We are taking the threat of COVID-19 very seriously. Click here to find out what our firm is doing.

Articles Posted in Alachua County

Published on:

You want to avoid getting arrested for DUI in Florida on New Year’s Eve and “becoming a statistic.” New Year’s Eve is a holiday that it is both cause for celebrating and relaxing. After the stress of getting ready for Christmas, people usually take this time to enjoy the end of the holiday season and contemplate their goals for the new year. However, because this is the last holiday of the year, there tends to be an increased number of people who drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Listed below are several tips to help drivers avoid a DUI this New Year’s Eve.

  1. Limit Drinks

If you are at a party that has an open bar, and you know you are driving, know exactly how many drinks you are having so that you can watch your personal limit. Remember that once you start drinking it can be difficult to stop yourself from having too many. Be mindful of the exact amount you have had to drink.

  1. Call a Cab or Uber or Lyft

Public transportation can save many people from DUI-related accidents and arrests. Save the number of a local cab company in your phone, use a ride share app on your phone or attend parties or social gatherings close to a bus route.

  1. 15958303240_5a5181cc2a_zDon’t Go Solo

Don’t go to a party or social gathering by yourself. Bring along at least one other friend and make sure to determine who the designated driver is for the entire group before any alcohol is consumed.

  1. Eat!

While many people have New Year’s resolutions about weight loss, New Year’s Eve is one of those nights where you should eat. Food fills the stomach, making less room for alcohol. Try to snack on foods like meats or dark chocolate, which are known to keep you fuller longer.

  1. Offer Alternative Drinks

If you are hosting a party, include “mocktails,” sodas, punch, or even just water on your drink menu.

  1. Make Accommodations for Guests

If you know your guests have a far trip ahead of them, arrange for them to stay with you or at a nearby hotel. That way, no one drives home drunk.

  1. Leave the Party Early

New Year’s Eve is one of the busiest nights of the year. You can expect delays for taxis and other modes of public transportation, so be prepared. Leaving your party or social gathering early can also ensure that you get home safely and at a reasonable hour.

Continue reading

Published on:

A Gainesville man was arrested Tuesday for allegedly cyberstalking a Union County woman.

The woman claims the man promised he would ride a bicycle 35 miles to rest on the porch of her mother’s home.

5713099960_944e3d525d_oThe 37-year-old man allegedly swapped several emails in June with the woman that had a sexual undertone. The woman apparently asked the man to stop communicating with her. In October, the woman claims the man sent a text message to her that said he wanted to ride his bicycle to her mother’s home to rest, according to a booking report filed by a Gainesville Police Department officer.

The woman told police she believes the man made the trip from his Southwest Williston Road address to her home in Union County, so she called the sheriff’s office there. According to reports, a Union County Sheriff’s deputy asked the man to have no contact with the woman.

Police said the man subsequently sent 18 emails to the woman that placed her in distress and led her to change the locks on her home.

The man allegedly confessed to writing the emails from his Gainesville apartment. He was arrested on a charge of cyberstalking and later booked into the Alachua County jail.

Cyberstalking is the use of the Internet or any other forms of electronic communication to harass or threaten other people. Virtual stalking can take the form of verbal abuse, sexual harassment and even repeatedly requesting a private meeting or chat. Cyberstalking in Florida is a first-degree misdemeanor punishable by 12 months in the county jail and a $1,000 fine for each alleged act.

Continue reading

Published on:

The High Springs Police Department and the Alachua-Gainesville Drug Task Force uncovered what they believe is a methamphetamine lab last week while investigating a case of fraud.

HSPD was investigating a 34-year-old man for alleged fraudulent use of a credit card when they received a confidential tip that the man had methamphetamine inside a cooler at or near a home in High Springs, according to reports.

HSPD went to the man’s home after obtaining a narcotics search warrant. They arrived at the man’s house around 8 p.m. Wednesday and allegedly found a cooler on the north side of the residence containing items used for cooking methamphetamine.

2690501345_dee8d3276d_mThe Alachua-Gainesville Drug Task Force helped execute the warrant and the High Springs Fire Department was on scene for safety reasons.

