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Articles Posted in Okeechobee 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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A 33-year-old Okeechobee man who had served nearly four years in prison for trafficking in cocaine was arrested last week in his R-Bar Estates home on felony drug charges.

More than 180 grams of suspected marijuana and more than 24 grams of suspected amphetamine were allegedly found in his home, along with a large amount of cash.

The man was arrested at his home on felony charges of trafficking in amphetamine, possession of marijuana with intent to sell within 1,000 feet of a church, possession of marijuana over 20 grams and possession of drug paraphernalia.

churchThe man is being held in the Okeechobee County Jail on $80,000 bond.

Detectives with the Okeechobee Narcotics Task Force obtained a search warrant for the home and reportedly found: a total of 182.8 grams of suspected marijuana; 24.8 grams of ‘molly’, or amphetamine; $3,700 in cash; a ledger; plastic sandwich bags; digital scale; electric marijuana grinder; and, a partially-smoked marijuana cigar, also known as a blunt.

Detectives claim they found 173.7 grams of suspected pot in a small safe located in the master bathroom.

The man’s home is located 663 feet from a church.

The man was arrested in Okeechobee on March 31, 2005, and charged with trafficking in cocaine. He was later convicted on that charge and was sentenced Oct. 19, 2006, to five years with the Department of Corrections. Records show he was released from prison Dec. 1, 2010.

It is a second-degree felony punishable by up to 15 years in prison for possessing marijuana with the intent to sell within 1000 feet of a child care facility or school, university, park, church, public housing or assisted living facility. Many people arrested for possession fail to realize there are enhanced penalties for being in these areas with drugs. This can be devastating as the penalties are quite severe. A felony of this nature will eliminate you from being considered for  a drug diversion program, and prosecutors will fight aggressively to obtain a conviction.

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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 49-year-old Okeechobee man was arrested last month after he reportedly sold a working moonshine still to an agent with the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco for $250.

The man was arrested on a felony charge of possession of a still/still piping/still apparatus. He was booked into the Okeechobee County Jail then released after his first court appearance.

According to an arrest report, the man was trying to sell the still on Craig’s List. The agent apparently arranged a meeting with the man and agreed to buy the still for $250 when the two men met.

Once the money was exchanged, the man was placed under arrest.

moonshine-still_l.jpgThe report indicates that the man had made moonshine in the still and that it still contained the odor once sold to the agent.

According to the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, the ABT has recorded 54 illicit distillery cases that resulted in 15 arrests since 2002. This number includes this man’s arrest. Three of the 15 cases were made in Miami, another three were made in West Palm Beach, two were made in Panama City and one each was made in in Fort Lauderdale, Fort Myers, Okeechobee, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Ocala and Orlando.

The man will have to appear in circuit court on Wednesday, Sept. 25, according to reports.

It is estimated by the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation that the street value for a gallon of moonshine ranges from $100 to $150, and jars range from $20 to $40.

It is considered illegal for any person in the state of Florida to be in possession of any still or apparatus designed or intended to be used in the manufacture of an alcoholic beverage. Additionally, it is also unlawful to possess any mash, wort, wash or other fermented liquids that can be used to manufacture an alcoholic beverage. However, it is perfectly legal for alcohol enthusiasts to craft their own beer and wine, as long as the maker is of legal drinking age and that the amount of the beverage does not exceed the limits enforced by state laws.

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A 32-year-old Lakeport man is facing up to life in prison after being found guilty of murdering an Okeechobee bail bondsman in 2010.

On Wednesday, Sept. 4, a jury made up of five men and one woman found the man guilty of second-degree murder, aggravated assault with a firearm and possession of drug paraphernalia.

According to the Glades County Sheriff’s Office, the man will be sentenced in about two weeks and is facing 25 years to life in prison.

The Glades County man was arrested Dec. 26, 2010 after he apparently shot the owner of All Over Bail Bonds in Okeechobee. The deceased was attempting to help a fellow Okeechobee bail bondsman locate the man.

The bail bondsman was shot one time in the left side of the chest with a .243 caliber rifle, and died at the scene.

An arrest report by the Glades County Sheriff’s Office indicates that the deceased, his wife and the other bail bondsman went to a mobile home on Red Barn Road to take the man into custody. When they arrived they apparently found the front gate to the property closed and locked.

The three then witnessed a Dodge pickup coming in their direction, but reports show the driver of the truck stopped and began to back up as the vehicle neared the gate. The trio crossed the gate and followed the truck to a small trailer thinking the man they were after was driving the truck.

The 32-year-old Lakeport man apparently came from behind the trailer armed with a rifle and pointed the gun at the three bondsmen and told them to get off the property.

Reports indicate that at some point the man began to run and the deceased and his wife ran after him. The deceased, who was armed with a handgun, apparently chased the man into a cow pasture. The man eventually stopped running and raised his rifle at the bondsman and fired one shot.

The man then fled the scene, but was found a short time later hiding under the porch of a building at Chappy’s Hunt Camp on S.R. 78, just east of Old Lakeport Road.

rifle.jpgThe bolt action rifle was found later about 150 yards from where the deceased was shot. According to police, it was still loaded with one round in the chamber and four rounds in the magazine.

When the man was taken into custody, police claim two more rounds were found in his pocket along with a glass smoking pipe which had a residue that tested positive for methamphetamine.

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