The 2018 Federal Tax Law Changes You Need to Know

couple calculating taxes

Last year, President Trump signed a new tax-reform bill into law. This new law can have a substantial impact on individual taxpayers starting with the tax year 2018, for which returns are due to be filed by April 15, 2019. Some of the provisions that impact individuals are the following:

  1. The 2018 tax brackets, for the most part, reduce tax rates. For example, the tax rate for a married couple in 2018 will range from 10% on income of $0 to $1,950 to 37% on income over $600,000. This is a reduction from 2017, when the tax rate ranged from 10% for married couples earning $0 to $19,050 to 39.6% on income over $480,050.
  2. The standard deduction is almost doubled for all taxpayers. For example, the standard deduction for a single individual, or a married individual filing separately, has gone from $6,500 for tax year 2017 to $12,000 for tax year 2018. For a married couple filing jointly, the deduction has gone from $13,000 in 2017 to $24,000 in 2018.
  3. Although the standard deduction has increased dramatically, the personal exemption has been eliminated.
  4. The capital gains tax, which generally applies to sales of stocks and other appreciated assets, has not changed.
  5. The mortgage interest deduction now applies only to mortgage debt of up to $750,000. This is down from the $1,000,000 figure previously allowed. NOTE: This reduction only applies to mortgages taken after December 15, 2017. Mortgages that existed prior to that date are not affected.
  6. Charitable contributions changes are as follows:
    • Taxpayers can deduct donations up to 60% of their income. Under prior law, they could deduct only up to 50% of their income.
    • Donations to colleges in exchange for the right to purchase athletic tickets are no longer deductible.
  7. The medical expense deduction has been reduced from 10% of adjusted gross income to 7.5% of adjusted gross income. This change is retroactive to the 2017 tax year, which may require eligible taxpayers to file amended returns for 2017.
  8. Under the new law, state and local tax deductions, which include income, sales and property taxes, are limited to $10,000. This provision is controversial for its effects in high-tax states such as California and New York.
  9. Affordable Care Act penalties are repealed. Thus, individuals who don’t buy health insurance will no longer pay a tax penalty.
  10. There are big changes in the treatment of pass-through deductions. Under the new law, pass-through businesses such as partnerships, sole-proprietorships, and S corporations can deduct 20% of their pass-through income before ordinary income tax rates are applied. Certain limits apply to “professional services businesses” such as lawyers, doctors, consultants, and business owners who file joint returns.
  11. The Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT) provision has been changed in two ways:
    • The new law permanently adjusts the AMT exemption amount for
      inflation. For example, the AMT exemption amount for a married couple filing jointly in 2017 was $84,500. Under the new law, the amount for 2018 is $109,400.
    • The income threshold amount at which the exemption begins to phase out has significantly increased from $160,000 for joint filers and $120,700 for individuals, to $1,000,000 and $500,000, respectively.
  12. The new law doubles the estate tax exemption from $5.59 million per individual to $11.18 million. For married couples, the exemption has gone from $11.18 million to $22.4 million.
  13. Several deductions are eliminated under the new law:
    • Casualty and theft losses (except those from federally-declared disasters)
    • Unreimbursed employee expenses
    • Tax preparation expenses
    • Other deductions previously subject to the 20% Adjusted Gross Income cap
    • Moving expenses
    • Employer’s subsidized parking and transportation reimbursement.

Most of the tax changes listed above are temporary and under current law, are set to expire after the tax year 2025.

If you have questions, or if you are having difficulties dealing with the IRS, please contact the tax law attorneys at Bailey & Galyen.

Spring Break Safety Tips

mom and dad in car with children

Reducing the Risk of Injury on a Road Trip

You’ve been hitting the books pretty hard and you’re ready for a break. And even though the days are starting to get longer, you’ve still got a good case of cabin fever. But spring break is just around the corner. Time for a road trip south!

It’s the annual pilgrimage to warmer climates. If you’re taking your car south, there are a number of things you can do to reduce the risk of a motor vehicle accident. Here’s a checklist of items that will improve your chances of getting there and back safe and sound.