The man was in the custody of the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office before the investigation began of the drug charges. The man is now facing additional charges of possession with intent to manufacture or sell a controlled substance.

In the state of Florida, possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell, manufacture or deliver can be classified as a second or third degree felony. The charges all depend on the type of substance involved. The consequences of a conviction for this type of drug charge are extremely harsh, with a very significant possibility of jail or prison time.

It is important to realize that in many Florida drug possession cases, the accused does not have any actual intent to sell the drugs in question. The term “intent to sell or manufacture” is usually added to simple possession charges in order to increase the penalties of an offense or intimidate the accused.

In most cases, the evidence admitted by the prosecution for charges of possession with intent to sell or manufacture are consistent with personal use. Paraphernalia found on the property is often used to tack on additional charges. However, it can be difficult for the prosecution to prove that the accused was in possession of all the drugs and/or paraphernalia that indicated an intent to sell.

Continue reading

Published on:

Florida will have 159 new laws starting Tuesday that address various issues, including college tuition, corporate tax credits, abortions and sex offenders.

One of the most prevalent laws is one that aims to protect children and others from dangerous sex offenders. The laws are intended to keep the most violent sexual offenders locked up longer and close any loopholes in a law that allows the state to send predators to a high-security treatment center once they have served their time in prison. The new laws will subject more offenders to potential civil commitment and prosecutors, detectives and victim advocates will be part of the committee that reviews their cases.

The sexually violent predator package of bills was among the first of the legislature sent to Gov. Rick Scott during the 60-day session that ended in May. The new laws are meant to create a better child welfare system in Florida. As of now, Florida is the only state in America that has a 50-year mandatory minimum prison sentence for violent sexual offenders.

gavelAnother law that seeks to protect children concerns the Department of Children and Families. The law changes how the department investigates and responds to cases; now placing a higher emphasis on shielding a child from abuse rather than focusing on keeping a family together. Moreover, the law also pays for 270 additional child protective investigators so that caseloads can be reduced and a response team can be sent out quickly to investigate child abuse deaths when the child had previous dealings with the system.

Another law will establish a statewide pilot program to pay for foster children’s driver’s education classes, license fees and car insurance so that they can be better prepared to gain employment when they turn 18 and leave the system.

The children of immigrants in the country illegally will now be able to receive in-state tuition at state universities after Scott changed his position on the issue. Another bill will give tuition breaks to honorably discharged veterans as well as waive professional licensing fees for them.

Local school boards now have the responsibility of selecting textbooks, whether or not they are on a state-adopted list, and will be required to put policies in place that allow parents to object to the books they choose.

Another new law took effect on June 20 that expands a voucher program, giving corporate tax credits to companies that provide money for low-income families to send their children to private schools.

As far as criminal laws go, there will be increased penalties for spiny lobster poachers, people leaving the scene of an accident that causes injury and people who illegally sell prescription drugs. Additionally, electronic cigarette sales to minors are now illegal in Florida. Another law forbids sending text messages soliciting products to residents on the state’s “no sales solicitation calls” list.

Florida has also changed its definition for its late-term abortion ban. Abortions will be illegal in Florida at any stage in a woman’s pregnancy if her doctor concludes that the fetus could survive outside the womb. The previous law banned abortions after 24 weeks of pregnancy. An exception can be made to this law if the mother’s life is at risk.

Lastly, new laws will create a Florida Tourism Hall of Fame and the position of state poet laureate to promote poetry in Florida.

Laws across the United States are constantly changing. When you have been accused of committing a crime in Florida, only a Florida Trial Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can provide you with the legal representation that you need. While many attorneys are quick to negotiate with prosecutors to obtain a plea bargain instead of pursuing trial, our Florida Criminal Attorneys know that sometimes trial is the best option for your situation. We thoroughly evaluate every case and will always advise you of your best legal defense strategy.

Continue reading

Published on:

A Gainesville doctor who was under federal investigation for years has been charged with 210 counts of health care fraud and money laundering.

