Articles Posted in Citrus County

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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 former Hernando County Sheriff’s deputies are now facing criminal charges in separate cases.

One is accused of stealing money meant for the family of a deputy that was killed and the other is accused of stealing taxpayer dollars.

Both Deputy Michael Glatfelter and Sergeant Joseph Reid resigned before they were booked into the Citrus County Jail.

They both posted bond.

Glatfelter is the former treasurer of a local Fraternal Order of Police. He allegedly stole more than $1,000 from a memorial fund selected to go to the family of Deputy Scott Bierwiler, a Hernando County deputy who was killed in a car accident while on his way to work in 2009.

The FOP has apparently changed its policies to make sure similar incidents do not happen in the future.

A separate case centered on a former sergeant, Joseph Reid, alleges the man stole up to $1,500 from the VICE unit as far back as 2011.

cash money betch.jpgLaw enforcement officers are exposed to many illegal substances, large amounts of cash and other illegal activities due to the nature of their work and their environment. Anytime suspicion arises regarding an officer’s behavior, there is a lot on the line. Not only could criminal charges be filed, but the officer’s reputation and career are also at stake.

If convicted of a theft crime, these two officers could face much more than just hefty fines and the loss of their jobs; they could be forced to spend lengthy time in prison. Even if they are not found guilty, their professional and personal reputations may be permanently tarnished.

A Hernando County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can help you defeat any type of criminal charge stacked against you. As former prosecutors, we know the strict penalties that law enforcement officers face when accused of crimes. We can thoroughly inspect the allegations against you and work to help you overcome any criminal charges so that you achieve the most favorable outcome possible.

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A Citrus County B & W Rexall Drug Store manager was arrested last week for allegedly stealing and then redeeming scratch-off lottery tickets.

The 33-year-old Inverness man is charged with one count of grand theft and one count of dealing in stolen property.

The owner of the drug store contacted authorities of the thefts after Capital City Bank alerted him that their lottery account was overdrawn by $6,000, according to an affidavit.

Deputies inspected the thefts and apparently found that store owners contacted the Florida Lottery Commission and were advised winning tickets were redeemed at an Inverness grocery store.

The arrest affidavit states that surveillance video at the grocery store showed the accused redeeming the lottery tickets.

Store owners claim they are certain $4,500 worth of lottery tickets are missing, but there could be a total loss of $25,000.

Deputies questioned the accused at his Inverness home where he allegedly confessed to stealing an unknown amount of lottery tickets.

Police claim he admitted to taking tickets starting in September, and managed to steal a few every couple days.

lotto ticket betch.jpgDeputies at the Lottery Commission were apparently able to confirm that the man drove to a Gainesville lotto office on September 23 to redeem a $1,000 ticket.

The man worked at the drug store for five years.

He was arrested and has since been released on his own recognizance.

Any person who deals in stolen property that he or she knew or should have known was stolen can be charged with a second-degree felony. A conviction for this offense carries very harsh consequences, including up to 15 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. In most cases, dealing in stolen property charges are paired with arrests for theft or burglary. However, just because you have been accused of theft or dealing in stolen property, this does not mean you are automatically convicted of these crimes. Prosecutors must prove that a person knew that the property he or she sold or redeemed money for was stolen, which in many cases, can be difficult to prove. A Citrus County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can thoroughly inspect the circumstances surrounding your arrest for all potential defenses.

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A woman accused of pretending to be a nurse and treating patients at a Lake County home healthcare facility has been arrested and charged with running an unlicensed assisted living facility.

According to Lake County sheriff’s detectives, this is not the woman’s first run in with the law.

Before she allegedly duped a home health care facility into believing she was a licensed nurse in May, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office arrested her in December for scheming to defraud and criminal use of personal information.

Records indicate that for the May charges, the woman was released on $2,000 bail.

nurse betch.jpgInvestigators claim that the woman went to the Lake County home health care facility to become an office manager in May, but during the interview she produced paperwork and documentation showing she was a licensed practical nurse.