Make Certain Your Vehicle is Trip-Worthy

Whether you’ll be on the road two hours or ten, you want to know that your ride is ready for the road. Schedule an appointment with a mechanic you trust, tell him/her about your planned trip, and ask for an inspection of all important components, including brakes, steering wheel, drive train and all lights.

Ask the mechanic to check out your tires (including your spare). If the tread is wearing thin or there are other concerns, consider replacing your tires. It’s also a good time for a tune-up and an oil change, too. You’ll probably spend less on gas and you’ll have more peace of mind.

Be Prepared for Emergencies

You may not be able to predict a breakdown, but you can plan for one. Make certain you have all the items you’ll need, such as jumper cables, a working flashlight, emergency flares or cones, sealant for a leaking tire, and a first aid kit. Always bring a car charger for your phone and bring your road service card, if you have one.

Make Certain You Have a Way to Determine Where You Are and Where You’re Going

A GPS can make things easy, but it can also break down. You don’t necessarily want to rely on a single GPS…have another option in addition to the one on your phone. It’s also a good idea to have a good, old-fashioned paper map. You may never have to open it up, but you’ll be glad you had it if the rest of your technology breaks down.

Pace Yourself

Consider the journey to be as much a part of the trip as the destination. If you drive too many consecutive hours just to get there, you’ll likely crash and burn once you’re there. Split the trip up or take turns driving, so there’s always an alert driver behind the wheel.

Drive Defensively

It may be a cliché, but it’s still the best way to avoid an accident. Safe driving strategies include keeping a safe distance between your vehicle and the one in front of you, refraining from using handheld devices while driving, operating your vehicle within the speed limit, avoiding drinking and driving, and always buckling your seat belt.

Contact Us

At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment with an experienced Texas personal injury attorney, contact us by e-mail or call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Affect of the Government Shut Down on Social Security and Disability Benefits

Government Shutdown sign

As congress and the President continue to debate the federal budget and as the government shutdown enters it second month, many clients have questions on how this will impact their social security payments or pending applications. The good news is unlike prior shutdowns Social Security will remain unaffected by the budget impasse. This means that unlike in previous shutdowns, no social security workers have been furloughed and applications are continuing to be processed and payments are continuing to be made in the normal course of business. Similarly, VA disability payments, Medicare payments, survivor benefits, and retirement benefits will continue to be paid as well.

Bailey & Galyen will continue to monitor the effects of the government shutdown and will keep our clients aware of any changes.

If you are hurt and unable to work it is crucial that you have hardworking experienced attorneys helping you navigate the complicated social security application process. Please contact us at Bailey & Galyen for a free disability evaluation.

Do You Lose Rights When Convicted of a Felony?

Handcuffed man standing in courtroomWhen you’ve been charged with a felony in the state of Texas, one of your concerns may be the ultimate loss of some of the basic rights of citizenship. You may have heard rumors that such a conviction will cause you to forfeit more than your freedom of movement. Here’s how a felony conviction in Texas will impact your rights.

The Right to Vote

Under Texas law, if you are convicted of and imprisoned for committing a felony, you will not be allowed to vote while you are in prison. However, your right to vote may be restored upon the completion of your sentence. In Texas, that will only happen when you have completed all parole and probation associated with the conviction. The ban does not affect persons under deferred felony supervision.

The Right to Hold Public Office

In Texas, once you have been convicted of any type of felony, you will be barred from seeking or being appointed to public office. There’s only one way to change that—you must obtain a full pardon from the governor or the president.

The Right to Own or Possess Firearms

Upon conviction of a felony in Texas, you will be prohibited from purchasing, owning or possessing a gun of any kind. You can seek to restore some of your gun rights, but must wait five years after the completion of a prison term, parole and probation. Even if you are successful in restoring your gun rights, you will only be allowed to possess a firearm in your home.

After conviction of a felony in Texas, you will also be banned from owning or possession body armor.