The 57-year-old is accused of submitting fraudulent claims for needless tests, buying drugs from outside the U.S. that are not permitted for use here and providing those drugs to patients without their knowledge or consent, according to a news release from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The incidents allegedly occurred at a clinic she owned in Hawthorne from 1998 to 2009 and at a clinic on Northwest 16th Avenue in Gainesville from 2010 to 2013.

A female doctor consults her computer at the Bangkok Samitivej hospital.The woman surrendered on Tuesday and entered a plea of not guilty, according to reports. Her trial is scheduled for June 14.

The woman faces up to 10 years in prison for each of the health care fraud counts, up to three years for each of the Federal Drug Administration counts and up to 10 years on each of the money laundering counts.

Prosecutors allege that the woman submitted fraudulent claims to insurance companies for unnecessary medical procedures and services that were not actually performed or provided. According to reports, the claims were submitted to Medicare, Medicaid and Blue Cross Blue Shield of Florida.

The woman is accused of using some of the money from fraudulent claims to buy non-FDA-approved drugs and devices from outside the U.S., and submitted fraudulent claims for the dispensation of the drugs. Prosecutors also allege that she gave these drugs to patients without their knowledge.

Several state and federal agencies were involved in the investigation that led to the woman’s indictment.

The woman apparently closed her clinic in January 2013 because the investigation tarnished her reputation and wrecked her financially.

Reports indicate that the woman donated all of her medical equipment to a children’s hospital in Guatemala and has been volunteering for various local programs since her officer closed its doors.

If you are under investigation for federal health care fraud charges, you must take swift action and protect yourself by consulting with a federal criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. The sooner you enlist legal help, the more likely your lawyer can put a stop to further investigations and possibly prevent charges from ever being filed.

Health care fraud charges often arise from the following:

A conviction for health care fraud carries extremely serious consequences. Not only do you face prison time and substantial fines, but you also risk losing everything you have worked so hard for, including any professional licenses or certifications that you hold as a medical provider.

Continue reading

Published on:

An Alachua County kindergarten teacher was arrested last week after police allegedly found a pound of marijuana in her home.

Police claim they uncovered the marijuana throughout several rooms of the woman’s home, according to an arrest report.

Police allegedly found hash oil stored in their freezer as well as paraphernalia such as grinders, a scale, a heat sealer and rolling papers.

The woman and her 27-year-old husband had a 28-year-old California man visiting their home at the time police entered with a search warrant. The man apparently told police that all of the cannabis found in the living room of the house was his.

All three residents of the home were charged with possession of marijuana with intent to sell and possession of drug paraphernalia. The woman and her husband were additionally charged with keeping a shop or vehicle for drugs.

All three were released Sunday from the Alachua County jail on $1,000 bond.

pot betch.jpgThe marijuana charges this woman faces could lead to a felony conviction that can carry consequences of up to five years in prison and $5,000 in fines. It is important to understand that possession with intent to sell can be charged whether or not the person sold an illegal substance. All it takes for police to tack on this charge is for there to be a large quantity of drugs in someone’s possession that is deemed too much for personal use.

Drug charges are no laughing matter, and no matter the type of felony charge, a conviction can leave a permanent stain on someone’s personal record. This can interfere with your personal and professional reputation in the future and close the door on lots of opportunities. Even after serving a prison sentence, a person previously convicted of a felony can face hardships obtaining suitable housing, employment and even loans.

Continue reading

Published on:

After a four-hour long jury deliberation, a Clay County man was found guilty of arranging to meet a child for sex by an Alachua County jury on Sept. 13.

According to the 8th Circuit State Attorney’s Office, the 33-year-old man was arrested last year as part of an undercover sting investigation.

The man will be sentenced on Oct. 28.

The man was arrested in February 2012 during a sting operation where the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office posted an advertisement on Craigslist offering sex with a juvenile.
He was charged with soliciting a minor for unlawful sex using computer services or devices, improper use of computer services and traveling to meet a minor.

sex crime.jpgInternet solicitation charges between an adult and minor are viewed as a very serious offense throughout the state of Florida. The government has made it quite clear that an undercover detective posing as a juvenile online is not entrapment, and for every solicitation made, you could be slapped with a third-degree felony. This means that you could be facing five years in prison for every solicitation made. Additionally, Florida legislature has specific laws and punishments for adults who meet with minors after a solicitation has occurred. Any adult that travels to meet a minor for the purposes of engaging in sexual activity can be charged with a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years behind bars.

