Articles Posted in Flagler County

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The good news is that overall crime is down in Flagler County, but the bad news is that violent crime is up in many categories.

According to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Uniform Crime Report, the rates of rape, aggravated assault, burglaries and stolen vehicles all increase in 2015. There was also one murder in the county, up from zero in 2014.

Flagler County’s sheriff says his deputies have managed to keep the crime rate low for a long time. And despite increases in key categories, the overall crime rate is still down .6 percent.

The increase has been blamed on population growth. In the last four years, the county’s population has grown by about 10 percent.

The sheriff said whenever they start to see a spike in crime in specific areas, they flood the zones with patrols.

Statewide, crime is also up in several categories, although overall crime is down 1.6 percent.

In 2015, the crime rates rose in the following categories:

  • Murder: 5.7 percent
  • Rape: 6.1 percent
  • Fondling: 2.0 percent
  • Aggravated Assault: 3.9 percent
  • Motor vehicle Theft: 12.4 percent

The report also breaks down domestic violence-related crime by category. Overall, domestic violence-related crime is up .5 percent.

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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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More than 20 pounds of marijuana, a semi-automatic pistol and $9,000 in cash were allegedly found Monday after agents raided a Flagler County home.

Agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement’s Tri-County Narcotics Task Force, as well as Flagler County Sheriff’s Office deputies, apparently seized 23 pounds of marijuana with a street value of $76,000, a pistol and the cash during the search warrant they executed around 8:52 p.m. at a home on Wheatfield Drive in Palm Coast.

A 21-year-old of Palm Coast was arrested and charged with one count of possession of cannabis with intent to sell. He was booked into the Flagler County Jail on $10,000 bond.

According to jail records, he has since posted bond.

During the operations, the semi-automatic pistol that was seized was determined to have been reported stolen by the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office.

With Florida law enforcement determined to crack down on drug laws and close ranks on drug distribution operations, it can be amazingly easy to find yourself arrested for a drug possession with intent to sell charge. Arrests like these can stem from simple misunderstandings or even after you have been allegedly caught for possession and the prosecution wishes to amp up the charges.

Regardless of the situation, adding intent to distribute to a drug possession charge can greatly increase the penalties you face if convicted. It is highly recommended you work with a Florida Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer to protect your rights and fight these charges.

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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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Our criminal defense lawyers at Whittel & Melton are very pleased to announce that, according to Governor Rick Scott, Florida is on a path to a 44-year crime low.

The actual number of crimes across the Sunshine State is showing that crime rate is steadily on the decline.

8258120342_5be09894b2_zThe Florida Department of Law Enforcement has released its numbers for the first half of 2014, which shows there were more than 8,000 fewer crimes committed in the first six months of this year than in that same time period in 2013.

However, while the number of non-violent crimes is down, including robbery, burglary and stalking, the number of murders, forcible sex offenses, aggravated assaults and domestic violence are all on the rise.

In Central Florida, most of the counties are in line with the overall report, seeing a drop in criminal activity across the board.

The biggest decline occurred in Flagler County, with crime dropping nearly 11 percent. Sumter County actually saw the biggest rise in crime, with an increase of 2.4 percent.

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A Flagler County man who was previously convicted of lewd and lascivious molestation of a child was sentenced to 30 years in prison.

The 29-year-old man was previously convicted by a Flagler County jury on Aug. 20 after a two-day trial.

At trial, the man’s defense centered around the fact that he suffered from “sexsomnia” and committed the acts while asleep. According to the evidence from trial, the man had apparently touched the victim inappropriately on more than one occasion.

Jurors did not believe the man’s disorder of sexsomnia and returned a verdict of guilty.

383476178_8fe0f5e767_mEvidence from the prosecution claimed that the man sent out a postcard from the Flagler County jail that requested information about nations without extradition agreements with the U.S. and where marijuana is legal.

The prosecution used this evidence to argue about the man being a flight risk.

The judge imposed the 30-year sentence after hearing a letter written by the victim in the case and from several witnesses that testified on the man’s behalf.

Once the man is released from prison, he will be placed on sex-offender probation for the rest of his life. His probation requirements order him to have no contact with minors. A $15,000 statutory fine was also imposed. In addition, the man will be classified as a sexual predator.

Sexsomnia, similar to sleepwalking, is a condition that is not very well understood, however scientific evidence does prove that it exists. In fact, this is not the first case that has used sexsomnia as a defense. It has been used in similar cases and has resulted in acquittals. Sexsomia is classified as a rare type of sleep disorder that essentially entails a person acting out sexually while sleeping. Episodes of sexsomnia occur during a deep sleep, so a person experiencing this disorder may not even be able to recall anything that happened after he he or she wakes up.

Unfortunately, when people are charged with sex crimes, especially when children are involved, the public usually instantly assumes that they are guilty. However, those who are charged with sex crimes, or any crime for that matter, are presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

While a rare defense, this not the first case where sexsomnia has been brought up as a defense. This case just goes to show that allegations of child molestation and other sex crimes are a lot more complex than they seem on the surface.

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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 Bunnell police officer was arrested last week after the Florida Department of Law Enforcement accused him of soliciting teenage boys online.

The 30-year-old Palm Coast man was arrested Mar. 25 on two counts of computer pornography and child exploitation, and one count of criminal use of personal identification information.

facebookThe FDLE said they began investigating the man in December 2013 after receiving complaints regarding his behavior. Investigators claim the man created a fraudulent Facebook account posing as a teenage girl and used the account to solicit teenage boys. FDLE alleges the conversations turned sexual when the man requested sexual photos from the teens.

Reports indicate the man was arrested at Bunnell City Hall by deputies from the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office. He was booked into the Flagler County Jail with bail set at $125,000.

He posted bond later that night and was released.

Bunnell police said the man has been suspended without pay.

Sex offenses involving juveniles are punished harshly in Flagler County and throughout the state of Florida. In fact, Florida has some of the harshest sentences for sex offenders in the nation, and penalties often include any number of years up to life in prison, considerable fines and other strict consequences. For most, being forced to register as a sexual offender is the most detrimental penalty of all. Registered sex offenders face many struggles as this can not only ruin careers and reputations, but restrict where they can work and even live.

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In a joint effort with the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office shut down synthetic marijuana labs in St. Johns and Flagler counties last month.

The drug is commonly referred to on the street as “Spice.”

A total of 11 people were arrested on charges of sale of a controlled substance. Of the 11 arrested, 5 were charged with breaking the state’s racketeering laws. According to the Sheriff’s Office, seven of those charged were from St. Augustine, one was from Jacksonville, another was from Bunnell and one lived in Dothan, Alabama.

The seven-month investigation dubbed “Operation Bad Dreamer” ended when about 80 law enforcement officers busted 11 locations across St. Johns and Flagler Counties, allegedly seizing $70,000 and about 370 pounds of “product.”

bud betch.jpgThe term drug manufacturing refers to creating drugs using alternative means other than growing. In most cases, drug manufacturing charges involve methamphetamine, LSD and most recently, synthetic marijuana, often referred to as Spice and K2. Drug cultivation is similar to drug manufacturing charges, but refers to growing, planting or harvesting drugs.

As this case shows, drug manufacturing cases often involve large-scale operations, many defendants and can cross county and even state lines. When facing charges stemming from manufacturing synthetic cannabis, Ketamine, PCP, heroin, GBL, derivatives of GHB or bath salts, you should take these seriously as a conviction could affect all aspects of your life making it difficult to apply to college, obtain a job or sustain a professional license in the future. As the laws regarding these newer synthetic and designer drugs become more defined, you can be sure that the prosecution will keep seeking harsher sentences.

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