Articles Posted in Monroe County

Published on:

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.

Continue reading

Published on:

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.

Continue reading

Published on:

A former Key West police officer who was recently accused of sexually abusing a minor will not be prosecuted on two charges of child molestation and one of lewd exhibition.

Assistant State Attorney Val Winter, who had been prosecuting the case against the 42-year-old man, said that the charges were dropped because the girl’s parents believe discontinuing the case “is in the child’s best interests.”

The abuse allegedly started when the girl was 10 and continued until she was 13.

The man, who was a resource officer at Key West High School, turned himself in to the Monroe County Detention Center on Stock Island a year ago. He was released that same day after posting 10 percent of his bond, which was initially set at $100,000, and turning in his passport.

According to a Florida Department of Law Enforcement arrest affidavit, the man allegedly intentionally forced the girl to touch his genitals in her bed at night. He was also accused of touching her breasts and “attempting to touch her vagina.”

The man apparently had a relationship with the girl’s mother at the time of the alleged sexual abuse, and they were living together with both of her children, according to the arrest affidavit.

The man resigned from the Police Department in February 2014 after being put on paid leave on Dec. 17, 2013.

The man was recognized by the FBI for exceptional service in 2000 and was named officer of the quarter in 2006.

If you are being investigated for or have already been arrested and charged with a sex crime, this does not mean your life is over. It is possible to beat a sex crime charge, avoid prison time and avoid having to register as a sex offender. But, you need help to do this. A Monroe County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can help explore all possibilities with the hopes of getting the charges against you dropped.

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:

According to the most recent FBI Crime report, Florida is home to some pretty dangerous cities. The top 20 cities that were found to have the most violent crimes and property crimes are as follows:

 

  • Miami Beach, Florida5196788334_e6ed189c68_m

 

With a population of 91,066, the total reported crimes were found to be 109.47 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 10.33 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 99.14 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Orlando, Florida

 

With a population size of 246,513, the total reported crimes in Orlando were assessed at 78.19 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 10.34 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 67.85 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Daytona Beach, Florida

 

Daytona Beach has a population of 61,861, and 74.10 reported crimes per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 11.56 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 62.54 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Panama City, Florida

 

Panama City’s reported population is 37,187, with a total number of reported crimes at 70.27 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 7.80 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 62.47 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Key West, Florida

 

With a smaller population of 25,249, Key West has a total of 69.47 reported crimes per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 8.24 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 61.23 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Homestead, Florida

 

Homestead has a reported total population of 62,785, with a total number of crimes at 67.87 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 16.64 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 51.22 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Fort Lauderdale, Florida

 

With a population of 170,827, the total reported crimes in Fort Lauderdale were determined at 67.92 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 9.11 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 58.80 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Pensacola, Florida

 

Pensacola’s population size is 52,909. The total reported crimes are 69.86 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 9.11 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 60.75 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Fort Pierce, Florida

 

The total population for Fort Pierce is 42,566 and the number of reported crimes ranks in at 65.95 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 11.14 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 54.81 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Miami, Florida

 

With a larger population size of 414,327, Miami has a total reported crimes of 65.47 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 11.72 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 53.75 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Pompano Beach, Florida

 

The total population size in Pompano Beach is 103,003. The total reported crimes in the area are 64.29 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 10.29 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 54.00 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Sarasota, Florida

 

Population size in Sarasota totals 53,055 with the total reported crimes at 63.14 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 8.03 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 55.11 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Riviera Beach, Florida

 

Riviera Beach has a total population of 33,309 and the total reported crimes are 61.97 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 13.21 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 48.76 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Lake Worth, Florida

 

Lake Worth has a population size of 35,788 and the total reported crimes are 61.17 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 12.88 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 48.28 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • West Palm Beach, Florida

 

The population size is 102,422 and total crime ranks in at 60.78 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 8.02 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 52.76 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Oakland Park, Florida

 

Oakland Park’s population is 42,071, with the total reported crimes at 60.75 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 7.85 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 52.90 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Ocala, Florida

 

The population in Ocala is reported at 57,288. The total reported crimes for the area is 60.61 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 6.55 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 54.06 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Sanford, Florida

 

Sanford has a population of 54,662. The total number of reported crimes for the area is 60.13 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 5.91 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 54.22 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Lauderdale Lakes, Florida

 

The population is 33,644 and the total reported crime is 59.80 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 9.99 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 49.82 per 1,000 residents.

 

  • Leesburg, Florida

 

Leesburg’s total reported crime is 60.05 per 1,000 residents. Violent crimes: 9.19 per 1,000 residents. Property crimes: 50.85 per 1,000 residents.

If you are facing criminal charges, you need to understand exactly what is at stake. How you respond to your charges will have a direct impact on how your case plays out, including your freedom and your future. During this critical time, everything you say and do, along with every decision you make can be the difference between imprisonment and you being free to move forward with your life.

