Articles Posted in Lee 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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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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Cape Coral police took down a marijuana grow house in a NE Cape Coral neighborhood on Wednesday, allegedly seizing more than 57 pounds of raw marijuana and $13,000 in cash.

Police responded to the residence after LCEC personnel discovered that electrical power was being illegally diverted to the residence.

As officers stepped onto the premises, they claim they could smell the odor of raw marijuana coming from the front of the house.

grow house 2

A total of 57.3 pounds of cannabis was seized along with $13,000 in US currency from a Cape Coral grow house.

Detectives executed a search warrant and notified the resident inside the home.

Detectives allegedly uncovered a fully operational grow house inside the home.

A total of 57.3 pounds of cannabis was seized along with $13,000 in US currency, according to reports.

The investigation revealed that a woman rented the home for the explicit purpose of cultivating cannabis and was paid by a 3rd party to maintain the crop, according to police.

The woman was arrested on multiple charges and transported to the Lee County Jail.

Even though marijuana has been legalized in many states, the state of Florida still criminalizes the possession of this popular recreational drug. The state of Florida has some of the toughest marijuana laws in the country, and anyone convicted of a marijuana-related offense can face jail or prison time, extensive fines and other consequences such as a driver’s license suspension. Florida’s marijuana laws are harsh, which is why you cannot take these charges lightly. You need the help of a criminal defense lawyer to fight aggressively for a positive outcome.

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A 63-year-old man was sentenced to six years in federal prison last week for bank fraud, mail fraud, and wire fraud.

The man pleaded guilty to the above charges on March 14, 2013.

Court records indicate that the man was president and director of a realty company in southwest Florida. In June 1990, he apparently created a Trust Agreement for approximately 101 acres of unimproved land, in Cape Coral for which he was the trustee and also one of its beneficiaries, along with 52 named combined interest holders or beneficiaries. He mortgaged the trust property without the consent of the other beneficiaries by submitting fraudulently altered trust agreements to multiple banks that named him as the sole beneficiary.

The man also executed various loan documents, where he falsely claimed to be the sole beneficiary, giving him the authorization to mortgage the property. He received $2 million from Florida Community Bank in 2002 for the first mortgage loan. He then paid that loan off in 2006 with a mortgage loan exceeding $17 million from First National Bank of Pennsylvania. Court documents show that the man used most of the money from the second loan for personal use to fund other projects. He defaulted on the First National Bank of Pennsylvania mortgage loan, causing the bank to foreclose on the property in October 2009, leaving an unpaid principal balance of $17.03 million.

mortgage betch.jpgThe beneficiaries of the 101 acres have yet to receive compensation for their initial payments as interest holders, yearly payments or for the increase in the value of the Trust property.

Bank fraud violations, along with other white collar crimes are harshly punished in the state of Florida and throughout the United States. Under federal statutes, a conviction for bank or mortgage fraud may carry up to $1 million in penalties and 30 years in federal prison. Attempting to commit bank fraud carries the same penalties as the actual crime itself.

Once a conviction is achieved in bank fraud cases, sentencing generally depends on the amount of money lost in the scheme. A Lee County Federal Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can help those accused of bank fraud fight the severe ramifications of a bank fraud conviction.

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Republican U.S. Rep. Trey Radel of Fort Myers pleaded guilty to misdemeanor possession of cocaine on Wednesday morning. He also stated that he would be taking a leave of absence from his position to get treatment.

According to a Washington, D.C., court document, on Oct. 29, Radel “did unlawfully, knowingly, and intentionally possess a quantity of cocaine, a controlled substance.”

This misdemeanor drug charge carries a maximum sentence of 180 days in jail and or a fine of $1,000.

Radel, 37, was arrested after buying cocaine from an undercover law enforcement officer, according to a Drug Enforcement Administration official.

According to authorities and court documents, Radel and an acquaintance went to a restaurant in the Dupont Circle area of Washington and met a man on Oct. 29, who was an undercover police officer. Radel allegedly said he had cocaine at his apartment and invited the men to join him, but both apparently declined his offer.

The undercover officer apparently offered to sell Radel 3.5 grams of cocaine for $250. Radel allegedly paid $10 more for the drugs, for reasons the documents do not explain, and left with the cocaine.

Federal agents then approached Radel, and he dropped the drugs in the street.

Radel issued this statement in court Wednesday, “I apologize for what I’ve done. I think in life I’ve hit a bottom where I need help.”

trey radel betch.jpgRadel is a former TV anchor whose lawful name is Henry Jude Radel III. He was elected in 2012 to the seat Connie Mack IV had occupied before.

Former U.S. Rep. Mack issued this statement:

“This is undoubtedly a very difficult time for Trey and his family and I’m sure all of us in Southwest Florida are keeping them in our thoughts and prayers. It is important that we all appreciate the very personal nature of Trey’s situation and understand that it is premature to respond to or consider political questions at this time.”

Had Radel been arrested in Florida he would have faced a felony for this charge, which is punishable by up to five years in prison.

The war on drugs by state and federal agencies is nothing new, and those convicted of violating drug laws will undoubtedly be targeted by law enforcement officers and prosecutors alike, and usually punished to the fullest extent of the law in court. State and federal statutes ban the use, possession, distribution and manufacture of any and all illegal drugs. A person that is believed to take part in such illegal activities will be charged with a drug crime.

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Two Fort Myers men were arrested at the end of last month and charged with selling synthetic marijuana at two convenience stores.

One of the men, 18, was charged with four counts of sale and possession of a synthetic narcotic after Fort Myers police claim he sold the illegal substance, commonly referred to as “spice,” to an undercover agent at a Sunoco convenience store.

The other man, 47, faces one count of sale and possession of a synthetic narcotic for allegedly selling to an undercover agent at the Super Stop Food Store. Police believe the man is in the country on an expired work visa. According to reports, a hold has been placed pending a federal hearing.

Police said they are looking for another suspect from another store that has yet to be arrested.

Sunoco betch.jpgThe arrest of these men follows an undercover sting that took place in early October that resulted in the seizure of more than $1 million in synthetic marijuana from stores across Lee County. That undercover drug bust led to the arrest of several store clerks.

The state of Florida has made the sale and use of synthetic marijuana products illegal for several reasons. While the ingredients found in synthetic marijuana, also known as K2 or Spice, are not made from actual cannabis leaves, these substances are used to produce the same effects as using marijuana. It can cause many of the same symptoms, but if used for a prolonged period of time, this drug can also cause acute psychosis. Other dangers associated with using this drug include an intensified likelihood of developing a chronic psychotic disorder.

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