Articles Posted in Brevard County

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A 33-year-old woman was sentenced to eight years in federal prison Thursday after she and three other women hid cocaine in their bras and underwear upon returning to Port Canaveral from Jamaica earlier this year, according to the State Attorney’s Office.

The D.C. woman was sentenced to eight years and one month for conspiracy to import cocaine into the United States. She pleaded guilty on July 20, 2016.

According to court documents, the woman, as well as three others, traveled to Jamaica in May 2016 on board a commercial cruise ship.

When the four women arrived in Jamaica, the D.C. woman allegedly coordinated a meeting with someone who provided the group with more than six kilograms of cocaine concealed in bras and underwear. The D.C. woman apparently paid the person for the cocaine, and the four women returned to the cruise ship with the cocaine concealed under their dresses in the bras and underwear they were provided, according to documents.

The women apparently hid the cocaine in the cabin they shared for the remainder of the cruise.

When the cruise ship returned to Port Canaveral, the D.C. woman and the three other women departed the ship and entered the customs area of the port with the cocaine concealed in their bras and underwear.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers identified the cocaine during screenings and searches of the women.

The other three women were sentenced as well. One was sentenced to two years in prison, one was sentenced to one year and 10 months and one was sentenced to two years and six months.

The case was investigated by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security investigators.

Being charged with drug importation in the state of Florida is a very tough thing to deal with, especially if you do not have qualified legal representation. By hiring a knowledgeable drug crimes defense lawyer, you take an important step in achieving the most successful outcome for your particular case. Our Florida Drug Crimes Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can help you through this difficult time by providing you with legal advice and personal attention so that we can work towards a positive resolution to your case.

Drug importation can be charged when drugs and controlled substances are brought into Florida across state lines, both from out-of-country or from another state.  Some commonly imported drugs and controlled substances in Florida are:  

  • Marijuana
  • Cocaine
  • Crystal Meth
  • Prescription Drugs
  • Ecstasy
  • Heroin

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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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As a U.S. citizen, you have what is known as Miranda Rights. The term Miranda Rights has its origins in a 1966 U.S. Supreme Court Case known as Miranda v. Arizona. The court’s ruling on this matter gives anyone in police custody or facing potential criminal charges to be advised of their right against self-incrimination. This is also an element of the 5th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution.

2240909776_a1097c87ca_zIf you are taken into police custody for any reason, you are required to be given a Miranda warning briefing you on your rights. The Miranda warning must include the following information:

  1. You have the right to remain silent
  2. Anything you say may later be used against you
  3. You are legally entitled to speak with an attorney
  4. If you are unable to afford an attorney, one will be provided for you at no cost

The main purpose of a Miranda warning is to let the person in police custody understand that they have the right to remain silent. This must be communicated clearly to the person detained before any questioning by law enforcement.

What Does It Mean for You if You Were Not Given a Miranda Warning?

If law enforcement fails to properly advise or “mirandize” an individual in custody, the case could be dismissed, but this all depends on the evidence available. If the case has been established mostly on statements that the individual gave without a proper notice of Miranda warnings then those statements could be deemed inadmissible, which would likely lead to a dismissal. If the case has been built based on other evidence, then it is unlikely that the case will hinge on the lack of proper notice of Miranda Rights, but depending on specifics, the case could still possibly be dismissed.

What To Do If You Are Arrested

If you have been arrested and read your Miranda warnings, it is important to ask to speak to your lawyer immediately. Despite what law enforcement may tell you while you are in their custody, police investigators are not looking out for your best interests.

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Two people were arrested Saturday night after the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office uncovered a dog fighting ring in Merritt Island.

Deputies responded to a  Merritt Island home after the Sheriff’s Office was tipped off by a concerned citizen who heard what they believed was animal cruelty in progress.

Deputies alleged they found several severely malnourished dogs, as well as a fighting ring and visible blood on the fighting structure and the dogs.

Agents from the Sheriff’s Office’s Special Investigations units and Brevard County Animal Services responded to the scene where they collected evidence and safely rescued the dogs.

A 41-year-old man and a 32-year-old woman, both of Merritt Island, were arrested.

13894518956_7139eb370d_zThe man was charged with fighting dogs and was taken to the Brevard County Jail, where he’s being held on no bond. According to court records, the man is currently on federal probation and has a lengthy violent criminal history, including sexual battery, battery and assault on law enforcement officers, weapons, narcotics and resisting arrest charges.

