Monday, October 31, 2011

Every Marriage Comes with Challenges

Earlier this month, I published a blog post about the unique issues that are often at play when celebrities go through a divorce. There are public relations and privacy considerations that are not usually part of the discussion when two people who aren't in the national spotlight decide to end their marriage. But, I also mentioned that, at the core of this life-changing event, the emotions that are experienced are the same whether or not your split is broadcast on the cover of every tabloid magazine.

Today brings the news of yet another celebrity divorce. Reality star Kim Kardashian filed papers to end her marriage to NBA player Kris Humphries, citing irreconcilable differences. While celebrities seem to carry a reputation for marriages that don't last particularly long, this one reached its breaking point after only 72 days. So, we need to remember that it's not only high-profile divorces that have their own special set of circumstances, but the marriages themselves have challenges from the moment that the couple says, "I do."

Kris Humphries and Kim Kardashian entered into a union that was destined to be documented for public consumption, and they certainly aren't the first to make their marriage an affair for broadcast viewing. Gossip columnists speculated for months that Jessica Simpson and Nick Lachey had a marriage that was destined to fail once they decided to put their first year together on TV. Others have wondered if Kate and Jon Gosselin would still be married with their brood of eight kids if the trappings of celebrity hadn't taken over their lives.

Without a doubt, the fishbowl in which celebrities live adds stress to a marriage. But, so does the pressure to pay a stack of monthly bills, raising children, aging parents who require time and energy, and an endless list of other issues that every couple across America must face at some point. Marriage takes work no matter what.

If you have put the work into your marriage and you see no way that it can last, the family law attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. We can guide you through the sensitive and difficult issues that comes with the splitting of a family. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Holidays Can Be Tough for Those Separated from Grandkids

Even though it's only October, the reality is the holiday season is right around the corner. Just check out any department store or watch the ads on TV and you will see that retailers can't wait for you to start your Christmas shopping! In addition to standing in long lines at Walmart the day after Thanksgiving and eating excessive amounts of pie, the time of Thanksgiving through New Years is also marked by time with family. People travel great distances to see their grandchildren open their presents. That look of joy is something no Papa or Granny wants to miss. But when there is divorce or other complicating factors in a family, grandparents may be left without those moments.

When parents of a young child decide to separate, what rights do grandparents have if their son or daughter doesn't have custody? It is not often the top priority of a mother to keep a strong relationship with her former in-laws, especially if she eventually remarries.

What if your son normally sees his daughter every other weekend but he has just left for a year deployment on the other side of the world? Will you have to go that long without seeing your grandbaby?

Or, what if your son is the father of a child with whom, sadly, he desires no relationship. Do you have any rights to develop your new connection with a grandchild you truly want to love and support?

To be honest, grandparents can face a lot of challenges when seeking time with their grandchildren. The courts are going to take the opinion of the custodial parent as to what is in the best interest of the child quite seriously. You cannot assume that shared DNA gives you the right to visitation with your son or daughter's children. But, that certainly doesn't mean you shouldn't try, and the right legal representation goes a long way in getting you the result you desire.

At Bertolino LLP, we have experienced family law attorneys who can work with grandparents to get them time with the precious children in their lives. We will help you demonstrate the important role you play in your grandchildren's development and sense of comfort and how valuable you are to their overall support system. We will fight to get you that time and that relationship that you desire. If you are a grandparent who is struggling to obtain rights to your grandkids, contact us today. We can help.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Neighbors of Texas Man Receive Nude Photos of Him from Former Lover

It appears that a sequel to Fatal Attraction could be filmed right here in Texas. As if there weren't already enough reasons never to cheat on your spouse, the threat of having ill-advised nude photos you had taken with your lover come back to haunt you can be added to that list.

A woman who apparently had an affair with a married Pasadena man decided to get back at him by mailing naked photographs for which he appears to have posed willingly at some point to his wife and neighbors. And, she added to the shocking delivery by writing vulgar suggestions on the back of each photo. When contacted by authorities, the man in the photos, who (not surprisingly) wishes to remain anonymous, admitted that he was the subject of his former lover's photographic creations.

In addition to using the postal service to get back at the man for ending their affair, she also called his employer with accusations that resulted in him getting fired.

The woman committed no crime in sending the naked pictures, so there will be no charges filed in the incident. The man, who has reconciled with his wife, has said that he may sue his ex-girlfriend for what she has done.