The woman apparently made home visits to patients on several different occasions.

The woman was fired just weeks after she started her position, after an audit by the
Florida Department of Health and detective work by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office allegedly uncovered she was not licensed to practice in Florida. Moreover, detectives allege she made her own license.

She is accused of using another registered nurse’s license number for the state and placing her name on the license.

The nurse the woman is accused of impersonating works at Saint Petersburg General Hospital and shares an almost identical name with the woman.

Lake County sheriff’s investigators claim they are currently working to identify any additional patients in the community that may have been treated by the woman.

Just like doctors, attorneys, dentists, veterinarians and other professionals, anyone wishing to become nurse must first obtain a license. This is something the state of Florida requires, as well as all other states. Practicing nursing without a license is a serious crime that carries very harsh consequences, including incarceration, fines, probation and even restitution to any victims that suffered any harm.

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1066864_police_cruiser.jpgHomosassa, FL – A registered sex offender has been arrested on charges of lewd and lascivious conduct with an 11-year-old girl.

The 36-year-old, who is listed as homeless, apparently traveled to a hotel in the county with the girl and another adult female on Oct. 27 where the trio stayed overnight.

When the girl arrived home the next day she told her family that the adult female left the room for around two hours, leaving her alone with the man. She claims the man asked her sexually explicit questions and tried to touch her breasts.

The girl apparently told the Sheriff’s Office’s Child Protection team that the man asked to show her his genitals and asked to see hers. He allegedly asked if he could have sex with her.

The girl claims the man wrapped himself around her as she lay on one of the beds in the room and began moving. She apparently got up and went to the restroom and noticed her soda tasted odd when she returned. Police were informed that the man had been drinking shots of alcohol in the hotel.

The girl told police that the man told her not to tell anyone what happened.

According to reports, the man is a registered sex offender in Hernando County, who has not been checked on in person since Oct. 25 in that county.

The man was apparently working at a Homosassa business, and was arrested there Nov. 2. He allegedly told police that the girl tried to solicit him for sexual activity.

He was taken to Citrus County jail with bail set at $27,000. He was charged with failing to report his change of address within 48 hours, as required by state law, lewd and lascivious conduct with someone younger than 16 and lewd and lascivious molestation of a person younger than 16.

Failure to register as a sexual offender or predator can result in severe consequences. The state of Florida takes these charges quite seriously, and an individual charged with failing to register can be charged with a third-degree felony, or in some cases a second-degree felony. Sexual offenders and sexual predators must comply with multiple different forms of registration. The following is a list of the registration requirements that sexual offenders and sexual predators must follow:

• Registration within 48 of being released from custody
• Registration within 48 hours of relocating to a different address
• Registration of Address of Residence
• Registration with the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles
• Registration of Employment or Enrollment at an Institution of Higher Learning

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Two Citrus County men were arrested Tuesday after Citrus County Sheriff’s deputies claim they purchased items consistent with the manufacture of methamphetamine.

Deputies arrested the men after allegedly witnessing them purchase lye, Ephedrine, fertilizer and camping fuel, which are the components known to be used in what is called one-pot meth manufacturing.

The men were stopped by a deputy on patrol after allegedly running a red light.

A K-9 deputy was called to sniff the vehicle. Police apparently uncovered camping fuel, lye, fertilizer and a pill bottle with baggies inside that tested positive for cocaine residue.

Both men were allegedly read their rights, but agreed to speak to law enforcement.

According to police, both men apparently admitted that they had not manufactured any methamphetamine, but intended to. Police claim one of the men told them he had recently lost his job and could not pay his electric bill, so the meth cook was a last-ditch effort to make some money.

After searching one of the men’s home, law enforcement officers allegedly uncovered chemicals and other paraphernalia including two syringes, a spoon and devices used to smoke spice, several marijuana seeds and trace amounts of marijuana.

