Articles Posted in St. Lucie 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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Authorities arrested a Florida deputy recently for her alleged role in a marijuana selling business following a month-long investigation.

According to the St. Lucie County Sheriff’s Office, an anonymous tipster told them a 27-year-old female deputy was involved in drug activity. Authorities apparently searched the apartment she was staying at with her boyfriend and another couple Friday and said they found felony amounts of marijuana, packaging materials and other items typically associated with the sale and distribution of marijuana.

The woman was charged with marijuana possession over 20 grams, marijuana possession with intent to sell and possessing drug equipment.

She posted bail early Saturday morning and has been placed on administrative leave without pay.

The three other people in the apartment were also arrested on drug charges.

Marijuana is the most commonly used illegal substance in Florida and throughout the United States. Marijuana is heavily portrayed all over the media, from music videos, movies and television. Because of how common it is, many people assume that marijuana-related drug charges are not as serious as other types of drug crimes. This could not be further from the truth. If you are arrested for possessing or selling marijuana in the state of Florida you could face very serious consequences.

If you or someone  you love has been arrested for a marijuana-related drug offense, the best thing you can do is contact an experienced Drug Crimes Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton as soon as possible. You have a very small window of time to defend yourself from these charges, so it is best to act fast. A conviction for possessing or selling marijuana can have many consequences, and could affect your life long after you have served any jail time.

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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 Port St. Lucie homeless man was allegedly caught on surveillance video stealing a chainsaw and stuffing it down his pants, according to police reports.

The accused apparently stopped in Treasure Coast Lawn Equipment in the 1800 block of Southwest Bayshore Boulevard on Oct. 28 and asked for $1 worth of change, according to a police report.

He is accused of picking up a Stihl chainsaw valued at more than $600 and leaving, riding away on a bicycle.

5052137375_a067469218_zSurveillance video allegedly shows him stuffing the saw down his shorts and covering it with his shirt. The saw was not running at the time, according to police.

Employees chased the man, later identified as a 28-year-old homeless man. He apparently hid the saw in a wooded lot along Southwest Molloy Street before getting away from police.

The saw was eventually recovered, but police were unable to locate the man.

Police eventually caught up with the accused who allegedly told them he stole the saw and put it in the woods. He was arrested on a grand theft charge.

In the state of Florida, stealing property between $300 and $20,000 in value is classified as grand theft in the third degree. This offense is punishable by up to five years in prison and a steep fine of up to $5,000. Due to the fact that the chainsaw is valued at more than $600, the man was arrested for grand theft.

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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.

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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 St. Lucie County high school teacher has been arrested and charged with six counts of lewd and lascivious conduct involving six teen victims.

St. Lucie County Sheriff’s deputies investigated the 68-year-old for several weeks and arrested the man on March 18. He was booked into the Indian River County jail with bail set at $600,000.

The alleged illegal activity took place during the current school year and apparently involved victims ranging in age from 14 to 15, according to investigators.

According to the arrest report, the man’s conduct “went well beyond a causal or friendly contact and was for a lewd and lascivious purpose.”

arrested 3Police also claim that the man said to at least one victim that he “can’t wait until you’re 18. Actually, we’re doing it sooner.”

Investigators alleged they located a mirror “affixed to the underside of the suspect’s desk,” according to the arrest report.

If you are a teacher that has been accused of a sex crime involving a student or students, it is important to act quickly and retain a sex crimes defense lawyer as soon as possible. While the media and the general public tend to side with the alleged victims in sex crimes cases, what happens in the court room is an entirely different story. A St. Lucie County Sex Crimes Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton can help you fight back against false sex crimes charges so that you can get back to your life and your career as soon as possible.

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A Broward County court bailiff made his first appearance in court Wednesday after being charged with armed kidnapping, two counts of sexual battery and aggravated assault with a firearm.

Details of the case involving the 62-year-old man were not discussed during the bond court hearing. However, a prosecutor did note that the charges involve a “high level of violence.”

The hearing has been postponed until Thursday so that the man’s attorney can attend.
The Broward judge asked the man if he wanted a different judge since he is a familiar face in his court. However, the man declined a different judge.

The Plantation Police Department has yet to release an official copy of the arrest report.

The man was booked into the St. Lucie County jail at 2 a.m. Tuesday. The man explained that he has children and grandchildren in Port St. Lucie in his initial court appearance.

court.jpgA judge in St. Lucie County ordered the man to be held without bail, and he was transferred by bus to Broward County on Tuesday afternoon.
Sheriff’s officials claim they have opened an internal affairs investigation, but have yet to
determine the man’s job status.

The accused has been a bailiff for the Broward County Sheriff’s Office since 1999.
While the details surrounding this man’s arrest are unknown at this point, the charges he faces are quite severe. An armed kidnapping charge is classified as a first-degree felony punishable by up to life imprisonment. Sexual battery and aggravated assault with a firearm are also felony charges in Florida. Punishments for these crimes vary based on the evidence brought forth by prosecutors.

If you or someone you love is facing serious criminal charges in south Florida, it is crucial that you seek assistance from an experienced criminal defense attorney right away. A Broward County Criminal Defense Lawyer can help guide you through the legal process, clarify what your options are and piece together the strongest possible defense on your behalf.

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