News reports indicate that the woman has agreed to stop sending the naked pictures in her collection. However, if her intrusive behavior had continued, or particularly if it had become threatening, the man may have had grounds to file a restraining order protecting his family from unwanted communication from her. And, while it is great that the spouses were able to work through the damage that is done to a marriage when one person engages in an affair, there are instances in which the relationship cannot recover and a divorce is sought.

The family law attorneys at Bertolino LLP are available to protect your family or help it come through to the other side of a painful transition. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio and let's see how we can help.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Military Families Struggle with Readjustment on Home Front

President Barack Obama announced last week that all American forces currently deployed to Iraq will be home by the end of the year. This news was roundly welcomed by families across the United States who worry about their soldiers serving overseas every day. Here in Texas, our military bases are home to thousands of parents, spouses, and children of our armed forces who are ready to welcome their loved ones back to the Lone Star State with open arms. They all deserve the hero's welcome they they undoubtedly will receive.

Psychologists in the military are more educated and trained than ever about the difficulties that are men and women in uniform face when they return from deployment. After spending months or even more than a year in the middle of a warzone, the transition back to family life and the comforts of home is not often an easy one. Unfortunately, the prolonged separation and then the emotions of returning home can put intense strain on a marriage. While the rate of divorce is in line with the general population, it has been rising within military families over the past several years. And, women in the military have a divorce rate that is more than double of their male counterparts!

While we certainly do not want to see any marriage end in divorce, sometimes this difficult decision must be made. For the members of our military, we know that this often comes with special considerations such as how to care for the children during deployments, moving to a new base, service benefits, and more. The family law attorneys at Bertolino LLP have experiencing working with our men and women in uniform through this trying process. We are ready to help you with the sensitive and highly personal decisions that must be made. If you are in the military and you are facing a divorce, please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today for help.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Teen Charged with Animal Cruelty Ordered Out of Home

You never really know what is going on inside people's homes. We're often taken by surprise when we learn the seemingly ideal couple down the street is getting a divorce or the star athlete gets kicked out of school. Each family situation is unique and deserves to be treated as much. There is no solution that is going to fit every home.

For instance, there is the sad story of a juvenile in San Antonio who was ordered by a judge to be removed from his house today. The fifteen-year-old boy is serving probation on a cruelty to animals charge after setting fire to a neighborhood cat that eventually had to be euthanized despite the best efforts of veterinarians.

The defense attorney had argued for the boy to remain in the custody of his father, who is a recovering heroin addict, but State District Court Judge Carmen Kelsey decided that the boy needed a more stable environment. This is a case in which the law intervened and separated members of a family for the benefit of the child. I certainly hope that this young man who is showing dangerous signs of violence is able to get the help he needs in his new surroundings.

Family law attorneys are in the middle of such difficult dilemmas every day. With whom should a child live? What is the best arrangement in terms of vacations and proximity to schools and shared time with extended family members? And, at one point is one home so dangerous, or at the very least not nurturing, that a compelled change is warranted?

If you are struggling with the family dynamics inside your home and you believe your children may be heading for a negative outcome as a result, then please contact an experienced family law attorney at Bertolino LLP. We can walk with you through your legal options and help you move forward with a concrete plan for your family.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Elderly Also Need Family Law

What do you think of when you hear the term "family law"? For many people, the phrase actually brings to mind the breaking up of a family with the process of divorce. For others, maybe the legal process of adoption or paternity issues are what they associate with this type of legal practice. And, yes, those are all important circumstances that family law attorneys handle on a regular basis. There is also the growing litigation, though, surrounding elder care.

With people in our country living longer than ever before, there is an increasing need for caregivers who will be ready to provide possible 24/7 attention to our parents and grandparents in the last years of their lives. Unfortunately, how this care will be provided often becomes a source of contention among family members. Will one son or daughter be primarily responsible for in-home care? If not, where will the matriarch of the family go and who will pay for it? Is it going to be necessary for someone to take over as legal guardian or assume power of attorney?

