Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Dog Scent Evidence Not Admissible in Texas Courtroom

Dogs are used by members of law enforcement to complete searches of student lockers and cars when illegal drugs are suspected on a high school campus. If provided with a piece of clothing, search dogs can track the scent in hopes of discovering a missing child. When a convicted felon manages to escape from prison, the warden often places his hope on the ability of his search dogs to discover his charge's hideout. These takes are all important, to be sure, but apparently not accurate enough in their effectiveness to hold up in a Texas courtroom.

Judge Clifford Vacek decided this week that dog scent evidence is not yet advanced enough to hold up in court. This decision stemmed from a case involving Houston man Rodolfo Dominguez, who was charged with murdering a Fort Bend couple in April 2008. Several items taken from the home at which these crimes were committed were matched to Domiguez in a scent lineup. Judge Vacek determined that since there was no way to verify the results or repeat the tests, the evidence was not reliable enough to use as evidence in a capital murder case. Perhaps further developments in the field will make scent identification an accepted piece of evidence in our near future.

At BERTOLINO LLP, our dedicated criminal defense attorneys will work diligently to gather every piece of evidence that could be used in your favor if you have been accused of a crime. You deserve your day in court with a legal representative by your side who explored all possible avenues in arguing your innocence. If you are need of a defense attorney, please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today. Please let us know if we can be of assistance in a Texas Courtroom.

Should the judge have admitted this kind of evidence in court? What are your thoughts on this case?


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Should Texas Follow Arizona's Lead in Immigration Law?

This past Saturday afternoon, my wife and I watched democracy in action as an immigration rally convened at the steps of our Capital building in Austin, Texas. We watched in awe as the protesters began slowly marching down Congress Avenue with banners and chants. Undoubtedly, this anti-immigration law rally in Austin was inspired by the new immigration law that was passed and quickly signed by Arizona's governor, Jan Brewer. According to this law, members of Arizona's law enforcement will now be required to confirm a person's immigrant status if there is reason to believe he or she is in the country illegally. Before this law was in place, police officers could only check the immigration status of people when they already were suspected in another crime.

Immediately, questions were raised concerning the intentions of the law and how exactly police officers would go about determining whether or not there is a legitimate reason to question someone's status in our country. In fact, as Attorney General Eric Holder shared earlier today, the Obama administration is considering a court challenge of the law at the federal level. Also, some states are considering a boycott of Arizona's professional sports offerings, business contracts, and tourist spots.

As another border state, Texas also grapples with how to legislate the difficult issue of illegal immigration on a regular basis. At BERTOLINO LLP, we have immigration law attorneys to help you navigate through the rules established at both the state and federal level. If you need assistance with your immigration paperwork, if you are an employer wanting to make sure that you are complying with the law, or if you are ready to apply for citizenship, we can help. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

What do you think of the new law in Arizona? Is this a measure that you would like to see replicated in Texas? Or, do you agree with its critics who say it is nothing more than racial profiling and detrimental to the broader efforts of immigration reform?

Monday, May 3, 2010

Brazilian Judge Orders Return of Son to Houston Man


Divorce is always an emotional and difficult experience that changes the course a family's life, even if husband and wife both agree that the split is the best option, which it is often not. Frankly, my law firm and I encourage marriage counseling.

And when children are involved in the middle of a divorce, the feelings are more intense and there are even more delicate issues to consider. The trauma surrounding divorce takes on more weight still when one spouse disappears with a child either as a pawn in a legal game or to bring intentional hurt to the other parent. One Houston man, whose estranged wife disappeared to her homeland of Brazil with their young boy, was to be reunited with his son last week.

Kelvin Birotte has not seen his four-year-old son since 2007 and that was within the context of a court hearing. The mother of the boy, Hilma Aparecida Caldeira, took him to visit relatives in Brazil in 2006 and never returned. She remained in her home country and proceeded to file for divorce. A judge in Brazil ordered that Caldeira return their preschooler to Birotte no later than Thursday of last week. As no direct communication has occurred between the two parents, only time will tell if Ms. Caldeira will comply. Given her quick appeal to the custody order, some question whether or not she will follow the order of the court.

Of course, most child custody cases do not involve trips across international borders. But even when two parents live five blocks away from one another, arguments develop over time spent with the children once a marriage dissolves. You need an experienced family law attorney on your side who is sensitive to the issues that are specific to divorce and custody cases. Bertolino LLP has family law attorneys in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio who will work with the best interest of your family, and especially your children, in mind. If you find yourself facing the hard reality of divorce, please contact our office today.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Texas Supreme Court to Hear Arguments about Commuting and the Home Office

There is one question that attorneys, juries, judges, and insurance companies have been trying to answer conclusively for the past six years -- should it be considered "commuting" to your office if your office also happens to be your home? Liana Leordeanu and her legal team argue that a commute is just that even if the final work destination also includes your kitchen and bedroom. Now, we will find out if the members of the Texas Supreme Court agree.

Leordeanu was heading home to her apartment after a long day of meeting with clients as part of her career as a traveling salesperson for a pharmaceutical company called Schering-Plough Corp. when she was in a single-car accident that left her in a coma for three months and in need of twenty-six surgeries to rebuild her face and repair her skull.

As she moved forward with her lengthy recovery, Leordeanu was surprised to learn that her insurance company, American Protection Insurance, Co., denied her claim for compensation. The company provided two reasons for their decision. First, workers' compensation usually does not cover commuters on their ride to and from work. Second, Texas offers a limited amount of workers' compensation for travels that are considered "dual-purpose" trips.

Leordeanu's attorneys are countering that traveling salespeople who are in their cars all day long for work should not be equated with regular commuters in terms of risk for accident and injury. Also, every leg of her journey that day involved a business component and she should not be punished simply because she has the flexibility of her office also being her place of residence.

A Travis County jury found in favor of Ms. Lerodeanu, but the verdict was overturned by the Texas 3rd Court of Appeals in Austin. The case now will be heard before the Texas Supreme Court.

What do you think about this case? If a worker is driving home at the end of a work day, and that home also houses her office, should this travel be considered for business purposes? Is Ms. Leordeanu due some compensation because she was only on the road to fulfill her professional responsibilities? Let us know your opinion!