Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Texas Hosts Two Bowl Games Today

Along with Christmas trees, office holiday parties, and New Year's Resolutions, this time of year brings college bowl season. And, there seem to be more bowl games played every year, extending over a couple of weeks. For many players, this will be their last opportunity to prove themselves to recruits in the National Football League and they intend to make every snap count. While we won't get to know if Auburn or Oregon will win the BCS Championship Game for nearly two more weeks when that game is played in Arizona, tonight is the time for Houston and San Antonio to shine on the national sports stage.

The Alamo Bowl will be played tonight featuring No. 14 Oklahoma State and an unranked Arizona team. Both teams are known as high-scoring units and an offensive shootout is expected at the Alamodome. In Houston, Illinois and Baylor will square off in the Texas Bowl, a game that will feature the high-profile Big 10 and Big 12 Conferences. There are large numbers of fans representing all four teams in Texas this week and I hope they are having a wonderful time in our great state!

Once the bowl games tick down to their final moments, these young men will have some decisions to make about their futures. If juniors, do they return to school for one more year or take their chance on the draft? For those whose years on a campus have come to an end, are they good enough to be selected at the next level? Or, is it time to plan for a professional future that does not involve a football field?

If you an athlete with potential to play professionally, you want to know that your talents and your finances are protected. The sports law attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help you with contract negotiations, work schedules, and future licensing deals. You need to have someone experienced and trustworthy by your side for these important decisions. If you may be facing these exciting opportunities soon, please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Synthetic Marijuana Substitute Under Federal Review

Many of you are probably already familiar with the scandal that was created when a home video was released showing teen superstar Miley Cyrus smoking what at first was assumed to be marijuana from a bong. Cyrus' publicist quickly shared that she actually was smoking Salvia, a plant that is legal in most states and does have hallucinogenic effects on users. The incident once again raised the question over whether Salvia and other similar substances should become banned or at least more carefully controlled.

An article in yesterday's Houston Chronicle revealed the increasing use of a synthetic marijuana substitute, both in Texas and around the country. Harris County has recorded the most calls of any area in the state to the Texas Poison Center Network, with the effects of smoking the substance including hallucinations, vomiting, and rapid heart rate. The five primary substances used to make the chemically sprayed herbal incense are now receiving a closer look from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration and the government organization announced it will ban the chemical compounds while they are being studied over the next year, with the possibility that they will become permanently controlled substances.

As efforts are considered to control some of these marijuana substitutes more closely, there are conservative activists such as Rev. Pat Robertson who are advocating for less harsh punishments for those who use marijuana. What do you think of these two differing positions concerning drug use in our country?

The criminal defense attorneys at Bertolino LLP make it a priority to stay on top of all local, state, and federal laws that may affect you and we certainly are following any changes to our drug laws. If you have been accused of creating or possessing a controlled substance, our experienced lawyers can help. Please call our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

President Obama Signs Repeal of DADT

President Barack Obama put his pen to a landmark piece of legislation today when he signed a repeal of the seventeen-year-old Don't Ask, Don't Tell legislation. As he declared during the signing ceremony, gays and lesbians who wish to serve in the United States military will no longer have to hide or lie about their sexual orientation in order to keep their jobs. Officials with the Pentagon now must develop an implementation plan for this change in policy and the chairman of the joint chiefs must testify that the repeal will not damage combat readiness. Once these pieces are in place, the military will be changed in a way that has not been seen in decades.

Critics of the repeal are concerned that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly will hurt the morale of other service members and weaken overall cohesion in units. They point to surveys that show there is not strong support for repeal within some areas of the military. Supporters of the repeal say that they are fighting discrimination and believe that we need to encourage any man or woman who wants to join the military and serve our country.

There are men and women in every profession who face discrimination based on sexual orientation and, in many instances, there is legal recourse available if you have lost a job, been passed over for a promotion, or faced harassment in the office. If you believe that you have faced unfair treatment based on your sexual orientation, one of our employment law attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today to discuss your case.

What do you think about the recent repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell?

Monday, December 20, 2010

Austin Commission Opposes Airport Body Scanners

I am sure that many of you who do not already travel regularly for business are taking to the skies for holiday travel during this time of year. If so, perhaps you already have seen the full-body scanners that have been installed in some airports around the country. Finally, you have the opportunity to see an image of yourself in somewhat of a jumping jack pose as your body is scrutinized for dangerous objects. If you are a resident of Austin and are planning to use the airport of this great city, though, you should know there is an effort to prevent such visuals from ever taking place.

The Austin Airport Advisory Commission unanimously passed a resolution last week opposing the installation of full-body scanners at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. These scanners, already in place at around 70 airports around the country, are scheduled to make an appearance in Austin next year. The Commission is urging the City Council to oppose this new security measure, on the grounds that the practice is questionable in its constitutionality, is overly invasive, and has already been the cause of great embarrassment for travelers in other cities.

While the Austin City Council does not have direct control over decisions that are in the hands of the federal government, its members can appeal to Congressional representatives and share the concerns of local residents.

I am certain that the body scanners will be put up against the Constitution and its legality ultimately determined in our courts. For now, their presence is a fact of life for many who travel by air.

For those of you who have encountered one of these machines, what was your experience like? Whether or not you have flown recently, what are your thoughts on the new security measures being implemented by the Transportation Security Administration?

Saturday, December 18, 2010

DREAM Act Stalls in the Senate

The DREAM Act, proposed federal legislation that has been followed closely by activists across the country and has been discussed on this blog, failed in the United States today. The inability of the Democrats to end the Republicans' filibuster, by a vote of 55-41, means that efforts to pass this major immigration bill have been stalled for the year.

The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act would have offered a path to citizenship for the many illegal immigrants who were brought to the United States as children. Those applying under this act would have to complete a college degree or provide two years of military service, in addition to passing other standards regarding character and their length of stay in this country.

