Articles Posted in Palm Beach 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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A former West Delray doctor faces a mandatory minimum of 1,343 years in prison when he is sentenced in January on charges of overprescribing pain medication.

The former doctor prescribed high numbers of oxycodone — including 20,000 pills over 10 months to one patient.

The jury, a panel of four men and two women, deliberated more than 16 hours over three days before finding the former doctor guilty of 55 drug trafficking counts. They found him not guilty of 19 charges.

Palm Beach County Circuit Judge Jack Cox said he will sentence Schultz on Jan. 8. The 59-year-old doctor, whose medical license was already suspended, was immediately taken into custody by courthouse deputies. He had been free on bail since his 2011 arrest.

Schultz still has a pending 2013 manslaughter charge and another trial looming in the 2010 overdose death of a 50-year old male patient who was taking methadone — a fact that was not permitted to be shared with the jurors who just convicted him.

Authorities began investigating the former doctor in 2010 after receiving a complaint from a Lake Worth pharmacy that a patient tried to fill a 30-day supply of oxycodone totaling 1,590 pills. The pharmacist testified he became alarmed because that would be enough medication for nine months.

Officials then seized records from the former doctor’ s office, which allegedly revealed that he prescribed 80,350 oxycodone tablets between March 25 and May 11, 2010, compared to 3,450 pills for other ailments, an arrest report shows.

It is likely that the former doctor will file an appeal.

Have you been charged with a drug offense? Time is of the utmost importance. Contact a South Florida Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton as soon as possible after your arrest. We can explain the court process and begin working immediately on an effective drug crimes defense strategy for your unique situation.

Those facing charges for drug trafficking or any other related offense are encouraged to contact us for a free case evaluation. We can make sure you understand your charges as well as the options you have available for your defense.

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An Illinois man is accused of trying to use a fake debit card at a SunTrust bank, according to Boca Raton police.

An email was apparently sent to bank employees warning them of the 23-year-old man after he allegedly attempted to use the card at other branches, according to a Boca Raton police arrest report.

Reports indicate that a card scanner was placed at the back of the bank, so when the man tried to add more than $1,000 on one of his fake debit cards, an employee could easily call police.

The alleged attempted transaction happened at 11:46 a.m. on Thursday when a teller at a SunTrust Bank reported that the man was in the lobby of the bank trying to use one of the fake debit cards.

The teller had already received several emails from other SunTrust banks, warning her that a man was trying to use fake debit cards at other banks.

The teller told the man there was insufficient funds and they couldn’t give him the money, according to reports. When an officer arrived, she claims the man was walking through the bank’s parking lot and she stopped him for questioning.

The teller told the officer that the man came to her window and handed her a NetSpend Visa debit card and asked for a cash advance on the card of more than $1,000.

A detective apparently called a NetSpend representative who said the numbers didn’t match any of their cards.

The officer who questioned the man said he told her he got the card in Chicago.

5856795621_16ed8e78ce_zPolice allege that the NetSpend card had information stolen from a woman in Utah. Police also claim they also uncovered a Visa NASCAR debit card in the man’s car with information belonging to a person in Texas, according to the report.

The man faces charges of fraud, grand theft, possession of counterfeit credit cards, and forgery of credit cards. He is being held in the Palm Beach County Jail on $30,000 bail.

A Counterfeit is a copy or replica of an item, usually legal tender or currency, but can also be associated with clothing, software or other tangible goods. Additionally, counterfeiting may be used in the commission of credit card fraud. This occurs when credit cards are recreated or copied in order to make fraudulent or unauthorized charges. Counterfeiting is considered a white collar crime in which an individual or organization will create counterfeit items, usually with the intention of selling these or passing them off as originals. When it comes to money, a conviction for counterfeiting can result in a prison sentence of up to 15 years, along with hefty fines. Counterfeiting charges are aggressively prosecuted by federal prosecutors.

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A retired school principal and 911 dispatcher was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison Thursday after admitting he tried to meet two teen boys for sex in Palm Beach County.

The 64-year-old, who recently retired to Delray Beach from southern Indiana, was arrested in January after showing up at a Boynton Beach Mall restaurant for a sexual encounter with what he thought was a 15-year-old boy.

The man apparently did not realize the person he had contacted on the online Grindr service was an undercover city police officer posing as a minor.

After his arrest, agents from Homeland Security Investigations found evidence on his cellphone that allegedly showed he had also tried to meet a real teen, who he thought was 16, for sex in December.

The man and the boy apparently exchanged sexually explicit photographs on their cellphones and arranged to meet. Police also claim that the man wrote a message to the minor declaring there was “too much danger” and he couldn’t risk “getting caught.”

The man showed up at the boy’s Lantana home less than two hours after they started chatting on another online service, according to reports.

When the man showed up at the house, the 15-year-old teen wrote him a message telling him to leave.

The teen apparently told investigators he “chickened out” of having sex with the man.

The man moved to South Florida in August and pleaded guilty to two counts of enticing a minor to engage in sexual conduct in March.

