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Monthly Archives: June 2018

USCIS Suspends Expedited Processing of H-1B Visas

By Peek & Toland on June 30, 2018

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced that although it would begin accepting petitions for H-1B visas subject to the Fiscal Year (FY) 2019 cap, it also was suspending premium processing for all FY 2019 petitions subject to the cap, including those petitions seeking an exemption for individuals with a master’s degree or higher. However, USCIS will continue to accept premium processing requests for H-1B visa petitions that are not subject to the cap during this time period. It is unclear when USCIS will reinstate premium processing of the H-1B visa petitions subject to the cap.

According to USCIS, suspending the premium processing of these visa petitions will help reduce overall H-1B visa petitions processing times. The agency claims that the temporary suspension will allow it to process long-standing petitions that it previously has been unable to process due to the influx of petitions, and particularly those seeking premium processing, as well as prioritize the processing of H-1B visa extension of status cases that are nearing the 240-day mark.

USCIS Suspends Expedited Processing of H-1B Visas

Nonetheless, USCIS still will accept a request to expedite a H-1B visa petition that that is subject to the FY 2019 cap, so long as the petitioner can demonstrate that he or she can meet one of the criteria set forth by USCIS. The petitioner typically should present documentary evidence in support of the request to expedite, which USCIS will consider on a case-by-case basis. These criteria include one or more of the following:

·         Severe financial loss to a company or person

·         Emergency situations

·         Humanitarian reasons

·         Nonprofit organization whose request is in furtherance of the cultural and social interests of the U.S.

·         Department of Defense or national interest situation

·         USCIS error

·         Compelling interest of USCIS

Whether you are seeking a visa to enter the U.S., an undocumented immigrant already living in the U.S., or seeking to adjust your current immigration status, we are here to help you with your immigration case. We will devote all of our efforts to representing your interests, answering your questions, and calming your concerns. Don’t hesitate to contact Peek & Toland and schedule a time to meet with us today. We can help protect your rights and get you the relief that you need.

Posted in Immigration

What Are the Penalties for DWI in Texas?

By Peek & Toland on June 29, 2018

The penalties for a driving while intoxicated (DWI) conviction are very serious, and they become increasingly severe for second and subsequent convictions. The severity of the penalties for a DWI conviction also depends upon the facts and circumstances surrounding the incident. For example, if you cause a motor vehicle accident or bodily harm to another person in the course of a DWI, the penalties are more serious than if a police officer simply pulled you over for DUI. Likewise, a higher blood alcohol content/concentration (BAC) during a DWI can result in a more severe punishment.

For a first DWI offense with a BAC of less than .15, which is a Class B Misdemeanor, you can receive the following penalties:

·         A fine of up to $2,000

·         A jail sentence ranging from three to 180 days

·         Driver’s license suspension ranging from 90 to 265 days

If your BAC is .15 or greater, the offense becomes a Class A Misdemeanor, for which you can receive a fine of up to $4,000 and a jail sentence of up to one year. Similarly, a second DWI offense is a Class A Misdemeanor with the same penalties, but also with a driver’s license suspension ranging from 180 days to two years.

What Are the Penalties for DWI in Texas?

For a third DWI offense, you can face 3rd Degree Felony charges; a conviction can result in the following penalties:

·         A fine of up to $10,000

·         Two to 10 years imprisonment

·         Driver’s license suspension ranging from 180 to two years 

Various other factors can affect the penalties for a DWI conviction. For instance, if you have an open alcohol container at the time of your DWI, your minimum jail sentence increases to six days. If you are convicted of DWI that is the proximate cause of an accident with serious bodily injury, you could be incarcerated for two to 10 years, your minimum jail sentence will be at least 30 days, and you could be ordered to pay a fine of up to $10,000.