The woman was charged with cruelty to animals. She was taken to the Brevard County Jail, where she’s being held on $500. Records indicate that the woman has a local criminal history, including aggravated child abuse, theft and multiple narcotics charges.

The dogs were seized and taken to the Sheriff’s Office’s Animal Services Center for emergency medical treatment.

In addition to the dogs, deputies claim they found cash and firearms. The investigation is ongoing.

Florida views animal cruelty charges very seriously and aggressively prosecutes these cases. If you have been arrested and charged with animal cruelty, neglect or any form of animal abuse, you are looking at the very real possibility of jail time and significant monetary fines anywhere from $50 all the way up to $10,000.

Animal cruelty charges encompass inhumanely confining an animal, beating an animal, failing to provide water or food, failing to provide adequate shelter as well as fighting an animal. Fighting an animal is classified as a third-degree felony carrying a 5-year jail sentence.

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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.

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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.

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Conflict exploded in a courtroom Monday after a judge apparently dared an assistant public defender to go out back and fight.

The Brevard judge allegedly grabbed the assistant public defender and punched him in the head.

A video of the incident has been released, which can be viewed here.

punch-316605_640In the video, the judge and the public defender swap words about a case after the public defender refuses to waive one of his clients’ rights to a speedy trial.

“You want to set it for docket sounding, set it for docket sounding. I’m not waiving in any case. This is an emergency created by the state,” the attorney said.

The judge responded with the following statement: “You know if I had a rock I would throw it at you right now. Stop pissing me off. Just sit down. I’ll take care of it. I don’t need your help. Sit down.”

The public defender fired back by saying: “You know what? I’m the public defender I have a right to be here and I have a right to stand and represent my clients.”

The judge then apparently takes the conversation one step further by shouting back this proclamation: “I said sit down. If you want to fight lets go out back and I’ll just beat your ass.”

The men then disappear off camera, where loud banging can be heard.

According to others in the courtroom, the men stepped into a hallway behind the courtroom that is typically used by judges and jurors.

The public defender claims that once inside the hallway, the judge grabbed him by the collar and began punching him in the head. The public defender apparently attempted to stop the judge from punching him, but courtroom bailiffs eventually came into the hallway and pulled the two apart.

The video recorded one of the men off camera saying: “I’m not kidding. You wanna [expletive] with me?”

The judge returned to the courtroom out of breath, but retakes his seat.

Those seated inside courtroom applauded.

The judge was not arrested, and reports indicate that charges will not likely be filed. However, it does appear that the incident will be reported to the Florida Bar.

The video demonstrates that the judge loses his tact and sense of control. It will be interesting to see how this courtroom scuffle plays out – it seems odd that if this was an unprovoked attack, like the public defender’s office is claiming, why no criminal charge was filed. Regardless, judicial discipline will likely come as this case demonstrates a violation of judicial ethics, especially since it appears the fight erupted after the judge wanted someone to waive a constitutional right.

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On Wednesday, New Hampshire’s highest court ruled that the state infringed the free speech rights of a man who wished to have “COPSLIE” on his license plate.

The state Supreme Court agreed with the arguments of the man in a unanimous decision.

The man said he wanted the vanity plate to protest “government corruption.”

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Police have arrested two Orlando men accused of packing 24 children younger than 18 into a van and forcing them to work in Palm Bay.

Palm Bay police claim the children were dropped off in Palm Bay and forced to spend more than 10 hours selling cheap items door-to-door.

According to a spokeswoman for the Palm Bay Police Department, the children were brought over from Orlando and were told the only way they could get food or water was to sell.

van betch.jpgOn Monday, the 39-year-old river of the van and owner of an Orlando-based group called Teens Against Drugs and Alcohol and a 20-year-old man faced a judge on 24 counts each of human trafficking.

A Brevard judge ordered both men to be held on a $5.6 million bond each at the Brevard County Jail Complex.

Both men were also charged with 24 counts of child abuse and eight counts each of employing a minor child, reports show. The case will be sent to the Brevard County state attorney’s office, and prosecutors will decide whether or not to press formal charges.

The men were arrested Friday after Palm Bay police received a message from a Department of Children and Families agent that underage children were seen roaming Palm Bay streets selling cheap goods.

The children were picked up by police and turned over to their parents.

Human trafficking often involves forcing vulnerable individuals into unpaid labor or other services. If you have been charged with human trafficking, labor trafficking, sex trafficking or child trafficking, you need to contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible to protect your rights and to begin establishing your defense. Human trafficking is one of the fastest growing crimes throughout the United States and prosecutors will fight for maximum sentences in these cases.

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