While Internet sex crimes are all fact specific, understand that any and all sex crime allegations are serious. One simple accusation can dramatically affect your reputation, relationships and possibly your freedom. If you have been accused of any type of sex crime in Orange Park, Green Cove Springs, Middleburg, Keystone Heights or the surrounding area, you need the help of a Clay county Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton who can protect your reputation and work to minimize the potential punishment. As trial attorneys, we are here to help you understand what to expect should you face a sex crime charge or conviction.

Continue reading

Published on:

Former University of Florida football player and New England Patriots tight end Aaron Hernandez was taken from his home in handcuffs Wednesday morning.

His arrest comes more than a week after a Boston semi-pro football player was found dead in an industrial park a mile from Hernandez’s house.

Less than two hours following his arrest, the Patriots announced they had released the 23-year-old.

A 27-year-old semi-pro football player for the Boston Bandits was found dead on June 17. Officials ruled the death a homicide but have not mentioned how the man died.

655092_football_5.jpgRelatives of the deceased said he was dating the sister of Hernandez’s fiancée and that the two men were friends and were out together on the night the man was killed.

At this time it is unclear why Hernandez was taken into custody Wednesday before 9 a.m. from his North Attleborough home.

Hernandez was arrested on a state police warrant at about 8:45 a.m. and was booked at the North Attleborough police station, according to police. State police refuse to discuss the case against Hernandez until it’s presented in Attleboro District Court later Wednesday.

At around 10:20 a.m., the Patriots announced they had released Hernandez.

The following statement was released by the Patriots:

“Words cannot express the disappointment we feel knowing that one of our players was arrested as a result of this investigation. We realize that law enforcement investigations into this matter are ongoing. We support their efforts and respect the process. At this time, we believe this transaction is simply the right thing to do.”

Continue reading

Published on:

Gainesville, FL – The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office arrested three men this weekend in an Internet sex sting, including the Risk Manager for a University of Florida fraternity and a mechanic.

The men, ages 20, 23 and 40, were taken into custody after allegedly engaging in online chats and agreeing to meet an underage girl for sex.

The sting, dubbed “Operation Nightlight,” started Thursday and ended Sunday morning.

According to the sheriff’s office, undercover detectives used unspecified chat forums to talk with the men.

Once they arrived at the predetermined locations, they were arrested immediately.

The 20-year-old fraternity member is accused of conversing with the father of a 14-year-old girl about engaging in sexual activity with the girl.

He is charged with two third-degree felonies and one second-degree felony.

The 23-year-old man was allegedly involved in a former sting called “Tailspin,” but was never arrested because he did not actually show up at the arranged meeting spot. The man was arrested this time and charged with two second-degree felonies and three third-degree felonies. His bond is set at $250,000.

The 40-year-old mechanic is facing charges of one second-degree felony and two third-degree felonies. His bail is set at $75,000.

1235172_bee.jpgInternet sexual predator stings, like the one above, aim to protect underage children from online predators. Undercover detectives will place ads online or hang out in chat rooms and lure unsuspecting individuals into engaging in sexually explicit conversations. Once a location is agreed upon to meet at, the suspects will be placed under arrest as soon as they show up. The location of the decoy spot is usually never revealed so that police can use it again in future stings. These undercover operations can result in serious criminal charges so it is important to act fast and enlist the help of a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

Sex crimes involving children are prosecuted quite aggressively in the state of Florida. All of the men arrested in “Operation Nightlight” face a second-degree felony charge, which if convicted, carries a maximum of 15 years in prison. These charges should never be taken lightly, as they can negatively impact a person’s personal and professional life permanently. The repercussions of a felony sex crime charge can cost a person their job, get them kicked out of school and worse, brand them a sexual offender for the rest of their life.

Continue reading

Contact Information