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Articles Posted in Charlotte 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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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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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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State investigators arrested a Charlotte County man last week on several counts of possessing child pornography.

Agents raided the 43-year-old’s house on Mango Drive in Punta Gorda where they claim they discovered a computer that was advertising videos and images of young children being raped.

This man’s arrest was part of a larger, undercover sting operation targeting individuals in Southwest Florida believed to be in possession of child porn.

keyboard child pornThe man’s wife allegedly told police that her husband accidentally downloaded the images.

According to police, the woman said her husband was trying to download music from a website called “eMule,” a peer-to-peer networking site. However, police allege the man downloaded images of children engaging in sexual activity.

The woman told police that the images were deleted as soon as her husband saw what they were.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement began investigating the man last October. Agents targeted computers with IP addresses in Southwest Florida believed to contain child porn.

Police claim the man began searching, collecting and advertising child pornography nearly a year ago. He is being held at the Charlotte County Jail on $500,000 bond.

Possession of child pornography charges are grave and require an aggressive criminal defense. If you have been caught in a situation where images of child porn were found on your computer, a Charlotte County Criminal Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton can investigate the facts of your case and provide you with a thorough defense against these heinous allegations.

As trial attorneys and former prosecutors, we have the technical experience and knowledge needed to defend child pornography cases. The majority of these cases involve online peer-to-peer file sharing networks where the material in question is often mistakenly downloaded or is embedded in other files being downloaded, which can wind up being traced back to you. If you have been accused of possessing images of child porn or have been contacted by law enforcement, the best thing you can do to help yourself is to invoke your rights to remain silent and contact a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible.

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Five people working at clinics in Fort Myers and Port Charlotte were arrested after police concluded an investigation into alleged false personal injury claims at these facilities.

The arrests included clinic owners, massage therapists and chiropractors who have been charged with patient brokering and solicitation in support of what police call a large school personal injury protection fraud ring.

The investigation was conducted by the Florida Department of Financial Services’ Division in partnership with Nationwide Insurance Company. It was apparently discovered that employees at rehab centers in Fort Myers and Port Charlotte were advising patients to sign documents for rehabilitation services for injuries that occurred during auto accidents.

insurance papers betch.jpgThe clinics are accused of billing insurance companies for treatments that apparently never occurred. The investigation allegedly uncovered that the Port Charlotte facility was operating without the proper license.

A 31-year-old receptionist, a 52-year-old massage therapist, a 51-year-old facilitator, a 51-year-odl clinic owner and a 63-year-old chiropractor were all taken into custody.

The department’s investigation was also led by the Lee and Charlotte County Sheriff’s offices. The suspects were booked into either the Charlotte County Jail or the Lee County Jail.

According to police, the suspects are awaiting bond. If convicted, they each face up to five years in prison.

There are many different types of insurance fraud or insurance crimes that a persona can be accused of. Essentially, insurance fraud is the crime of providing false information to an insurance company about a claim so that the company will agree to cover any costs related to losses or damages.

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A Punta Gorda woman was arrested Sunday night on sexual battery charges after an alleged altercation in Port Charlotte from which she tried to escape by hiding in the trunk of a car.

Detectives arrested the 34-year-old woman on charges of Sexual Battery, Felony Battery by Strangulation and Resisting Arrest without Violence.

Reports indicate that deputies were called to a location in Port Charlotte just before 10 p.m. Thursday for a disturbance.

One of the responding deputies apparently got close to the area when he was passed by a vehicle speeding away without any headlights. He stopped the vehicle and the driver allegedly told him that the woman was hiding in the trunk. Reports indicate they opened the trunk and found the woman with blood on her.

Several witnesses apparently told deputies that they heard yelling and screaming coming from a nearby residence.

According to deputies, the victim claims the woman arrived at her home earlier in the evening and had become violent with her. The alleged victim was apparently hit, choked and sexually battered by the woman with an inanimate object.

The victim was taken to a local hospital where she was treated for any injuries. Police claim evidence was found that backs up her account of what happened.

handcuffs betch.jpgDetectives report that the woman kicked an interview room door and attempted to pull away while being handcuffed when police told her she was being arrested.

She was subdued and taken to the Charlotte County Jail on a $57,000 bond.

Sexual battery charges are quite serious and can be some of the most difficult cases to resolve. In many cases, there is often very little evidence that proves a crime actually occurred. These cases usually come down to one person’s word against the other, and unfortunately the court tends to side with the victim. While sexual battery charges carry very severe consequences, a Port Charlotte Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can help you seek a positive outcome. In most sex crimes cases, a strong defense can actually result in reduced charges, reduced penalties or even a complete dismissal of all charges stacked against you. Even if you are under the impression that the evidence against you is overwhelming, a powerful defense can minimize the consequences that you receive.

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The Charlotte County Sheriff’s office arrested a 29-year-old Port Charlotte man Wednesday after he allegedly sent a comment to his “friends” alerting them of a bomb at Town Center Mall.

One of the man’s “friends” called CCSO immediately. Deputies and Charlotte County Fire/EMS went to the mall and began evacuating employees and shoppers right away.

Detectives went to the man’s home and advised him they were informed about his comment on Facebook mentioning a bomb in the mall. The man allegedly denied posting the comment and said he was not currently using his Facebook account.

The man apparently allowed detectives into his home. Detectives claim they found the man’s computer on with Facebook running and could see the man’s post about the bomb on the screen.

Detectives told the man they needed to know where the bomb was in order to protect people from injury. The man allegedly told detectives there was no bomb and that he posted the comment because he was suffering from stress and depression since he could not find a job.

The man was arrested for felony False Bomb Threat. He was taken to the Charlotte County Jail with bail set at $5,000. Mall management and security were notified of the facts and allowed employees and shoppers back in the mall just before 1 p.m.

The state of Florida takes bomb threats and false statements regarding explosive devices quite seriously. Knowingly making a false bomb threat is classified as a felony in Florida. A conviction can carry a lengthy prison sentence and hefty fines. However, being arrested or charged with this crime does not mean your case is hopeless. The Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can provide you with the aggressive legal representation needed to negotiate and defend these charges in order to receive a positive resolution.

If you are charged with making a bomb threat, it is essential to speak with a criminal defense lawyer as soon as possible. The Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can assist you with telling your side of the story. We can explore the facts surrounding your arrest and examine whether your Miranda Rights were read to you, whether the police conducted any illegal search and seizure and whether any of your rights were violated during questioning. By thoroughly investigating the circumstances and facts surrounding your case, we may be able to get your charges reduced or dismissed.

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