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Monthly Archives: October 2017

Immigration Courts Authorize Deportation of 12 Percent of Immigrants With Bureau of Prisons

By Peek & Toland on October 16, 2017

Deportations have seldom been far from the headlines during the early days of the Trump administration. Recently, immigration courts authorized the deportations of as many as 12 percent of federal inmates, according to reports.

In May, immigration courts allowed the deportation of more than 22,000 foreign-born inmates, reported the Washington Times.

Figures released from the Justice Department stated foreign nationals comprise 41,554 of the 189,000 federal inmates in Bureau of Prisons custody.

Immigration courts to deport 12 percent of undocumented immigrants

Immigration Court to deport 12 percent of illegal immigrants

A further 3,939 were born outside the United States but became U.S. citizens. The report said final deportation orders were issued for 22,541 foreign-born inmates. They are due to be deported from the United States once they complete their prison sentences. Immigration authorities are said to be considering the deportation of another 13,000 plus immigrants. More than 5,000 immigrants have ongoing removal cases.

The Justice Department figures are not honed down to immigration status. In other words, it’s not possible to distinguish how many of the immigrants now in custody were in the country illegally at the time of arrest, as opposed to being holders of green cards or on visas.

Immigration Courts Target 12 Percent of Migrants

The Washington Times report said immigration-related arrests comprise nearly half of all arrests made by federal authorities.

The Trump administration has taken a tough stance toward undocumented immigrants. Trump wants to build a border wall and tighten up security. However, key questions remain about the president’s mass deportation policies.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions pointed Bureau of Prisons data as evidence of a further need to tighten security at the border. He said:

“Illegal aliens who commit additional crimes in the United States are a threat to public safety and a burden on our criminal justice system. This is why we must secure our borders through a wall and effective law enforcement, and we must strengthen cooperation between federal, state and local governments.”

Even without a wall, there is evidence that Trump’s tough immigration policies may be impacting border crossings.

The border between Mexico and Texas saw a rapid decrease in illegal border crossings in recent months, reported CNBC.com. However, the trend was also apparent before Trump was elected president.

If you are facing deportation, you can fight the proceedings. Our Austin cancellation of removal lawyers can help you. Please call us at (512) 474-4445.

 

Posted in Cancellation of Removal, Criminal Defense, Immigration

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Migrant Deaths in Texas Truck Highlights Human Smuggling Crisis

By Peek & Toland on October 14, 2017

The death of 10 migrants in a sweltering truck in San Antonio this summer once again highlighted the human smuggling crisis in areas close to the Mexican border.

As many as 90 people were crammed into the back of a tractor-trailer, reported the New York Post.

Tragically, the deaths of migrants in trucks is not a rare occurrence in the border states.

Indeed as more Mexican-based organized crime rings become involved in human smuggling, the problem may become more serious.

Eddie Canales, director of the South Texas Human Rights Center in Falfurrias, told USA Today large numbers of migrants are coming to grief in border areas.

Texas has a human smuggling crisis

Migrant deaths highlighted the human smuggling crisis

They die from dehydration making their way across the arid landscape of South Texas, drown crossing the Rio Grande River and are left to die by heartless smugglers, Canales said.

According to the USA Today report, the authorities recovered the bodies of over 600 immigrants in Brooks County alone in South Texas since 2004.

Canales’s organization documents and searches for migrants reported missing. Canales found the body of a male migrant about 160 miles south of the Walmart parking lot where the migrants were found on the same day in July.

Canales said many of these grim discoveries don’t even make the headlines.

The deaths in the tractor-trailer again highlight the human smuggling crisis. The criminal organizations that profit from human smuggling are often unscrupulous about the welfare of migrants.

As well as the 10 people who died in the truck, a further 20 were taken to San Antonio area hospitals for treatment of extreme dehydration and heatstroke. One survivor said as many as 200 people were crammed into the trailer during the sweltering 150-mile journey from Laredo to San Antonio.

