Articles Posted in Manatee County

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A former Bradenton police officer allegedly used local and state law enforcement databases to look for women to date and have sex with, according to reports.

An investigation by the Bradenton Police Department allegedly revealed that the former police officer targeted women, using his position to approach them for dates. He is accused of having sex with some of them, even while on duty.

By law, the databases are only supposed to be used for official police business.

The 12-year veteran of the force was pulled from patrol duty, placed on administrative leave without pay and stripped of his badge, gun and uniform. He resigned on October 30.

Bradenton police referred a criminal investigation to the FBI, which is spearheading its own inquiry.

Police uncovered the man’s alleged scheme after a woman and her parents filed a complaint last June.

The former officer had met the woman in the parking lot of a local store, and followed her most of the way home in his police car. He knocked on the door of her parents’ house and told them he wanted to speak with their daughter about a “domestic matter,” according to reports.

Her parents refused the request, and asked for the man’s name and his supervisor’s information.

The woman’s parents called the Bradenton Police Department, where a watch commander told them the man was the officer on duty at the time. The parents explained he’d followed their daughter home because she had a headlight out.

When the two stories did not add up, the department launched an investigation.

Investigators searched the man’s use of the state’s Driver and Vehicle Information Database.

They apparently found “several hundred” of the man’s search queries in the department’s database diverged sharply from the “open and active cases” he and law enforcement colleagues were working on as part of official duties.

The BPD’s internal investigation revealed his alleged behavior stretched back as far as 2012.

The department identified 150 women it believed were associated with the case.

He allegedly used the database information to reach out to the women with social media, phone calls or visits to their homes to “try and get dates with these women.”

Investigators believe the man committed numerous administrative violations, including having sex on duty. The Bradenton police declined to publicly issue the results of its internal investigation, as the man could be subject to criminal charges.

If you know that you are under investigation for an alleged crime, you do not need to wait to be charged or arrested to take defensive action. Our Manatee County Criminal Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can help you conduct a pre-file investigation if you are aware that law enforcement is investigating you. Just know that if you are being investigated for a crime, you have the legal right to be represented by a criminal defense lawyer.

When we conduct a pre-file investigation, we can start mounting a defense before you are even charged. We urge you to contact us as soon as possible so that you do not risk incriminating yourself. During a police pre-file investigation, you must invoke your Fifth Amendment right to remain silent rather than volunteering information that can damage your case.

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A Manatee County Schools employee accused of impregnating a 14-year-old student made his first appearance in court on Friday.

The 31-year-old had been working at a middle school as a graduation enhancement technician since 2014. He also coaches the junior varsity basketball team at an area high school.

The school district claims the man has resigned from his position and has agreed not to look for any other jobs in the district.

Bond for the man was set at $55,000.

Being accused of a sex crime is terrifying. The state of Florida has some of the toughest penalties for those convicted of sex crimes, requiring mandatory registration as a sex offender, possibly for life. Anyone can access your name, picture and other information from the state’s website with just a click of a button. Being a registered sex offender is something that will follow you around long after you have served your prison sentence and fulfilled any other requirements.

Most sex crimes cases are quite fact-specific and must be dealt with accordingly. These cases are fueled by emotions, which can complicate the true facts of the case. Because of this, every shred of evidence must be investigated thoroughly to figure out any inconsistencies in the prosecution’s case.

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A Bradenton woman is in jail after police claim she sent a bomb threat to her neighbor last weekend, resulting in the entire block being evacuated.  

The 50-year-old woman made her first appearance in court on Monday.

Investigators believe that on Saturday night, the woman sent a text message to her neighbor saying there was a bomb in the backyard that would go off in one hour.

Her neighbor said the bomb threat “caused significant amount of stress” for himself, his wife and their children.

Police evacuated the 1600 block of the neighborhood.

The bomb threat was not real.

The judge ordered the woman to stay 500 feet away from her neighbor’s house, even if it means she has to find a new home. Her bond is set at $25,000.

Police are still investigating the motive for the threat.

There is nothing funny about issuing a fake bomb threat. Law enforcement takes threats of this nature very seriously as it can easily unleash panic among the public. While it might seem that bomb threats are nothing more than a silly prank, the truth of the matter is that these threats must be taken seriously as they can lead to a lot of damage.

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According to the Florida Highway Patrol, an officer with the Orlando Police Department was arrested this past weekend in Manatee County for DUI and hit-and-run.  

FHP claims that on Saturday, troopers investigated a hit-and-run accident involving two unattended parked cars at 7085 46th Ave. W. in Bradenton.

Reports indicate that the cop was stopped in the area after a Manatee County deputy observed him swerving on the roadway. Troopers said he was off-duty and driving his personal vehicle.

During the investigation, troopers allege they were able to link the DUI and hit-and-run to the police officer.

He was arrested and charged with DUI and hit-and-run.

The Orlando Police Department said the man has been with the force since 2012 and is assigned to the midnight patrol. Reports indicate that the man has been relieved of his law enforcement duties, credentials and firearms pending an internal investigation.

Anyone can be charged with DUI, as this case shows. Your actions following a DUI arrest are critical to the outcome of your case, and it is very important to obtain legal help as soon as possible. There are various defenses available for a DUI charge, and if used successfully, these defenses could lead to a reduction or even dismissal of charges.