These difficult questions can be made easier with an experienced family law attorney involved in the conversation. At Bertolino LLP, we are ready to negotiate the details of elder care with the sensitivity and attention to relational attachments that is required in such instances. If you are facing the likelihood of caring for a parent or other family member who is no longer able to live independently and there is not total agreement on how this transition will occur, please contact our offices in Austin, Houston, or San Antonio and let's discuss your situation.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Celebrity Couples Face the Same Pain in Divorce

It seems like not a week goes by without another high-profile celebrity divorce making headlines in tabloid magazines, on entertainment television shows, and even the nightly news. Right now, the rumors are swirling about the state of Ashton Kutcher and Demi Moore's marriage, without any direct statement even being made by either participant in the union. Over the summer, everyone was wondering about what happened to the relationship between Jennifer Lopez and Mark Anthony. When you stand in the grocery line next week, I'm sure another troubled couple will be gracing the covers on the racks along the checkout.

Sometimes we all need to stop for a minute and realize that these famous men and women are dealing with the same grief and frustration as the husband and wife who live down the street from us and are going through divorce in anonymity. They are facing the reality of splitting holidays with their children, moving out of their homes, and coping with the loss of the dream they had for their families. And, it is often difficult for them to cry or seek solace from a friend without the world taking notice.

In Texas, we have our share of celebrities who have been through this difficult transition in life, from professional athletes to successful businessmen to musicians and many others. At Bertolino LLP, we have family law attorneys who specialize in the added discretion that is needed during a celebrity divorce. You can expect a commitment to privacy and confidentiality when you walk into one of our offices. If you are a well-known Texan and you find yourself going through the difficult reality of a separation or divorce, please contact us and give us the opportunity to help you.

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Houston Hand Surgeon Back in Family Court Last Week

A high profile divorce case in Texas was back in the spotlight this week past week when hand surgeon Michael Brown appeared in court at the Harris County Family Law Center. He was attempting to end an protective order put in place by his fourth wife, Rachel Brown, and this effort is only piece of a complicated divorce situation.

Mr. Brown is well-known across the state for his Brown Hand Center that boasts locations across the country, at which he specializes in helping those who are struggling with carpal tunnel syndrome, and the television commercials that went with it. This fact, coupled with his previous plea of no contest for assaulting his third wife and the loss of his medical license in 2006 for cocaine use, had made his most recent divorce a media sensation.

Brown was arrested last year for allegedly pinning his wife's arm behind her back and throwing vases and his humanitarian award at her. Since that time and the awarding of the protective order, he has not permitted any contact with Rachel or their children, who had appeared with him in a "family man" commercial for his hand center. Both the fight to remove the protective order and the divorce proceedings are still pending, but he was found not guilty of the domestic abuse charges last month.

Divorces are always difficult and when emotions are high, they can also be dangerous. It is sad whenever a relationship between spouses become violent, particularly when children witness the fighting. At Bertolino LLP, we have experienced attorneys who are ready to handle the sensitive issues that often come into play as a marriage comes to an end. We will work with you to make sure that the settlement you reach is the best for you and any children who are involved, and be your advocate if you need protection from threats or actual violence.

Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio if you find yourself in need of a family law attorney to help you through a difficult transition in your life.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

San Antonio Man Pleads Guilty to Child Porn Charges

We are all rightfully disturbed when we read or see a story about a child being harmed in any way. These most innocent members of our society deserve a sense of love and safety from their families and the most possible protection that can be afforded to them by our government and its officials. While we are all entitled to equal protection under the law, we know that some extra care is needed for those who are least able to defend themselves. In San Antonio, one man who harmed children has been brought to justice and admitted to his crimes.

Matthew Phillip Lehr pleaded guilty today after the FBI found more than 100,000 images of child pornography on his computer. Lehr worked as a security guard at a local hotel and resort and took advantage of their wireless network to access the photographs. He has been charged with accessing networks in order to obtain child pornography and he faces up to twenty years in prison if convicted.

Upon his arrest in July, Lehr also admitted to performing a sex act on a 14-year-old, but he has not been charged for that crime.

While the origin of the photographs seized in this particular case is not known, the sad truth is that there is sometimes a family member or another trusted adult who is either a willing participant in the activity or negligent in making sure a child is protected from such a horrible violation. In these instances, the law can work to protect the children from those in their lives who are harming them.

If you have any questions about the protections that kids have under both Texas and federal law, or need to discuss a concern you have about a child in your life, please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio. We have family law attorneys ready to help make sure that all children in our state are in safe and loving homes.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Houston Woman Charged with Stalking Ex-Boyfriend

Break ups can be difficult. Countless songs have been written about love gone wrong and you can find shelves in your local book store dedicated to helping people through the end of a relationship. The famous adage "time heals all wounds" holds true in most instances, but there are some people who struggle to move past the grief. One woman in Houston is now facing charges for how she handled the loss of a boyfriend.