Federal officials later charged the truck driver, James M. Bradley, Jr., 60, of Clearwater, in Florida under a federal law targeted at people who knowingly transport people in the country illegally. He claimed he had no knowledge migrants were in the trailer.

USA Today reported Bradley faces life sentences or even the death penalty, although executions are rare in federal cases. The death penalty was later ruled out.

The Associated Press reported the trucker had his license to drive commercial trucks taken away from him earlier this year. The State of Florida removed his commercial driving privileges on April 12. The report noted he failed to provide the state with a current medical card, which is required under federal law for commercial drivers to show they are physically fit for the road.

The worst migrant tragedy in recent years occurred in 2013 in Texas. A dairy-truck driver carried migrants to Houston, but forgot to turn on the air-conditioning unit. The temperatures soared to 173 degrees. Nineteen migrants died of dehydration and suffocation.

This is a very serious offense that’s prosecuted at a federal level. In some cases, people may be coerced into these activities against their will. Read more about human smuggling on our website or call (512) 474-4445.

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How an Austin Jail Release Attorney Can Help You

By Peek & Toland on October 13, 2017

There are few things more stressful than ending up in jail. You may have been charged with a DWI, an assault, or another serious crime. In these circumstances, it makes sense to contact an Austin jail release attorney as soon as possible.

Being arrested can be bewildering, particularly if it’s your first time.

If you were arrested in Travis County by the Austin police department you will be transferred to a central booking office.

How an Austin jail release attorney can help you

The Arrest Process

The police officer who arrested you will submit a probable cause affidavit (PC) which states the reasons why the officer believes a crime has been committed.

The affidavit must be turned in within 24 hours or a misdemeanor arrest or 48 hours of a felony arrest.

The magistrate or a judge reviews the probable cause affidavit checking the facts and the defendant’s criminal history. The seriousness of the allegations against the defendant and the length of his or her prior arrest history are the most important factors in determining the bail amount. He or she will determine if there was probable cause for a police officer to make the arrest. A bail amount will be set.

The defendant will meet the judge or magistrate, usually within 24 hours of a bond being set.

An Austin Jail release attorney can help you during this process. The lawyer can obtain a copy of the probable cause affidavit and usually review it before meeting you.

A lawyer can approach a magistrate or judge on your behalf and waive the magistrate process, which often leads to delays in how long a defendant is held in a cell.

When people who don’t speak English as a first language are jailed, the process can be even more difficult. At Peek & Toland our jail release attorneys speak a number of languages.

If you are arrested at certain times, you may face delays. Judge are available in Travis County from 7 a.m, until 1 a.m. If you have been arrested for a DWI in the early hour, you won’t have a bail amount set for hours.

In some cases, an Austin jail release attorney can get you out earlier. If a friend or a family member was arrested in the early hours and there is no judge available to set bail, you may be able to obtain a “Hobby” release.

The process is named after former Lieutenant Governor William Hobby. Our criminal defense lawyers can advise you on this procedure.

Contact An Austin Jail Release Attorney

We also advise and help defendants to obtain bonds, whether cash bonds, personal bonds or lawyer assisted bonds.

Call our experienced Austin, Texas jail release attorneys today for help at (512) 474-4445.

30 – Immigration Courts Authorize Deportation of 12 Percent of Immigrants With Bureau of Prisons

Posted in Criminal Defense, DWI

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Texas Battles Federal Ban on Import of Execution Drugs

By Peek & Toland on October 12, 2017

A shortage of execution drugs has delayed the death penalty in many states. Texas suffered a further setback in the spring when the federal government blocked its attempt to import execution drugs.

Texas is mounting a legal challenge against the move, The Texas Tribune reported. The state asked a federal judge to declare the ruling as unlawful.