If you violate the rule against ownership or possession of a firearm by a felon in Texas, you can be charged with a 3rd degree felony.

The Right to Serve on a Jury

Under Texas law, anyone convicted of a felony will be permanently barred from sitting on a jury.

Contact the Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen

At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we provide a free initial consultation to every client. To set up an appointment with an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney, contact us by e-mail or call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Understanding the Different Types of Child Custody

Divorce“No man’s life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session.”
~ Mark Twain or Gideon J. Tucker.

The Texas legislature meets every two years. Each legislature there are a plethora of bills introduced involving Family Law. One of the bills that came up this time was House Bill 453 which dealt with equal custody. It died in committee. This past weekend several supporters of HB 453 held a rally in Austin outside the capital building.

I believe Custody is very misunderstood. People frequently come into my office saying they want Sole Custody or Joint Custody or Full Custody or any number of other things. However in Texas we don’t even have custody. We have Conservatorship. Equally important, Custody and Conservatorship are not the same thing.

Conservatorship deals with rights and duties. It is defined in Chapter 152 of the Texas Family Code. For instance, who gets to see the report cards, who should know about and attend the choir concert, who should decide whether or not the child has their tonsils taken out. If you believe both parents should play a part in making these decisions, congratulations you believe in Joint Managing Conservatorship which is the standard in Texas.

Next the Family Code deals with Possession and Access. This is found in Chapter 153 of the Family Code. This is the section of the Family Code I believe people are talking about when they use the terms custody and visitation. Next time you have a copy of the family code search it thoroughly. You won’t find the words custody or visitation anywhere.

I will be the first to tell you the Family Code isn’t perfect. At times I don’t even think it is good. But, I think the legislature did its dead level best to make the best situation for children of a truly horrible situation. At a rally last weekend Shelly Toner, a child activist from San Antonio, speaking to the crowd said “When somebody wins custody, somebody loses, but children also lose,” “Moms can’t be dads, and dads can’t be moms.” I agree with her. But too often parents focus on winning and losing as parents. The court is charged with acting in the best interest of the children. Over the years I have handled literally thousands of cases involving children and I can tell you almost universally children want to live with both parents. But as a practical matter this is almost impossible to do with divorced parents except in the rarest of circumstances. A child will primarily reside with one parent and visit the other.

Here is where I think the legislature got it right. The standard possession and access order is just inconvenient enough on both parents that the only way everyone will be happy is if they cooperate and the standard possession schedule has that provision included: THE PARTIES SHALL HAVE POSSESSION OF THE CHILD AT ALL TIMES MUTUALLY AGREED TO IN ADVANCE. Failing mutual agreement, the following shall apply…. Thus the parents are free to do whatever they want. Additionally, and I think this is the part where litigants, lawyers, and even judges get lazy – the standard possession schedule is just there if you don’t take the time to craft something else. The judge is tasked with acting in the child’s (not the parent’s) best interests. The attorneys together with their client need to put together a schedule and present it to the judge that ensures the child has as much time as possible with both parents. According to David O’Connor a child and adolescent psychiatrist from Austin there’s a high connection of kids in the criminal justice arena, at risk for being in the juvenile justice system, at risk of being in the mental health arena and the lack of both parents involved. Equal parenting not only decreases that risk for the child, it decreases conflict among the parents, it decreases the litigation between divorced or unmarried parents.

Contact Us

To set up a free initial consultation, contact us online or call us at 844-402-2992. For your convenience, we answer our phones 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. We will meet with you evenings or weekends upon request.

Disengagement – Part Two

couple going over estate planningAs we discussed in a previous article, several years ago, James Brill authored a piece entitled, “Discouraging Disengagement” for the Texas Bar Journal and shared some important reminders for all of us who plan for the future. Disaffection, disappearance and domestication are all threats to your current estate plan and the fulfillment of your wishes.

Disaffection occurs in most relationships over time. In a long-term relationship, affection can ebb and flow. Ups and downs don’t require any change in the estate plan, but if you no longer want to provide benefits to someone or trust that person to serve as a fiduciary or agent under a power of attorney, you better make a change.