Republicans successfully fought against the DREAM Act for a variety of reasons. Senator John Cornyn pointed out that his opposition was due in part to the fact that there was no opportunity for amendments or hearings. Texas' other senator, Kay Bailey Hutchison, took issue with the fact that the bill expanded its scope beyond the intended beneficiaries of children who came to the United States as minors and who were educated in schools in our country.

President Obama and leading supporters of the DREAM Act in the Senate, including Sens. Harry Reid and Dick Durbin, expressed their disappointment in the fact that the measure had stalled and argued that the DREAM Act is needed to improve our economic competitiveness, maintain a strong armed forces, and offer fair treatment to young people who did not come to this country of their own choosing and who simply want a good education.

The immigration law attorneys at Bertolino LLP will continue to follow the efforts to pass the DREAM Act, as well as track other proposed legislation at the local, state, and federal level that affects immigrants. If you are in need of some legal help regarding your immigration paperwork, employment status, or possible discrimination, please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

What are your thoughts on the failure of the DREAM Act to escape a filibuster in the United States Senate today?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Anti-Cheeseburger Ads Won't Run in Houston

By now, many of you have heard or read about the controversy surrounding the television advertisement that features a corpse clinging to a cheeseburger. The group that developed the spot, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, offered $5000 to four Houston stations to run the ads, but they declined. The program director for KHOU, Lisa Shumate, expressed the concern that the commercial did not meet their standards and practices guidelines.

The advertisement, which has aired in Chicago and Washington, shows a grieving woman and a doctor standing over the corpse, alludes to McDonald's with the restaurant's logo and the slogan "I was lovin' it," and then suggests to viewers that a vegetarian option may be the way to avoid high cholesterol and heart attacks.

McDonald's obviously is not pleased with the advertisement and its officials have spoken out against the efforts by the physicians' group. But, this is not the first time that PCRM has spoken out against large companies and the negative influence they believe these companies are having on our dietary choices. Kraft Foods was the focus of their disapproval just earlier this year.

Whether you are a global entity like McDonald's or a small store with one location in your hometown, you certainly do not want unpleasant messages about your products to be distributed over the airwaves. And, sometimes, a business is the victim of slanderous attacks that can damage its reputation and its earnings. If you are facing such a situation, the business litigation attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Houston Was Home Base for Money Laundering Operation

There are plenty of people in Texas who, understandably, are looking for ways to make extra money. The economy is still struggling and even those with jobs are finding it difficult to pay their bills every month. As you consider the various opportunities that may come before you, allow me to offer one small piece of advice. If someone offers you $500 simply to put some money in the bank on his behalf, walk away. You may end up spending a year behind bars -- just ask Gloria Cuero.

Cuero was a security guard at a courthouse in Florida who ended up a part of a drug money laundering ring based out of Houston. She agreed to deposit the cash for a friend who turned out to be a heroin dealer from Colombia, and her action was just one that developed over a series of transactions in South America, Houston, Miami, New York, New Jersey, and Detroit. The United States Justice Department estimates that anywhere from $18 billion to $39 billion belonging to drug traffickers is stashed in our country every year.

The kingpins of the operation worked out of Houston, working behind the disguise of legitimate businesses such as a car auction and a tire shop. After six months of tapping their phone lines, the federal authorities had enough evidence to move forward with the arrest of six Colombians in Houston, all of whom were convicted.

Involvement in drug trafficking or money laundering are offenses that usually will result in serious jail time in a federal prison. If you have been accused of involvement in such an international crime ring and you need to clear your name, the experienced attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. We have criminal defense attorneys and immigration attorneys who have worked in federal courtrooms and are ready to work with you. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Friday, December 10, 2010

San Antonio Man Gets Forty Years in Prison for Death of Toddler

As a parent myself, I cannot help but have a particularly strong reaction when I hear about violent crimes in which children are the victims. When these young and defenseless members of our society find injury or even death at the hands of the people in whom they should find ultimate trust and security, it is simply heartbreaking. One of those cases was back in the news yesterday in a San Antonio courtroom.

Back in April, Lorance Dontae Hill pleaded no contest to the charge of injury to a child resulting in serious bodily injury in the death of his girlfriend's one-year-old daughter. Serenity Price died four years from massive brain trauma, which her mother argued took place when the girl was briefly left alone in Hill's care. On Thursday, Hill was given a forty-year sentence for his crimes. His plea ended the initial efforts by the prosecution to push for the death penalty.

Prosecutors agreed to the lesser charge and sentence due to the fact that there is evidence to suggest the mother was involved in the crime as well and there were older injuries to the little girl that indicated abuse over a long period of time. The mother is facing the charge of injury to a child and was not present to observe Hill's sentencing yesterday.

I certainly hope that all men and women who are accused of abusing children are brought to justice and have their day in court. No matter the crime, though, these defendants are due certain rights under the law. After all, everyone has the important distinction of being innocent until proven guilty. The criminal defense attorneys at Bertolino LLP can work with you to make sure that you receive aggressive and thorough representation during your trial. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Court of Appeals Upholds Judgment against Austin Architect

In July 2004, two women in Texas stepped out onto the balcony of a private home and quickly plummeted to the ground as the structure collapsed beneath their feet. One of the victims, Lou Ann Smith, sustained injuries that left her paralyzed from the waist down. The question then became, who is responsible for the pain and suffering inflicted on Ms. Smith and how will compensation be made?

Last year, jurors in a Travis County courtroom split the liability between three groups of people--the general contractor, the subcontractor, and the architectural firm that has been hired to design the balcony. Austin architect Sinclair Black and his firm, Black + Vernooy, were blamed with ten percent of the balcony's collapse and ordered to pay Ms. Smith accordingly.

Black appealed the decision, claiming that his agreement with the client only required that he report any defects or deficiencies, not search for these potential problems himself. In addition, he asserted his obligation was only to the homeowners and not to those who visited the property. In a two-to-one decision, the 3rd Court of Appeals upheld the roughly $410,000 judgment against Sinclair Black and others in the architectural industry are already speaking out about what they believe to be a dangerous precedent made by this decision.

