We are taking the threat of COVID-19 very seriously. Click here to find out what our firm is doing.

Articles Posted in Hillsborough County

Published on:

A Riverview man has been arrested and charged with trafficking after deputies allege they found more than 300 pounds of marijuana at his home.

According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the Riverview man was arrested Thursday and 358 pounds of pot were seized from 10728 Deepbrook Drive in Riverview.

Deputies claim that after obtaining a search warrant, they entered the home and found two separate rooms in the home being used to grow marijuana. Each room allegedly contained several large marijuana plants with multiple high sodium vapor lights, ballasts and fans.

In total, deputies found 70 marijuana plants in the home, according to reports. The street value of the marijuana is approximately $700,000.

Tampa Electric crews claim they found an illegal electrical connection at the home. The estimated alleged theft of electricity was $8,800.

Authorities said the 27-year-old man tried to run out of the back of the home but was apprehended in the backyard.

The Riverview man was arrested and charged with trafficking in marijuana, cultivation of marijuana, grand theft and own, lease or rent for purposes of trafficking marijuana.

Marijuana use, trafficking, sale or distribution is strictly prohibited in the state of Florida. Marijuana trafficking is a serious criminal offense that carries severe penalties if convicted. In addition to lengthy prison sentences and extensive fines, a conviction of marijuana trafficking will negatively impact all areas of your life, including employment, education, and maintaining custody of your children.

Continue reading

Published on:

A domestic disturbance led police to discover an alleged marijuana grow operation in the house next door, according to Hillsborough County deputies.

When deputies searched the house a week later, they claim they found 283 pounds of marijuana worth $700,000.

According to the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, deputies responded to a domestic disturbance at a home on Wilkins Road last Friday. While investigating the disturbance, a deputy claimed he noticed the smell of marijuana coming from the house next door.

4151959139_3d9b8a9b24_zThe deputy then alerted the Marijuana Grow House Task Force, and a search warrant was obtained. On Thursday, deputies searched the house and allegedly found the grow operation in a detached garage. Deputies said they seized 15 mature marijuana plants and 39 small marijuana plants.

Deputies found a 27-year-old Tampa man on the property and took him into custody. He is facing charges of cultivation of marijuana, trafficking in marijuana, owning/leasing/renting for purposes of trafficking marijuana, grand theft of electricity and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Marijuana cultivation is a serious offense in Florida. Depending on the quantity of marijuana involved, if you are convicted you could face the prospect of a very lengthy prison sentence. Whatever the specific circumstances of your case, it is important to obtain legal representation as soon as possible.

Owning and operating a marijuana grow house is a very serious offense. There is a potential for serious time behind bars as this charge often arises from marijuana cultivation, possession and distribution charges. When there is one charge, there are likely many other marijuana-related charges as well.

Continue reading

Published on:

This Saturday, Tampa Bay will be celebrating the 2014 Gasparilla Pirate Fest. This day-long celebration welcomes the public to partake in a spectacular parade and festival inspired by Jose Gaspar. This annual festival accommodates more than 300,000 people every year, which results in large crowds of rowdy and excited guests.

While a fun time, it is important to remember that as with most things, larger crowds usually means more arrests for various violations. Reports from earlier Gasparilla Parades recount numerous arrests for open container violations, as well as various citations for civil infractions. Arrests for alcohol-related criminal offenses are also very high this weekend, particularly for disorderly conduct, DUI, Boating Under the Influence and underage drinking.

8431098388_181f4bc534_zDuring this Gasparilla weekend, it is very important  to practice safety in order to avoid a potential arrest. It can be quite helpful to prepare your agenda for the day ahead of time and make all necessary arrangements to get home safely at the end of the night. You can protect yourself as well as the safety of others by following the guidelines provided by the City of Tampa.

  1. Plan your day in Advance. Save time by planning where you will park and familiarize yourself will the street closures so that you can map your route there accordingly.
  2. Pick a meeting place for friends and family. By selecting a spot ahead of time, you and the rest of your party can know where to go in the event you get separated.
  3. Know the “Wet Zones.” The parade route does allow participants to drink alcohol openly, but only from select vendors selling along the route. Keep in mind that no coolers, kegs or open containers are allowed elsewhere on the streets. Police are stressing that no glass containers of any kind are permitted.

Continue reading

Published on:

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.

Continue reading

Published on:

A Hillsborough County teacher resigned Wednesday after he was arrested on child pornography charges.

The 68-year-old resigned from his position with the school district following his arrest,  according to a Hillsborough County School District spokeswoman.

Tampa police claim they started the investigation against the man after an iPod with “questionable” images surfaced. School security was unable to track down who the iPod belonged to.

8258120342_5be09894b2_z (1)Officers were called to the scene and obtained a search warrant for the device, then allegedly discovered several hundred images of young boys on the iPod.

The iPod was eventually tracked to the man’s IP address, according to detectives. His home was searched on Wednesday morning.

Police said the man admitted that the iPod belonged to him. He arrested and is facing seven counts of child pornography.

The man had been with the district since 1980, and for the last four years worked as a peer evaluator, giving teachers tips on what they could do better. He was not in direct contact with students while in that position.

The investigation is ongoing, according to police.

People tend to think that that their activities on the internet or on their cell phones, tablets, iPads and iPods are private. However, when authorities believe children are at risk, they respond immediately and usually quite aggressively. In fact, police frequently conduct undercover operations aimed at identifying child sexual predators.