At Peek & Toland, we are dedicated to protecting your rights and defending you from any potential criminal charges, including DWI and other alcohol-related criminal offenses. We are here to investigate the facts surrounding your case, consider your options, and help you develop the strategy that is best designed to achieve a successful outcome in your case. Do not waste time; contact our office as soon as you become the target of an investigation.

Posted in DWI

ICE Arrests Multiple East Texan Immigrants in Three-Day Raid

By Peek & Toland on June 28, 2018

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officers recently arrested 89 immigrants during a three-day raid in North Texas and Oklahoma. The officers conducting the raid arrested 18 individuals in Oklahoma and 71 in Texas. The arrests included 67 individuals with criminal convictions, including 88 men and one woman ranging in age from 19 – 60, and coming from ten different countries. The majority of the arrested immigrants were from Mexico, and the remainder were from nine other countries, including Guatemala, Honduras, Colombia, Nigeria, El Salvador, Laos, Nicaragua, Pakistan, and Vietnam. About ¼ of the individuals arrested previously had been deported, so they also could face up to 20 years in federal prison if convicted, in addition to deportation. Those immigrants who were previously deported will again be processed for deportation and then presented to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for criminal charges of re-entry following deportation.

ICE Arrests Multiple East Texan Immigrants in Three-Day Raid

ICE reported that the raid focused on targeted immigrants, or those selected specifically for deportation by ICE. However, ICE did acknowledge that if agents encountered other immigrants with no legal status in the course of their targeted raids, they also would arrest them if warranted on a case-by-case basis. Targeted raids are organized as a part of ICE’s immigration enforcement efforts.

If you have an immigration case or court proceeding pending, you are entitled to certain rights. Whether you are detained or simply facing deportation proceedings, you need legal assistance today to fight for those rights and work toward the relief that you are seeking. We will put forth our full efforts to win your release from detention, defend you against deportation charges, and restore your family. There are a variety of defenses against deportation that may apply to your immigration case. The Texas deportation defense attorneys of Peek & Toland know how to help you navigate through the maze of deportation proceedings and get the relief that you need. Take the first step today and secure the future of your family in the U.S. Contact our office today at and set up an evaluation with one of our highly skilled Texas immigration lawyers.

Posted in Immigration

What is a Grand Jury and How Does It Work?

By Peek & Toland on June 27, 2018

Most people think of a jury as the individuals selected to make a decision about a court case after hearing testimony and evidence presented at a trial. A jury trial can involve either criminal charges or a civil court case. A grand jury, however, is not the same as a regular jury; it is a panel of 12 citizens who review felony criminal charges to decide if the state has probable cause that a defendant committed the criminal offense, which is a requirement to go forward with the case. A grand jury does not decide a person’s guilt or innocence after hearing evidence. Instead, it determines by a vote whether probable cause exists to issue an indictment, which is a formal accusation of a crime; after a grand jury issues an indictment, the District Attorney can proceed with prosecuting the criminal charges. If the grand jury does not find probable cause, then they vote to issue a no-bill, which usually results in the District Attorney dismissing the case. However, if a grand jury votes to issue a no-bill, it still also can vote to issue an indictment on a lesser-included charge, such as one that would be a misdemeanor rather than a felony.

What is a Grand Jury and How Does it Work?

Grand jury members come from a randomized list of registered voters in the county in which the crime occurred. Jurors cannot have a felony conviction or a misdemeanor conviction involving moral turpitude, such as a crime involving dishonesty or fraud. Individuals also cannot have any pending criminal charges at the time that they serve on the grand jury. Grand jury members serve for a term, which is usually about three months, and may have to appear in court as much as a few times each week. Grand juries may hear state criminal cases in state court and federal criminal cases in federal court.

Whether you are indicted by a grand jury or simply charged with a criminal offense, you need legal advice that only experienced criminal defense attorneys can offer you. The consequences of a criminal conviction can be serious, no matter what type of criminal charges you may be facing. As a result, you should immediately contact a skilled defense lawyer for help if you have been accused of a criminal offense. Peek & Toland provides strong legal representation on a regular basis for adults who are charged with various crimes. It is our priority is to represent your interests and protect your rights.  Call us at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment to speak with us today.