Is the court going too far in holding professionals accountable for problems that were caused by another party? Or, did the architect have a responsibility to more closely examine the work being created from his designs?

We know that as you develop your career, your professional reputation is essential. What clients, peers, and leaders in your field have to say about work is critical to your success. If you are facing a legal issue that threatens the good name your business has established, the business attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Supporters of DREAM Act Continue Hunger Strike in San Antonio

In San Antonio, a dozen men and women began a hunger strike twenty-six days ago as an act to encourage federal legislators to support the DREAM Act. Seven of the participants are still engaged in the strike, living only on water and juice. Mayor Julian Castro has asked to meet with those involved in the protest in hopes of encouraging them to eat again. Castro also wants the meeting to emphasize publicly his support of the changes that would be enacted by the DREAM Act's passage.

The DREAM Act, which was created as a bipartisan effort by Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) and Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL), would provide a six-year plan to earn citizenship for those who were brought into this country illegally when they were minors. Those applying for American citizenship would need to earn a college degree to complete at least two years of military service.

First proposed in 2001, the most recent version of the legislation was reintroduced on March 26, 2009. According the 2009 Senate bill, applicants would need to have arrived in the United States before the age of sixteen, be between the ages of twelve and thirty-five at the time the Act goes into effect, have a high school diploma or GED, and meet several other criteria.

Immigration issues are always heated in Texas, and the laws that affect immigrants are vital to our population. The immigration law attorneys at Bertolino LLP stay informed of all local, state, and federal legislation and are ready to help you navigate through the paperwork and processes of verifying your immigration status. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today if we can be of assistance.

Friday, December 3, 2010

Employment Numbers for November are Not Encouraging

The unemployment figures coming out of Washington, D.C. this week are anything but festive as we move further into the holiday season. A new report shows that unemployment in our country rose to 9.8% in November, which is a seven-month high that no one was hoping to achieve. This means that 15.1 million people in the United States did not have a job last month. When you add those workers who have part-time jobs but wish to be working full-time and those who have given up on the job search altogether, this country is looking at a 17% "underemployment" rate.

The numbers concerning jobs in Texas will not be released until later this month, but our state tends to fare better than the nation as a whole. In October, our unemployment stood at 8.1%, as reported by the Texas Workforce Commission. Even though this looks better than the numbers in other parts of the country, the figure is no consolation to the many families in Texas that are struggling to find work and pay their bills every month.

If you are fortunate enough to have a steady job in this difficult economy, you certainly don't want anything to threaten your financial security. If your job is in danger or has been terminated for reasons that you believe to be discriminatory or unjust, an employment law attorney may be able to help you.

While most employers want the best for their workers and are distraught by the idea of having to let people go, there are a few bosses out there who may use false pretenses to cut down their workforce. If you have been the victim of wrongful termination, the attorneys at Bertolino LLP are here to defend your rights. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Texans Believe Roads are Less Safe Than Five Years Ago

Are you a driver who engages in that dangerous act of texting while driving, or maybe checking your email messages on your Blackberry as you speed down the highway? If so, there are a growing number of Texans who are frustrated and frightened by the fact that you are behind the wheel. State legislators will be returning to Austin next month and several bills aimed at further limiting cell phone use in cars have already been filed.

The Texas Transportation Institute conducted a survey earlier this fall to determine people's opinions on some common driving behaviors. They discovered that fifty-two percent of drivers in Texas would favor a law that bans cell phone use in cars altogether. And, even though roadway deaths are down significantly over the past several years, an overwhelming number of you believe that texting and talking while driving is getting worse.

The good news of this survey is that drivers seem to be giving more thought to their own decision concerning whether or not to use a cell phone while their car is in motion, and are also more aware of what is happening in the cars around them. I think that being on alert while on the busy roads of Texas is smart no matter what accessories may be distracting the drivers in the next lane. With more than a third of Texans believing that the roads are less safe than they were five years ago, our increased focus on the task of driving is a positive change that hopefully will bring that number down.

If you were injured as a direct result of someone's decision to send a text message or otherwise lose focus while driving a car, you need a personal injury attorney who will help you receive the compensation you deserve. Please contact the law offices of Bertolino LLP in Austin, Houston, or San Antonio to discuss your case today.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Texans' Andre Johnson Faces Discipline from League After Fight

With legitimate concern for head injuries and other possibly life-altering effects to the body that the physical game of can have on its professional players, the National Football League is increasing its efforts to discourage dangerous tackles and dirty play. Just ask James Harrison of the Pittsburgh Steelers and his ever-lightening wallet. While players and coaches are still figuring out the new standards and what type of hit is going to warrant negative attention, one rule hasn't changed. Punching an opposing player in the face is going to get you in trouble.

Star receiver for the Houston Texans, Andre Johnson, apparently had enough of the constant poking and jawing by Cortland Finnegan, a cornerback for the Tennessee Titans. During the fourth quarter of yesterday's game, both men ripped the helmet off the other and Johnson landed a couple of impressive shots before referees and other players separated the two. Johnson and Finnegan were both ejected from the game and further discipline is expected.

Andre Johnson is known as a true professional who operates with respect and amazing play on the field. He apologized after the game, and acknowledged that his behavior was out of character. While Johnson's words were important and he offered the right response to the situation, there certainly was a team behind the scenes already set into motion discussing how to maintain Johnson's image and minimize the reprimand he receives from the league. It's a fact that these attorneys and agents play an important role in every athlete's life.

If you are a professional athlete who is facing a possible hit to your career or your reputation, you need to have an attorney experienced in sports law by your side. At Bertolino LLP, we have attorneys who are ready to help with contract negotiations, endorsement deals, fines and suspensions, and much more. Please contact us today!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Not Many Texans Take Premarital Course in Exchange for Discount on License

There are so many things a recently engaged couple in Texas does to prepare for their wedding day. The two must pick a date to exchange vows, select a venue for the reception, decide who is going to be a part of the wedding party, and where they are going to live once they are husband and wife. How many of these men and women, though, take part in a premarital course that is encouraged by the state government? According to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, not many.