While there are numerous defenses available, two that are often brought up involve the reason behind the stop and the method used to test the driver’s BAC. In order for a DUI stop to be legal, police must must have a legal reason to make a stop before administering tests to determine the driver’s BAC levels. If the officer cannot provide a reason for stopping the driver, the stop itself may be illegal and the charges could very well be dismissed.

If the stop is legal, then it is very important to assess the process that was used to determine the driver’s BAC. It must be evaluated that the right method was used and that the sample was analyzed properly.

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Fifteen people have been arrested as part of a drug-trafficking investigation in Manatee County.

The multi-agency investigation started due to the high number of recent heroin overdoses and deaths in the area.

During the 18-month undercover investigation, authorities allegedly confiscated $262,500 worth of heroin, $111,000 worth of cocaine, 200 grams of fentanyl, 100 hydromorphone pills, 28 firearms and more than $327,000 in cash and assets.

Detectives believe the investigation resulted in a significant decrease in the number of heroin overdoses and deaths in Manatee County.

In 2015, the Bradenton Police Department and the Manatee Sheriff’s Office investigated 77 heroin-related deaths. So far, there have not been any this year.

When an individual has been accused of or charged with a criminal offense involving heroin, it is crucial that they consult with a Florida Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton right away. You have legal rights that must be protected. It is important to know that under the law, you are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The penalties in Florida for drug crimes are very serious, which is why we fight hard to protect those accused of drug crimes from lengthy prison terms and other penalties that can wreck their careers, reputation, and future.

Whether you have already been charged with a heroin or other drug crime, or are under investigation, it is imperative that you discuss your situation with us immediately. The sooner you call us, the sooner we can explore any and all options you have, and develop a strong defense strategy.

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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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Deputies have arrested a man they claim arranged to meet a 12-year-old girl online and was caught in her home.

The 24-year-old man is accused of traveling to the girl’s home on the 3100 block of 9th Street E at about 2 a.m., according to the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office.

Detectives allege the man and the girl met on Facebook two weeks ago, and that they were texting each other back and forth. Detectives believe that on Wednesday, the girl texted him and asked him to come over.

Police claim the man knew the girl was 12, but still went to her home and was in her bedroom for about an hour when the girl’s grandmother walked in.

According to police, the grandmother called 911 and, then alerted other family members who started hitting the man. Reports indicate that once police arrived, the man ran out of the house, saying, “I’m getting killed.”

Detectives said both the girl and the suspect said nothing sexual happened while they were in the house together, and they were only talking.

The man was charged with traveling to meet a minor for unlawful sexual activity.

The investigation is ongoing.

While it is a crime to solicit a minor, it is a much more serious matter to be accused of traveling to meet a minor. After a solicitation is made online, in person or via text, and the adult travels any distance to meet the minor in person, he or she is in danger of very severe consequences. These harsh penalties may include a very long prison sentence and lifetime registration as a sex offender.

If you have been contacted by police, the best thing you can do is to not answer any questions or respond to statements. Police can be tricky and may even promise to give you reduced charges or dismiss them altogether if you talk to them. Just remember that even making a simple statement that you do not consider to be a confession can be extremely damaging to your defense.

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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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Federal authorities arrested a 67-year-old Manatee County man they allege used Craigslist to try to set arrange a sexual encounter with a 10-year-old girl.

According to the Department of Justice, an FBI special agent found an advertisement in the “all personals” section of Craigslist referring to a single white male seeking a “family dynamic.”

Authorities claim that last week, the accused engaged in email communications with the undercover agent posing as the father of a 10-year-old girl and 13-year-old boy. During the online communications, the man allegedly told the undercover agent that he wanted to engage in sexual conduct with the minors.

6853270358_c89271d21d_mAccording to authorities, the man traveled to Altamonte Springs on Thursday, where he had arranged to meet the father of the minors for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct. He was taken into custody upon his arrival at the location.

The Justice Department claims the man admitted to going to Altamonte Springs to explore the possibility of having sex with a 10-year-old girl. Investigators claim the man also shared that he has been involved in a bondage, dominance, sado masochistic lifestyle for about 10 years.

He is charged with attempting to persuade, induce, and entice a minor to engage in illicit sexual conduct. He faces 10 years to life in prison.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to put an end to the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. The case will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ilianys Rivera Miranda.

Sexual offenses, especially those involving minors, tend to elicit much public outrage and condemnation than any other type of crime. Those that are accused of these crimes are made out to appear like they lead double lives and and should be stripped of their basic constitutional freedoms. Due to the intense stigma attached to sex crimes, it is not uncommon for people to falsely accuse a family member, neighbor, teacher or anyone else they do not like of committing a sexually motivated crime. Even worse, prosecutors have been known to rely on false testimony and statements in order to obtain a conviction. Even if the allegations are eventually proved false, the results can still be devastating for the accused.

When it comes to sex crimes, law enforcement and prosecutors will try and do everything in their power to persuade you to confess to the crime in question. Understand that pleading guilty can result in a lengthy prison sentence as well as lifetime registration as a sexual offender. These cases require a sex crimes defense lawyer who can look for holes in the prosecution’s case and fight aggressively for you.

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