Toni Jo Silvey has been charged with felony stalking for calling her ex-boyfriend 1001 times over the span of three months, including 146 times in one 24-hour period. She also sent him 712 emails over the same period of time and even created a blog to detail their relationship and the actions she was taking against him. That's not all. She also apparently hacked into his email account and posted communication between the man, Peter Main, and another woman and shattered his windows with a sword.

At this time, Silvey remains in a Harris County Jail with her bail set at $25,000. This comes after multiple warnings from authorities that she could be arrested for her behavior, which she chose to ignore.

While Ms. Silvey's behavior was certainly destructive and she deserves to face consequences for the choices she has made, there are other instances in which the end of a relationship can place a person in serious physical danger. Scorned lovers can become violent and a protective order may be needed. If you have broken off a relationship and are now facing threats, please contact a family law attorney at Bertolino LLP and let us help you get the protection you need and deserve.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Texas Woman Sentenced to Probation for Underage Drinking in Her Home

If you are the parent of a child who has not yet reached the age of twenty-one and that child asks you to make alcohol accessible in your home for his friends, the answer always needs to be "Absolutely not!" Your decision to offer your kids alcohol or, at the very least, leave it somewhere that they can drink it without your knowledge, can result in legal consequences and, even worse, human tragedy. Just ask Hutto, Texas resident Donna Crites.

Crites was arrested last year after her son and some of his underage friends made Jell-O shots in her home and then one of the consumers of the shots, who was only nineteen, drove his car into a utility pole and three of the five passengers in the car were ejected. Several of the young men and women suffered brain damage, one is partially blind, and another endured multiple fractures.

While the underage drinkers testified that Crites directly handed the alcohol to them, she maintains that she did not actively take part in the drinking preparation but did leave rum available in an accessible location. She was sentenced to three years' probation and must pay restitution to the accident victims. She also will serve three days in jail, followed by two additional days on the anniversary of the crash for the next two years.

What do you think is the responsibility of the parent in such situations? If she is truthful in insisting she just left the alcohol where her son could find it, does that mean that parents should not have alcohol in the house at all when minors are present? Or, does there just need to be more discretion in how the alcohol is handled?

If you are facing criminal charges, from a misdemeanor to the most serious of felonies, the criminal defense attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. Every person, regardless of the crimes for which he or she is being accused, deserves thorough and aggressive representation. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Texas Rep. Ron Paul Announces Exploratory Committee

As we all know, presidential campaigns seem to grow longer with every election cycle. In fact, it's surprising that at least one candidate did not announce his exploratory committee while standing on one of the floats at President Obama's inaugural parade. While no Democrat has stood up and declared a desire to challenge the sitting president, there have been several Republicans who have taken the initial steps necessary to participate in debates and, of course, raise money. We now have a Texan included in that group.

Representative Ron Paul, who has run for president twice before (as a Libertarian in 1988 and as a Republican three years ago), announced this week that he has formed an exploratory committee for a possible run in 2012. This means he will be taking part in the first Republican debate, scheduled for May 5, along with several other men who have publicly stated their interest in a run.

Paul is the oldest potential candidate at this point for that coveted seat in the Oval Office, being seventy-five years of age, but he comes with a galvanized group of supporters and name recognition that has heightened since his last effort. Time will tell if his exploring leads to the decision to enter the race as a declared candidate.

What are your thoughts on Rep. Ron Paul's third try at the presidency? Does he have a message that you believe will resonate with voters?

At Bertolino LLP, we have election law attorneys who are experienced in areas of voting rights, campaign and election laws, and election challenges. If you are a member of Rep. Paul's team, or any other person considering a run for office, and you need legal representation to ensure that all of your rights leading up and on election day are protected, we can help. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today and let's discuss strategy.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Transgender Marriages May No Longer Be Legal in Texas

The fight over the legality of gay marriage is one that continues to be fiercely debated in state houses around the country, and it is unlikely that this issue will cease to be a hot topic in elections at any point in the near future. Meanwhile, though, there is another community fighting for their right to be married in the state of Texas.