Two years ago, the state legislature in Texas passed a law that offered a discount in marriage license fees to couples who took part in the Twogether in Texas program. This subsidy was created at the same time that the fees in the state were raised, with the hopes that the increased cost would lead to many couples opting to take the course. Apparently, the discount has not been embraced as much as lawmakers had hoped, with only fifteen percent of marriage licenses in Texas being issued to people who completed the class. It seems the thirty dollars that would be saved is not enough incentive.

Under the best of circumstances, building a successful marriage and family takes work and dedication. Perhaps Twogether in Texas provides some relationship tools to couples who may need them at some point. Unfortunately, there may be instances in which legal intervention becomes necessary. If this is the circumstance in your home, the experienced family law attorneys at Bertolino LLP are ready to help you through this emotional and sensitive time. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office.

What are your thoughts on the state's incentive for couples to take a premarital course? Is this an effective tool in saving marriages? Is this a role state government should be playing?

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wishes for a Wonderful Thanksgiving from Bertolino LLP

On the eve of this Thanksgiving holiday, all of us at Bertolino LLP want to wish you a wonderful day of rest and laughter. For those of you who are traveling, may your journeys be easy and may you arrive to your destinations safely and with as little arguing in the car as possible. For those who are separated from their family and other loved ones on this Thanksgiving, we hope that the distance is minimized by your thoughts for one another.

We all have so much for which to be thankful.

We live in a country that offers the same freedoms and opportunities to everyone regardless of their personal background or family tree. And, we have a system of justice that defends the rights of those who are not receiving this equal treatment we all deserve.

We are thankful for the men and women of the armed forces, who put their own lives on the line every day so that we may continue to enjoy the peace and prosperity that this country holds dear.

We are thankful for family and friends who enrich our lives, who encourage us to be better people, but who still love us when we fall short of our goals.

At Bertolino LLP, everyone in our Austin, Houston, and San Antonio offices hopes that you have time tomorrow, between the turkey and football, to remember the people and circumstances for which you are thankful in your life.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Cardiologist Accused by Texas Medical Board of Performing Unnecessary Heart Procedures

There are several professions whose members can say that they literally or figuratively hold the lives of others in their hands every day. There are judges who must determine if a convicted murderer should be sentenced to death or spend the rest of his life in jail. There can be that one special teacher who motivates a child to go to college instead of drop out of school. And, members of our armed forces wake up every day with the charge of defending the lives of millions of people they will never meet. Another professional who regularly makes life-altering decisions is a doctor. And, when a physician is accused of making a fatal error, the consequences can be severe.

Dr. Samuel DeMaio, a prominent cardiologist in Austin, is being accused by the Texas Medical Board of performing unnecessary heart procedures on eight patients, with one patient dying following his time in Dr. DeMaio's care. In addition, five patients (it is not unclear whether or not they are among the patients) mentioned in the charges brought by the Medical Board) have filed malpractice suits in Travis County.

Dr. DeMaio is said to have planted multiple unneeded stints in more than one patient, performed x-rays that were not necessary, implanted an unneeded defibrillator, and made other poor medical decisions. The doctor has responded by saying that the procedures were necessary to deal with the complex circumstances and that he is only facing charges because his competition is angry about his plans to open a new hospital in 2012. We will have to wait and see on whose side the evidence falls.

If you are a medical professional and your record is being brought before the Texas Medical Board, you must seek experienced legal counsel to help you through the process. Your reputation and the career that you may have spent decades establishing are on the line. At Bertolino LLP, we have attorneys who have a strong background in appearing before the Texas Medical Board and they are ready to help you. Please contact our office today.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Divorce in the Public Eye

Sadly, there have been quite a few celebrities who have made the news recently as they announced their marital separations or intentions to divorce. The media has examined every rumor and angle concerning the personal lives of Christina Aguilera, Courtney Cox Arquette and David Arquette, and Billy Ray Cyrus. This week, two celebrities who call Texas home have filed their own divorce papers. San Antonio Spurs star Tony Parker and his wife, actress Eva Longoria, are going their separate ways. Divorce is always a difficult and emotional experience for the families involved, but an added challenge exists when the process takes place under the microscope of a curious public eye.

Rather than continue to give credence to the rumor mill and discuss the allegations concerning who is to blame for the apparent end of this high-profile marriage, we just want to reinforce the idea that there are two people involved who are most certainly dealing with heartbreak and questions about what the future may hold. These same uncertainties and fears exist for divorcing couples who cannot shoot a three-pointer at the buzzer or have any experience acting on a popular television show.

During these times, when emotion understandably can take precedence over clear thought, it is important to have effective and compassionate legal counsel to walk through every step with you. If you are considering a divorce, please contact a family law attorney at our offices in Austin, Houston, or San Antonio to discuss your case. And, if you are a celebrity or athlete facing this upheaval in your personal life, we have entertainment attorneys who can work with you to protect your privacy and your public reputation. We look forward to helping you.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Houston Man Charged with Stealing Mail from Collection Boxes

As the holiday season approaches (if you have entered a department store recently, you may think that it is already here), mailboxes soon will be filled with brightly colored envelopes containing cards that offer a "Merry Christmas" or a "Happy Holidays." You likely will receive many photos taken of your family members and friends all dressed in matching outfits and sitting by a Christmas tree, or sometimes photos of just their kids or pets. And, of course, there is the tearaway 2011 calendar that you can expect from your local real estate or insurance agent. Imagine if these paper holiday traditions were stolen from your mailbox in the hopes of discovering some cash or a money order. An arrest made on Monday decreased the chances of such a violation for the residents of Houston.