Brill says disappearance is, “Disaffection on steroids.” If you lose touch with someone or they can’t be located, they need to be replaced. The frustration of trying to find people who have gone missing is immense. Even your most trusted fiduciaries may have to abandon the project of administering your estate if key players can’t be located.

We will include divorce in our brief discussion of domestication. Any change in marital status involves more than changing your status on social media. The law attempts to remedy some of the dangers involved in a change in marital status, but, in over thirty years of practice, I have seen the disastrous unintended consequences of an estate plan left in place following the marriage or divorce of the testator.

Contact Mr. Bailey for your initial planning or for a check up on what you have in place, and don’t disengage from this important aspect of planning for the future.

Family Separation and Criminal Prosecution and Lack of Due Process, Oh My!

Immigration LawRecent images of children caged in holding cells without parents forced the Trump administration to re-think its “Zero Tolerance” policy and family separation policy at the border. The Zero Tolerance policy was implemented in April of 2018 and mandated that all individuals apprehended at the border, including asylum seekers, be prosecuted for the federal criminal offense of illegal entry. As families were apprehended at the border, children were stripped away from their parents. While parents were sent to federal custody to face prosecution, their children were first held by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and processed for removal or “deportation” proceedings and then placed under the care of the Office of Refugee Resettlement (ORR). Under the family separation policy, there was no indication that children would be returned to parents once they served their sentence for the illegal entry. What’s interesting is that once a child is taken into ORR care, the agency must try to reunify the child with a relative or family friend in the United States. This relative or friend ensures ORR that he or she will take the child to all of the removal hearings in immigration court and will care for the child. If the child cannot be reunified, then the child remains in ORR care. The Zero Tolerance and family separation policy created a strange system in which the government took a child away from his parents and then tried to “reunify” the child with someone else.

President Trump, in his June 20, 2018, Executive Order (EO), decided to quit separating children from parents, but there was no guidance as to how to reunify families who were previously separated. Now, if a family is apprehended at the border, the family is detained in a family detention center. This was the prior practice under the Obama administration, which caused a huge expansion in family detention centers in Texas. However, the whole family usually is not kept intact. In practice, what we saw during the Obama administration was that fathers were sent to a male detention center while mothers and children were housed together in family detention. Also, children over the age of eighteen were separated from the family and placed into adult detention.

Once the family is apprehended and detained, the family may qualify for an immigration bond to be released from detention while they await their immigration court dates. The minimum bond is $1,500 and it has no upward limit. Under the Obama Administration and into the Trump Administration, we saw prohibitively high bonds set to keep families detained. The thought was that keeping families detained would have a deterrent effect on border crossings. RAICES, a local Texas non-profit, partnered with other non-profits to provide legal counsel to detained families and also helped families pay their bonds. Setting high bonds and keeping families detained was not a deterrent for border crossers, many of whom flee persecution and violence in their home countries. This caused detention centers to fill and slowly bonds crept downward. Eventually, we saw families be released under detention alternatives such as ankle monitors. Now, thanks to President Trump’s former family separation policy, this issue is in the limelight and RAICES has received millions to continue serving and helping families and children currently held in immigration detention or recently released from immigration detention.

Looking back, studies show that the Zero Tolerance policy on the border is unlikely to have a deterrent effect on unlawful border crossings. Back in 2005, Operation Streamline was launched on the Southwest border of the United States and was in effect until 2014. Much like the Zero Tolerance policy, Operation Streamline mandated, in most cases, the criminal prosecution of all unauthorized border crossers in hopes of deterring unlawful border crossings. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) claims the program has been effective, citing statistics that show decreases in border apprehensions under the program. Other studies find no evidence that Operation Streamline deterred unauthorized border crossings or was even taken into account by immigrants who planned to cross the border without inspection. Instead, research consistently demonstrates that the social, economic and political conditions in Mexico and Central America are the primary culprits for unlawful border crossings along our Southern border.