Texas passed legislation two years ago that included an amendment allowing transgendered men and women to use proof of their sex change as documentation for approval of a marriage certificate. With the sex of one partner effectively changed through surgery, the marriage would be considered one between a heterosexual couple. However, Republican lawmakers now want to remove that provision, stating that the Texas Constitution defines marriage as being between one man and one woman and a person's gender is determined at birth.

The sponsors of the legislation are using a 1999 ruling by a state appeals court, which stated that, when concerning marriage, gender identification cannot be changed. Also, they assert that the provision allowing someone who has had a sex change to marry was quietly tucked a large piece of legislation and Governor Rick Perry never intended to sign such a idea into law.

What are your thoughts on the rights of those who have completed the sex change process being allowed to marry? Should Texas keep this law on the books, in line with most other states in the country? Or, are the legislators on the right track in their attempts to repeal the law?

At Bertolino LLP, we have experienced family law attorneys who are ready to guide you through all of the difficult issues that can arise concerning marriage, parenting, divorce, and other emotional situations. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today and let's discuss how we can help you.

Friday, April 22, 2011

James Franco to Study in Houston

Texas is already home to a wonderful variety of artists, musicians, athletes, and other celebrities Linkwho share their talents with our state and the rest of the world. Now, it appears that Houston will be rolling out the welcome mat for yet another high-profile resident next year. Oscar nominee James Franco will be joining the University of Houston's doctoral program for creative writing in fall 2012.

Originally accepted to start this year, Franco has asked to defer his studies until next fall and gained his admittance to the program based on his writing samples, letters of recommendations, and a personal statement. I have no doubt that his diverse portfolio of achievements--ranging from co-host of the Academy Awards to a role on a daytime soap opera--made for some interesting reading material to the academics who reviewed his application.

The University of Houston boasts a very selective creative writing graduate department, accepting only 20 applicants from the approximately 400 who apply every year. So, we will see if the inspiration provided from his fellow outstanding classmates and the amazing city in which he will be living will lead to some great writing material.

We hope that Mr. Franco enjoys his time here in Houston without any problems or difficulties. However, if he encounters any legal issues while enjoying his time in our state, the celebrity law attorneys at Bertolino LLP will be ready to help. We are experienced in working with high-profile clients and will provide the discretion and diligent representation that will keep their reputation and career intact. We welcome James Franco or any other celebrity to contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office at any time.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Texas Legislators Look to Limit Junk Food

It is difficult to argue against the fact that we have an obesity problem in the United States, and particularly so in Texas. Nearly thirty percent of our state's population is considered obese and that number is expected to climb by nearly fifteen percent over the the next three decades. What is more difficult to determine, however, is the role that the state government should play in addressing the problem. Some legislators in the Texas House believe that one step to take is limiting the unhealthy foods that can be purchased with food stamps.

There are several bills before Texas legislators right now that focus on what can be bought with government assistance. One bill wants to stop the purchase of chips, candy, cookies, and sweetened beverages with food stamps. Another wants to restrict foods that are high in fat, salt, sugar, and refined grains. And, still other bills call on the federal government to ban certain foods from food stamp receipts across the country.

Those who favor such measures believe that something must be done to curb the obesity epidemic that shortens the lives of many Texans and leads to billions of dollars spent on medical bills and lost on diminished worker productivity. Opponents argue that the bills unfairly target the poorer members of our state who are simply trying to stretch their money enough to get food on the table for the entire month.

What do you think? Should the government play a role in deciding the groceries that people can purchase, particularly with food stamps?

If you feel like you have faced discrimination or unfair legal hurdles based on your race, gender, age, or even income level, the attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. This includes any hindrance you may face in providing for your family. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Texas Lawmakers Consider Bill That Would Expand their Gun Rights

Some people get really emotional about the more controversial bills that are debated in the halls of the Texas State Capitol. While protests and strongly worded letters usually provide the needed outlet to express one's disappointment with a particular vote or the lack of attention a certain policy is receiving, some of our elected officials seem to worry that political anger may be taken to a more violent level.

Several senators, representing both major political parties, have proposed legislation that would allow state officials and lawmakers to carry weapons into places that serve alcohol, sporting events, churches, and hospitals. Currently, only judges and prosecutors are exempt from the ban that is in place at these locations.

