of years.

The 44-year-old is charged with three felony counts of lewd and lascivious molestation. The ages of the alleged victims are 12, 17 and 43.

Deputies claim the 17-year-old said the man touched her inappropriately on approximately 15 different occasions beginning in 2011.

churchThe victim alleges that the man told her he was doing this because he loved her as a pastor and she was not to tell anyone because he could get in trouble.

The 43-year-old claims the man touched her inappropriately in April of 2013. She told deputies that he told her it was a way to cure a medical condition, according to reports.

Reports indicate that the 12-year-old was touched inappropriately by the man two times a week for the past year.

Detectives began investigating the allegations after the three alleged victims learned that the man was behaving inappropriately with all of them.

The pastor has denied all the allegations to investigators.

He is currently being held in the Hillsborough County Jail and is expected to be at a bond hearing Saturday morning.

Sadly, there are circumstances when an adult is wrongfully accused of lewd and lascivious molestation. Law enforcement agents are quick to take the word of children who may have made false allegations in order to gain something from hurting the accused. If you or someone you know has been charged with lewd and lascivious molestation in the Tampa Bay area, a Hillsborough County Sex Crimes Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton can help you through this difficult and confusing time. As soon as you contact us we can immediately assess the situation and recommend the best legal strategy for your defense.

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A Bunnell police officer was arrested last week after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement accused him of soliciting teenage boys online.

The 30-year-old Palm Coast man was arrested Mar. 25 on two counts of computer pornography and child exploitation, and one count of criminal use of personal identification information.

facebookThe FDLE said they began investigating the man in December 2013 after receiving complaints regarding his behavior. Investigators claim the man created a fraudulent Facebook account posing as a teenage girl and used the account to solicit teenage boys. FDLE alleges the conversations turned sexual when the man requested sexual photos from the teens.

Reports indicate the man was arrested at Bunnell City Hall by deputies from the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office. He was booked into the Flagler County Jail with bail set at $125,000.

He posted bond later that night and was released.

Bunnell police said the man has been suspended without pay.

Sex offenses involving juveniles are punished harshly in Flagler County and throughout the state of Florida. In fact, Florida has some of the harshest sentences for sex offenders in the nation, and penalties often include any number of years up to life in prison, considerable fines and other strict consequences. For most, being forced to register as a sexual offender is the most detrimental penalty of all. Registered sex offenders face many struggles as this can not only ruin careers and reputations, but restrict where they can work and even live.

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A St. Lucie County high school teacher has been arrested and charged with six counts of lewd and lascivious conduct involving six teen victims.

St. Lucie County Sheriff’s deputies investigated the 68-year-old for several weeks and arrested the man on March 18. He was booked into the Indian River County jail with bail set at $600,000.

The alleged illegal activity took place during the current school year and apparently involved victims ranging in age from 14 to 15, according to investigators.

According to the arrest report, the man’s conduct “went well beyond a causal or friendly contact and was for a lewd and lascivious purpose.”

arrested 3Police also claim that the man said to at least one victim that he “can’t wait until you’re 18. Actually, we’re doing it sooner.”

Investigators alleged they located a mirror “affixed to the underside of the suspect’s desk,” according to the arrest report.

If you are a teacher that has been accused of a sex crime involving a student or students, it is important to act quickly and retain a sex crimes defense lawyer as soon as possible. While the media and the general public tend to side with the alleged victims in sex crimes cases, what happens in the court room is an entirely different story. A St. Lucie County Sex Crimes Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton can help you fight back against false sex crimes charges so that you can get back to your life and your career as soon as possible.

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