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Articles Posted in Hendry 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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Law enforcement agencies from Hendry and Lee counties were sent on a manhunt Thursday after it was reported three teenage boys had allegedly stolen a car from Lee County.

Officials claim the trio took the vehicle on a joyride that eventually ended in Pioneer Plantation in Central Hendry County.

The three young men allegedly drove the vehicle from Lee County to Pioneer Plantation, where they stopped at the Shell Station located at the intersection of Hendry Isles Boulevard and State Road 80. Reports indicate that the trio then attempted to rob another man by putting a gun to his side, demanding money from him.

home burglaryAccording to police, the victim refused to give up his bank bag and instead grabbed the barrel of the gun. The trigger of the gun was allegedly pulled three times, but failed to fire.

According to the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office, the men then ran into a wooded area and were flushed out by K-9 units after a two and a half hour search.

All three suspects were taken into custody. Deputies are still questioning two suspects in the case, but one 17-year-old has been charged with attempted armed robbery, attempted carjacking, possession of a stolen vehicle, aggravated assault with a firearm, destruction/tampering with evidence, petit theft and grand theft.

Several agencies helped with locating the three suspects, including Hendry County deputies and K-9 units, Clewiston Police Department K-9 units, Lee County Sheriff’s Office deputies, K-9 units and helicopter, as well as the Florida Highway Patrol.

Juvenile crimes are prosecuted at a very high rate. In the state of Florida and across the country there is an increasing trend for juveniles to be tried in adult court. It is quite common today to see 16 and 17-year-old children being charged as adults.

A robbery charge can bring about serious penalties for a young offender. In the state of Florida, if a person is possession of a firearm when committing a crime or even when attempting to commit a crime, then the 10-20-Life statute can be applied. Anyone convicted under the 10-20-Life statute is ineligible for gain-time and must complete the entire 10 year prison term without the possibility of early release.

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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 31-year-old Hendry County man was arrested by the Lee County Sheriff’s Office on Oct. 9 on a warrant from Hendry County on charges of sexual battery. That same day, the Glades County Sheriff’s Office arrested a second man, an 18-year-old Glades County man, also, on charges of sexual battery.

The charges stemmed from allegations made by a 16-year-old girl that she was raped on a party bus by the two men. On Oct. 1, the teen came to the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office with family members to report the alleged assault.

party bus betch.jpgShe claims that at the end of the night, the party bus was parked at a private residence in Hendry County where passengers were permitted to enter and exit the bus freely to mingle in the yard and in the home. The 16-year-old claims that she was left alone on the bus with the two men when they forced her to have sex with them.

The Hendry County Investigators filed for and received an arrest warrant on Oct. 7 for the men on charges of sexual battery. The 31-year-old Hendry County man is currently being held in the Lee County Jail on a $100,000 bond. The 18-year-old has been released on a $100,000 bond.

A person that is accused of rape is facing some very serious penalties and should seek legal advice right away. What you should remember is that you have the right to remain silent. What does this mean to you? Essentially, this means you are not obligated to answer any of law enforcement’s questions. You also have the right to have your attorney present during any questioning, which you should always take advantage of to avoid falling victim to any unfair police tactics. Additionally, while the prosecution may offer you a deal, you do have the right to a trial to present your side of the story to the court. A Hendry County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can explain your legal options as well as the potential consequences associated with each so that you can make the most informed decision for your unique legal matter.

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A 24-year-old LaBelle man was arrested and held without bond last month after members of the Hendry County Narcotics Unit conducted a controlled delivery of a package suspected of containing marijuana at the man’s North LaBelle home.

Posing as a parcel serviceman, an undercover narcotics investigator delivered the package to the man’s home, which he apparently rents.

Narcotics Investigators claim that after a short period of time they witnessed the man driving a white Jeep and pull into the driveway of the home.

The man allegedly picked up the package and carried it inside the home. About 15 minutes later a guest apparently arrived at the home and the man stepped outside to speak with the person. Investigators then arrested the man inside the home.

Once inside the home, investigators searched the premises and allegedly found approximately 17 pounds of marijuana, with a street value of $17,000.00, inside a red duffle bag.

The man was taken into custody and charged with Possession of Marijuana with Intent to Sell and Possession of Marijuana over 20 Grams. He is currently being held in the Hendry County Jail without bond.

bag of weed.jpgWhile some states have legalized the simple possession of marijuana, this remains a criminal offense in Florida. Any person accused of possession with the intent to sell or distribute will face felony charges in Florida that can include penalties as high 30 years in prison. Possession with intent to sell is a much more serious offense than just a simple possession charge as it involves a larger quantity of drugs.

When investigators believe that a person is in possession of drugs with the intent to sell or distribute, they do not have to actually prove that any drugs were sold. In fact, all they have to demonstrate is that the person intended to sell the drugs in his or her possession. There are certain factors that investigators will look at when determining whether or not to charge someone with possession with intent to sell, including:

• The amount of drugs in the person’s possession
• The amount of cash a person has on them
• How the drugs are packed (Generally, law enforcement presumes a person intends to sell drugs if the drugs are individually packaged.)

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