Operation Streamline, the current Zero Tolerance policy, and the numerous restrictions Attorney General Sessions has placed on immigration judges also opens the door for severe due process violations. These policies and restrictions limit or even eliminate prosecutorial discretion. This causes resources to be stretched to the max as dockets fill, jails fill, and immigration detention centers fill. Prosecuting all unauthorized border crossers limits the ability of federal prosecutors to focus on serious immigration offenses. In addition, the Sixth Amendment requires that all immigrants facing federal criminal charges receive counsel. The vast majority of immigrants cannot afford counsel, leaving federal public defenders with more work than they can handle. Most immigrants criminally prosecuted for illegal entry (a misdemeanor offense) or illegal reentry (a felony offense) plead guilty. Additionally, under Operation Streamline, judges were forced to hold group hearings as the only means to process the mass influx of cases.

Once an immigrant serves his or her sentence for illegal entry or illegal reentry, he or she is then transferred back to ICE custody for removal proceedings. Now, the question most often asked is “what happens to the children when mom or dad is sent off for federal prosecution?” ICE is only allowed to hold a child for twenty hours before it must transfer the child to ORR care, which leads to family separation. This is why there is a push to reform the law to allow ICE to hold children longer so their parents can face prosecution. The idea is, once prosecution is over and they serve their sentence, the parent will be reunified with the child and housed in detention while the family faces removal proceedings. The problem there is that history and lawsuits show that ICE is underequipped to humanely handle adult detainees, much less child detainees.

Even if a family is not separated and is detained together and then bonds out of detention, the family must now apply for a defense from being removed from the country. Most families apprehended at the border have no relief from removal other than asylum due to violence they faced or suffered in their home countries. Most of the time, such violence is perpetrated by criminal gangs that run rampant in Central America. With the 5th circuit refusing recognize asylum claims based on forced gang recruitment or extortion threats and with Attorney General Session’s recent decision in Matter of A-B-, stating that individuals subject to private acts of violence, including severe domestic violence, are not eligible for asylum, a family released from family detention usually faces an uphill battle to stay in the country.

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Light duty – I was given an offer that I can’t refuse?

Confident factory workerSo the doctor has released you back to work, but with restrictions. What do you do now? First thing is to let your employer know by either faxing the work status report to them or bringing it to them in person. Your employer then must create a job for you that accommodates those restrictions, and that must be in writing. In 99% of the cases, that will NOT be the same day you hand them the work-status report. If they don’t have light duty, then the WC insurance carrier must pay you weekly temporary income benefits while you are off from work. There is no requirement that you go and seek work elsewhere, while you are on light duty. Now, if they do have a job you can do that is within the restrictions provided by your doctor, there are certain requirements that MUST be followed:

In accordance with Rule 129.6, the Bona Fide Offer of light duty MUST:

  • Have a copy attached of the work status report on which the offer is being based
  • State the location at which the employee will be working
  • State the schedule the employee will be working
  • State the wages that the employee will be paid
  • Provide a description of the physical and time requirements that the position will entail
  • Provide a statement that the employer will only assign tasks consistent with the employees, physical abilities, knowledge, and skills and provide training if necessary
  • Offer a position for a job at a location which is geographically accessible (129.6(e))

Until such time that they provide the offer of light duty that meets all of the above requirements, in most cases, you would not return back to work. Rule 129 was put in place to protect injured workers from returning back to work, just to be forced to do their regular work, and face worsening their injury. You must be very careful when the employer heads down this path of offers of light duty.

Your money benefits and physical-well being are on the line, and this would be a time to reach out to our Workers’ Compensation Department here at Bailey & Galyen so that we can advise you and protect you from possible re-injury.

Accidents on Icy Texas Roads — Who Is Responsible?

icy roads

Protecting Yourself in Texas Winter Weather

It’s winter in Texas. While that rarely means snow, it’s not that unusual for motorists in Texas to encounter the challenges of driving on icy roads. Unfortunately, rain can turn to ice in an instant. What are the consequences when you’re involved in a motor vehicle accident on an icy road in the middle of a Texas winter? Who is responsible for damages and how is liability determined?