Posted in Uncategorized

Trump to End Special Status for Liberian Immigrants in America

By Peek & Toland on June 26, 2018

According to a recent Reuters article, President Trump announced that he was ending Temporary Protected Status (TPS), as well as an older program, Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), for certain immigrants from Liberia, a country in Western Africa. TPS and DED create a special legal immigration status that allow immigrants from countries experiencing civil unrest, widespread violence, or natural disaster to remain in the U.S. because it is too dangerous from them to return to their native countries. Essentially, the only difference between DED and TPS is that the President has the authority to extend DED, whereas the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has the authority to extend TPS.

TPS and DED have allowed many Liberian immigrants to live in the U.S. since 1991 as a result of civil wars and more since 2014’s Ebola virus outbreak. According to Trump, Liberia is no longer experiencing civil wars, has restored stability, has returned to democratic governance, has contained the Ebola virus outbreak, and has concluded reconstruction, meaning that Liberian immigrants can safely return to their native country. Therefore, Liberian nationals who have been living in the U.S. will no longer have TPS as of March 31, 2019.

Trump to End Special Status for Liberian Immigrants in America

Liberians are not the only group of immigrants who are seeing their TPS end. Earlier this year, the Trump administration ended TPS for about 200,000 Salvadorans. About 59,000 Haitians and 5,300 Nicaraguans will lose their TPS next year, and TPS for about 57,000 Hondurans will expire July 5, 2018. Some experts estimate that as many as 90,000 Liberians currently live in the U.S. For some, returning to Liberia is simply not feasible; Liberia is a country where they may have not lived for decades, as well a country with a weak economy and infrastructure.

If you are one of the many immigrants losing TPS, you may become subject to deportation if you fail to leave the country as directed. The immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland have the experience that you need when you are facing deportation charges. We will determine the facts and evidence that are relevant to your case, evaluate your options, and help you decide the best course of action for your situation. It is our goal to place you in the best position possible to achieve your goals. Contact our Texas immigration attorneys at our office today and learn how we can assist you and your family through this difficult situation.

Posted in Immigration

Advocates Join Efforts to Fix Austin Police DNA Lab

By Peek & Toland on June 25, 2018

Travis County government officials, community leaders, civil rights advocates, and victim advocates have formed a stakeholders group to devise a solution to the 2016 closure of the Austin Police Department DNA Lab. After a state audit revealed major problems with the lab’s handling and analysis of evidence, lawyers and scientists are continuing to review hundreds of cases that may have been affected by lab errors. The purpose of creating the stakeholders group is to address what went wrong with the lab and how to avoid problems in the future.

Additionally, the city of Austin has entered into a contract with the Quattrone Center for the Fair Administration of Justice, which is housed at the University of Pennsylvania. Quattrone will conduct a root cause analysis, which will review the lab’s protocols in handling DNA evidence in order to determine where things went wrong, as well as recommendations about how to make changes that will prevent errors in the future.

Advocates Join Efforts to Fix Austin Police DNA Lab

Following the closure of the lab, the district attorney’s office has sent so-called “Brady notices” to all defendants whose cases might have been affected by the lab’s DNA analysis. The notice advised the defendants to contact the Capital Area Public Defender Service, a nonprofit indigent defense office, if they wished to have their cases reviewed for errors in DNA analysis. As of a few months ago, the district’s attorney office had sent 1,117 Brady notices to defendants involved in 1,813 cases. Of the 1,117 notices sent, about 200 were returned in the mail due to a bad address. Capital already represented 108 of the defendants for other reasons, 44 defendants were deceased, 161 defendants had been deported, and another 179 defendants were unaccounted for, but were not incarcerated, on parole, or on probation.

