Articles Posted in Martin 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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A West Palm Beach woman faces federal charges of identity theft and tax fraud after she allegedly stole personal information from more than 700 people.

The 39-year-old woman is accused of stealing personal information and storing  it in a notebook that included names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers, according to the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Florida.

Investigators allege the woman may have used some of the names to get prescription drugs, according to federal court records.

The accused and two others were arrested in October 2012 for credit card fraud greater than $100 in Martin County. Police were notified after a shoplifting incident was reported at the Treasure Coast Mall.

Once detained, officers claim they uncovered notebooks filled with 726 names and Social Security numbers, most of which belonged to people in Boynton Beach and Delray Beach,  20 debit cards and an iPad, according to federal records.

identity theftAccording to IRS investigators, most of the names and account numbers the woman had in her possession were used to file fraudulent tax returns that sought tax refund payments to credit and debit cards.

The Martin County Sheriff’s Office referred the woman’s case to the IRS. Federal records indicate that the woman told federal investigators a man she knew had broken into a car on the day of her arrest, and stole credit cards and a gun.

The woman and the two men she was with are all convicted felons. According to Palm Beach County records, the woman pleaded guilty to felony battery in 2000 and 2004. She was also convicted of fraudulent use of a credit card in Palm Beach County in 2001.

She allegedly admitted to police that she and one of the men had broken into multiple cars and stolen credit cards. Police claim she told them she stole identification information to help others. She denied filing false tax returns.

However, investigators claim the woman filed false 2012 tax returns in early 2013 after her October 2012 arrest. Federal documents allege that the woman’s home contained additional names, information and letters from the IRS not addressed to her. Records indicate that the woman also had tax software on her computer with 2012 tax return information.

Investigators allege they found multiple returns that had been filed from the woman’s IP address.

The woman faces charges of unlawful possession of unauthorized access devices and five counts of aggravated identity theft. She faces 10 years in prison if convicted and is currently being held without bail.

If you have been charged with identity theft or any other related crimes, you must act fast and mount a hard-hitting, proactive defense. Make no mistake that the prosecution will be pushing hard for a conviction, and failing to address these charges early on could be the difference between a conviction and a successful outcome.

Due to the advances in technology and the Internet, identity theft has become a major criminal offense within the past few years. Often times these offenses cross state lines or are charged alongside with other serious criminal offenses, thus making them federal crimes. A Martin County Criminal Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton knows the unique differences between state and federal criminal charges and can provide you with the strongest legal representation so that you can achieve an outcome that you can live with.

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News reports are claiming that Stuart Police Department arrested a Jupiter man on charges that he tried to extort $25,000 from his attorney. He is being held in Martin County Jail.

The man, Michael Stuart Pomerantz, was arrested at the attorney’s office Friday, according to law enforcement.

The police spokesperson said that the attorney came to an agreement 2009 with Pomerantz and another person to buy property. Eventually, Pomerantz and the second person filed a lawsuit against the attorney, which resolved through the mediation process.


However in June of this year, Pomerantz allegedly told the attorney he would pursue criminal charges and alert the Florida Bar to the actions alleged in the 2009 lawsuit — unless the attorney agreed to give him $25,000.

Detectives conducted several controlled calls between the attorney and Pomerantz. In one, Pomerantz agreed to come to the attorney’s office on this past Friday to receive the money.

Audio and video surveillance equipment were set up to take the Friday meeting and it recorded Pomerantz allegedly telling the attorney: “You paid your debt. You owed me the money. We are even. You have my word.” Stuart Detectives arrested Pomerantz inside the attorney’s office.

Extortion, also known as blackmail, describes a threat made in order to take another person’s money or property, or to compel another person to act or not act. Extortion is a second degree felony in Florida. A conviction can result in term of imprisonment for up to fifteen years, a fine in an amount up to $10,000, or both.

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Deputies with the Martin County Sheriff’s Office arrested two men suspected of running a drug operation out of their home in Stuart last week.

The two men, 40 and 49, are currently being held at the Martin County Jail.

The Martin County Sheriff’s SWAT Team, TAC Team and Special Investigations Division served a warrant on the Stuart home on SE Amherst Street in the Golden Gate neighborhood on July 21. According to reports, authorities apparently discovered drugs, guns and thousands of dollars in cash.

489540_various_abusive_drugs.jpgOne man was charged with two counts of possession of a controlled substance with intent to sell, manufacture, deliver or use and one count of possession of cocaine with intent to sell within 100 feet of a park or daycare.

The other man was charged with possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession of a controlled substance and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Drug charges can range from relatively minor offenses all the way to very serious federal offenses. While drug crimes can vary in severity, they all have one thing in common – these charges can negatively impact your life forever. As former prosecutors, our Martin County Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton have witnessed firsthand just how a drug crime conviction can damage a person’s life. A conviction for a drug crime can result in imprisonment, heavy fines, suspension of your driver’s license, difficulties finding employment, probation, mandatory rehabilitation and ruined financial opportunities in the future all because of a mark on your criminal record.

Whether you are facing drug charges related to marijuana, cocaine, prescription drugs or meth, these charges can have a devastating impact on your freedom, future and career. If you or someone you love has been charged with a drug crime in Stuart, Palm City or Jensen Beach, it is extremely important to consult with a Martin County Criminal Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton in order to avoid any impending damage to your future.

We can carefully examine your case and review any evidence against you to find useful information that can be used to pressure the prosecution into reducing the charges against you or dismissing them entirely. If law enforcement failed to follow proper protocol, this can also be used as leverage during negotiations and at trial.

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