Articles Posted in Alachua County

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The new year is quickly approaching, and thousands of Floridians have made plans or are starting to think about how to say goodbye to 2015 and ring in 2016.

But before you solidify your New Year’s Eve plans, fire officials have some tips for residents and visitors when it comes to fireworks.

“Anything that is projectile or leaves the ground is illegal in the State of Florida. Basically your safest bet is with a sparkler,” said Natalie McQueen, a Firefighter and Paramedic for the Panama City Beach Fire Department.

Even though sparklers are allowed in the Sunshine State, residents and visitors still need to exercise caution when using them.

Younger children should never light or handle sparklers. Parents should maintain a close watch on kids at all times if sparklers are going to be used. Burns are very common to the hands and face since sparklers do have flickers that come off once they are lit.

If you are using sparklers, after you are done with them, fire officials say to place them in a big bucket full of water, and let them sit overnight.

While setting off your own fireworks might seem fun, our Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton want to remind everyone that the best way to stay safe while ringing in the New Year is leaving the fireworks to the pros. If you are caught with fireworks in the State of Florida it could lead to misdemeanor charges.

Under Florida law, the use of or possession of illegal fireworks is a first-degree misdemeanor. If you are accused of breaking this law, please be aware that you will be arrested. If you are convicted of this crime, you can be sentenced to up to one year in jail, given up to one year on probation, and/or fined up to one thousand dollars.

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Thanksgiving is a time of year when families get together to celebrate memories and honor traditions. However, this is also the time of year when law enforcement agencies gear up to catch drunk drivers on our roadways.

Most law enforcement agencies, receive federal grants to increase their staffing levels during the holiday season, which typically begins with the four-day Thanksgiving weekend and continues to New Year’s Day. Arrests for DUI are highest during this time period.

The following are a few tips that may prove helpful to avoid a Thanksgiving DUI:

  1. Do not drink and drive. If you have been drinking, call a cab, a friend or use a ride share app like Uber or Lyft to get home safe. If you know you will be drinking, designate a sober driver to take you home.
  2. If you are pulled over, do not talk to law enforcement about where you were or what you were doing. Remember, you have the right to remain silent until you have your lawyer present.
  3. If you are involved in an accident, stop immediately and remain at the scene. Do not admit to anything and request to speak with a lawyer as soon as possible.
  4. Do not fall asleep inside your vehicle. You could get arrested if the officer observes that you have the keys in the ignition or if the engine is running.
  5. Drive cautiously. Police will be closely monitoring motorists for any mistakes they make. In particular, they will be on the lookout for motorists who may be driving too fast or too slow, or running red lights or failing to stop at stop signs.

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A man listed as a cafe owner in Gainesville was arrested Friday night after he allegedly tried to film a girl taking a shower, according to Gainesville police.

The 52-year-old man was charged with attempted voyeurism of a child younger than 16.

The incident allegedly happened about 10 p.m.

The girl told police she saw a hand holding a camera outside the bathroom window. She ran out of the bathroom and told a person in the house, police said.

As that was happening, the man apparently came into the house, police said. The man allegedly told police he was sorry and that he has a problem, according to the police report.

If you were arrested for voyeurism or any other sex offense, it is absolutely vital for you to understand the legal charges against you as well as the possible consequences. Florida’s laws are extremely complicated and when this crime involves a minor, you could be facing felony charges and multiple years in prison.

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A registered sex offender in Gainesville has been charged with possession of child pornography after police allege he had many illegal images on his cellphone. According to an arrest report, an investigation is also underway into whether he had sex with a child.

The 23-year-old man was charged with possessing photographs of sexual performances by children, a Gainesville Police Department report states.

The photographs allegedly show a child who appears to be prepubescent having sex with a man. Other alleged photos of a sexual nature involving children were also found.

The arrest report claims that the man admitted to downloading and viewing the other images of a sexual nature.

Police were apparently alerted to the man through calls to authorities regarding his downloading images and having urges for sex with a boy, according to a dispatch log.

During a police interview, the man allegedly confessed that he had sex with an unidentified 9-year-old, the report states. That case is currently under investigation.

Records from the Florida Department of Law Enforcement show the man was convicted in 2010 of lewd and lascivious battery on a victim under the age of 16 and lewd and lascivious molestation on a victim under the age of 12. The cases were in Levy County.

Either state or federal authorities can prosecute child pornography cases, however, in recent years, the majority of cases involving child porn have been brought in federal courts. Federal sentencing guidelines are much more severe than similar prosecutions in state courts. The prosecution of federal child pornography and other types of sex crime cases has significantly increased in the past decade, with 86 cases in 1995 to 1,769 cases in 2013.