Texas sought to import 1,000 vials of sodium thiopental into the United States in 2015. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration ruled against Texas. The agency expressed concern that the drugs appeared to be misbranded and were unapproved.

The drugs were seized at an airport in Houston by the FDA which has held them ever since. The federal agency claims the import of the drug is illegal and it is not currently approved in the United States.

Texas challenges ban on execution drugs

Ban on execution drugs is fought in Texas

The FDA stated it notified Texas as well as the Arizona Department of Corrections, which was also seeking to obtain the execution drug that their attempted imports were refused. The drugs were either unapproved and misbranded. The FDA said they should be exported or destroyed within 90 days.

Texas has filed a lawsuit in the federal district court of southern Texas. It says the state will continue to import the execution drugs and it wants the court to step in.

The complaint claimed that the ruling hurts the Texas Department of Criminal Justice’s reputation.

Why Texas Sued the FDA Over Execution Drugs

The FDA decided tentatively in April 2016 that the seized execution drugs could not be imported. No final decision was made until May. Texas launched a lawsuit over what it said was an “unreasonable delay” in deciding if the drugs could be delivered.

Attorney General Ken Paxton said his office would not allow the FDA to impair Texas’ responsibility to carry out its law enforcement duties.

The shortage of execution drugs can be traced back to 2009. In that year, the pharmaceutical company Hospira started experiencing problems in the manufacture of sodium thiopental, one of three drugs used in executions.

Anti-death penalty activists began alerting drug companies and governments across Europe that their drugs were being used in executions, leading Europeans companies to withhold them.

Currently Texas is one of just four U.S. states still carrying out executions, reported The Marshall Project.

The drug shortage is just one factor that’s led to a slowdown in executions. Texas leads the nation in terms of the number of executions but the treadmill has slowed down here and more cases are being held up in court.

If you have been charged with a serious offense like a homicide, it’s vital to received experienced criminal defense counsel as soon as possible. Call our Austin criminal defense lawyers at (512) 474-4445.

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Sandra Bland Act is Supported by Texas Senate Panel

By Peek & Toland on October 11, 2017

The so-called Sandra Bland Act, named after an African American woman who took her life in a cell, has been passed by the Texas Senate.

However, the family of Sandra Bland branded it a missed opportunity because it was watered down from the original version.

The family of Sandra Bland was unhappy that the amended bill focused mostly on mental health issues and county jail operations. The Texas Senate unanimously passed the bill in May.

Criticism over watered down Sandra Bland Act

Sandra Bland Act sparks criticism

Sharon Cooper, Bland’s sister, pointed out the measures intended to prevent such an arrest in the first place were stripped out of the bill. She told the Texas Tribune:

“It’s a complete oversight of the root causes of why she was jailed in the first place.”

Bland was an African American woman from Illinois. She was arrested after a routine traffic stop that escalated in Texas.

Brian Encinia, a trooper who was working for the Texas Department of Public Safety in 2015, charged Bland with assaulting a public servant after an altercation. She was found dead in the Waller County Jail days after being arrested during the traffic stop.

The original bill required a more onerous requirement on police obligations to stop and search suspects. This was removed from the bill.

Sandra Bland Act Targets Mental Health

The Sandra Bland Act will make it easier for county jails to divert people with mental health and substance abuse issues toward treatment for their conditions. It would also make it easier for people in jail with a mental illness or intellectual disability to receive a personal bond. It would make it mandatory for independent law enforcement agencies to investigate jail deaths.

Politicians came under sustained pressure from police groups to remove provisions relating to law enforcement from the bill. Senate Criminal Justice Committee Chairman John Whitmire struck out provisions from the original bill.

Police groups argued the original bill would hamper law enforcement’s work and would require additional steps to legally secure a consent search.

The tragedy of Sandra Bland illustrates how even a minor traffic infraction can quickly escalate in Texas. If you are pulled over or arrested by an officer, it’s important to know your rights. It’s also important to know your jail release rights.

