Articles Posted in Broward County

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Federal prosecutors charged 27 South Florida suspects Tuesday with marriage fraud, including organizers, recruiters and unlawful immigrants, according to reports.

4107766083_66d44a53c4_zThe main defendants — two Hialeah men ages 50 and 57 and a 50-year-old Hialeah and a 33-year-old Marathon man— are accused of charging a fee to arrange fraudulent marriages between U.S. citizens and undocumented aliens.

The trio allegedly notarized phony marriage licenses, completed necessary immigration paperwork and prepared the participants for their interviews with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, according to police.

They are accused of arranging the fraudulent marriages between 2011 and 2014, and during that time two of the men also allegedly attempted to obtain naturalization illegally, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

The case was investigated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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Vanilla Ice, legally named Robert Van Winkle, was arrested in south Florida and charged with burglary and grand theft after police found items allegedly stolen from a foreclosed home at Van Winkle’s residence.

The home of the alleged burglary was adjacent to a house the former rapper was renovating as part of his television show for DIY Network called “The Vanilla Ice Project.”

Lantana police claim that after conducting an investigation into possible squatting, they found that several items including furniture, a pool heater, bicycles and pieces of art were taken from the home of a recently deceased man. When officers spoke to Vanilla Ice at the property, they allege that he told them he had purchased it.

5076391518_9593765c83_zReports indicate that he had no contract or down payment, and was only filming renovations of the home next door.

Police then obtained a warrant to search Ice’s Palm Beach home where they claim they found the missing items. Ice was arrested and booked into the Palm Beach County Jail. He was later released after posting $6,000 bail.

Following his release, he told reporters that the entire episode was a “misunderstanding.”

Ice was charged with burglary as well as grand theft.

This is not Ice’s first run-in with the law. The entertainer has been arrested four times in the past for domestic assault, brandishing weapons and disorderly conduct. Additionally, he was forced to pay fines after his pet wallaroo and pet goat escaped from his home and wandered his Port St. Lucie neighborhood for more than a week.

According to Florida state statute 810.02, burglary is defined as:

entering or remaining in a dwelling, a structure, or a conveyance with the intent to commit an offense therein, unless the premises are at the time open to the public or the defendant is licensed or invited to enter or remain.

If Ice is convicted of burglary, he could face up to 15 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. Grand theft charges are even more complicated than burglary charges. The potential penalties associated with a grand theft conviction can vary. Consequences depend on the total value of the items stolen.

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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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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is urging all party-goers to recognize that Buzzed Driving is Drunk Driving this Halloween. As with all other holiday weekends, Halloween can bring about an increase in parties and celebrations in Florida and across the United States. Sadly, this also means that there will be an increase in drunk driving related injuries and deaths. Because of this, law enforcement officials are expected to be out in full force on Halloween night all across the state of Florida.

If you plan on drinking this Halloween, make sure to designate a sober driver before hitting the town. Consuming even just “a few” drinks could still place you over the legal limit. You do not want to place innocent trick-or-treaters and other roadway users in danger. Avoid drinking and driving entirely. Police will be ready to pounce if they believe they spot a drunk or buzzed driver, so save yourself the terrifying ride to jail and the horrifying costumed mug shot as well.

11064883376_6771bd6c4a_zHalloween Drunk Driving Facts

  • Nearly half of all car crash fatalities on Halloween night involved a drunk driver in 2012.
  • In 2012, 26 people were killed in car accidents involving drunk drivers on Halloween night.
  • In 2012, 10,322 people were killed in drunk driving crashes across the nation, accounting for a third of all traffic crash fatalities for the year.
  • Young drivers between the ages of 21 and 34 years old make up the largest group of drunk drivers involved in fatal collisions.
  • In 2012, 18 percent of all drivers under the age of 21 involved in fatal crashes were impaired.

The best way to make sure your Halloween is happy and safe is to be smart and stay sober if you plan on driving. Just one drink can be one too many – buzzed driving is still drunk driving. If you plan on consuming any amount of alcohol, make sure you have a safe ride home lined up. Pre-program a cab company’s number into your phone or make plans with a designated driver.

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According to the most recent FBI Crime report, Florida is home to some pretty dangerous cities. The top 20 cities that were found to have the most violent crimes and property crimes are as follows:

 

  • Miami Beach, Florida5196788334_e6ed189c68_m

 

With a population of 91,066, the total reported crimes were found to be 109.47 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 10.33 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 99.14 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Orlando, Florida

 

With a population size of 246,513, the total reported crimes in Orlando were assessed at 78.19 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 10.34 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 67.85 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Daytona Beach, Florida

 

Daytona Beach has a population of 61,861, and 74.10 reported crimes per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 11.56 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 62.54 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Panama City, Florida

 

Panama City’s reported population is 37,187, with a total number of reported crimes at 70.27 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 7.80 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 62.47 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Key West, Florida

 

With a smaller population of 25,249, Key West has a total of 69.47 reported crimes per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 8.24 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 61.23 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Homestead, Florida