Morgan Pratka surrendered to authorities and now faces charges of possession of mail stolen from collection boxes in and around the Houston area. Pratka's alleged crimes were discovered after money orders that had been reported as missing or stolen showed up in his bank account. He apparently did not want to work too hard to hide the evidence.

Pratka is now in federal custody and faces a date in front of a federal judge. Tampering with the mail and the activities of the United States Postal Service is a serious matter, whether you steal your neighbor's magazines or thousands of dollars.

If you are facing federal charges of any kind, you need an experienced attorney who is prepared to defend your rights in this unique component of our justice system. The attorneys at Bertolino LLP have spent a lot of time defending clients in a federal courtroom and are ready to help you as well. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Does Suspending the Licenses of DWI Suspects Work?

I have heard the argument made that the only people restricted by gun control laws are the law-abiding citizens who would be the ones to use the weapons responsibly. Criminals are going to buy and carry guns regardless of what the state or federal government tells them. If you agree with this perspective, you may reach the same conclusion regarding the suspension of drivers' licenses during DWI arrests. Men and women who find it acceptable to disregard the law and get behind the wheel of a car after drinking may not let a detail like the lack of a license preventing them from driving.

For this reason and many others, some state legislators, attorneys, and judges are beginning to speak out about the law, passed in 2001, that suspends the licenses of DWI suspects who fail or refuse to take an alcohol breath test. The number of drunken driving arrests has remained about the same over the past decade, so there is some doubt as to the effectiveness of this law as a deterrent.

Investigations into what happens when a driver has his license suspended shows that many of these people are successfully applying for occupational licenses, which puts them back on the road with little in the way of practical restrictions. Instead of a decrease in drunken driving arrests, the state is facing an increase in administrative costs associated with these hearings and appeals.

Obviously, there needs to be consequences for someone who chooses to drive after consuming alcohol, thereby putting the lives of other motorists in danger. Do you believe this automatic suspension for refusing the breathalyzer is effective? Or, should our lawmakers look at other ways to discourage those who are intoxicated from starting their engines?

If you have lost your license following a DWI arrest, you need effective legal representation to defend your rights in the courtroom. If you believe your arrest was not justified, we can help get you back on the road. Please contact one of our criminal defense attorneys in Austin, Houston, or San Antonio and we will get to work helping you today.

Friday, November 12, 2010

University of Houston Exchanges Cigarettes for Free Food

I think that we can safely say the verdict is in concerning the health problems associated with smoking cigarettes. There are not many people in 2010 who are going to refute the link between carbon and tar in your lungs and the development of lung cancer and various breathing problems. Despite these proven consequences, many young people continue to pick up the habit, particularly once they are away at college and they have escaped their parents' watchful eyes. Yesterday, some students and employees on the University of Houston campus took a step to help others around them become ex-smokers.

Several health organizations on campus worked together to offer free food in exchange for a student's pack of cigarettes. The groups also created displays showing graphic images of a smoker's versus a non-smoker's lungs and provided information about an available smokers' cessation program and a buddy program that was started to offer support and accountability. The one-day campaign was a part of the build-up to the national Great American Smokeout, which will be occurring on November 18.

Organizers said that about twenty smokers took advantage of their offer of barbeque and chips. The others chose to keep their cigarettes in their possession. Time will tell if the efforts of these local advocates has a lasting impact on the decisions that students make regarding their health.

Although the warnings about cigarette use are pretty clear, there are instances in which early signs of a problem are overlooked or misdiagnosed. If you believe that you did not receive correct and timely medical treatment, whether smoking practices are involved or not, the medical malpractice lawyers at Bertolino LLP can help. If you or a loved one has unnecessarily suffered due to a doctor's error, please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

President George W. Bush and Kanye West Make Peace

I imagine that most of us say something at least once a week that we later reflect on and realize it was a statement for which we could have chosen our words differently or maybe kept to ourselves altogether. In most instances, these comments are quickly forgotten. However, in this age of Facebook and YouTube, it has become much harder to move past words that you regret. They may be forever on the Internet for the entire world to read or watch . . . over and over again. And, when you are a celebrity, that attention is magnified and your words become part of a lasting public image.

Everyone remembers the moment on national television, back in 2005, when Kanye West declared, "George Bush doesn't care about black people." Mr. West was frustrated with the government's response to those affected by Hurricane Katrina. In his newly published memoirs, Decision Points, former President Bush points to that moment as one of the low points of his time as the leader of our country.

In an interview with The Today Show's Matt Lauer, Kanye West shared, "I didn't have the grounds to call him a racist." He admits that he got caught up in a time of high emotion. Five years later, however, these few moments in the media are still an issue for this famous entertainer.

If you are a celebrity in the public eye, you know that evey action, word, and relationship will be scrutinized. At some point, you may find yourself facing some fallout from your decisions and in need of legal representation to protect your career and your reputation. The entertainment lawyers at Bertolino LLP can help. We have offices in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio and we are ready to help you with any legal hurdles you may be facing. Please contact us today.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Two San Antonio Fathers Facing Charges of Killing Their Infants

It was heartbreaking to read the story over the weekend about two fathers who stand accused in the deaths of their own infant children. While any senseless act of violence that takes place in Texas is upsetting, the emotions are certainly heightened when the most innocent among us are the targets. Both men live in the San Antonio area and are looking at capital murder charges that could result in the death penalty or, at the very least, a lifetime spent behind prison bars.

Matthew Resendez, age nineteen, is currently in jail based on the charge of injury to a child causing serious bodily injury. With his three-month-old son taken off life support on Friday night, prosecutors are now taking the case back to the grand jury with the intention of instead receiving a capital murder indictment for Resendez.

In the other case, 22-year-old Rafael Trevino was arrested on Friday on a capital murder charge after his seven-week-old daughter was found dead with a broken left clavicle and hemorrhaging in the brain. It is unlikely that he will be released soon, with his bail being set at one million dollars.

The purpose of this post is not sensationalize these tragic incidents , but rather to encourage a conversation on the responsibilities of a parent and what steps can be taken to prevent these violent acts from ever taking place. And, of course, the discussion is done while keeping in mind that both of these young men are innocent until proven guilty.