The bill was crafted, in part, as a response to the shooting of Arizona Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, who was attacked by an emotionally disturbed young man who critically wounded her and killed several others. Supporters of the bill argue that lawmakers are regularly put in vulnerable positions like the one in which Giffords found herself and more protective measures must be taken.

Some who oppose the bill do so because they believe the Second Amendment should apply equally to all citizens, not just those in the public spotlight. Others simply don't like the idea of anyone walking around with a gun at all times.

The Senate Criminal Justice Committee has already approved the measure and it now waits to be reviewed by the full senate.

What is your opinion on extending carry rights to our elected officials? Should this same right be given to all Texans or should guns be kept out of certain places altogether?

If you are accused of a crime involving a gun that you were not allowed to carry, the criminal defense attorneys at Bertolino LLP. We will work diligently to defend your rights every step of the way. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Speed Limit to Increase on Texas Highways

Have you ever driven on a highway in Texas and wished that you could get to your destination just a little faster without the worry of being stopped by a police officer for speeding? Well, the Texas House voted unanimously today to make that possible for you.

Assuming HB 1353 carries through the Senate with equal ease, which it is expected to do, the speed limit on major state highways would be raised from 70 mph to 75 mph on September 1. The bill also would remove the current requirement for motorists to lower their speed by five miles per hour after dark. Texas is the only state in the country that has a different speed limit after the sun goes down.

Supporters of the measure argue that the increased speed limit has proven safe in several other expansive states and that Texas highways will be made more efficient with the ability to move at a faster pace. Those who oppose the change, though, assert that any increase in speed leads to more of a chance for collisions and that those collisions will be severe. Also, they believe that even the best headlights and street lamps cannot fully compensate for the diminished visibility that comes after dark.

Texas already has an 80 mph speed limit on some rural highways, particularly in the western part of the state, and last week the House approved raising that limit to 85 mph on certain roads that were certified by engineers to handle the speed.

What do you think about the likely change to our speed limit come this fall? Will this improve movement on our highways or lead to more tragic accidents?

If you have found yourself in trouble with the law for your actions behind the wheel of a car, the criminal defense attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. Please contact our offices in Austin, Houston, or San Antonio today and let's discuss your case.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Texas State Legislators Unanimous for Property Rights

If you like where you live and you don't want someone telling you that you must move in order for a new store to be built or so that the government can use your property to make money, you can thank your legislators in the Texas state legislature for taking further steps to protect your beloved home. Today, the Texas House voted unanimously in favor of property rights, the same vote of confidence that was given earlier by the State Senate.

The eminent domain bill would ban any governmental entity or private organization from taking private property unless it was intended for public use. The government also would have to pay relocation expenses for those landowners who were forced to move and make a good faith effort to purchase the land from its private owner before condemning the property and taking ownership of it that way.

The bill now returns to the Senate in order for that body to review and vote on some changes made by the House. Once approved by both chambers, the bill is expected to be signed by Governor Rick Perry.

At Bertolino LLP, we have attorneys who are experienced in the area of eminent domain and are ready to help you if your home is being threatened. If you believe that you are being asked to vacate your property without justification or that you are not being sufficiently compensated for such a move, we can help. And, we certainly will be following this bill as it proceeds through the final stages of becoming law so that we are ready to represent you under the new guidelines. Please contact our Austin, Houston, and San Antonio office today to discuss your case.

Monday, April 11, 2011

"Sanctuary Cities" Bill Divides the Texas House

If the Texas legislature is in session, you can be sure that controversial measures regarding immigration law are being discussed. From border enforcement to fining employers who knowingly hire people here illegally to the education of children who have come across the border with their parents, this topic always raises emotions and voices. The "sanctuary cities" bill that is up for a vote and likely will pass with ease along party lines is no exception.

This bill, HB 12, would prohibit local cities, counties, and other governmental entities from passing laws that would deny a member of law enforcement from asking someone who has been lawfully detained or arrested about their immigration status. If passed into law, this bill also would prevent local authorities from interfering with investigations by federal immigration officers while at municipal or county jails.

This measure would not go as far as the Arizona that made international headlines and caused months of heated protest as it would not mandate the questioning of one's immigration status, but just make it possible to do so without interference from elected officials at the local level.

While there are no costs associated with the bill at the state level, many opponents have raised the concern that the law would cost individual cities millions of dollars in additional jail space and staffing needs.

The bill has made it out of the State Affairs Committee and now will face its test on the House floor.

