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Florida authorities said three teenagers – one 14-year-old and two 16-year-olds – stole a sport utility vehicle, sped away from officers and died in a fiery, violent crash early Sunday morning.

The 4:30 a.m. crash happened in Pinellas County.

A fourth teen in the SUV, who is 14, survived and is hospitalized.

All the teens all had criminal histories – including one who had gotten out of jail on July 31.

Reports indicate that a Ford Explorer and a Chrysler Sebring were stolen from a Clearwater car dealership Thursday. Both vehicles were spotted by deputies early Sunday morning. Deputies tried to apprehend the drivers of the cars, but didn’t pursue them. The sheriff’s office’s pursuit policy generally does not allow deputies to chase stolen cars.

Deputies believed the teens were using the stolen cars to commit burglaries. At one point, they set up a perimeter to try to catch the teens, but a deputy spotted the vehicles outside of the perimeter.

According to reports, the cars were in a “cat and mouse” game with each other, accelerating and slowing down, hitting speeds of 100 mph or more.

The deputy that spotted them did not initiate a high-speed chase, but the Explorer continued at about 100 mph when it hit another vehicle, caught fire and went airborne. The Explorer also hit a billboard pole.

The driver hit by the Explorer suffered minor injuries, reports indicate.

Officers found the Chrysler Sebring and arrested the two in that car; one is 16 and the other 18.

The teens involved were being monitored under a program for repeat offenders.

In 2015, police in Pinellas made 499 felony arrests for juvenile auto theft, more than any other county in Florida going back eight years, and more than the most populous counties in America, including Los Angeles. The Tampa Bay Times did an investigation into teen car thefts in April of 2017; the paper found that every four days, a teen crashes a stolen car in Pinellas County. It also found that in nearly every other county in Florida, most people arrested for auto theft are adults. But in Pinellas County, 62 percent are younger than 18 – the largest rate of juveniles arrested for grand theft auto of any sizable Florida county for at least a decade.

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A suspected drug dealer was arrested while allegedly carrying 70 baggies of possible heroin, four grams of marijuana, six grams of cocaine, $4,000 in cash — and had kids ages 1, 2 and 5 in his back seat, according to police.

The multi-agency bust happened Tuesday afternoon after investigators got a tip that a 23-year-old Delray Beach man would be at Jaycee Park with a large amount of drugs.

Officers watched as he pulled into the park, driving a 2012 Ford Edge with dark tinted windows.

When the man wouldn’t unlock the SUV, agents moved in and smashed the tinted window, according to a Boynton Beach police arrest report.

A woman and another man were also in the vehicle along with the children.

Inside the SUV, investigators found the drugs and money, according to the report.

Police claim the man was carrying more than $4,000 cash, according to the report.

The man faces multiple drug charges. He is also charged with child neglect. He is being held on bonds totaling $295,000.

Have you been accused of a heroin crime? In Florida, drug crimes are punished quite severely, especially those which involve a narcotic like heroin. Individuals who are convicted of offenses involving heroin can face very serious consequences, including heavy fines and years behind bars. Because of the serious nature of these charges, if you have been arrested for a heroin crime or are facing allegations, you need to seek legal help right away. Our South Florida Drug Crimes Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can help you understand your rights and what to expect from your particular situation. We will do our best to help reduce the existing charges or get them dismissed.

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A former Polk County school principal was arrested Friday morning on allegations of fraud and theft.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office has charged the 46-year-old former principal with 60 counts of dealing in stolen property, 16 counts passing forged or altered documents, 2 counts fraudulent use of credit card, 1 count obtaining property by fraud, 1 count money laundering, and 1 count grand theft.

Detectives said the crimes occurred while the woman was principal. She resigned as principal in June 2015 and was hired in July 2015 as Assistant Director of Academics at another school. Detectives said the woman resigned from that position in Sep. 2016 when confronted by school officials about suspected fraud and theft–a total of $105,426.

The woman was arrested on Jan. 10, 2017 for grand theft fraud, fraudulent use of credit card, money laundering, and criminal use of personal ID. She was released from jail two days later, on Jan. 12, after posting a $39,000 bail. This case is still pending an outcome, officials said.

The woman was arrested Friday, July 21, at her home in north Lakeland. She will have a first appearance hearing Saturday morning, July 22, 2017.

Anyone can be arrested for a crime, as this case shows. Theft and fraud crimes are taken very seriously in Florida, and can come with severe penalties and consequences. Whether it is a misdemeanor or felony theft or fraud offense it can have serious consequences that will haunt you for the rest of your life. If convicted of theft or fraud, you are looking at serious jail time and steep fines. Any type of theft or fraud conviction will more than likely affect your job. Employers do not generally like to hire people who have been arrested or convicted of theft or fraud, which could make it very difficult to support yourself both now and in the future. Therefore, it is very important to hire a skilled criminal defense lawyer who understands the consequences a theft or fraud conviction and what it can mean to your future.