What are your thoughts? Is there a way to better prepare these men for the responsibility of caring for an infant? Do you think we view mothers and fathers differently when it comes to the expectations we have for them as parents?

Friday, November 5, 2010

Operation Safe Halloween Nabs Seven Convicted Sex Offenders

It should go without saying that we all want our children to be safe every day of the year. We want to live in communities where our kids can ride their bikes, head out to the playground, and throw a ball in the yard and not have to worry about being bothered by an adult with bad intentions. On Halloween night, this need to promote vigilance seems to be even more heightened. With boys and girls wearing the costumes of their favorite superhero or Disney princess, we want the experience to be fun and safe. The kids sometimes knock on the doors of people who are strangers to them and the state of Texas has taken measures to make sure those answering the knocks have only the best intentions.

Operation Safe Halloween, which was a joint effort between the Attorney General's Fugitive Unit and Texas Department of Criminal Justice Parole Division, arrested seven convicted child sex offenders who did not stay inside their homes and away from trick-or-treaters last Sunday night.

While, thankfully, there was no mention of any of the men arrested engaging in any inappropriate activity with children, they failed to meet the strict parole regulations that were in place for this special night. Our state's law enforcement should be applauded for taking these extra measures to make sure our kids had a safe environment for their fun night out.

At Bertolino LLP, we are glad to know there is strict enforcement of all laws that work to protect children. We also know that every person who has been accused of a crime is entitled to a strong defense and an assertion of all legal rights. If you have been accused of a sexual offense, or are now facing a jail sentence due to a parole violation based on an earlier conviction, the criminal defense attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Houston Rapper Sentenced for Wire Fraud

What happens to rappers when their lucrative careers in the music industry are either fading or have come to an end altogether? Some go on to produce other artists, others make the transition into acting in movies or on television. And, at least one performer in this genre decided that his new career would be pretending to sell electronics to customers overseas. This last option is not recommended.

Willliam James Dennis, also known as Willie D, was once a part of the Houston rap group called Geto Boys. The group enjoyed their greatest success in the early part of the 1990s and even drew the attention of some politicians who were not fans of their music. But, in recent years, Dennis found it necessary to find another source of income. He got registered as a seller on eBay and marketed electronics to foreign buyers. After his customers would transfer money into his account, the promised merchandise never arrived. Eventually, Dennis would cut off all communication.

Dennis was accused of defrauding 35 people of their money and pleaded guilty to wire fraud in December 2009. He now has been sentenced to one year and one day in federal prison and he is paying restitution.

At Bertolino LLP, we have experienced attorneys who are ready to assist you if you find yourself involved with any of the legal issues at play in this case. If you have been the victim of deceptive trade practices, we can help. If you are a celebrity who requires an attorney who can help with the delicate issues of privacy and public relations, we can help. If your case is a federal one and you want to appeal your sentence, we have attorneys with an extensive background in this area as well. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today if we can be of assistance.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Texas Photographer Sues Over Use of His Image

If you are a resident of Texas, take a moment to look at your vehicle inspection sticker when you get a free moment. Does it have a silhouette of a cowboy on it? If so, you have this item in common with four to five million other Texans. And, collectively, you have garnered the attention of rather unhappy photographer.

David K. Langford is a photographer who is suing the Texas Department of Criminal Justice and the Department of Public Safety for using an image, without his permission, that he created in 1984. The copyrighted photo, entitled "Days End 2," was scanned by an inmate who found the picture in an old copy of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine. Prisoners then used this image as the background for millions of stickers that were issued to Texas drivers in more than a dozen counties.

Langford claims that he has tried to reach state officials multiple times but has not received any response. He says that he would have been more than happy to make a deal for the use of his image but now is forced to take his grievance to court as a last resort.

When you create a piece of art or develop a unique idea, you deserve to be acknowledged and compensated for others' use of your brainchild. At Bertolino LLP, we have experienced attorneys who work in the area of contract law and who can work with you in securing profitable licensing and distribution agreements. If someone has expressed interest in using your work, or if you feel that someone is already using your work without your permission, please contact our offices in Austin, Houston, or San Antonio today and let us help you!

Friday, October 29, 2010

Hoping the Home Ballpark Will Bring Victory for Rangers

Things in the World Series have not gotten off to a particularly strong start for the Texas Rangers. The team is returning to Arlington having played the first two games in San Francisco and coming up short in both of them. Last night's 9-0 defeat was a particularly one-sided event, and baseball fans across the state are perhaps starting to lose some hope in the idea that Texas can claim a world championship this year. (The Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans aren't doing much to lift the emotions of our state's sports fans, either, but that's a different story.)

The Rangers get the chance to host the World Series beginning tomorrow night and we're hoping that the tide turns for our guys. Colby Lewis will be starting for the Rangers and perhaps be the catalyst for a victory in the home ballpark. Former President George W. Bush will be on hand for Sunday night's game to throw out the first pitch. Will he bring luck to a team in which he used to have an active role?

If the Texas Rangers manage to come back from their 0-2 deficit and win the World Series, there may be some players who want their performances rewarded with bigger checks and flashier perks. And, there likely will be new endorsement possibilities with shoe companies, video games, and, of course, cereal boxes. For athletes to know that they are getting the deal they deserve, partnership with a sports attorney is critical.

At Bertolino LLP, we have attorneys in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio with experience in the area of sports law. We can help you negotiate contracts, protect your intellectual property rights, and resolve problems with management and agents.

If you are an athlete and you believe you deserve better treatment than you have been receiving, please contact us today.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Upcoming Election May Bring Changes to Immigration Policy

As the 2010 midterm elections await us next week, there are a variety of issues that have taken center stage over the past few months. Everything from witchcraft to questions regarding masculinity to an "aqua buddha" has garnered the attention of both the media and voters. But, beyond such theatrics, there are many policies of consequence and substance that will be affected by who is sent to Washington, D.C. and to Austin with our ballots on November 2. One topic that has proven to be more emotionally charged than most is the call for immigration reform. What will 2011 bring regarding our borders and the lives of those who have already crossed into our country without the government's approval?

