Articles Posted in Clay 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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Three Clay County sheriff’s deputies are facing discipline after a high school student spent more than a month in jail charged as an adult in a sexual battery case all because he had the same name as the accused.

After a girl under the age of 12 told police she had sex with a Clay High student in the fall of 2012, investigators arrested a 17-year-old boy and booked him into the Clay County jail.

However, following a review of reports from the Green Cove Springs Police Department detailing the mother of the alleged victim having a verbal altercation with a boy that had the same name, the Clay County Sheriff’s Office began an internal investigation that revealed they had arrested the wrong teen.

cuffsThe mistake was not uncovered until 35 days later when the teen received court documents detailing the charges against him.

According to reports, three Clay County deputies received formal counseling for the wrongful arrest and one deputy faces a 10-day unpaid suspension and a transfer from investigations to patrol.

Authorities claim that the Clay County deputies failed to confirm the suspect’s identity with a photo lineup.

Sadly, because of this error an innocent teen was arrested for a criminal offense that he did not commit.

A disciplinary hearing was being held for the deputies on Tuesday morning. The results have yet to be released.

Being investigated for a criminal offense or getting arrested in Clay County is not a fun or pleasant experience. The hours and days leading up to an arrest and those immediately following an arrest are highly important when it comes to protecting your legal rights. In most criminal cases, once an investigation has begun or an arrest has been made, there is no time to spare. A criminal defense attorney should be retained immediately to make sure police and prosecutors play by the rules. With that said, all criminal defendants have a right to legal counsel throughout the investigation process as well as during all criminal proceedings.

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A former 53-year-old information technology specialist for the Clay County School District was arrested Tuesday after deputies allege he stole $19,000 worth of equipment from several schools and then sold the items online.

The Green Cove Springs man was arrested at his home Tuesday afternoon after detectives claim he stole computer and audio-visual equipment, including computer monitors, televisions, projectors and computer memory kits from several schools he worked for in the county, according to the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.

Officials claim the man later sold the items, worth about $19,000, on eBay over the course of several years. The man was employed with the school district for eight years before the district learned of his alleged activities.

A former Clay Schools employee was charged with Racketeering on Tuesday.

A former Clay Schools employee was charged with Racketeering on Tuesday.

According to deputies, the man used the money he received from the sales to pay his bills and purchase items for his family.

He was charged with one felony count of racketeering. He remained in the Clay County jail Wednesday with bail set at $100,000.

Racketeering is also known as RICO – the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act. Under Florida law, racketeering is classified as a first degree felony punishable by up to 30 years in prison. This is a complicated offense due to the many outlets the government can use to prove you are guilty of these charges. Any person accused of racketeering needs to act fast to protect their rights and safeguard their future. A Clay County Criminal Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton can challenge any evidence brought by the government and mount a powerful defense against RICO charges.

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A 70-year-old Middleburg woman has been arrested for allegedly attempting to hire an undercover detective to kill her daughter-in-law.

According to the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, she told the detective that he could take the expensive jewelry from her body when the job was done.

The sheriff’s office claims the woman offered the detective $5,000 to kill her daughter-in-law when she met with him at a Home Depot in Jacksonville on Wednesday.
She is accused of giving the detective $500 as the first payment as well as a photo of the woman, her address, and car description. She allegedly gave him another $1,000 when they met again on Thursday.

jewelry betch.jpgAccording to the sheriff’s office, the woman told the detective that her daughter-in-law wore expensive jewelry and could take the jewelry from her body once the job was complete. Police claim the woman told the detective that the diamonds could be removed and sold without a trace and that he could use that money towards the final payment.

The woman allegedly told the detective that she would take care of things if he could not.

The woman was placed under arrest and immediately requested an attorney after she was read her Miranda rights, the sheriff’s office said. It is unknown at this time whether or not she has secured representation.

The woman is currently being held in the Duval County Jail without bond on charges of criminal solicitation and criminal conspiracy, both first-degree felonies. She is scheduled to appear in court on Oct. 31.

Criminal charges of solicitation and conspiracy can involve a variety of different crimes and it should be noted that these offenses carry very significant penalties. If you or someone close to you has been arrested for a criminal offense in Middleburg, Orange Park, Green Cove Springs, Keystone Heights or the surrounding area, you should speak with a Clay County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton as soon as possible to learn about how you can protect your rights and the possible defenses that may be available to you.

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A 57-year-old Clay County man who taught sports part-time to children at a Clay County YMCA was arrested last month on a federal charge of receiving child pornography over the Internet, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

According to a statement from a YMCA spokesman, the man has been suspended indefinitely from his job as a gymnasium monitor. His duties consisted of officiating sports games from time to time. He has been at the facility since 2005.

The YMCA claims a background check was conducted on the man as well as thorough screenings into any criminal history. No suspicious criminal activity was every found and no reports of mistrustful activity was ever mentioned during his years as a Y employee, according to the YMCA.

keyboard.jpgAuthorities executed a federal search warrant at the man’s home where they allegedly found child porn on his computer. He apparently told investigators a file-sharing program had been used to download and share the images.

In recent years, federal investigators have started to seriously crack down on child pornography. In an effort to catch as many alleged distributors of child porn as possible, it is common for federal law enforcement agents to pose online in chat rooms and other web sites as suppliers and drum up conversations with unsuspecting individuals to see if they are interested in sending or receiving child porn via a file sharing program or through email.

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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.

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