Prosecutors in federal child pornography cases are quite aggressive, seeking years in prison for even the mere possession of illegal pictures. State cases tend to end in probation or shorter jail terms, but federal child porn offenses carry mandatory minimum sentences. In order to avoid the harsh consequences of a conviction, it is essential to not speak to police or prosecutors about your case without first seeking the advice of a criminal defense lawyer who has experience handling child pornography cases. Even if you are under investigation for child porn charges, you are still presumed innocent until proven guilty, but your case must be handled very carefully in order to achieve a favorable outcome.

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Alachua County sheriff’s deputies arrested a mother Sunday night after they allegedly found a home inhabited by a toddler that was full of ingredients used to cook methamphetamine.

The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office was called to a residence in the Hidden Oaks Mobile Home Park around 10 p.m., where they claim they found the front door open and a 2-year-old boy toddling about.

Deputies said a woman identified herself as the boy’s grandmother. They allege she appeared disoriented and told deputies she knew nothing of the reported disturbance.

The woman was not aware she was the only one there to watch the child, according to police.

A short time later, deputies allege a woman arrived and told deputies she was the boy’s mother. Deputies claim the 41-year-old mom also appeared disoriented and said she knew nothing of a disturbance.

Deputies searched the home for anyone else who may have called, and claim they found a trash bag filled with ingredients and tools used to cook methamphetamine using what is called the “one-pot” method.

The woman was charged with trafficking methamphetamine and possession of the drug with intent to distribute. She was booked into the Alachua County jail early Monday morning and was still awaiting a bond hearing.

Alachua County court records show Cannon was convicted in 2013 on a petty theft charge.

The boy is in relatives’ care and undergoing medical treatments monitored by the Florida Department of Children and Families, according to police.

DCF has launched its own investigation.

Meth manufacturing charges are very serious. Additionally, the presence of children can only increase the penalties you may face. After being charged with trafficking methamphetamine you need to seek legal help immediately. In order to provide you with the most effective defense of these charges, a criminal defense lawyer must understand the different methods used to make methamphetamine, including one-pot, shake and bake, anhydrous, and others, as well as the proper procedure law enforcement must follow at the scene.

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Former University of Florida Gator and New England Patriots football player Aaron Hernandez was convicted of first-degree murder and sentenced to life in prison Wednesday for the murder of 27-year-old Odin Lloyd.

Hernandez, 25, who once had a $40 million contract and a standout career ahead of him, will now be serving a mandatory sentence of life without parole.

The former football pro was also found guilty on weapons charges. The jury deliberated for 36 hours over seven days before rendering its verdict.

6566853359_6d069f2b0b_zLloyd was shot six times in the middle of the night on June 17, 2013, in a deserted industrial park near Hernandez’s home in North Attleborough.

Police almost immediately began investigating Hernandez because they found a key to a car that the NFL player had rented in Lloyd’s pocket. Hours after he was arrested, the Patriots cut the former Pro Bowl athlete, who was considered one of the top tight ends in the NFL.

Prosecutors presented a great amount of evidence during trial that Hernandez was with Lloyd at the time he was killed, including home security video from Hernandez’s mansion, witness testimony and cellphone records that tracked Lloyd’s movements.

Hernandez’s lawyer also acknowledged for the first time during closing arguments that Hernandez was there when Lloyd was killed.

But, Hernandez’s attorney told the court that two of Hernandez’s friends, Ernest Wallace and Carlos Ortiz, killed Lloyd. Wallace and Ortiz will stand trial later.

The prosecution never offered a motive other than Hernandez appeared angry with Lloyd at a nightclub two nights before the killing.

Hernandez still awaits trial on other murder charges. He is accused of gunning down two men over a spilled drink at a nightclub.

In the Lloyd killing, the defense argued that investigators pinned the murder on Hernandez because of his celebrity status.

Prosecutors believe that Hernandez organized the killing, made his two friends help carry it out and drove Lloyd and the others to the secluded spot in the industrial park. During closing arguments, prosecutors also allege that Hernandez shot the man, though under the law it is not necessary to prove who fired the shots to achieve a conviction.

Security video from inside Hernandez’s home showed him holding what appeared to be a gun less than 10 minutes after Lloyd was killed. The surveillance system also showed Hernandez, Wallace and Ortiz hanging out at his home hours after Lloyd was shot.

Hernandez was an All-American out of the University of Florida who was drafted by the Patriots in the fourth round in 2010.

