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Harker Heights Legal Issues Blog

Estate planning is a must for parents

The estate planning process is important for Texas parents as it can provide a way to ensure that their children are cared for. There are a number of issues that parents can address in an estate plan. For example, one can name a preferred guardian for their children in case they pass away. In order for this to go into effect, however, a court will need to approve this long-term plan.

In addition, parents can use trusts to structure the process of transferring wealth to their children. By setting up trusts for minor children, they can name a trusted person to make decisions about how the funds will be used to provide for the children's needs. Documents like powers of attorney and health care advance directives can also help make sure that financial and medical decisions will be made in case of incapacity.

Serious risks of oil refineries

The economy in Galveston is largely split between being dependent upon the refineries and the tourists. Even though most people think of this area for the beaches, the men and women who depend on the oil industry for employment don't always see it as a relaxing destination.

There are many different risks that refinery workers face on a daily basis. Companies work hard to ensure that the employees remain safe but accidents and injuries still occur. Improvements in safety procedures and guidelines are helping to improve worker safety, but there is still a chance of injury in this sector.

Police lineup reform in Texas

The methods used by police departments in Texas during eyewitness lineups were changed when the state's Code of Criminal Procedure was amended in 2015. Texas is one of 25 states to change the way lineups are conducted in the wake of research revealing that eyewitness misidentifications were often primary pieces of evidence when criminal suspects are wrongfully convicted. In one such study, the Innocence Project discovered that eyewitness misidentifications were a key factor in 71 percent of 350 wrongful convictions overturned by post-conviction DNA evidence.

Under the revised Code of Criminal Procedure, police departments in Texas must conduct what are known as double-blind eyewitness lineups. This means that neither the witness nor the independent administrator assisting them knows who the suspect is or whether or not there even is a suspect. The independent administrator must also not be an officer assigned to the ongoing investigation.

CVSA schedules Brake Safety Week for truckers

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance will be conducting roadside inspections throughout Texas and the rest of the U.S. during Brake Safety Week. This yearly event has been scheduled for Sept. 16-22 and will cover all commercial motor vehicles, including big rigs, buses and work vans. Drivers will want to ensure that their brake systems are properly installed and routinely maintained; that way, they keep themselves and others safe.

It's especially important for large trucks to be free of brake problems. Over 32 percent of large trucks with pre-collision violations had braking issues, according to the Large Truck Crash Causation Study. This study, conducted by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, also found that trucks were 50 percent more likely to have brake violations after a brake-critical crash than after a crash where braking capacity was secondary.

Interest rates can influence estate planning choices

For many in Texas, trusts have an important role to play as part of an overall estate plan that can best represent the interests and desires of the person who created the trust. Not only do trusts allow for precision and ease in passing assets to beneficiaries after a person has passed away, but they can also provide greater financial and tax benefits than other options. However, as interest rates change, the decisions people make about trusts can also change.

Some people may opt for a grantor retained annuity trust, known as a GRAT, or a charitable lead annuity trust, which is referred to as a CLAT. Both of these trusts function in similar ways. In each case, an annuity is paid out each year from the value of the trust created for a fixed period of time. In the case of a GRAT, the annuity is paid to the creator of the trust as a source of income; in the case of a CLAT, the annuity is paid to a charity, enabling the grantor to receive tax deductions for charitable donations.

Potential consequences for driving while intoxicated

The state of Texas takes drunk driving, also known as DWI, very seriously. As such, those who are accused of driving while intoxicated could face punishments that may range from a variety of fines to major jail sentences. Those who have a blood alcohol content of .08 percent or more are legally considered to be intoxicated. Furthermore, those with lower BAC levels who drive while impaired can still face charges.

The punishments for DWI become more severe based on the number of previous DWI convictions a person has. A first offense, for example, can result in three to 180 days in jail, a maximum fine of $2,000, a loss of driver's license for a maximum of a year and an annual fee of up to $2,000 for three years to keep a drivers license. Those punishments can be potentially doubled if the offender is convicted of a second DWI offense. For a third DWI offense, the person could face a maximum prison sentence of 10 years in addition to major fines.

The consequences of heroin possession in Texas

Texas is one of the stricter states when it comes to drug control laws. The state views highly-addictive drugs such as heroin especially harshly, and even the smallest amount of heroin found in your possession could lead to serious consequences. 

Why is the possession of drugs a crime if I have not used them?

FMCSA releases report on 2016's fatal truck crashes

Drivers in Texas know how dangerous it can be to share the road with commercial trucks and buses. Unfortunately, large truck accidents appear to be on the rise. In fact, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration has published a report showing a 3 percent increase in fatal truck crashes from 2015 to 2016. This is the administration's most detailed analysis yet of crash data.

Fatal crashes involved a total of 4,213 large trucks in 2016; this is compared to 4,074 in 2015. The number of actual fatalities rose from 4,094 to 4,317. Of that total, 722 were large truck occupants; this is up from 665 in 2015. The number of non-fatal crashes jumped from 83,000 to 104,000, with over 145,000 reported injuries.

Researchers study the prevalence of wrongful convictions

Unfortunately, it is possible for a Texas court to convict an innocent person. When new DNA evidence is introduced and clears a convicted offender, however, the news is rarely publicized.

Only 3 to 5 percent of cases involving murder or rape result in a wrongful conviction being completely overturned. In cases like robbery and theft, there is no estimated range of cases for wrongful convictions overturned by DNA evidence. However, researchers from Pennsylvania have sought to lay the groundwork for research that could change this.

Criss & Rousseau Law Firm Attorney presents at state conference

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Attorney Richard "Rick" Rousseau recently presented at the State Bar Spring Continuing Legal Education (CLE) for the Military and Veterans Law Section. The presentation was catered for those who specialize in Military and Veterans Law issues. It delved into many issues, ranging from survivor benefits and family law cases to PTSD and appealing a VA benefit denial.

Attorneys throughout Texas attended the presentation to learn from the retired colonel and Department of Veterans Affairs certified attorney's expertise.

Below is a very brief sample of what they may have learned.

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