Liability for Accidents on Icy Texas Roads

The first thing to understand is that it will never be an effective defense to liability to claim that there was ice on the road. Whenever you get behind the wheel of a car, there is an assumption that you will act reasonably. That means that you’ll take all known factors (or those that you should reasonably know about) into consideration and respond as a reasonable person would. Accordingly, if temperatures are in the mid-30s and dropping, and it’s either raining or there’s precipitation likely, it’s reasonable to expect that the precipitation could cause ice to accumulate on the road.

The legal theory under which liability for an ice-related accident will be resolved is “negligence.” To prove negligence, an injured party must show three things:

  • That the at-fault person breached the duty of care—i.e., did not act reasonably
  • That the breach caused an accident
  • That the injured person suffered losses as a result of the accident

What Constitutes “Reasonable” Behavior When Texas Roads become Icy?

It’s also important to know that there’s no hard and fast rule regarding the actions a person must take when Texas roads become icy. What will be considered “reasonable” behavior is typically determined by a jury on a case-by-case basis. It will usually vary based on the circumstances:

  • How much advance warning did the motorist have of impending ice on the road?
  • Why was the motorist on the road? Was it an emergency or an optional trip?
  • Did the motorist take any measures to respond to the ice—reduced speed, use of emergency flashers or warning lights, etc.?

The Best Ways to Avoid Motor Vehicle Accidents on Icy Texas Roads

Obviously, the sure way to avoid a car crash on an icy road is to stay off the roads. In the winter in Texas, it’s always a good idea to check drivetexas.org before you head out. If you have any reason to believe there will be precipitation, pay close attention to your speed, always staying below the limit, as you’ll need more distance to stop. Make certain there’s no accumulation of ice or snow on any of your windows, so that you can see all other motorists. Furthermore, if at all possible, avoid hills, bridges and deep valleys, as those are places where you can easily lose control.

Contact Us

At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we offer a free initial consultation to every client. For an appointment with an experienced Texas personal injury attorney, contact us by e-mail or call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Partial Government Shutdown as it Affects IRS

US tax forms The recent partial government shutdown has affected 800,000 government employees. As we enter the tax filing season, many wonder if the IRS is affected and if so, how?

The short answer is: The IRS & taxpayers are both affected. The most obvious impact on the IRS is the fact that most of the employees have been furloughed and have gone 35+ days without a paycheck.

Even though the government has reopened until February 15th and employees are now being paid, the following impacts will continue for the foreseeable future:

  1. This is the busiest time of the year for the IRS and having employees furloughed for as long as they have been will put a strain on their ability to process mail. This may cause a delay in taxpayers receiving refunds. How long this delay may be, we will have to see.
  2. There will be delays in audits of tax returns, not only new audits but also
    ongoing audits.
  3. Collection activity will be delayed. This delay should be a plus for taxpayers as it will allow them more time to gather information the IRS is asking for and to prepare their strategy for trying to resolve their tax controversy.
  4. Even though IRS employees were furloughed during the partial government shut-down, IRS computers that generate notices were not shutdown. As a result, there could be incorrect notices being sent to taxpayers.
  5. For example, if you responded to an earlier notice and submitted the information requested without an employee to enter that information into the computer, the computer will not know you responded and thus continue sending incorrect notices.

  6. One thing that is very important to remember is that the temporary government shutdown DID NOT change or delay the requirement for timely filing of all required federal tax returns. Therefore, be sure that you timely file and pay all taxes due by their normal due dates.
  7. Don’t be surprised if employees’ tempers are a little on edge. Remember, they have gone 35+ days without a paycheck and are uncertain of their future after February 15th, which would put a strain on most people.

If you have any questions, please contact Bailey & Galyen.