If you have been arrested in Texas, it’s important to hire an experienced criminal defense lawyers as soon as possible. Contact us here.

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Texas May Require Students to Pass a Citizenship Test

By Peek & Toland on October 10, 2017

Anyone applying to be a citizen of the United States will be familiar with the citizenship process. However, all students in Texas may soon be required to pass a citizenship test.

Texas may soon require high school students take a version of the test all immigrants looking for U.S. citizenship must pass.

In May, the Texas House tentatively backed a bill that would replace the end of course U.S. history course currently taken in public schools with a version of the civics test that immigrants must take to become U.S. citizens.

Nationally, 15 states have passed similar legislation, stated the Arizona-based Civics Education Initiative.

Citizenship may be brought in in Texas schools

State Rep. Trent Ashby was one of the authors of House Bill 1776. He said the measure is intended to make sure public school students receive an education on the most important parts of U.S. civics and history. He said:

“Though elements of the current test have importance, this bill acknowledges that there are some things our students absolutely must understand and appreciate before they finish high school.”

Ashby said the knowledge contained in the test is important to becoming an engaged citizen in U.S. society, reported the Texas Tribune.

Supporters of the measure say civics is lacking in the current educational curriculum. The bill did not draw any opponents at a hearing.

If the bill is enacted, students will be able to take the civics exam any time after they enter the school’s ninth grade. It would be an online test in a multiple choice format.

People who take the naturalization test required to obtain citizenship are asked up to 10 questions from a list of 100. At least six questions must be answered correctly order to pass. Under HB 1776, a student would have to score at least 70 percent or better to fulfill the graduation requirement for U.S. history

The Citizenship Test – How Hard is It?

The Citizenship Test requires some studying for most immigrants but pass rates are typically high.

We noted some of the more difficult questions here on our blog. As of May 2016, the pass rate was 91.6 percent.

In excess of five million tests were taken from late 2009 to May 2016.

Usually, the test is given at the same time as the naturalization interview, U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) says.

Candidates have two opportunities to take the English and civics tests. If you fail a test at your initial interview, you will be retested on the portion of the test that you failed 60 to 90 days from the date of your first interview.

Our experienced Austin Texas immigration attorneys can provide more information about the citizenship test. Please call us at (512) 474-4445.

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First DREAMer Deported Under the Trump Administration

By Peek & Toland on October 9, 2017

The arrival of the Trump administration led to considerable speculation about the future of so-called DREAMERs. Recently, the first DREAMer deported under the new administration sparked increased concern.

DREAMERS are undocumented immigrants who were protected under Obama’s Dream Act.

Juan Manuel Montes Bojorquez, 23, was sent to his home country of on February 17 just hours after he failed to provide identification of his legal residency to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection agent.

Trump administration saw first DREAMer deported

The first DREAMer was deported under the Trump administration

A report in People said Montes was out with his girlfriend and waiting for a taxi when the agent came and questioned him. He said he’d left his wallet in a friend’s car. Because he was unable to prove he was protected under Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), he was transferred into custody. Agents took him across the border a few hours later.

Alarm as First DREAMer deported under the Trump Administration

People who qualified for the DACA program have been concerned about its future under the Trump administration.

The program helps DREAMers who are foreign-born individuals brought to the United States. as children. Obama’s flagship policy gave them a two-year work permit, a social security number, and protection from deportation.

The People report said Montes applied for DACA status in 2014, then again in 2016. He was meant to be protected until 2018, because the program runs for two full years.

The Trump administration previously moved to reassure DREAMers they were safe under the Trump administration.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary, John Kelly said the DACA program is “alive and well.”

However, the deportation of Montes Bojorquez left the DREAMer community nervous.

In our blog we describe how the election of Trump left those who benefitted from Obama’s policy in limbo.