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St. Petersburg police arrested a 25-year-old man and charged him with two counts of kidnapping and one count of sexual battery with a deadly weapon.

Police claim the incidents involved teenage boy.

Police said the first incident happened June 29 when the man posed as a teenage girl on Facebook and lured a 17-year-old boy to a house. The man was allegedly armed with a handgun and threatened the boy, then apparently sexually assaulted him, authorities said.

The man is also accused of posing as a teenage girl and luring a 15-year-old boy to a vacant house on July 17. The boy escaped unharmed.

There are various levels of kidnapping laws in the state of Florida, and all of them are serious. Potential penalties can include substantial jail time and fines, just to name a few. These are severe crimes that require a strong defense. Depending on the facts of your case, some of your defense options could completely dismiss kidnapping charges while others may reduce the penalties of a conviction. When faced with kidnapping charges in St. Petersburg or the surrounding area, don’t mess around – get help from a Tampa Bay Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton as soon as possible.

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Jacksonville Jaguars defensive end Dante Fowler was arrested on charges of simple battery and criminal mischief Tuesday night.

Police say Fowler was driving in the Trellis at the Lakes apartment complex Tuesday night when a man walking nearby criticized his driving.

Fowler allegedly got out of his car, exchanged words with the man before hitting him, investigators said. Police claim the hit knocked off the man’s glasses, and Fowler stepped on them. He also allegedly grabbed the man’s grocery bag and threw it into a nearby lake.

The victim did not suffer any injuries.

Fowler was arrested and booked into the Pinellas County Jail.

Fowler is scheduled to report to training camp next week.

While both of these charges are misdemeanors, they still need to be dealt with accordingly. A conviction could result in jail time and fines. Our St. Petersburg Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton are committed to the aggressive defense of our clients when they are facing battery charges. If possible, we will fight for a dismissal of the charges. We pursue every legal defense possible to mitigate the potential penalties, so that you can move on from this unfortunate situation as unscathed as possible.

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Lakeland Police charged a Valrico man with 100 counts of possession of child pornography following an investigation of alleged child porn images found on his work computer.

Officials said an investigation into the 55-year-old man began in April. The man’s work computer was turned over to Lakeland detectives on April 19 after the company IT manager claims he found images of child pornography on it while troubleshooting technical difficulties.

According to detectives,a forensic investigation of the man’s computer was conducted. During that investigation, an alleged 100 images of child pornography were identified.

Lakeland Police detectives concluded their investigation on July 8 and, based on the evidence, charged the man with 100 counts of possession of child pornography. The man is currently still in the custody of the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, and will reportedly be returned to Polk County at a later date.

Child pornography charges alone are enough to ruin your reputation and get you fired from your job. You must take these charges seriously, as they are not going to just disappear. The first thing you need to do after being charged is to retain sound legal counsel, and the sooner the better. Our Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton know that prosecutors take a harsh stance when it comes to sexual offenses. They will do everything in their power to seek a conviction and will push for maximum consequences.

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A suspected drunken driver hit five middle school students as they walked home from the bus stop last month. One student later died of his injuries.

A witness at the scene pointed out the car that had allegedly just crashed into the children.

The black vehicle had hit another car about 4,000 feet (1,219.2 meters) down the road. The driver then stumbled out of the vehicle. A woman who was four months pregnant was injured in that crash, according to authorities.

The 48-year-old was arrested. He is apparently a former police officer.

Officials said a 13-year-old died of his injuries at an Orlando hospital. Another child was in intensive care with orbital fractures. Three other children suffered minor injuries.

The man arrested has made his first appearance in court. He faces 11 charges, including DUI manslaughter and vehicular homicide. He was being held on $600,000 bail.

Regardless of the situation, a car accident that results in a death is always traumatic. Adding a DUI charge to this just exacerbates the situation. DUI manslaughter charges can be confusing, which is why you need to get legal help right away. It is imperative that you understand the charges you are facing, what the consequences are, and what defense options are available to you.

Yes, a DUI manslaughter conviction can result in severe penalties. However, please understand that there are ways to defend yourself. Knowing your defense options are crucial. If you or a loved one is facing a DUI manslaughter charge in Polk County, you need to consult with a Polk County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton as soon as possible. We are former prosecutors so we are armed with the knowledge and experience you need to achieve a successful outcome from DUI manslaughter charges.

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Chris Soules is asking an Iowa district court to drop charges related to his leaving the scene of a deadly April 24 crash with a tractor, saying he did everything he was supposed to do under the law.

The former ‘Bachelor’ star says he called 911 and identified himself after his pickup truck crashed into the tractor. He then tried to resuscitate the 66-year-old driver, who was transported to a nearby hospital where he was later pronounced dead. Soules stayed at the scene of the crash until emergency responders arrived, but was arrested for leaving the scene of an accident resulting in death.

For whatever reason, the charging officer failed to include in the Complaint and Affidavit that Soules provided his name and accident location to the telecommunication arm of law enforcement before leaving the crash site.