Both men were arrested and transported to the Citrus County jail.

One of the men was charged with intent to manufacture meth, petit theft, possession of less than 20 grams of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia and listed chemicals intended to manufacture a controlled substance.

The other man was charged with intent to manufacture meth and possession of drug paraphernalia and listed chemicals intended to manufacture a controlled substance.

Both of their bonds were set at $151,250.

Methamphetamine, also called meth, speed or ice has become increasingly popular due to the fact that it is relatively easy to manufacture at homes or backyard meth labs using chemicals that are readily available and perfectly legal to buy. Since the chemicals and components to manufacture this drug are affordable and easy to come by, police have increased their efforts to arrest those suspected of possessing, distributing or manufacturing meth.

Methamphetamine charges carry severe consequences. Possessing 14 or more grams of methamphetamines, or the chemicals used to make meth is classified as felony trafficking in Florida. The penalties associated with a conviction can range from a minimum mandatory sentence of 3 years in prison and a $50,000 fine to 15 years behind bars and a $250,000 fine. There are numerous other factors that could increase the consequences related to a methamphetamine case, including the proximity to school property or other locations, the presence of firearms, past criminal convictions, and whether you face state or federal charges.

Because shutting down meth manufacturing operations has been the focus of law enforcement officers throughout the state of Florida in recent years, police may try and perform illegal searches in order to prosecute these crimes. The Florida Drug Crimes Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can protect your rights and make sure that law enforcement officials followed the strict state and federal laws for collecting evidence in a meth raid. Drug crimes are incredibly complex in the state of Florida, so it is absolutely vital to have a criminal defense lawyer in your corner. At Whittel & Melton, we can guide you through this difficult experience and work with prosecutors to possibly have the charges against you reduced.

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Six Citrus County, Florida residents have been arrested and are facing various drug charges after investigations conducted by the Sheriff’s Office and the CCSO’s Tactical Impact Unit and Pharmacy Diversion Unit revealed illegal dealings of prescription narcotics.

The arrests ranged from doctor shopping to hydrocodone trafficking. Several of the supposed suspects, ranging in age from 22 to 57, are accused of selling cocaine and other substances as well as selling their prescription pills for a profit.

A CCSO spokesperson mentioned that the introduction of Florida’s new prescription drug monitoring program E-FORCSE or Electronic – Florida Online Reporting of Controlled Substances Evaluation makes it easier than ever to monitor who may be doctor shopping. Law enforcement agents, doctors and pharmacists can use the program to see what drugs patients are receiving and from what doctors.

Doctor shopping also known as Obtaining a Controlled Substance by Fraud has become an increasingly popular charge in Florida. Due to the large amount of pressure placed upon law enforcement to track down those suspected of prescription drug abuse, new tracking systems have been developed to monitor patient’s medical records and pharmacy histories. These amped up security measures put doctors as well as patients at a greater risk for being accused of committing a prescription drug crime. Electronic databases put even patients given legal prescriptions to treat an injury or illness in jeopardy of a drug crime arrest.

Doctor shopping, in general, is when a patient visits multiple doctors to gain access to multiple prescriptions. It is illegal for patients to visit different doctors without disclosing that information to them, even if they are under the care of several physicians for legitimate reasons. In the State of Florida, doctor shopping is classified as a third-degree felony that carries mandatory penalties and could include up to five years in State Prison. In addition, the State can charge every transaction as a separate crime, which could result in multiple consecutive sentences.

The Florida Drug Crimes Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton are experienced with how the State Attorney’s Office investigates these types of crimes and will work to get your charges related to doctor shopping or any other type of drug charge reduced or dismissed. As trial attorneys, we treat every case as if it is going to trial and can provide you with a solid defense no matter what the circumstances are surrounding your arrest.