A U.S. District Judge ruled that the man must serve 10 years of supervised release after he gets out of prison and register as a sex offender.

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Federal prosecutors charged 27 South Florida suspects Tuesday with marriage fraud, including organizers, recruiters and unlawful immigrants, according to reports.

4107766083_66d44a53c4_zThe main defendants — two Hialeah men ages 50 and 57 and a 50-year-old Hialeah and a 33-year-old Marathon man— are accused of charging a fee to arrange fraudulent marriages between U.S. citizens and undocumented aliens.

The trio allegedly notarized phony marriage licenses, completed necessary immigration paperwork and prepared the participants for their interviews with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, according to police.

They are accused of arranging the fraudulent marriages between 2011 and 2014, and during that time two of the men also allegedly attempted to obtain naturalization illegally, according to the U.S. attorney’s office.

The case was investigated by Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

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A 57-year-old woman was arrested Wednesday after she allegedly smeared dog feces on a neighbor whose pet had defecated in the woman’s yard.

The woman was charged with battery on a person 65 years or older and was released Thursday from the Palm Beach County Jail on her own recognizance.

Both the women live at the Woodfield Country Club.

According to an arrest report, the woman’s 67-year-old neighbor was walking her dog when the animal defecated on the woman’s lawn.

3736219520_6e647e6707_zThe neighbor told Boca Raton police that the woman came out of the house screaming. The neighbor said she was trying to pick up after her dog with a plastic bag, but stopped when the woman began yelling at her.

The neighbor apparently told the woman to clean it up herself.

The neighbor then claims the woman grabbed a plastic bag, scooped up the feces and ran after her. She then allegedly smeared the feces on the neighbor.

According to reports, when police arrived, the neighbor had feces on her hands and shirt.

The woman told police that her neighbor frequently allows the dog to defecate on her lawn and never attempts to clean it up. The woman did apparently admit to the police that she picked up the feces and “targeted” her neighbor with it.

The woman told police that the neighbor smeared the feces on herself.

In the state of Florida, if battery is committed upon a person that is 65 years old or older, this is classified as battery on an elderly person. Battery on a person 65 years old or older is a felony, punishable by incarceration and can result in a felony conviction on your criminal record.

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Vanilla Ice, legally named Robert Van Winkle, was arrested in south Florida and charged with burglary and grand theft after police found items allegedly stolen from a foreclosed home at Van Winkle’s residence.

The home of the alleged burglary was adjacent to a house the former rapper was renovating as part of his television show for DIY Network called “The Vanilla Ice Project.”

Lantana police claim that after conducting an investigation into possible squatting, they found that several items including furniture, a pool heater, bicycles and pieces of art were taken from the home of a recently deceased man. When officers spoke to Vanilla Ice at the property, they allege that he told them he had purchased it.

5076391518_9593765c83_zReports indicate that he had no contract or down payment, and was only filming renovations of the home next door.

Police then obtained a warrant to search Ice’s Palm Beach home where they claim they found the missing items. Ice was arrested and booked into the Palm Beach County Jail. He was later released after posting $6,000 bail.

Following his release, he told reporters that the entire episode was a “misunderstanding.”

Ice was charged with burglary as well as grand theft.

This is not Ice’s first run-in with the law. The entertainer has been arrested four times in the past for domestic assault, brandishing weapons and disorderly conduct. Additionally, he was forced to pay fines after his pet wallaroo and pet goat escaped from his home and wandered his Port St. Lucie neighborhood for more than a week.

According to Florida state statute 810.02, burglary is defined as:

entering or remaining in a dwelling, a structure, or a conveyance with the intent to commit an offense therein, unless the premises are at the time open to the public or the defendant is licensed or invited to enter or remain.

If Ice is convicted of burglary, he could face up to 15 years in prison and $10,000 in fines. Grand theft charges are even more complicated than burglary charges. The potential penalties associated with a grand theft conviction can vary. Consequences depend on the total value of the items stolen.

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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 Massachusetts Uber driver has been accused of sexually assaulting a woman who had used the ride-sharing service app to request a ride.

Authorities have reported that the 46-year-old man was arraigned Wednesday in Cambridge District Court. The Boston man pleaded not guilty to charges including rape and kidnapping.

Investigators believe the driver picked the woman up in Boston on Dec. 6. She had apparently summoned an Uber driver to take her to her Cambridge home.

14656314348_f3aa8acb78_zUber customers use a smartphone application to arrange and pay for rides with drivers that are in the surrounding area.

The woman told police that the driver told her he would need a cash payment, so he took her to an ATM.

Authorities claim he then drove her to a secluded location and sexually assaulted her.

Uber released a statement saying that they are working closely with law enforcement to assist in the investigation.

Sex crimes allegations are very serious crimes that will have a devastating impact on your future if you were to be convicted. Your career, your family, your freedom and your reputation could all be ruined and suffer permanent damage just from the mere accusation that any wrongdoing took place. Because of this, you must obtain legal protection against the prosecution.

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