Charges like child pornography can have a severe impact on a person’s life and career. In many cases, people can face disciplinary action at work before criminal proceedings have even been completed. If convicted, penalties are severe and may include jail or prison time, fines, registration as a sex offender, probation and more.

Continue reading

Published on:

The local chair of American Civil Liberties Union is calling for a federal review of Central Florida’s Internet Crimes Against Children task force.

Ret. Army Col. Mike Pheneger, the chair of the Greater Tampa Chapter of the ACLU, said there are many problems with these “To Catch a Predator”-style undercover stings, which are extremely popular in West/Central Florida.

Pheneger, who has also held ACLU leadership positions at the state and national level, said this: “The Justice Department (should) be asked to look into this, since this is federal money that’s involved here. Find out if they are following the rules, because it would appear they are not.”

gavelThe Central Florida ICAC task force, under the authority of Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, started reaching out to men who were simply posting perfectly legal ads on legitimate dating websites. A handful of judges have even criticized officers’ overreach, their “failing to follow procedures” during undercover operations, as well as methods used to nettle “a law-abiding citizen to commit a crime.”

According to a 10 Investigates analysis, out of more than 1,200 Florida arrests since 2008, many of the subjects of the stings often had no previous criminal record and were able to avoid jail time. In fact, many prosecutors have shown leniency, based on the facts of the case and the likelihood the accused might actually commit a crime on a real child.

“It’s important to put actual sex offenders in jail,” Pheneger added. “Law enforcement should be going after those people, not trying to entice people who have shown no disposition to any kind of criminal behavior toward children.”

Many local agencies, such as the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, do not take part in these sting operations. Rather, they focus their efforts on more immediate dangers in the cyber crime realm, such as child porn and sex trafficking.

ICAC guidelines, which were obtained by 10 Investigates through court records, demonstrate that these online undercover stings, which usually don’t involve real children or victims, are not even specified in the list of priorities agencies are supposed to use to target suspected predators. Here are the regulations:

  1. A child is at immediate risk of victimization.
  2. A child is vulnerable to victimization by a known offender.
  3. A known suspect is aggressively soliciting a child(ren).
  4. Manufacturers, distributors or possessors of images that appear to be home photography with domiciled children.
  5. Aggressive, high-volume child pornography manufacturers or distributors who either are commercial distributors, repeat offenders, or specialize in sadistic images.
  6. Manufacturers, distributors, or solicitors involved in high-volume trafficking or belong to an organized child pornography ring that operates as a criminal conspiracy.
  7. Distributors, solicitors and possessors of images of child pornography.
  8. Any other form of child victimization.

ICAC guidelines also mandate that law enforcement must uncover whether there is reasonable cause to investigate every possible suspect. However, according to 10 News, Judd said he would not turn over public records on the sting because every single person his task force came in contact with, even those who showed zero interest in the underage decoys, was still “under investigation.”

Pheneger said it would be a clear violation of civil liberties if Judd was investigating men who exhibited no signs of breaking the law as there is no “reasonable cause” for them to be investigated.

There has been much disappointment expressed over the fact that Judd told 10 Investigates just last week that he had no remorse about holding a press conference to call men “sexual predators” who had been cleared of wrongdoing.

Judd, as well as other local law enforcement agencies, stand to lose millions of dollars in federal grants if there are ICAC violations.

It will be interesting to see if there are any ICAC violations stemming from these online sex stings and if so, what the consequences will be.

Unfortunately, being the target of an undercover sex crimes investigation can be humiliating and problematic for your work, social and personal life. The mere accusation of being a sexual predator can create a very negative situation for you and those close to you.

Charges resulting from Internet sex stings can start in state court and possibly move to federal court. A Polk County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton is equipped to handle both state and federal charges, which is very important because if you are facing federal charges, the consequences are much harsher, including mandatory-minimum prison terms.

Continue reading

Published on:

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.

Continue reading

Published on:

The pastor of a Brandon evangelical Spanish-speaking church was arrested this morning after being accused of molesting three females in the congregation.

Detectives claim the abuse went on for a couple of years.

The 44-year-old is charged with three felony counts of lewd and lascivious molestation. The ages of the alleged victims are 12, 17 and 43.

Deputies claim the 17-year-old said the man touched her inappropriately on approximately 15 different occasions beginning in 2011.

churchThe victim alleges that the man told her he was doing this because he loved her as a pastor and she was not to tell anyone because he could get in trouble.

The 43-year-old claims the man touched her inappropriately in April of 2013. She told deputies that he told her it was a way to cure a medical condition, according to reports.

Reports indicate that the 12-year-old was touched inappropriately by the man two times a week for the past year.

Detectives began investigating the allegations after the three alleged victims learned that the man was behaving inappropriately with all of them.

The pastor has denied all the allegations to investigators.

He is currently being held in the Hillsborough County Jail and is expected to be at a bond hearing Saturday morning.

Sadly, there are circumstances when an adult is wrongfully accused of lewd and lascivious molestation. Law enforcement agents are quick to take the word of children who may have made false allegations in order to gain something from hurting the accused. If you or someone you know has been charged with lewd and lascivious molestation in the Tampa Bay area, a Hillsborough County Sex Crimes Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton can help you through this difficult and confusing time. As soon as you contact us we can immediately assess the situation and recommend the best legal strategy for your defense.

Continue reading

Published on:

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.

Continue reading

Contact Information