This case does not end with this guilty verdict. There will undoubtedly be an appeal to the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court. There are many issues in this case that could be a strong grounds for appeal, including the fact that the judge allowed certain parts of the expert’s testimony on the Glock being the murder weapon, but excluded other parts. It could be asserted that the expert’s entire testimony was improper. The defense reminded the jury during closing argument that the expert’s testimony had been struck from evidence and should be disregarded. Because of the defense’s reference to this testimony during closing, it could be argued that asking the jury to ignore such incriminating evidence was unfairly prejudicial, which in turn would warrant a new trial.

It will most definitely be interesting to see how an appeal plays out for Hernandez.

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A former University of Florida track and field athlete was arrested Sunday morning after police allege he struck a bouncer multiple times after being denied entrance to a downtown nightclub.

According to a GPD report, the 23-year-old man was apparently trying to get into Simons Nightclub at about 1 a.m. when police claim he created a disturbance and was denied entry by one of the club’s bouncers.

Police allege that the argument escalated with the bouncer and the man then punched the bouncer in the face repeatedly, leaving a large cut on the bouncer’s forehead that required stitches.

Police claim they were forced to detain the man and physically remove him from the scene.

24523450_67d2e924e7_zThe man was arrested and charged with one felony count of battery and one misdemeanor count of resisting an officer without violence. He was taken to the Alachua County jail where he remained on Sunday with bail set at $17,500.

According to reports, the man competed for the Gators’ track and field team from 2010 to 2013.

The man won the triple jump and finished second in the long jump at the annual Florida Relays at Percy Beard Track that concluded Saturday on the UF campus.

Facing battery charges in Florida can be a life altering experience. You could be facing hefty fines as well as time behind bars, depending on the facts surrounding your case. Obviously, these charges can be nothing short of frightening.

You may have found yourself facing a battery charge that erupted from an act of self defense. Many battery charges arise from a fight, and it is possible that you were not even the aggressor in the attack. Police often charge the person who is hurt the least, or even the person who files charges first.

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A Gainesville man was arrested Saturday night after police allege he distributed sexually obscene photographs taken of a female who was a minor at the time the photographs were taken.

According to a Gainesville Police Department report, the 36-year-old man and the female had apparently been involved in a two-year sexual relationship that began when the girl, who is now 18 years old, was 16.

The report alleges that the man knew the victim was 16 years old when the relationship began.

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A former Alachua County teacher and swim coach has been sentenced to 60 years in federal prison after he plead guilty to charges of producing child pornography.

In addition to the prison sentence, he was also ordered to pay $78,000 in restitution to each of his eight victims.

15782655588_f16363387a_zThe 32-year-old pleaded guilty to the charges in September. The man was a behavioral resource teacher for kindergarten through fourth grade and a part-time coach of Gainesville swimming club.

When an individual is charged with a child pornography offense, one of the first lines of defense is to challenge any law enforcement searches or seizures that led to the discovery of images. When evidence is obtained for any crime without a property owner’s consent to search the property, it can be argued that the search has violated the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution. When a violation of constitutional rights has occurred, suppression of all evidence seized is a likely possibility.

There are actually many possible defenses to child pornography charges. In certain scenarios, viruses may sometimes automatically download these illegal files to a computer without the owner’s knowledge. Other times, child pornography could have been placed on another person’s computer by someone else. It is even possible for an internet connection to be hijacked by other parties. An Alachua County Federal Child Pornography Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can rifle through the often complex evidence in these types of cases and come up with the best strategy to challenge the government and protect your rights.

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A University of Florida women’s basketball player was arrested Friday afternoon after a teammate accused her of stealing her credit card and using it at several stores, a nail salon and a pawn shop.

According to the arrest report, the 21-year-old woman was charged with theft of a credit card and fraudulent use of a credit card. The report identifies the woman as a member of the women’s basketball team.

The victim was listed as the woman’s teammate. The report alleges that the woman took her teammate’s credit card without permission on Jan. 11 from the women’s locker room of the basketball practice facility. According to reports, the locker room is secured by a key code known only to the team, coaches and janitorial staff.

12696032183_0d9622ae98_zThe alleged stolen card was used at Macy’s and a nail salon at The Oaks Mall on Monday, according to police. It was used on Tuesday at some other shops as well as a pawn shop.

On Friday, the woman apparently told police she found the card outside the practice facility and allegedly admitted to using the card at the stores, police said. She told officers she threw the card away after using it.

Credit card fraud often involves identity theft. It can be defined as many things, including:

  • Stealing a credit card and assuming the victim’s identity in order to purchase merchandise or goods
  • Theft of credit card data
  • Using credit card data without permission to make online purchases
  • Opening a new credit card account using someone else’s information
  • Using forged credit cards

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