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A Homosassa, Florida family doctor described by police as a drug dealer with a medical license and a lab coat was arrested Tuesday and charged with two counts of trafficking in hydrocodone and one count of criminal conspiracy to traffic in hydrocodone. The 71-year-old doctor of osteopathy was taken into custody at his family practice where he voluntarily forfeited his medical license to the Drug Enforcement Administration.

According to the Citrus County Chronicle Online, the doctor’s bail was set at $1.5 million and the investigation is ongoing. If convicted of any of the crimes, just one of the counts could carry a sentence of over 20 years. At 71, this would be tantamount to a life sentence.

Police supposedly recovered 9,000 pills from the doctor’s office, but believed there should have been around 18,000. Since January 2010, law enforcement believes he has been responsible for dispensing about 42,000 pills. The Department of Health investigated into the doctor’s past records and believes 300,000 pills with a street value of $1.8 million were; sold since 2005.

The doctor allegedly sold the pills to street-level dealers who then sold the pills for as much as $5 to $6 each. The Citrus County State Attorney’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement were able to make multiple undercover controlled purchases of prescription hydrocodone pills throughout the county. Of the thousands of pills exchanged during these transactions, they were all allegedly tracked back to the Homosassa doctor and his medical offices.

A FDLE Special Agent said that the Tampa Bay region leads the state in the number of deaths linked to prescription drugs. Though the region only accounts for 17 percent of the state’s population, it accounts for 29 percent of the prescription drug deaths in the state.

Police said this is a unique case because the doctor involved was not a pain management doctor.

In most drug trafficking cases in Florida, criminal prosecutors usually file conspiracy charges along with trafficking charges in an attempt to seek convictions for both drug trafficking and an agreement to traffic drugs. To be convicted of conspiracy, the crime does not actually have to be completed. The most essential aspect of conspiracy is that two or more individuals come to an agreement or an understanding thus entering into a criminal venture. Conspiracy ends once an act advances the crime and the participants complete the criminal endeavor or someone extracts themselves from the situation.

Proving drug trafficking requires substantiating possession with the intent to dispense a controlled substance. Sentences are determined through the weight value of the total pills in question. A trafficking charge of hydrocodone at minimum is a three year sentence with a fine of $50,000 and a maximum of 25 years in prison plus a fine of $500,000.

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The Citrus County Sherriff’s Office arrested a 25-year-old Lecanto, Florida woman and a 29-year-old Beverly Hills, FL man for scheming to defraud, criminal conspiracy and giving worthless checks.

A deputy arrived at a Publix Supermarket in Inverness, FL after receiving a call from the store manager regarding a woman trying to return purchases made with a check for cash. The manager told the deputy that the checks the woman was using were from an account that allegedly had insufficient funds.

According to the Citrus County Chronicle, the woman and her boyfriend had been buying items at local Publix supermarkets with worthless checks and then going to different Publix stores to return the items for cash.

It is the understanding of law enforcement that an account was opened for $50 on April 1, 2011. Further, the allegation is a total of $530.77 that was written on this account and the total cash refunds were for $167.90.

According to the arrest report, the man and woman took turns making purchases and returning items.

The couple was transported to the Citrus County Detention Facility in Lecanto. Her bond was set at $4,100; his bond was set $3,500.

In Florida, you could face a worthless check charge by writing a check with reasonable knowledge that the check won’t clear or the account has been closed. The charge of Worthless Checks is a first degree misdemeanor carrying a potential jail sentence of up to one year and fines of no more than $1,000. If a single worthless check is more than $150 or multiple bad checks written total more than $150, you will face third degree felony charges with a potential sentence of five years in prison.

Many people bounce checks due to difficult financial situations. Due to a miscalculation of funds or a simple error in balancing their checkbook, people can write checks that bounce and end up facing criminal charges. Under Florida law, unknowingly writing a bad check can be a defense to a worthless checks crime. If the person cashing the check was notified there were insufficient funds available at the time of receipt, this too can be a defense to a worthless check charge and may prevent prosecution under Florida law.

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