Politicians from across the nation have come to Texas to film campaign commercials. In some instances, a candidate will stand at the border and state the need for a fence, either physical or virtual, to stop immigrants from entering our country illegally. Others will face the cameras while looking around the unforgiving landscape of a border area and decry the way in which our fellow humans are treated in their attempt to find a better life for their families. Voters are left to decide whose use of Texas more closely resembles their own beliefs concerning immigration policy.

The attorneys at Bertolino LLP are strong advocates of immigrants' rights. We have offices in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio ready to assist you with green cards, naturalization, or employment-related issues. We also monitor all of the changing legislation in Washington, D.C. and Austin so that we are best able to represent you with the latest information. If you are in need of some help regarding an immigration issue, please contact us today.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Houston Man Allegedly Bites Police Officer

I am going to begin with the assertion that if you are a man who is beating and threatening your ex-girlfriend, then your ability to make wise decisions concerning your personal behavior is already in grave doubt. When you then bite a police officer when confronted with allegations concerning your physical aggression towards a woman, you are looking at even more problems.

Last night, two Houston police officers responded to a domestic disturbance call by a woman who claimed her ex-boyfriend was assaulting her in her apartment. The man was found sitting in his truck and attempted to drive away when approached by the officers. He stopped his truck after several feet only to be confronted by a third member of Houston's finest. In a moment that will not be recorded as one of the wisest decisions in history, the alleged ex-girlfriend attacker decided to bite the officer's finger. He was quickly met with the force of two tasers and now is being treated at Ben Taub General Hospital before making his inevitable visit to a jail cell.

The man is being charged with aggravated assault against a police officer and making a terroristic threat.

At Bertolino LLP, we certainly do not encourage you to use any force against an arresting officer. Comply with all requests and then make sure you have a lawyer by your side who will defend your rights at the precinct and in the courtroom. We have criminal defense attorneys in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio ready to help you if you are facing charges of violence. No matter your alleged crime, you have constitutional rights afforded to you under the law.

Friday, October 22, 2010

San Antonio Teenager Stabs Suspect in Home Invasion

It is certainly understandable that every person wants to feel safe in his home, and wants to have the right to defend his family when that safety is threatened. There have been quite a few people, not just in Texas but around the country, who have made the decision to break into a stranger's home only to be met by lethal and legally justified force. But, the situation grows more difficult when the confrontation leaves the home. At what point is responsive violence no longer allowed? A death in San Antonio on Thursday morning will soon put that question to the test in a court of law?

A nineteen-year-old resident of the South Side grabbed a pistol and a large knife when two men tried to break into his family's home. The young man fired several shots, causing the two would-be burglars to run outside to their car. One man jumped into the driver's seat and took off, leaving his partner in crime helpless in his attempts to get in through a locked passenger-side door. When the teenager tried to detain the remaining burglar, there was a struggle and the suspect was stabbed in the chest. The suspect later died at the scene.

The teenager contends that the stabbing was necessary after the suspect struggled and tried to grab the gun. While the death probably will not stand up under the "castle defense," which allows home owners to protect their property with force, the young man's attorneys certainly will assert that the stabbing was done out of self-defense.

If you find yourself charged with a serious crime that resulted from your legitimate defense of self, family, or property, the criminal defense attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. We know the importance of keeping the people you love safe. We have offices in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio and are ready to defend your rights in court.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Texas Man Shoves Pieces of a Saw into Beef at Tyson Plant

We all are going to have a bad day at work from time to time. That's inevitable. Perhaps you occasionally mutter an unpleasant thought about your co-worker under your breath during a particularly long and frustrating meeting. Maybe you tell your boss that you have to rush out early for a family emergency when really you just needed to get out of that office. In a worst-case scenario, you might blame your workplace nemesis for an accounting error that may have, in reality, been your fault. I don't imagine that most of you ever consider inserting saw blades into food products as a way of venting your anger at work. But, if you did, you would not be alone.

Twenty-year-old Nwee Lah of Amarillo allegedly broke a saw blade into four pieces and poked the sharp remnants of the tool into beef as he worked on the production line at Tyson Foods. A co-worker saw the dangerous incident take place and reported Lah to management. Perhaps this goes without saying, but Lah is no longer employed with Tyson Foods.

Obviously, Nwee Lah's actions could have had horrible consequences if not noticed by an observant employee, whether that was Lah's intention or not. Consumers have been assured that the incident was an isolated one and there is no need for a recall of any Tyson products.

Unfortunately, it is not uncommon for problems at the workplace to become legal issues. If you have faced personal injury due to the poor decision made by an employee or if your business is facing litigation due to the actions of one of your workers, we can help. Please contact the offices of Bertolino LLP in Austin, Houston, or San Antonio and let's discuss your case today.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Austin Energy May Pass Planned Franchise Fee on to Consumers

With both individual consumers and large businesses facing the consequences of a struggling economy, everyone is looking for new ways to minimize their expenses while keeping the bottom line in their bank accounts as large and substantial as possible. It's only common sense that no one wants to pay more for a product or service than required. And, when people feel that the government is giving them no choice in the amount of money they have to spend every month, tensions may rise.

Neighborhood reaction is just starting to be shared concerning the franchise fee that Austin Energy may start paying to the cities around Austin that it services. It is not uncommon for utility companies to offer some compensation to city governments in return for being the sole energy provider in that area. Of course, it also is not unusual for these companies to cover that additional expense by passing on the cost to the consumers. To cover the $800,000 in expected franchise fees, Austin Energy is considering a three percent surcharge to its customers who live outside of Austin.

