Fighting Traffic Violations in Texas

Driving down the highway, listening to the radio, concentrated on getting where you need to be, when all of the sudden, a cop car appears on your rear view mirror and its siren lights are on. You pull over to the shoulder of the road and the cop walks over to the side of your car and signals you to roll down the window. He tells you that you were going “a little bit fast.” Your first thought?  “I didn’t even notice.” This is one of the most common traffic violations: a speeding ticket. But in reality traffic violations come in many forms: driving on the left lane, driving wrong way on one-way street, following too closely, improper passing, such as passing on the right or passing in a no-passing zone, crossing the yellow line, driving left of center, the list goes on and on.
Most of us have been in this situation at least once in our lifetime. The easiest thing to do after getting a ticket is to pay it and get it out of the way, or worse, ignore it hoping that it will somehow just disappear. However, if a ticket is simply paid off it will become a conviction, if it becomes a conviction, points will be added to your driving record. In Texas, this point system is called the Driver Responsibility Program (DRP). Points are applied for moving traffic violation convictions and remain on the driver record for three years. Two points are given for any moving violation and three points are given for violations resulting in a collision.  If enough points are accumulated, it will result in the suspension of your driver’s license. Additionally, depending on the type of conviction, you may also be required to pay surcharges every year for three years. Useful information regarding the DRP and surcharges can be found at http://www.dps.texas.gov/internetforms/Forms/DL-103.pdf.
After getting a ticket there are several ways to prevent these points from accumulating in your driving record. Most of us know about the safety driving course. A defensive driving class that can either be taken online or on site and that, after completing it, the court agrees to dismiss the violation. However, defensive driving is NOT available for those who:
1. have taken the course to dismiss a traffic ticket within the past 12 months;
2. have a violation in excess of 25 MPH or more over the speed limit; or
3. have a commercial driver’s license (CDL).
Even if defensive driving is an option, many do not want to or simply do not have the time to complete this course by attending a 6 hour class or by setting aside time to complete the course online.  So what can be done if you do not qualify for defensive driving or if you do not have the time to complete the course? You hire an attorney to handle your citation for you. An attorney will know how to get your ticket dismissed without you having to deal with the defensive driving course, plus you will not have to take a day off work to attend court  yourself since the attorney will appear on your behalf.  
Now, if a ticket is simply ignored, it will not magically disappear, in the contrary it will become an even bigger problem for you. In addition to having to take care of the original ticket, you will now also have to deal with a Failure to Appear (FTA) and a warrant. An FTA carries new fines that you will have to pay to the court in addition to the fines associated with the original violation, and a warrant, well a warrant, as we all know, has the power to get you arrested. Moreover, ignoring tickets will also place a hold on your driver’s license not allowing you to get it renewed. So, please, do not disregard traffic tickets, if anything, at least reach out to the court before the appearance date located at the bottom of the ticket and ask what your options are to take care of the infraction.
If you recently received a traffic citation or you are just trying to take care of old tickets that you have pending in Texas, please reach out to the Dorothy Butler Law Firm at 512-699-5632 or vanessa@dorothybutlerlawfirm.com.

TAX RETURNS DUE APRIL 18, 2017!

It’s everyone’s favorite time of year again – tax preparation time.  If you dislike doing taxes as much as most individuals do, why not let a professional do it?  Dorothy Lawrence (formerly Butler) specializes in the preparation of tax returns for both individuals and businesses.  We are more reasonable than the “big box” tax preparation places and have years more experience. 

Most people don’t realize that the “professionals” at some of the tax preparation businesses have only a few hours of training in preparation of tax return.  Every year, we get tax returns from individuals for different legal matters and in a matter of minutes, Dorothy finds mistakes either that cost the client money that could have been received in refunds or mistakes that cause the return to be amended to keep the client from committing fraud!  Mistakes are regularly made in the classification of taxpayer filing status.  The most common?  People filing as head of household who are actually married.  A head of household status can ONLY be claimed by a single person (single = unmarried) that care for another individual, whether that is a child, elderly relative, or someone else that does not claim themselves on a tax return.  A married couple cannot file separate returns and allow one spouse to file as head of household. 

Tax returns must be postmarked by 04/18/2017.  We recommend sending your tax return registered mail so you have proof of the mailing date to the Internal Revenue Service.  If you live in Texas and are getting a refund or do not owe, you will mail your tax return to:

Department of the Treasury

Internal Revenue Service

Austin, TX73301

If you live in Texas and owe taxes, you should mail your tax return to:

Internal Revenue Service

PO Box 1214

Charlotte, NC28201.

If you haven’t already started your 2016 tax return, contact us for assistance.  We prepare federal and state tax returns annually for individuals all over the country.  If you are self-employed, we will work with you to find the most deductions possible for your business.  Texas Legal Protection Plan members can also use their member benefits to have their tax return prepared.

Dorothy Lawrence prepares hundreds of returns annually.  She holds a Masters in Tax Law from the University of Denver, in addition to her law degree.  Contact Dorothy Butler for assistance with your tax return at (512) 699-5632 or dorothy@dorothybutlerlawfirm.com

Why should I write a will? Why should I have an attorney draft my will—can’t I just write it on a napkin?

Why should I write a will? Why should I have an attorney draft my will—can’t I just write it on a napkin?

The importance of writing a last will and testament cannot be understated. People often assume that if they were to pass away, their estate would automatically pass to their spouse and/or children. Sure, that is sometimes the case. But in the absence of a will, the laws of Texas dictate whom a person’s estate passes to and in what percentages! So, one of the more important reasons to write a will is so that your estate passes to who YOU want it to go to—not who Texas law says it goes to. I often tell clients that writing a will is one of the greatest gifts you can give to your spouse and/or children. It’s an unfortunate fact that when money is involved, even the most cordial family members can disagree. Having a will ensures that your wishes are clearly stated and honored.

Having an attorney draft your will is extremely important and a worthwhile investment. First and foremost, attorneys know what language to put in a will! An experienced attorney knows how to craftfully draft a will so that your wishes are clearly stated and leave no room for error. Second, there are several, preferred formalities that a will should contain. Most notably, a Texas will should provide that the Executor of the estate serve independently and without bond. And, don’t forget about those witnesses! A valid will in Texas needs to be witnessed by two disinterested people.

If you or a loved one are in need of an experienced estate planning attorney to help draft your will or other estate planning documents, please reach out to our team. We would love to work with you and your family. Eric Nelson can be reached at eric@dorothybutlerlawfirm.com