Articles Posted in Lake 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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A weeklong online undercover operation to bust child predators looking to have sex with children in Florida ended in the arrests of 22 people, including three Disney World employees, according to authorities.

Last month, undercover deputies from the Lake County cyber-crimes unit in central Florida led the sting operation, dubbed “Operation Be Mine,” and lured suspects by masquerading as children in online chat forums, according to a police press release.

Once contact was made with the suspects, undercover agents made arrangements to meet with the men at a vacant house. The men allegedly arrived at the home anticipating having sex with minors, according to police. Once the men arrived at the meet-up spot, they were immediately arrested and taken to jail.

handcuffsOf those arrested include a miniature golf course worker, a paramedic and a member of the National Guard.

According to a Disney spokeswoman, the three Disney employees arrested during the undercover operation have been placed on unpaid leave for the duration of the investigation.

One of the arrested Disney employees, a 32-year-old man, also faces several additional charges including failing to disclose HIV status to a sexual partner. Another of the Disney employees allegedly arrived at the meeting location carrying a knife and condoms, according to reports.

Police also claim that one of the suspects arrested brought a Happy Meal and condoms with him to the arranged meeting place.

All of the 22 suspects face up to five years in prison if convicted.

The road ahead can be very difficult for those accused in child predator stings. In these types of cases, police set up unsuspecting individuals to make them look bad by manipulating online chats, as well as e-mails and text messages. Most of these sting operations use specials task force units that specifically train officers to create these scenarios and turn what may be an innocent statement into one with sexual undertones. Undercover sting operations involving internet sex crimes are usually handled by overzealous detectives who are looking to make a large number of arrests. Unfortunately, many times these cases involve improper procedures and/or conduct by police officers. This is why you need the help of a criminal defense lawyer who can identify such evidence and have it thrown out as well as identify weaknesses in the prosecutions’ case that revolves around illegal police behavior.

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A 32-year-old former Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime lab analyst was arrested Tuesday on charges of grand theft, 12 counts of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence and nine counts of trafficking illegal drugs.

Investigators allege the man replaced prescription pain pills with over-the-counter medications while processing drug cases.

The former Pensacola crime laboratory chemist is currently free on bond.

prescription pills

If you or someone you know or love has been charged with tampering with evidence in Hernando, Lake, Marion, Osceola, Pasco or Sumter counties, a Florida Criminal Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton can make sure you know what to expect from your case.

The man was arrested at the Escambia County Jail around 6:30 p.m. His bail was set at $290,000.

FDLE agents claim that since 2006 the accused processed 2,600 cases that crossed 35 counties in Florida, including Hernando, Lake, Marion, Osceola, Pasco and Sumter. On Monday, 80 agencies were alerted of the alleged tampering.

St. Cloud police said that they are reviewing 16 cases from several years ago that could be linked to this case.

The investigation apparently began Thursday, Jan. 30 when Escambia investigators noticed that there were prescription pain pills missing from the evidence locker room.

The accused was relieved of duty Friday, Jan. 31 and issued his resignation Monday asking the agency to issue any money owed to him.

According to the FDLE, additional charges could be filed pending the results of this ongoing investigation.

These charges are undoubtedly serious. If convicted of tampering with evidence, this could remain on your criminal background for the rest of your life. Despite the circumstances surrounding your case, by being accused of this crime, you run the risk of being permanently labeled someone who destroyed or concealed evidence. Because of the severity of the charges, you must make sure and give tampering with evidence charges the attention they deserve.

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The Lake County Sheriff’s Office arrested nearly 40 suspected dealers and suppliers across the county last month in a drug bust dubbed “Operation Dog Pound.”

Tips from everyday citizens apparently started the initial investigation.

According to Lake County detectives, 38 men and women were arrested for their involvement in the supply and sale of cocaine and crack.

Many of the complaints came from residents in the Umatilla area about the sale of cocaine taking place in their neighborhoods, according to investigators.

The investigation began in October and ended in early November.

More than $100,000 worth of cocaine was allegedly taken off the streets, most of it in Umatilla, Mount Dora and Eustis.

According to detectives, no drug network was uncovered, however a few key suppliers were found to have sold powdered cocaine to street level dealers who made it into crack.

Authorities believe more arrests will follow.

crack betch.jpgDrug charges are aggressively pursued on both the state and federal level and carry very harsh penalties, including mandatory minimum sentences that involve prison time. These charges should never be taken lightly as the sale and delivery of drugs in Florida is a second-degree felony. The sale and delivery of cocaine carries very heavy penalties. However, there are valid defenses to these types of drug charges. No matter the circumstances surrounding your arrest, you may be able to beat your case. A Lake County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can make sure your rights are protected and that you fully understand all of your legal options.

Just because you were arrested for a serious drug crime does not mean you have been convicted of the offense. It is never in your best interest to just plead guilty before speaking to a criminal defense attorney. Many people arrested for drug crimes fail to take action by hiring a lawyer and end up missing out on opportunities to have their case dismissed, reduced or even dropped. Think twice before pleading guilty or accepting a plea deal with prosecutors for probation. A conviction on your permanent record can cause many problems in both your personal and professional life down the road.

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A woman accused of pretending to be a nurse and treating patients at a Lake County home healthcare facility has been arrested and charged with running an unlicensed assisted living facility.

According to Lake County sheriff’s detectives, this is not the woman’s first run in with the law.

Before she allegedly duped a home health care facility into believing she was a licensed nurse in May, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office arrested her in December for scheming to defraud and criminal use of personal information.

