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Michael A. Gottlieb, P.A.
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Woman photographed riding sea turtle now facing felony charges

From weapons offenses and drug crimes to sex crimes and homicides, there are certain criminal offenses that we know -- or at least suspect -- are almost always charged as felonies by law enforcement officials. However, it's important to know that there is certain activity that a person might not even realize is a crime, let alone a more serious felony-level offense.

Take for instance the diverse wildlife here in Florida, much of which is protected by state laws calling for violators, typically those accused of causing some sort of environmental harm, to face felony charges. In fact, a Melbourne woman recently learned about the existence of such laws the hard way.

Back in July, photos of two young women appearing to ride a sea turtle somewhere in Brevard County became something of a viral sensation, showing up not just on Facebook, but on the websites of national news outlets.

The photos not only sparked outrage among wildlife experts, but also a criminal investigation by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to determine whether any violation of the state's Marine Turtle Protection Act occurred.

For those unfamiliar with this law, it makes it a third-degree felony for anyone to harass, harm, injure, capture or attempt to capture marine turtles, or their eggs and nests.

While the FWC released little details on the progress of the investigation, it appears they had identified a suspect, as police officers took a 20-year-old woman into custody on an active felony arrest warrant this past weekend while responding to an unrelated disturbance.

The young woman, whose bail was set at $2,000, now faces up to five years in prison and/or a fine of up to $5,000 if found to have violated the Marine Turtle Protection Act.

If you have been charged with any sort of felony, consider speaking with an experienced legal professional as soon as possible as your freedom, your reputation and your record are all at stake.

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