 

Homestead has a reported total population of 62,785, with a total number of crimes at 67.87 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 16.64 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 51.22 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida

 

With a population of 170,827, the total reported crimes in Fort Lauderdale were determined at 67.92 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 9.11 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 58.80 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Pensacola, Florida

 

Pensacola’s population size is 52,909. The total reported crimes are 69.86 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 9.11 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 60.75 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Fort Pierce, Florida

 

The total population for Fort Pierce is 42,566 and the number of reported crimes ranks in at 65.95 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 11.14 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 54.81 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Miami, Florida

 

With a larger population size of 414,327, Miami has a total reported crimes of 65.47 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 11.72 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 53.75 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Pompano Beach, Florida

 

The total population size in Pompano Beach is 103,003. The total reported crimes in the area are 64.29 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 10.29 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 54.00 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Sarasota, Florida

 

Population size in Sarasota totals 53,055 with the total reported crimes at 63.14 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 8.03 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 55.11 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Riviera Beach, Florida

 

Riviera Beach has a total population of 33,309 and the total reported crimes are 61.97 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 13.21 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 48.76 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Lake Worth, Florida

 

Lake Worth has a population size of 35,788 and the total reported crimes are 61.17 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 12.88 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 48.28 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • West Palm Beach, Florida

 

The population size is 102,422 and total crime ranks in at 60.78 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 8.02 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 52.76 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Oakland Park, Florida

 

Oakland Park’s population is 42,071, with the total reported crimes at 60.75 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 7.85 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 52.90 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Ocala, Florida

 

The population in Ocala is reported at 57,288. The total reported crimes for the area is 60.61 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 6.55 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 54.06 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Sanford, Florida

 

Sanford has a population of 54,662. The total number of reported crimes for the area is 60.13 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 5.91 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 54.22 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Lauderdale Lakes, Florida

 

The population is 33,644 and the total reported crime is 59.80 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 9.99 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 49.82 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Leesburg, Florida

 

Leesburg’s total reported crime is 60.05 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 9.19 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 50.85 per 1,000 residents.

If you are facing criminal charges, you need to understand exactly what is at stake. How you respond to your charges will have a direct impact on how your case plays out, including your freedom and your future. During this critical time, everything you say and do, along with every decision you make can be the difference between imprisonment and you being free to move forward with your life.

Have you been arrested for a crime in Florida? You must act fast to protect your good name even if you have not had formal charges filed against you yet. A Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can help you with your case no matter what you have been arrested for or charged with. We will fully investigate the facts of your case and aggressively defend you in court or in seeking a settlement.

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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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Two fired Broward Sheriff’s deputies surrendered at the federal courthouse Monday where they faced charges alleging they abused their power as law enforcement agents in order to assist Ponzi schemer Scott Rothstein and his allies.

Prosecutors filed federal conspiracy charges against a former 48-year-old  lieutenant from Boca Raton and a former 47-year-old detective from Weston on Friday. They were fired from their positions shortly after their arrests.

Prosecutors claim the former lieutenant accepted $185,000 worth of cash, gifts and other perks from Rothstein. They claim the man sent the former detective “to do his dirty work on the street.”

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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 former Broward Christian School coach was arrested last month on charges of procuring a minor for prostitution after police claim he organized a meet up between two detectives posing as teenagers and another undercover detective posing as a client.

The 63-year-old West Park man was arrested on Feb. 5. According to Fort Lauderdale police, at the time of his arrest, detectives found more than 300 index cards in his possession with females’ first name, descriptions, telephone number and their hobbies.

broward countyDetectives are not sure how the man knew these women. Police are looking into whether he met some of them when he worked as a teacher and coach at Plantation’s Broward Christian School. He has not been employed at the school since 2001.

Police are going through the index cards and contacting everyone at the phone numbers listed.

Fort Lauderdale Police’s Human Trafficking Unit began investigating the man in January, after receiving a tip that the man was recruiting young and old females for sex trafficking.

In January, an undercover female detective posing as a 16-year-old apparently received multiple phone calls and text messages from the man. Police claim the conversations were sexually explicit.

Reports indicate that another undercover detective posing as a potential client called the man requesting to have sex with a 15- and 16-year-old. The man allegedly showed pictures to the undercover detective and told him he would arrange a meeting that would cost $200.

The man allegedly arranged for the group to meet at a Fort Lauderdale Dunkin Donuts on Feb. 5. According to the report, the man told the detective “to have fun and go handle your business.”

In addition to the charges of procuring a minor for prostitution, he was also charged with unlawful use of a telephone to set up the meeting.

The state of Florida has many regulations when it comes to prostitution, but those that carry the harshest penalties involve children and prostitution. If you or someone you care for has been arrested for or charged with procuring a minor for prostitution or similar charges, you must seek the help of a criminal defense attorney as soon as possible. Not only do these charges carry strict consequences if convicted, but the harsh social stigmas one can face from a guilty verdict can be overwhelming.

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