If you have been in a car accident, you may feel overwhelmed and confused. It can certainly be hard to maintain a clear head and take the necessary steps. First and foremost, it is important to make sure that everyone is OK. If someone is injured, call 911 immediately to get qualified medical professionals to the scene.

Once you have established that all the people involved are safe, you should exchange information with the others involved including:

  • Their names
  • Descriptions of the vehicles involved
  • Insurance company for all drivers
  • Addresses
  • Drivers license numbers
  • License plate numbers

If there are any witnesses, it is a good idea to get their information as well.

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When a criminal conviction is invalidated on appeal, the state is obligated to refund fees, court costs and restitution paid by the defendant, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month.

In Nelson V. Colorado, a violation of due process rights was found under the 14th Amendment. The state’s statute regarding compensation for the exonerated, which allows the retention of conviction-related assessments until the exonerated person proves his or her innocence by clear and convincing evidence in a civil court proceeding.

“Is there a risk of erroneous deprivation of defendant’s’ interest in return of their funds if, as Colorado urges, the Exoneration Act is the exclusive remedy? Indeed yes, for the act conditions refund on defendant’s’ proof of innocence by clear and convincing evidence,” Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote for the majority. “But to get their money back, defendants should not be saddled with any proof burden.”

Two petitioners both had convictions dealing with sexual abuse or attempted sexual abuse of children. One was ordered to pay $8,192.50 in fees, and was acquitted of all charges on appeal. The Colorado Department of Corrections kept $702.10 of that money. The other petitioner had one conviction reversed on direct review, and the others were vacated on post-conviction review. He was ordered to pay $4,413 in fees, and paid the state $1,977.75 after his conviction.

Neither person filed a claim under the state’s Exoneration Act, but both petitioned the court for a refund. The first petitioner’s trial court denied her motion, and the second petitioner’s post-conviction court refunded costs and fees, but not restitution. The Colorado Court of Appeal reversed, but the state supreme court found that since the two did not file a claim under the statute, the trial courts did not have the authority to grant refunds.

Chief Justice John G. Roberts and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan joined the majority. Justice Neil Gorsuch did not participate in the case.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a dissent, arguing that the majority did not address whether petitioners could show “a substantive entitlement” for the money they paid in accordance with their criminal convictions.

“No one disputes that if petitioners had never been convicted, Colorado could not have required them to pay the money at issue. And no one disputes that Colorado cannot require petitioners to pay any additional costs, fees, or restitution now that their convictions have been invalidated,” Thomas wrote. “It does not follow, however, that petitioners have a property right in the money they paid pursuant to their then-valid convictions, which now belongs to the state and the victims under Colorado law.”

Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. wrote a concurrence for the judgement, finding that the majority’s treatment of restitution wasn’t “grounded in any historical analysis.” He wrote at length about Mathews v. Eldridge, a 1976 U.S. Supreme Court case that established a three-part balancing test to determine if the government must offer a hearing to a citizen who faces losing his or her property.

“The Court summarily rejects the proposition that ‘equitable considerations’ might militate against a blanket rule requiring the refund of money paid as restitution…but why is this so,” Alito writes. “What if the evidence amply establishes that the defendant injured the victims to whom restitution was paid but the defendant’s conviction is reversed on a ground that would be inapplicable in a civil suit?”

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Surveillance footage linked here shows the tense moments leading up to an altercation last week between a pilot and a passenger at Kansas City International Airport in Missouri.

The video shows two men entering the airport through an American Airlines gate on April 12. One man is wearing a pilot’s uniform and the other is wearing a blue shirt – he is a passenger.

The passenger appears to follow the pilot through the airport, arguing with him.

The passenger apparently told authorities the altercation began when the pilot, who was traveling as a passenger on the same flight, was “taking up too much room on the aircraft and being disrespectful,” according to an incident report filed by the Kansas City International Airport Police Department.

The passenger allegedly followed the pilot “outside the secure area” in an attempt to take a cellphone photo of his badge, according to reports.

The video shows the passenger’s cellphone being knocked out of his hand as the pilot tries to block his badge. The passenger allegedly grabbed the pilot by the shoulders and pushed him away, causing the pilot to trip over his own luggage.

After the physical altercation, the pilot apparently tried to leave the concourse to meet his wife waiting outside in a car. The passenger followed him, talking to the pilot and trying to take a photo of the car’s license plate, before airport police intervened, according to the incident report.

Police said that the incident was captured on video from the security cameras in the airport and that the footage was saved for further review.

Although the pilot walked away from the altercation, he “suffered lacerations to both legs and bruising to his forearm,” according to the incident report.

The passenger, a 49-year-old man, has been charged with “intentionally inflicting injury” on the pilot. His court date is set for May 16, according to court documents. He could face a fine or up to 180 days in jail.

Battery is a criminal charge that involves bodily injury against another person. Basically, a battery charges involves some type of willful and unlawful physical contact with another person. Battery charges are taken very seriously by law enforcement officers and prosecutors, so it is important to retain legal help as soon as possible to combat these charges.

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