What do you think of HB 12 and the effort to allow police officers the discretion immigration status? Is this a step in right direction concerning immigration policy or a bad bill?

At Bertolino LLP, our immigration law attorneys follows all of these stories closely and know the latest in immigration policy at the local, state, and federal level. If you are need of assistance concerning an immigration matter, please contact our offices in Austin, Houston, or San Antonio today and let's discuss how we can help.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Texas House Passes Texting While Driving Ban

If you just can't wait until you have finished driving home from work to send a text message to your girlfriend about dinner plans for that night, Texas legislators want to make sure that you face a consequence for making such a poor decision. With the commonly understand conclusion that texting while driving is more dangerous than getting behind the wheel after drinking, the Texas House approved a bill yesterday that would make the act illegal throughout the state. If also passed in the State Senate, Texas would join thirty other states that have already banned the practice.

The bill, HB 243, would still allow drivers to read messages while operating their moving vehicle and the sending of texts would be permissible as long as the car is stopped at traffic lights or stop signs. Those drivers found in violation of the law when it goes into effect on September 1 would face a misdemeanor charge and a fine of up to $200.

The bill passed in the House with a overwhelming vote of 124-16, with most lawmakers arguing that texting is a lethal threat on our state's roads and there must be some effort to curb the reckless behavior. The small group that opposed the bill stated that they did not like the idea of government banning certain driver distractions while other dangerous practices, such as eating food behind the wheel, still occur every day. Also, they argued that the law will be difficult to enforce.

What do you think of a statewide texting while driving ban? Is this a needed step? Will officers be able to enforce the law?

At Bertolino LLP, our criminal defense lawyers keep up with all of the latest news coming out of Austin so that we are best able to represent you and protect your rights. From a misdemeanor to the most serious of felonies, we can help. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Texas Man Receives Stay of Execution for Second Time

Texas is the state that leads the nation in the number of executions it carries out every year, a status for which it is both admired and condemned, depending on one's opinion of the death penalty. However, the United States Supreme Court has agreed to consider arguments against a Fort Worth's man execution in a case that could lead to revisiting the status of many other men and women on death row.

The execution of Cleve Foster, who was convicted of a rape and murder that took place in 2002, was delayed just hours before he was set to die when the Court decided to review evidence that Foster's attorneys in both his original trial and during the appeals process failed to provide adequate representation. This is the second time that the U.S. Supreme Court has issued such a stay, the first one taking place just minutes before Foster's scheduled execution in January .

At the same time, the Texas Supreme Court is reviewing a motion by Foster's attorneys concerning the drugs that are used in the three-drug cocktail used to put prisoners to death. In particular, they are concerned with the newly included pentobarbital, a drug that is typically used in euthanasia for animals. If our state's Supreme Court agrees with the protests raised against this drug, the ruling will impact many others who are awaiting that ultimate sentence on death row.

If you have been accused of the most serious of crimes, or you already have been convicted but maintain your innocence, the criminal defense attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. We are experienced lawyers who are committed to keeping up with court decisions and legislative actions that affect crime and punishments. We will fight for your rights in court and be by your side through the appeals process if your previous representation failed you. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Shooting Hogs and Coyotes from the Sky

If you are a farmer or rancher looking to make some extra money in an economy that has been difficult recently for people who make their living off the land, the Texas House just passed a measure that may help you in your search for income. By a vote of 137-9, the legislators offered their support for Texans to shoot feral hogs and coyotes from a helicopter.

This hunting practice is already legal in instances in which the landowners pay a contractor to take a seat in the helicopter and aim at the animals. With this new legislation, Texans could sell seats and the opportunity to shoot to other individuals for a profit.

The animals that are the target, literally, of House Bill 716 are seen as a nuisance and pests to many in the area. In particular, the one to four million feral pigs that reside within the borders of our fine state cost us $400 million in damages every year.

Opponents of the measure, and apparently there are not many, at least not in the House, criticize the practice as barbaric or state a concern for the safety of innocent people who may be standing anywhere near the gunner's line of fire.

The bill must now go to the Senate, a body in which it is not expected to receive such an overwhelming endorsement.

