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Articles Posted in Sumter County

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A Wildwood city commissioner is facing second-degree felony charges after deputies claim he texted a death threat.

The 38-year-old Oxford man was charged Wednesday with intimidation/writing or sending a threat to kill or injure.

According to a Sumter County Sheriff’s arrest report, a woman who told deputies she’d been with the man for more than seven years said that on the afternoon of Aug. 1, she received a text message from him that said, “I just beat my sons with a baton because of my anger towards you. I don’t want your gift of freedom. When I get back I’m going to take your life and mine.”

She told deputies that the man was in Texas when he sent the text.

The woman said that for the entire time they’ve been together, the man has been physically violent toward her and that in the past, she’d been punched, choked, kicked, pushed and dragged across a concrete porch.

The woman also alleges the man has previously threatened to kill her and the people she loves if she “moves on.”

The man has no criminal history. According to reports, the man had a first appearance in front of a judge Thursday and has bonded out of the Sumter Detention Center on $15,000 bail.  

Criminal threats often revolve around one person’s word against another’s. However, credible threats are those made verbally, in writing, or via electronic communications like telephone, email, or texting. In the state of Florida, a “credible threat” is any behavior that causes the threatened person to reasonably fear for his or her safety or the safety of the person’s family or loved ones, and appears to be one that the person making the threat can actually carry out.A threat can still be credible under Florida law even if the person making the threat has no intentions of carry out the act or is incarcerated.

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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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A federal corrections officer from Clermont has been sentenced to two years in federal prison after pleading guilty in September to accepting a bribe by a public official.

According to the Department of Justice, the 32-year-old officer used his position as a correctional officer at the Coleman Federal Correctional Complex in Sumter County to smuggle contraband to inmates in exchange for money beginning in January.

The Department of Justice said federal agents monitored a June 18 meeting between the officer and a cooperating witness. During that meeting, the officer allegedly accepted $2,600 for items that he already smuggled into the prison.

Investigators met with the officer, and he apparently admitted he illegally negotiated $7,100 in cash payments in return for smuggling cell phones, prescription pills, tobacco, and other items to federal inmates.

Bribery charges are often highly publicized in the media. These crimes not only capture the public’s attention, but they have the ability to end careers and damage reputations. If convicted, the accused faces severe consequences, including lengthy time behind bars.

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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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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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Our criminal defense lawyers at Whittel & Melton are very pleased to announce that, according to Governor Rick Scott, Florida is on a path to a 44-year crime low.

The actual number of crimes across the Sunshine State is showing that crime rate is steadily on the decline.

8258120342_5be09894b2_zThe Florida Department of Law Enforcement has released its numbers for the first half of 2014, which shows there were more than 8,000 fewer crimes committed in the first six months of this year than in that same time period in 2013.

However, while the number of non-violent crimes is down, including robbery, burglary and stalking, the number of murders, forcible sex offenses, aggravated assaults and domestic violence are all on the rise.

In Central Florida, most of the counties are in line with the overall report, seeing a drop in criminal activity across the board.

The biggest decline occurred in Flagler County, with crime dropping nearly 11 percent. Sumter County actually saw the biggest rise in crime, with an increase of 2.4 percent.

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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 32-year-old former Florida Department of Law Enforcement crime lab analyst was arrested Tuesday on charges of grand theft, 12 counts of tampering with or fabricating physical evidence and nine counts of trafficking illegal drugs.

Investigators allege the man replaced prescription pain pills with over-the-counter medications while processing drug cases.

The former Pensacola crime laboratory chemist is currently free on bond.

prescription pills

If you or someone you know or love has been charged with tampering with evidence in Hernando, Lake, Marion, Osceola, Pasco or Sumter counties, a Florida Criminal Defense Attorney at Whittel & Melton can make sure you know what to expect from your case.

The man was arrested at the Escambia County Jail around 6:30 p.m. His bail was set at $290,000.

FDLE agents claim that since 2006 the accused processed 2,600 cases that crossed 35 counties in Florida, including Hernando, Lake, Marion, Osceola, Pasco and Sumter. On Monday, 80 agencies were alerted of the alleged tampering.

St. Cloud police said that they are reviewing 16 cases from several years ago that could be linked to this case.

The investigation apparently began Thursday, Jan. 30 when Escambia investigators noticed that there were prescription pain pills missing from the evidence locker room.

The accused was relieved of duty Friday, Jan. 31 and issued his resignation Monday asking the agency to issue any money owed to him.

According to the FDLE, additional charges could be filed pending the results of this ongoing investigation.

These charges are undoubtedly serious. If convicted of tampering with evidence, this could remain on your criminal background for the rest of your life. Despite the circumstances surrounding your case, by being accused of this crime, you run the risk of being permanently labeled someone who destroyed or concealed evidence. Because of the severity of the charges, you must make sure and give tampering with evidence charges the attention they deserve.

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The Sumter County Sheriff’s Office has reported that they arrested a 50-year-old Bushnell paramedic after a raid of his home Wednesday apparently revealed dozens of illegal pornographic images.

The man also allegedly confessed to molesting a 15-year-old.

The man was charged with 12 counts of possession of child pornography and one count of lewd and lascivious behavior. He was taken to the Sumter County jail where he remained Thursday in lieu of $39,000 bail.

According to a sheriff’s spokesman, an ongoing operation by the Citrus and Sumter sheriff’s offices led investigators to believe that child pornography was being downloaded in the man’s home in Bushnell.

lap top betch.jpgDeputies obtained a search warrant and raided the man’s home, seizing his laptop, which apparently contained at least 120 child pornography files, according to an arrest affidavit.

Detectives claim that the man told them he was addicted to child pornography.

At least 12 of the files are believed to contain minors, however the investigation is ongoing.

During the raid, the man allegedly told police that he groped a 15-year-old. Detectives apparently spoke with the teen, who allegedly confirmed the allegations.

In a separate case, the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office arrested an 18-year-old student who is accused of having a sexual relationship with a student younger than 16 years old.
The man has been charged with lewd and lascivious battery, as well as transmission of material harmful to minors, after police say he allegedly sent nude pictures of himself from his cell phone to the victim.

The man is currently being held in the Sumter County jail with bail set at $19,000.

Law enforcement officers are trained to find child pornography files on the Internet. Additionally, they are able to determine who downloads these files from a computer’s IP address. Once law enforcement has detected where these downloads are coming from, they will obtain a search warrant and seize the computer as evidence.

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