Path to Green Card for Victims of Crimes in the United States

visa immigration The U nonimmigrant (U visa) status was specifically created for victims of certain crimes who have suffered mental or physical abuse due to the crime and are helpful to law enforcement or government officials in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. The U visa process is a path to residency, also known as a green card, which grants permanent legal status in the United States. The U visa process is long and tedious and involves several steps, but if granted, it can provide you with legal status in the country.

Congress enacted the U nonimmigrant visa with the passage of the Victims of Trafficking and Violence Protection Act (including the Battered Immigrant Women’s Protection Act) in October 2000. This legislation was intended to reinforce law enforcement agencies’ ability to investigate and prosecute cases of domestic violence, sexual assault, trafficking of aliens and other crimes, while also protecting victims of crimes who are willing to help law enforcement authorities in the investigation or prosecution of the criminal activity. This legislation also helps law enforcement agencies to better serve victims of crimes.

To be eligible for a U visa, you must meet the following requirements: (1) be a victim of a qualifying criminal activity; (The Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) contains a list of qualifying crimes.) (2) have suffered substantial physical or mental abuse as a result of the criminal activity; (3) have information about the criminal activity; (Minors have their own rules for this.) (4) were helpful or are being helpful to law enforcement efforts to investigate and prosecute; (5) the crime occurred inside the United States or violated U.S. laws, and; (6) are admissible to the United States. A waiver is available for qualified individuals who are otherwise not admissible.

Certain qualifying family members are eligible for a derivative U visa based on their relationship to you, the principal, filing for the U visa. The principal petitioner must have his/her petition for a U visa approved before his/her family members can be eligible for their own derivative U visa.

Before applying for the U Visa, the applicant must first obtain a signed U visa certification, which verifies that the crime is a qualifying crime and that the applicant was a victim. This can be done by contacting the police department where the report was made or the district attorney’s office of the county where the crime is being prosecuted and requesting a certification. It is imperative that the applicant obtain a copy of the police report in order to present it to either of these two agencies when requesting a certification. Once the police report is obtained and the certification is acquired, then the rest of the evidence can be collected, such as medical reports, counseling records, etc. to prove substantial mental or physical abuse due to the crime.

After filing the U visa petition, then the applicant will wait for, in most cases, many years before receiving an answer on his/her request. Congress placed a cap of the number of U visas which are granted annually, so every applicant is subject to this wait time. Once U visa status is granted, then the applicant can apply for lawful permanent residency after three years of obtaining U visa status. If you believe you may qualify for a U visa, please consult with one of our immigration attorneys. We can determine your eligibility and guide you through this difficult process.

Facing an Assault Charge after the Holidays?

Women criminal in handcuffs arrested

Tips for Minimizing the Risk of a Drunk Driving Arrest Over the Holidays

It’s supposed to be a time of peace on earth, good will to all persons. Unfortunately, most domestic violence experts say, physical assault doesn’t take a holiday at Christmas and New Years. While the data is inconclusive about whether or not the holidays see a jump in the number of domestic abuse and assault claims, there are many factors present during the holidays that can kindle or fan the flames of an interpersonal dispute:

  • The holidays are typically a time for spending more time with family. Family dynamics can be challenging and the emotional baggage that accompanies many family relationships can be a cauldron for conflict.
  • Increasingly, the holidays put pressure on people to spend more money, whether it’s for gifts or for hosting and feeding others. Extra expenses can be a tremendous source of anxiety for many people, particularly if finances are already strained.
  • The holidays often involve consumption of alcohol, which can often turn a minor disagreement into something far more dangerous

Protecting Yourself after an Arrest for Assault in Texas

If you’ve ended up with an assault charge this holiday season, the first thing you need to do is retain an experienced Texas criminal defense lawyer. You can also improve your chances of a better outcome by understanding the process. Here’s what you can expect to happen after you’ve been detained:

  • You’ll appear before a judge—This will happen at some point within 48 hours of your arrest. You’ll learn about your right to an “examining” trial, where prosecutors must show probable cause for your arrest. The judge may also set bail, though you can be held without bail in certain circumstances.
  • You’ll be charged—After the initial appearance before the judge, prosecutors will either charge you with assault or let you go. In Texas, assault can be charged as a misdemeanor or a felony, with varying degrees of each.
  • You’ll be arraigned—Once charges are filed, you’ll appear in court again and you’ll have the opportunity to make your plea (guilty or not guilty). Either party may ask the court for more time (a continuance) to gather additional evidence.
  • Your case will be resolved—At any time up to and during trial, you can enter into a plea bargain. This typically involves pleading guilty to a lesser charge in exchange for a lesser penalty. However, if you are unable to resolve the charges through a plea bargain, the case will go to trial. If you have been charged with a misdemeanor, there will be 6 juror. For a felony trial, you’ll have 12 jurors.

Contact the Experienced Criminal Defense Attorneys at Bailey & Galyen

At the law office of Bailey & Galyen, we provide a free initial consultation to every client. To set up an appointment with an experienced Texas criminal defense attorney, contact us by e-mail or call our offices at one of the convenient locations listed below. We will take your call 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

SSA Proposes Implementing More Video Conference Hearings

Social Security Administration SignIncreasingly the Social Security administration is utilizing video conferencing technology to conduct hearings in less urban locations and to ease the current back log. However, the claimant’s have always been given the opportunity to “opt out” of video conferencing if the claimant so desired. SSA is now proposing to eliminate the opt out provision, thereby expanding the use of the program.

Under the proposed rule, claimants would no longer be allowed to opt out of or object to hearings being scheduled, via video conferencing, or (in limited circumstances) by telephone. The rule would apply to all administrative law judge hearings. At Bailey & Galyen we do not automatically oppose video conference hearings, especially in circumstances where it will expedite the client’s hearings. However there are circumstances where a video conference hearings are not beneficial or practical for an individual client.

Witnesses to a hearing, such as medical and vocational experts are also increasingly appearing via video conference or phone. Expert Witnesses, would have similar restrictions: The proposed rule says that “in general, we would schedule witnesses to appear at hearings by VTC or telephone,” though certain exceptions apply. Witness appearing over video or on the telephone can prove problematic as technological challenges can end up delaying previously scheduled hearings. Additionally an increase in video conference hearings can hinder your attorney’s ability to cross examine these potentially vital witnesses.

Bailey & Galyen will continue to monitor the situation and will keep our clients apprised of the their rights as the proposed rule change evolves. Social Security’s rules and regulations are always changing. Now more than ever, if you are hurt, injured, or otherwise unable to work please contact us at Bailey & Galyen for a free social security evaluation and let us help you get the benefits you deserve.

Disengagement – Part One

Senior woman meeting with estate planning agentSeveral years ago, James Brill wrote an excellent article for the Texas Bar Journal entitled, “Discouraging Disengagement.” It was billed as a helpful way to remind clients to maintain their estate plans. While we strive to build estate plans to last, various changes in the circumstances of clients’ lives means that amending the plans over the course of time will be necessary.

The first three reminders, all starting with the letter “D,” are death, disability and decline. You can’t change your plan after you die, but the death of a beneficiary, executor, trustee, guardian or agent under a power of attorney could greatly impact your plan. The longer you wait to address this loss, the more threatening it becomes to your plan.

Disability requires similar considerations to those presented by death. It may be that the disability of a loved one or trusted friend is even more devastating to your plan. If your sole beneficiary dies, your plan should provide for a secondary distribution. If your primary beneficiary becomes disabled, your plan may not work as intended. Often you name the primary beneficiary as your independent executor or as some other position of responsibility that they cannot fulfill because of their disability. You could also unintentionally disqualify them from other sources of assistance by leaving them some or all of your assets.

Decline in ourselves and in those we love and trust is so difficult. Objectivity as to our mental health is tough to come by, and most of us lack the training to measure cognitive decline in those we love. A regular visit to your family doctor and being honest with them about your concerns is important. Every few years you should have a checkup with your estate planning lawyer and try to avoid the dangers of disengagement.

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