Have you been arrested for a crime in Florida? You must act fast to protect your good name even if you have not had formal charges filed against you yet. A Florida Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can help you with your case no matter what you have been arrested for or charged with. We will fully investigate the facts of your case and aggressively defend you in court or in seeking a settlement.

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:

A Rock Harbor woman was arrested Monday night after police claim she used a belt in an attempt to strangle a 10-year-old boy.

According to reports, a second child witnessed the alleged incident and called a relative for help. The relative then called the Sheriff’s Office who responded to the residence at the 95.3 mile marker of the highway around 10:30 p.m.

When deputies arrived at the scene they allegedly found a 31-year-old woman who was so intoxicated she could hardly speak. Police claim the relative who reported the incident said the woman has ongoing issues involving alcohol.

woman_in_handcuffsBoth children relayed the same story to police, claiming that the woman placed a belt around the 10-year-old boy’s neck and began tightening it. They apparently told police that the woman said she was going to kill the boy while she attempted to strangle him.

The woman was charged with aggravated battery on a child and was taken to jail.

A charge for aggravated battery on a child in Monroe County can have severe consequences on your life. A conviction for this felony can lead to significant time behind bars and costly fines. While these penalties are serious, perhaps even more damaging is the lasting havoc these charges can wreak on your family life and personal reputation. In order to successfully fight these charges and protect your future, you must work with a criminal defense attorney who can safeguard your rights. A Monroe County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can help you aggressively fight these allegations.

In order to be convicted for aggravated battery on a child, prosecutors must prove certain elements beyond a reasonable doubt. Many of these elements can be difficult to prove, as there is often little to no evidence to clearly support these claims. As former prosecutors, we are very familiar with the tactics that the prosecution uses to present their case and can put this knowledge to work for you. Just because you have been arrested for a crime, this does not automatically mean a conviction will follow. There are many viable defense options that can combat these false or exaggerated charges and result in a positive outcome.

Continue reading

Published on:

A man with a fake pilot’s license was recently arrested in the Florida Keys.

According to authorities in the Florida Keys, the man was apparently flying customers in an unregistered plane.

The Marathon, Florida man allegedly showed investigators a fake pilot’s license and was advertising for customers on the social networking site Facebook.

Investigators noted that the light sport aircraft was “falling apart due to saltwater exposure.”

The man was charged with felony possession of an unregistered aircraft and felony operation of an aircraft in a careless or reckless manner. Additional charges could follow, according to police.

The man posted $10,000 bond Tuesday.

The Federal Aviation Administration is also investigating the matter.

Impersonating a licensed professional in Florida carries very serious consequences. A Monroe County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can help you achieve the best possible resolution for your case. Being charged with this type of offense usually results in a complex set of legal issues. As former prosecutors, we can investigate the details leading up to your arrest and identify any weaknesses or inconsistencies in the government’s case against you.

pilot betch.jpgIt is a felony in Florida for any person who is not licensed to practice a profession that requires a license certifying their qualifications or to pretend to be licensed to practice a profession that requires licensure. Such professions can include:

• Pilots
• Doctors
• Teachers
• Physicians
• Attorneys

Continue reading

Published on:

A 33-year-old Marathon man was arrested Tuesday and charged with lewd or lascivious exhibition for allegedly masturbating in clear view of passengers on an Amtrak train.

The man is accused of exposing himself in front of a young child during the alleged incident.

The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office was called to the Amtrak station just west of DeLand Tuesday morning after the conductor apparently reported the incident to Amtrak authorities. An Amtrak agent put in a call to the Sheriff’s Office warning them that the train was due in the station in just a few minutes.

amtrak betch.jpgWhen deputies arrived at the station shortly after 9 a.m., the train had arrived and they talked to a passenger in the coach section who claims the man was masturbating in the seat next to him while he was trying to sleep. The witness alleges the man exited his seat while still exposed and walked down the aisle to the bathroom, where he passed a small child who appeared to be around 3-years-old.

According to deputies, the man said his blanket was moving back and forth because his stomach was itchy. Deputies claim the man later told them that he might have accidentally ejaculated on the bathroom floor.

The man was arrested for lewd or lascivious exhibition in the presence of a victim under the age of 16 and transported to the Volusia County Jail in Daytona Beach.

Any person convicted of lewd or lascivious exhibition faces severe consequences, including the very real possibility of being forced to register as a sexual offender or sexual predator. Registered sex offenders are required to comply with a strict set of registration laws in Florida and throughout the United States. If you are under investigation for lewd and lascivious exhibition or have already been arrested or charged with this offense in DeLand, Daytona Beach, Deltona, New Smyrna Beach, Ormond Beach or Orange City, it is best to contact a Volusia County Criminal Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton as soon as possible to protect your rights. As former prosecutors, we understand how the State and law enforcement officers investigate these types of cases.
To schedule a free initial consultation with us, please call us today at 866-608-5529.

Continue reading

Contact Information