Articles Posted in St. Johns County

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A St. Augustine man was arrested Monday afternoon after he was allegedly found in possession of a mobile meth lab in the parking lot of a Publix supermarket on State Road 16, according to the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office.

The 30-year-old is charged with producing and trafficking methamphetamine, according to St. Johns County Jail records.

Deputies claim they went to Publix after receiving a tip and found the man standing next to a van with a woman.

Inside the van, deputies allege they discovered two duffel bags that contained 127 grams of methamphetamine oil, batteries, scales and other equipment used in the manufacture of the drug.

The man is being held on a $65,000 bond at the St. Johns County Jail.

Some of the most serious drug crime charges in the state of Florida are for the manufacturing of methamphetamine and meth labs. If you are accused of manufacturing meth or running a meth lab, you need to get legal help immediately. These charges are no joke and you must take them seriously. Our Florida Drug Crimes Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton know how to defend those accused of meth charges and will make sure you know exactly what you are up against.

We know that years of your life on the line, which is why you must act fast to secure sound legal representation. We will investigate every detail of the accusations against you as well as the police investigation conducted to make sure there are no mistakes or hidden details that could result in your charges being dismissed.

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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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A 44-year old Hastings woman was arrested Monday and charged with fraudulent use of personal identification information.

St. Johns County detectives apparently began investigating the woman in March of this year when an Ohio woman reported that her personal information was being used by the woman in St. Johns County.

According to reports, the 44-year-old allegedly accessed the Ohio victim’s Social Security number and, between November 2003 and February of this year, obtained credit from six different creditors to open charge accounts and loans amounting to $19,000 using the the victim’s personal information.

6280517815_e5d397bfd5_zThe was booked into the St. Johns County Jail and released a short time later after posting $10,000 bond.

If you have been charged with identity theft or fraud, you should know that there are serious consequences if convicted. In most cases, people charged with credit card fraud, identity theft and other charges relating to identity fraud have no idea about how much trouble they could be in.

Our St. Johns County Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton understand that many good people can make mistakes. One simple mistake does not warrant a state or federal conviction that will haunt you for the rest of your life.

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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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According to the U.S. Attorney’s Office, a St. Augustine man was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison Monday for transporting images and videos of child pornography to Canada.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office claims the 67-year-old man used a fake name to send a package from St. Augustine to Ontario containing nearly 600 images and videos of children engaged in sexual acts.

The package was apparently captured by Canadian law enforcement. Authorities then searched the man’s home in September.

A St. Augustine man was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison Monday for transporting images and videos of child pornography to Canada.

A St. Augustine man was sentenced to 15 years in federal prison Monday for transporting images and videos of child pornography to Canada.

The man admitted that he downloaded the child porn found in the package over several years, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office. He was arrested, and he pleaded guilty in October.

Records indicate that the man is a registered sex offender. In 1992, he was convicted of three counts of lewd and lascivious conduct on a child in Hillsborough County.

State and federal law enforcement agencies do not mess around when it comes to investigating and prosecuting child pornography crimes. Whether you have been charged with possession, distribution or production of child pornography, make no mistake that law enforcement and prosecutors alike will seek maximum punishments. If convicted of a child pornography-related offense, the stakes are quite high. Consequences can include lengthy time behind bars, extensive sex offender registration requirements and criminal and civil forfeiture of personal property used in making child pornography, including any financial profits made from child pornography.

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In a joint effort with the state’s Division of Alcoholic Beverages and Tobacco, the Flagler County Sheriff’s Office shut down synthetic marijuana labs in St. Johns and Flagler counties last month.

The drug is commonly referred to on the street as “Spice.”

A total of 11 people were arrested on charges of sale of a controlled substance. Of the 11 arrested, 5 were charged with breaking the state’s racketeering laws. According to the Sheriff’s Office, seven of those charged were from St. Augustine, one was from Jacksonville, another was from Bunnell and one lived in Dothan, Alabama.

The seven-month investigation dubbed “Operation Bad Dreamer” ended when about 80 law enforcement officers busted 11 locations across St. Johns and Flagler Counties, allegedly seizing $70,000 and about 370 pounds of “product.”

bud betch.jpgThe term drug manufacturing refers to creating drugs using alternative means other than growing. In most cases, drug manufacturing charges involve methamphetamine, LSD and most recently, synthetic marijuana, often referred to as Spice and K2. Drug cultivation is similar to drug manufacturing charges, but refers to growing, planting or harvesting drugs.

As this case shows, drug manufacturing cases often involve large-scale operations, many defendants and can cross county and even state lines. When facing charges stemming from manufacturing synthetic cannabis, Ketamine, PCP, heroin, GBL, derivatives of GHB or bath salts, you should take these seriously as a conviction could affect all aspects of your life making it difficult to apply to college, obtain a job or sustain a professional license in the future. As the laws regarding these newer synthetic and designer drugs become more defined, you can be sure that the prosecution will keep seeking harsher sentences.

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