About 60% of these defendants, or 537 individuals, have requested a review. For those defendants who request review, Capital Area Public Defender conducts a materiality review of each case to determine if the outcome of the case hinged on DNA evidence. So far, lawyers have flagged at least 116 cases as high priority for scientific review.

While concerns about the Austin Police DNA Lab continue, we are here to ensure that your rights are not violated. The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our criminal defense attorneys today.

Posted in Criminal Defense

Will Judges Be Allowed to Continue Administratively Closing Certain Deportation Cases?

By Peek & Toland on June 24, 2018

Under a longstanding practice called “administrative closure,” immigration judges essentially can grant a reprieve to certain undocumented immigrants who have lived in the U.S. for many years, who have developed strong family ties in American communities, and who have not committed any serious crimes. Although this practice does not grant any sort of legal status to an immigrant, it does permit him or her to remain in the country and often be eligible to legally work. However, the government can reopen their deportation cases at any time.

One benefit of this practice is that it helps deportation cases move through heavily-backlogged immigration court system more quickly. It also allows the government to focus on immigrants who have committed serious crimes, rather than those who have lived and worked in American without incident for many years. Now, the Trump administration has announced that it will largely eliminate the practice as part of its crackdown on immigration enforcement.

Will Judges Be Allowed to Continue Administratively Closing Certain Deportation Cases?

Trump’s decision to curtail the administrative closure practice, however, like many of his decisions, has unintended consequences. While Attorney General Jeff Sessions has vowed to swiftly reduce the backlog of cases in immigration court, reversing administratively closed cases and eliminating the practice altogether is likely to greatly add to the backlog rather than reduce it. For example, during the last year of Obama administration, immigration judges administratively closed roughly 56,000 cases. On the other hand, during the first year of the Trump administration, immigration judges administratively closed only about 20,000 cases. This is a huge decrease in closures that already is adding to the existing backlog of immigration court cases. Not surprisingly, the immigration court case backlog has grown by about 145,000 cases, or about 27%.

If you or a loved one fears arrest, detention, and deportation on immigration-related grounds, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas immigration attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through the often complex process of immigration court proceedings. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment with one of our deportation defense lawyers, and learn how we can assist you.

Posted in Immigration Reform

U.S. Now Approving Far Fewer Muslim Immigrants, Refugees, and Visitors

By Peek & Toland on June 24, 2018

National Public Radio is reporting that no matter the outcome of the case involving the so-called Muslim travel ban before the U.S. Supreme Court, the Trump administration has been largely successful in implementing its own version of a Muslim ban. Since Trump took office last year, statistics show that Muslim immigration to the U.S. has dropped precipitously. Thousands of immigrants have borne the brunt of rapidly changing federal immigration policies, as their families have been forced to remain scattered across the world. Moreover, these immigration policies have disproportionately affected Muslim immigrants.

For instance, as compared to 2016, monthly arrivals of Muslim refugees are down 91 percent this year thus far. Meanwhile, immigration from countries whose populations are predominantly Muslim is down 26 percent, and temporary visas granted to visitors from those same countries is down 30 percent. In 2016, one in two refugees were Muslim; at the current time, only one in six refugees are Muslim.

 

U.S. Now Approving Far Fewer Muslim Immigrants, Refugees, and Visitors

While the Trump administration claims that these decreases are due to the extreme vetting measures that it is taking to protect national security, they seem to have resulted from discrimination on the basis of religion. Immigration activists argue that the administration merely has found a more subtle way to carry out its desired Muslim ban. While the debate continues to rage over the travel ban being litigated at the Supreme Court, these policies are likely to be far more difficult to challenge in any court of law.