Records indicate that for the May charges, the woman was released on $2,000 bail.

nurse betch.jpgInvestigators claim that the woman went to the Lake County home health care facility to become an office manager in May, but during the interview she produced paperwork and documentation showing she was a licensed practical nurse.

The woman apparently made home visits to patients on several different occasions.

The woman was fired just weeks after she started her position, after an audit by the
Florida Department of Health and detective work by the Lake County Sheriff’s Office allegedly uncovered she was not licensed to practice in Florida. Moreover, detectives allege she made her own license.

She is accused of using another registered nurse’s license number for the state and placing her name on the license.

The nurse the woman is accused of impersonating works at Saint Petersburg General Hospital and shares an almost identical name with the woman.

Lake County sheriff’s investigators claim they are currently working to identify any additional patients in the community that may have been treated by the woman.

Just like doctors, attorneys, dentists, veterinarians and other professionals, anyone wishing to become nurse must first obtain a license. This is something the state of Florida requires, as well as all other states. Practicing nursing without a license is a serious crime that carries very harsh consequences, including incarceration, fines, probation and even restitution to any victims that suffered any harm.

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673264_hammer_to_fall.jpgThe Florida Supreme Court has vacated the death sentence of a man convicted of first-degree murder in Lake County, ruling that the man’s attorneys failed to thoroughly investigate and present that the man has low intelligence, a substance abuse problem and a brain injury suffered as a child.

While the man’s murder conviction was unanimously upheld on Thursday, he was ordered a new sentencing hearing by a vote of 5-2.

The man also received two life sentences for kidnapping and sexual battery.

The victim was beaten and stabbed. Her body was found in Sorrento, Florida in a wooded area.

The justices noted that the man’s family asked the man’s lawyers not to disclose anything bad or embarrassing about him, which is why the vote for a new sentencing hearing was not unanimous.

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A Lady Lake, Florida woman has been arrested this week for her connection in the January murder of a Wildwood, Florida man.

A warrant for the woman’s arrest was obtained on March 7 after evidence indicated that her vehicle was used to allegedly transport the deceased man’s body to the backyard of an abandoned home.

Sumter County detectives recovered the man’s body on Jan. 20. The Medical Examiner’s Office ruled the death as a homicide and determined the cause to be multiple gunshot wounds.

The Sumter County Times reports the case is still under investigation.

Murder is an extremely serious charge that is defined as a homicide that is premeditated by the accused. Premeditation is sometimes referred to as malice aforethought because they both have similar meanings in regard to murder. When something is premeditated it is carried out with careful planning and consideration. Malice aforethought is used to illustrate a murder that is carried out deliberately, carelessly, and with tremendous discount for human life.

Depending on the evidence of the case, the woman could be charged with first, second or third degree murder. First degree murder is a capital felony that is punishable in the state of Florida by life imprisonment or the death penalty. Second degree murder is a first degree felony that is punishable by a maximum life sentence in prison. Third degree murder is a second degree felony described as a death that occurs while the accused is committing another felony. Upon further investigation into this case the State can decipher an appropriate murder charge for the woman in question.

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A man and woman allegedly connected to a Clermont home where five small children resided and had access to illegal drugs were charged by Lake County narcotics detectives and Clermont police.

The 42-year-old man and 23-year-old woman were both charged with five counts of aggravated child abuse and cocaine and marijuana possession Friday morning after police executed a warrant at their Clermont home.

According to detectives, multiple bags of cocaine pre-packaged for sale were found in the master bedroom where the small children ranging in age from two to nine years old could easily reach them.

A Sherriff’s Office spokesman said that the drug bust recovered $2,200 worth of cocaine and marijuana and other drug paraphernalia.

The same Sherriff’s Office spokesman said that deputies turned the children over to their grandmother who lived nearby and notified the Department of Children and Families.

Although often considered to be one of the more minor drug crimes in Florida, drug possession can still result in a felony charge, with a minimum sentence of one year in state prison. In fact, a person can be accused not only of drug possession but of possession of known substances for the purpose of manufacturing drugs.

The most common key focus of any drug case is search and seizure law. Under Florida law, police must follow proper protocol during their investigation of any drug case. It is essential to have a veteran team of lawyers to interpret search warrants as well as search and seizure rules to guarantee your rights are protected. A breach of these rights can give you grounds to file a motion to suppress any evidence the police obtained. Occasionally small pieces of original evidence can lead to a search of your person or property.

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Mark Morse, president and top executive of The Villages, a retirement community located in Central Florida, was charged with felony and misdemeanor hunting violations in Montana.

Morse as well as his wife, daughter and five other individuals have been accused of 18 wildlife violations during hunting trips spanning over the past four years on Morse property in Montana. A few of the charges include the illegal killing or possession of elk, deer and other wildlife.

Morse is charged with killing too many animals and killing them without proper licenses, according to the Orlando Sentinel.

For killing multiple animals and hunting out of season, which is considered stealing from the Montana government, Morse could face 21.5 years in prison and fines as much as $203,000 if convicted. Killing an animal without a license carries a punishment of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine. Wounding an animal without a license, if found guilty, carries a penalty of one year in jail and a $2,000 fine.

Morse and his family could lose their fishing and hunting rights for life in Montana and more than 20 other states because of a multi-state agreement that outlaws hunters who disobey game laws. Florida just happens to be one of the partners to that agreement.

Many Florida residents incorporate hunting and fishing into their lifestyles. The Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission meets each year to make adjustments to statutes and once these changes are put into effect many people are arrested for violating the new laws. By keeping up to date on these specific statutes, you can avoid jail time and hefty fines.

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