What are your thoughts on the for-profit hunting measure approved by the House today? Are these animals, which are present in every Texas county and seemingly in greater numbers all the time, really a problem that needs to be addressed? Have you had a negative experience dealing with coyotes or feral hogs where you live? Please let me know your thoughts!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Family Planning Services the Focus of Drastic Cuts in Texas

As states across the country are dealing with the reality of decreased revenue, some tough decisions are being made in state legislatures and governors' offices concerning the budget and which programs are going to receive less funding in the next fiscal year. In Texas, one contentious area of spending that is set to be the target of significant cuts is family planning services.

The initial budget that was proposed and put before the politicians in Austin already removed more than $25 million from family planning; amendments that have been proposed since would add another $61 million to the cuts. All that would be remaining in the budget for family planning clinics would be the $38.5 million required by the federal government to keep that money in the state.

While money in the state budget cannot be allocated specifically for abortions, it can be given to organizations that provide abortions as one of their services. Republicans are using this fact as a rallying point to support the budget-slashing amendments, and instead want to see money spent on other services for children or crisis pregnancy centers.

Opponents of these cuts argue that family planning clinics work to prevent unplanned pregnancies from occurring and actually save the state of Texas millions of dollars every year. These clinics, most of which would have to close if all of the budget cuts are approved, offer preventative medical care, including screening for HIV/AIDS and breast cancer.

What you think of the drastic cuts being proposed to family planning services, with the money reallocated to other services that are designated to benefit children? Is this a necessary step, or should our leaders being looking in other areas to save money?

Even in the emotional and personal issues that surround your family, there may be instances that an experienced attorney can be helpful. If you have any legal questions concerning your children or transitions that are occurring in your family, the attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Texas House Passes Legislation to Standardize Eyewitness Identifications

While communities in Texas are certainly safer every time a violent criminal is put behind bars, it is tragic when we learn of someone who was wrongfully convicted and spent years in prison for a crime he did not commit. The Texas House has taken a major step in reducing the probability that an innocent person will be incorrectly fingered for a crime with a vote taken Wednesday in its chambers.

The legislation, which was approved unanimously, would require police departments to adopt written guidelines concerning how photographic or live lineups would be conducted. One recommendation included in the language of the bill, but that will not be required, is that agencies select someone who does not know the identity of the suspect to administer the lineup.

Members of law enforcement could still gather eyewitness identifications that did not follow the determined procedures and judges would have wide latitude in deciding what evidence to allow, but the legislation would give criminal defense attorneys a stronger case to question witness credibility.

The argued need for this legislation stems from the fact the 75% of convictions that were later overturned by DNA evidence were based on an erroneous identification from an eyewitness. It grew out of the investigations conducted by the Timothy Cole Advisory Panel on Wrongful Convictions, named for a Texan who was cleared posthumously of the crimes for which he spent more than a decade in prison.

If you have been accused of a crime and you need an experienced lawyer to defend your innocence, the criminal defense attorneys at Bertolino LLP can help. Please contact our Austin, Houston, or San Antonio office today and let's discuss your case.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Violence Across the Border Certain to Be Hot Topic in New Year

All of us at Bertolino LLP would like to extend our wishes for a wonderful new year. May 2011 be a year that brings you and your family health, happiness, and security. Our experienced attorneys in Austin, Houston, and San Antonio will be here for you throughout the year to assist with your legal needs.

One major issue that certainly will continue to dominate the news and casual discussions among friends in 2011 is the violence that is occurring across the border. While many men and women come to the United States with hopes of a more prosperous future or perhaps to escape the violence that surrounds them, the murders that are occurring in border towns add tension to the debate that is occurring regarding how immigrants who enter our country illegally should be treated.

Ciudad Juarez, the Mexican town that stands directly across from El Paso, Texas, is now one of the deadliest cities in the world. There were more than 3000 people killed in 2010 over turf battles connected to drug trafficking, with 359 deaths occurring in the month of October alone. That's a staggering figure that understandably has Texans nervous. With the violence already pouring over the border on a regular basis, state and federal officials are wondering what measures should be taken to keep people safe. And, what responsibility to we have to offer humanitarian outreach to innocent Mexicans who are desperate to escape the bloodshed?

Being residents of a border state, the attorneys at Bertolino LLP understand the importance of keeping up with immigration law. We will be following the debates on this issue that will continue to unfold in the new year so that we are able to offer you the best counsel possible. If you are facing an issue regarding your immigration status, or if you have somehow been caught up in the violence that has made its way into our state, we can help. Please contact us today.