At Peek & Toland, we care about keeping your family together, whether that involves visitors from abroad, seeking to obtain refugee or asylee status, applying for a visa to enter the U.S., or avoiding deportation . We will focus all of our efforts on standing up for your rights and representing your interests as you seek a legal immigration status that will permit you to visit or even remain in the U.S. Our knowledgeable immigration lawyers know the best strategies for gathering evidence to support your case and navigating the complex rules of the U.S. immigration system. Allow us to handle your immigration case by sitting down with us today and discussing your case.

Posted in Immigration Reform

Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals Rules Judge Violated Defendant’s Rights by Using Stun Belts in Court

By Peek & Toland on June 23, 2018

The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals in El Paso, Texas, has thrown out the conviction of a man whom State District Judge George Gallagher repeatedly ordered to be shocked with a stun belt during his 2016 trial on charges of soliciting sexual performance from a 15-year-old girl. When defendant Terry Lee Morris refused to answer the judge’s questions properly during the trial, the judge ordered the bailiff to shock Morris three times. Morris was so afraid of being shocked further that he refused to return to the courtroom during the remainder of his trial and for most of his sentencing hearing. The Eighth Circuit Court found that shocking Morris effectively removed him from the courtroom, which violated the Sixth Amendment to the Constitution, which guarantees him the right to be present during his trial and confront witnesses against him.

Tarrant County law enforcement officials sometimes strap stun belts around defendants’ legs in order to prevent them from becoming violent or attempting to escape. As the Eighth Circuit Court pointed out, however, stun belts are meant to ensure physical safety, not to punish a defendant until he provides the judge with what he considers to be acceptable behavior in the courtroom. While most courts have found the use of stun belts constitutional, they have found that the belts only should be used in cases of legitimate security threats. The Eighth Circuit Court spoke out strongly against the judge’s usage of the stun belt in this case, comparing it to a court drifting from justice to barbarism.

Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals Rules Judge Violated Defendant’s Rights Using Stun Belts 

Stun belts cause a 50,000 volt shock to the person wearing it for a period of eight seconds. The shock immobilizes the person so that law enforcement officials can subdue him or remedy any threat to security. A stun belt shock can cause a person to suffer a seizure and heart irregularities, urinate or defecate, or develop severe anxiety.

The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our criminal defense attorneys today.

Posted in Criminal Defense

The Collateral Consequences of a Texas Drug Conviction

By Peek & Toland on June 23, 2018

Collateral consequences refer to the additional indirect penalties that you may encounter after you have been convicted of a crime. These are not the direct penalties that you receive as a result of a plea bargain or trial, such as a jail sentence, but they are other temporary, long-lasting, or even permanent consequences that are likely to affect your everyday life following your conviction. The exact nature of these collateral consequences will depend on the type of criminal conviction that you have, and a drug conviction in Texas results in very specific and serious consequences.

For example, you may become unable to request federal financial aid that would enable you to attend college if you are convicted of a drug offense. Any type of felony conviction can prevent you from voting in federal, state, and local elections for the rest of your life. Likewise, any type of felony conviction can permanently prevent you from owning a firearm. Your driver’s license can be suspended, which makes going to work, attending school, and just getting around in general extremely difficult.

The Collateral Consequences of a Texas Drug Conviction

Plus, since you now have a drug conviction on your criminal history, you may have difficulty finding a job, and may be barred from certain types of employment altogether. For instance, Texas licensing authorities have the right to revoke, suspend, or deny certain employment-related licenses if you are convicted of a felony, which often occurs in drug-related criminal cases. There is a long list of occupations that require licensure in the state of Texas, including barbers, teachers, nurses, and firefighters. If you have a felony drug conviction in your background, you are likely to lose your license or have it suspended, or be denied a license by the state.

Peek & Toland is a Texas criminal defense and immigration law firm who has dedicated its resources and efforts to protecting your rights and defending you against accusations of criminal activity, including any drug-related charges. We will work with you to develop a strong defense to your criminal charges and obtain the most positive outcome possible in your situation. Contact our office today and schedule a consultation with our experienced criminal defense lawyers.

Posted in Drug Crimes

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