This projected change, along with the already planned rate increase for 2012, reignites the debate over government-supervised monopolies of our utilities. Some residents who live in Austin's surrounding communities and who will be affected by these price hikes are frustrated by the fact that they have no voice in Austin's City Council, the governing body that approves any decisions by Austin Energy, and would be in violation of state law if they tried to receive their energy from another company.

What are your thoughts on the planned changes to Austin Energy's fees? If you live in one of the neighborhoods just outside of Austin that is serviced by Austin Energy, what is the overall reaction in your community, if there's been a noticeable one at all?

At Bertolino LLP, we have attorneys in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio who are experienced in both business formation and business litigation. If you are considering some changes to your company's contracts or business procedures, please contact our office and we will guide you through the process in a way that follows all legal provisions and maintains strong relationships with your clients.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Man Connected with Series of Stun Gun Attacks in Austin Arrested

Several people marked part of last weekend in Austin by an encounter with a man engaging in what became known as the "Stun Gun Series" of assaults. The alleged assailant, later identified by witnesses as 25-year-old Anthony Lightner, used a stun gun on his victims during robbery attempts, some more successful than others, over a short period of time early Sunday morning.

After an arrest warrant was issued on Thursday, Lightner was arrested on charges of robbery by assault and is now spending time in a Travis County Jail in lieu of paying $30,000 bail.

Before his connection to the series of stun gun attacks was known, Lightner was briefly detained by police on Sunday afternoon on charges of public intoxication. It has not been revealed if he already was under the influence during the robberies or if if the drinking came later to celebrate the incorrect theory that he had gotten away with his crimes.

Some in Austin are wondering where the many Texans with concealed carry permits were during this series of attacks. Was there anyone who could have stepped up and ended the violence before Lightner reached his third or fourth victims?

What do you think? Is a crime spree such as the one in which Lightner allegedly engaged an argument for more encouragement of law-abiding citizens to carry guns? Or, do you believe such a confrontation would only have made the situation worse?

If you ever find yourself injured by the stunning weapon of choice of someone who is after your money and belongings, the personal injury attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Texting Ban Begins This Friday in San Antonio

There is not much dispute to the evidence that texting while driving a car is a dangerous activity. Statistics show that drivers are twenty-three times more likely to be in an accident when texting than those who are not distracted by the urgent need to send a message to a friend while moving down the highway. This is a significantly larger risk than getting behind the wheel of a car after having several beers (although this practice certainly isn't recommended, either).

Despite the obvious danger, though, twenty-five percent of the United States population has admitted to typing and sending a text message while driving. This percentage doubles when just looking at teenage drivers.

In response to this dangerous practice, thirty states have passed laws regarding texting while driving. Many cities also have adopted their own ordinances to try to discourage texting until your car has come to a full and complete stop. San Antonio is one of the most recent locations to join this cause.

Today, the San Antonio police announced that beginning on Friday there will be a probationary period concerning texting while driving. For the next ninety days, drivers will receive a warning citation. After this grace period, drivers will face a possible fine of $200 per violation. So, put down those cell phones and keep all motorists, and your money, safe by waiting until your trip is over to send that text message.

While texting in and of itself may not land you in front of a judge, the damages to other drivers and their cars that may result certainly could result in criminal charges. If you find yourself in need of legal representation, please contact the law offices in Bertolino LLP in Austin, Houston, or San Antonio.

What is your opinion of the new law prohibiting texting while driving? Will it be effective in lessening the frequency of this common action?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Texas Considers New Anti-Bullying Laws

In the wake of a startling number of suicides that seem to be the direct result of bullying in our schools, many state and local governments are looking at how this sad trend is being addressed in their communities. Unfortunately, Texas is no different than other states in having to face this dangerous situation.

Last month, eighth-grader Asher Brown of Hamilton Middle School in the Cypress-Fairbanks Independent School District of Houston shot himself in the head following incessant bullying from his classmates. This tragedy has led to several of our state legislators introducing legislation in Austin that has failed to garner enough support in previous years.

Rep. Garnet Coleman of Houston says he plans to introduce a bill that will require training of school employees on preventing and responding to bullying. Rep. Mark Strama of Austin will bring back a bill he first put forth in 2009 that would require schools to report data on all incidents of bullying.

The nonprofit group Bully Police is not too impressed with the current efforts of Texas to end bullying, noting that we have no state law that defines bullying, assigns counselors to victims of bullying, or requires schools to report incidents. Perhaps now is the right time to make the changes that will improve our work in these areas.

We want to hear your opinion on the current state of bullying in our schools. Should the government be responsible for creating laws that hopefully will curb such taunting? Are there other factors in our homes or our culture that are contributing to the heightened problem of bullying that perhaps cannot be improved with such laws? If you are a parent of a school-aged child, how is the problem of bullying being addressed by teachers and administrators?

Friday, October 8, 2010

Former Houston Rockets Star Arrested at LAX

If you travel on an airplane with any regularity, you likely have seen someone try to board a flight whose level of sobriety was rather questionable. Two-hour delays due to storms and a convenient bar in the terminal do not always make for a good combination. And, as news from the Los Angeles International Airport this week demonstrates, fame and athleticism cannot mask your decision to drink too much before embarking on airborne public transportation.

Former Houston Rockets star Steve Francis was arrested late Thursday night at LAX for public drunkenness. Authorities say he was intoxicated, unable to care for himself, and combative towards the staff at the airport. Francis, who was an All-Star for three straight years with the Rockets but was waived last year by Memphis, will appear in court early next month to face his charges.

Francis was known as "Stevie Franchise" for the amazing contributions he made to the Houston Rockets team and also made a great impact during his single season playing high-profile college ball with the University of Maryland. Everyone certainly hopes that he learns his lesson from this incident and still has many productive days in basketball in front of him, as Francis has indicated that he still has an interest in playing.

If you are a professional athlete who is in need of legal representation, whether for contract negotiations or alleged criminal activity, Bertolino LLP has attorneys who specialize in the area of sports and celebrity law who are ready to help you. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today!