These are uncertain and difficult times for immigrants. If you or a family member is facing possible deportation from Texas and need assistance to fight the action, please call Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Immigration, Immigration Reform

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White House is Urged to Keep the International Entrepreneur Rule

By Peek & Toland on October 7, 2017

Concerns over the future of the International Entrepreneur Rule that allows business leaders from other countries to come to the United States more easily, have led American business leaders to put pressure on the White House.

An article in The Hill in June noted investors, entrepreneurs, and civic leaders are pushing the Trump administration to not block the rule that would smooth the way for entrepreneurs from other countries to come to the U.S.

We outlined the finalized rule earlier this year. Investors who can pump at least $250,000 into the U.S. economy can benefit under the International Entrepreneur Rule.

The measure was originally proposed by the Obama administration. It allows the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to evaluate whether or not business owners can relocate to the U.S. to grow their companies, on a case-by-case basis.

business community fights for the International Entrepreneur Rule

Almost 80 groups representing investors, startup founders, economic development organizations and civic leaders sent a letter in May to the White House. They urged the administration to not roll back the International Entrepreneur Rule due to go into effect on July 17. In the letter they argued:

“Immigrant entrepreneurs are a critical driver of increased economic activity, as they play an outsized role in new company creation in communities all across our country.”

Over the summer, administration officials held a meeting with the National Venture Capital Association (NVCA), a Washington DC trade association that represents venture capital and entrepreneurial interests.

The Trump administration has not taken a stance on the International Entrepreneur Rule.

The groups believe the U.S. is missing out on potential investment from overseas. They say while the rule is not a substitute for legislation, it may be an important step to bringing entrepreneurial talent to the U.S., which has been declining in recent years.

At Peek & Toland , our experienced business immigration attorneys can help you hire people from overseas or if you are using complex federal investment programs. Call us for a consultation at (512) 474-4445.

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Three Discredited Forensic Techniques Still Used in Criminal Cases

By Peek & Toland on October 6, 2017

In recent years, some of the forensic techniques that became mainstays of the criminal justice system have been discredited. But that does not mean they have been abandoned.

Earlier this year, Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he would end the forensic science commission, a Department of Justice Department partnership with independent scientists to raise forensic science standards. He has ended a review of several techniques that were becoming discredited, reported the Washington Post.

Outlining discredited forensic techniques

Discredited forensic techniques are still used

Some techniques that came under fire in recent years include:

1 Hair analysis

Hair analysis is a forensic technique that was heavily used in recent years. However, in 2015, the FBI revealed serious concerns about the technique.

The agency acknowledged testimony was flawed in almost all trials using this evidence over a two-decade period before 2000.

The agency said of 28 examiners employed with the FBI Laboratory’s microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 of them overstated forensic matches in favorable to the prosecution.

That flawed evidence was used in 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed to date, according to the Innocence Project and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL).

Alarmingly, defendants were sentenced to death in 32 cases in which the importance of a hair match was stated.

Why People Have Been Executed Over Discredited Forensic Techniques

Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups.

The Washington Post reported on how defendants and federal and state prosecutors in 46 states and the District of Columbia were being notified to determine whether there were grounds for appeals. Four defendants were exonerated.

One defendant who paid a heavy price for flawed forensic evidence was George Perrot. He spent almost three decades in prison because of a single hair. It was picked up by an FBI agent on the bed sheet of a 78-year-old woman raped by a burglar in 1985.

There was no physical evidence like DNA, blood or semen to tie Perrot to the crime scene, reported The Guardian.

Perrot was convicted on the basis of one strand of hair. During the 1992 rape and burglary trial, Wayne Oakes, an FBI agent, described himself as an expert in hair and textile fibers. His testimony is believed to have swayed the jury. Perrot spent almost 30 years in jail before he was exonerated.

2 Bullet-Matching Techniques

The forensic science commission was also looking into bullet-matching techniques. As long ago as 2005, the FBI said it would discontinue the use of the technique that was used for a quarter of a century.

