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Articles Posted in Collier 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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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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A Naples man was charged Monday with attempted murder and armed robbery after he allegedly  stole prescription drugs over the weekend from a pharmacist he left in critical condition.

The 25-year-old man was arrested at 2 p.m. at the Clarion Hotel in Tampa, according to police reports. He is facing additional charges, including occupied armed burglary and three other counts of burglary.

According to Temple Terrace police, the man entered a shopping center at 11410 N 56th St. on Saturday through the back of a nearby business. Shortly before 8 p.m., police claim he climbed through a crawl space in the ceiling to get to Omega Drugs Pharmacy.

hole punhcerThe man allegedly attacked the pharmacist on duty from behind and struck him with a commercial hole-punch machine several times. The man exited the store with a small amount of prescription drugs. The pharmacist, a 59-year-old Wesley Chapel man, remains in critical condition at Tampa General Hospital.

The accused had apparently been working in Ybor City with a painting company based out of  Naples. On Monday, police claim he was involved in a hit-and-run accident with his company vehicle. Following the accident, he allegedly boarded a Hillsborough Area Regional Transit bus where he apparently told another passenger about a mark on his face that was from being “bitten by a pharmacist.”

The man borrowed that same passenger’s cellphone to make a call. The passenger contacted authorities and a trail was led back to the man at the Clarion Hotel.

The man was booked in to the Orient Road jail.

The state of Florida classifies the crime of armed robbery as taking another person’s property without their permission, while possessing a weapon at the same time of the robbery. A weapon can be a knife, gun or other type of deadly weapon. Armed robbery is charged as a first-degree felony carrying very serious consequences if convicted.

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A joint investigation conducted by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Ft. Myers Regional Operations Center and the Collier County Sheriff’s Office in August resulted in the arrest of a Collier County Corrections Corporal and his wife on numerous charges of prescription drug offenses.

Agents arrested the 44-year-old Fort Myers woman on 23 counts of obtaining controlled substance by fraud and two counts of principal in the first degree for obtaining a controlled substance by fraud. Her husband, a 29-year-old Correctional Corporal for the
Collier County Sheriff’s Office was arrested on two counts of obtaining controlled substance by fraud and two counts of principal in the first degree for obtaining a controlled substance by fraud.

The investigation apparently began in January 2012 after the FDLE received information from the Collier County Sheriff’s Office that the alleged suspects were fraudulently obtaining numerous controlled substances at pharmacies in Lee and Collier counties.

prescription pills betch.jpgPolice claim that the woman fraudulently called in prescriptions and/or refills for Xanax, Vicodin and Ambien into various pharmacies for herself and her husband while she was employed at Advanced Medical Center in Naples.

The woman was booked into the Lee County Jail while her husband was booked into the Collier County Jail.

Obtaining a Controlled Substance by Fraud is a third-degree felony in Florida. Fraudulently obtaining medical prescriptions can carry very serious consequences, including multiple years in prison. In order to prove this crime, prosecutors in the state of Florida must prove that the controlled substances were obtained through misrepresentation, fraud, forgery, deception or subterfuge.

There are many ways to fraudulently obtain medical prescriptions, some of which include:

• Falsifying Prescriptions
• Altering Prescriptions
• Counterfeiting Prescriptions
• Impersonating a Doctor
• Stealing Blank Prescription Pads
• Using One Prescription to Obtain Multiple Refills
• Visiting Multiple Doctors for Medical Prescriptions, also known as “Doctor Shopping”

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The Collier County Sheriff’s Office arrested the father of two young girls after they apparently found him growing marijuana in the same home where he and his two daughters, 7 and 10 years old, lived.

Police claim the 40-year-old man’s Golden Gate Estates home off Wilson Boulevard appears to be your typical suburban residence, but the backyard houses an elaborate grow house that is not visible to passersby.

Detectives allege that inside the structure they found 20 mature plants and 158 pounds of marijuana, worth a street value of $60,000. The man apparently used $10,000 in equipment and fertilizers to grow the marijuana.

grow house.jpgAccording to the incident report, the man told police he and his two daughters live in the home. The children were not home at the time of the arrest and are now staying with other family members.

The Naples man is facing charges of marijuana trafficking in excess of 25 pounds, possession of narcotics equipment and drug producing with a minor present. A judge issued the man a $102,000 bond.

If you are charged with operating a marijuana grow house, this does not automatically mean you will be charged with trafficking. The state of Florida bases drug trafficking charges on the weight of the drug. The trafficking ceiling for marijuana in Florida is 300 plants or 25 pounds. If you have been charged with operating a grow house, you could also face trafficking charges should you be found in possession of 300 or more plants or if the plant material weighs 25 or more pounds. Florida statutes provide that possessing 25 or more marijuana plants indicates that the drugs are not intended for personal use, but for sale.

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A Collier County judge sentenced a 52-year-old woman and wife of a Collier County sheriff’s deputy to eight years in prison Friday for embezzling more than $250,000 from a former employer.

The woman was the office manager for a Naples company where she apparently wrote 211 fraudulent checks from the business’ account between 2005 and 2009.

Her husband received 31 of those checks and claims he knew nothing about what she was doing.

The State Attorney’s Office and the Collier County Sheriff’s Office economic crimes bureau joint investigation did not reveal any evidence to suggest the man had any dealings with his wife’s apparent scheme.

He has not been charged with any crime.

In addition to prison time, the woman was sentenced to 22 years’ probation. She must pay back the full $256,746 that she stole from her former boss. Currently, she has not paid back anything.

The judge claims he was forced to impose the eight-year sentence, the maximum under a January plea agreement, because the woman failed to pay back enough of what is owed to the business owner.

The judge said he may reconsider reducing her prison term if her family can pay back a good portion of what is owed within the next 60 days.

Embezzlement charges often result when there appears to be a misappropriation of funds by someone who has access to the company’s money including bookkeepers, accountants, treasurers or any other employee with the ability to write checks, make withdrawals and make payments with company funds. Many people find themselves slapped with business fraud charges because of questionable financial transactions made when in a position of trust at a business. Whether intentional or unintentional, embezzlement can occur in a variety of ways:

• Writing Fraudulent Checks to Others
• Pocketing Portions of Cash Deposits
• Fraudulent Use of a Company Credit Card
• Transferring Money from a Business Account to a Personal Account
• Appropriating Business Funds for Personal Use
Embezzlement is classified as a theft crime. Commonly referred to as “employee theft” or “employee fraud,” embezzlement charges are often pursued by the federal government. Due to the federal government’s inexhaustible resources to thoroughly investigate embezzlement accusations, early intervention by a criminal defense lawyer is essential in order to avoid a criminal conviction. Although embezzlement is classified as a theft crime, it differs from other theft offenses due to the relationship of trust that exists between an employer and an employee. Because of this, employee theft is generally prosecuted quite aggressively.

The Florida Business Fraud Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton may be able to help you avoid the penalties and prison sentences associated with embezzlement charges by crafting together a solid defense strategy. The employer does have the option of waiving prosecution if restitution is paid early in the investigation process and if other necessary steps are conducted in a timely manner. Sometimes an out of court settlement or repayment plan can be the best resolution for all parties involved. At Whittel & Melton, we are dedicated to helping those facing embezzlement accusations or charges throughout Florida.

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A Florida Ave Maria law school student is being held on $1 million bond after police claim he supposedly pointed a gun at his ex-girlfriend and fired shots at his roommate.

The 25-year-old student was charged Friday with attempted murder and aggravated assault with a deadly weapon.

According to the Naples Daily News, the man allegedly forced his roommate and ex-girlfriend to their knees on the street while pointing a gun at them. The woman apparently ran to the apartment to call the police, while the man fired several shots in the air.

The man allegedly ordered the roommate to his feet while pointing the gun at him. According to reports, no one was injured.

The man is scheduled to make his next court appearance on Feb. 6.

Aggravated assault can be defined as the use of intentional force that puts another individual in fear of impending danger. Certain circumstances can elevate this crime to be considered aggravated including:

 Use of a deadly weapon
 Assault against a family member or relative
 Assault against a police officer
 Assault that results in serious bodily injury
The use of a deadly weapon is not limited to a gun, and may include any type of instrument capable of bringing about serious bodily injury or harm. In the State of Florida, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon is a third-degree felony carrying consequences of up to five years in prison. However, if a person is charged with aggravated assault with a firearm a mandatory minimum sentence of three years in prison must be enforced.

For an aggravated assault with a deadly weapon charge, the State does not have to prove that you harmed another person or that you even made physical contact with the person. If it can be shown that you had the ability and the intent to inflict harm on another person, then you can be charged with this crime. In fact, simply threatening someone with a dangerous device, with an apparent ability to carry out the threat, can result in an aggravated assault arrest.

The Florida Aggravated Assault Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton work with investigators and related experts to exhaust all probable defenses to get your aggravated assault charges dismissed. There are numerous defenses that may be grounds for challenging the accusations including self-defense, provocation, defense of your property and defense of a third person. In addition, any faults with evidence must be exposed. Our attorneys can work to uncover any unlawful search and seizure issues as well as any conflicts with evidence or witness testimony.

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