The bureau suspended its use in 2004. An influential report by the National Research Council found the bullet matching technique could be seriously misleading.

The FBI promised to alert about 300 courts and prosecutors that received bullet-lead laboratory reports indicating positive results since 1996.

The technique known as comparative bullet-lead analysis, was used after President John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. It used chemistry to link crime-scene bullets to those possessed by suspects. The theory was each batch of lead had a unique elemental makeup.

Despite the concerns, the FBI told defense attorneys in 2005, that while it was ending the technique, it still firmly supports the scientific foundation of the bullet lead analysis.

The FBI continued to help state prosecutors defend past convictions by using court filings that experts said were misleading. The government opposed the release of a list of the estimated 2,500 cases over 30 years in which it performed the analysis.

3 Bite Mark Analysis

Bite mark analysis has been used for decades but the science was debunked in 2016. The President’s Council of Advisors on Science and Technology concluded that forensic bite-mark evidence is not scientifically valid and is unlikely ever to be properly validated.

In the case of bite mark evidence, the report is especially critical. The report said it fails to meet the scientific standards for foundational validity, and is a long way off meeting such standards. The report said:

“Available scientific evidence strongly suggests that examiners cannot consistently agree on whether an injury is a human bite mark and cannot identify the source of [a] bite mark with reasonable accuracy.”

While these so called ‘junk science’ techniques have been debunked by committees, some of these discredited forensic techniques remain in the criminal justice system. The science in the past was used to match marks on victims with the teeth of suspects.

While DNA remains the most reliable forensic evidence available to investigators, there are concerns about how it’s interpreted by some labs.

If you have been charged with a crime, please call our Austin criminal defense lawyers at (512) 474-4445.

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Texas Tests Out New System to Expedite DWI Blood Draw Warrants

By Peek & Toland on October 5, 2017

Radical changes in the way DWI stops are conducted in Texas are being considered under a new system that would expedite DWI blood draw warrants.

A recent report on KXAN revealed a new system to speed up blood draws is in testing across the state.

In April, representatives from Law Enforcement Advanced DWI/DUI Reporting System (LEADRS) gave training to municipal court judges in Liberty Hill and Leander on the technology.

As part of the new online reporting system, field officers will be able to send a DWI blood search warrant directly to a judge.

Texas to expedite DWI blood draw warrants

Texas seeks to expedite DWI blood draw warrants

Sgt. Ryan Doyle with the Leander Police Department said the new system will cut down the time between the stop and the blood draw dramatically. At present it can take as long as six hours to track down a judge who can sign a search warrant for the blood draw.

Electronic System Would Speed Up DWI Blood Draw Warrants

Unlike larger Travis County, Williamson County lacks a magistrate at the jail around the clock. When Doyle arrests a DWI suspect, he has to drive the suspect to the jail. If there’s no judge, he releases the suspect to the jail and drives to a judge’s house or tracks the judge somewhere else to sign the warrant.

KXAN reported the lengthy process must occur before a suspect is taken to a hospital for a blood-alcohol test. A section of Leander is in Travis County meaning a police officer must drive a DWI suspect to the Travis County jail before obtaining a DWI blood warrant.

Under the proposed new online reporting system, an officer in the field could send a DWI blood search warrant directly to a judge, dramatically cutting down the processing time.

The police officer would be able to stay at the scene of the DWI stop and send a blood warrant to the judge electronically. The judge is able to review it, sign it and send it back electronically.

An important U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year, reinforced the need for a warrant before a DWI blood test is taken.

While police say the proposed new system in Texas would expedite the DWI process and ensure more accurate results, it also raises concerns. Under the present system a judge can ask questions to an arresting officer face-to-face. The electronic system would be less personable.

If you have been charged with a DWI or a DUI, it’s important to get experienced legal representation fast. See our resources on DWI here. You can reach us at (512) 474-4445 or on our online contact form.

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