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Monthly Archives: September 2018

National Interest Waivers

By Peek & Toland on September 30, 2018

The national interest waiver is a type of visa that individuals can use to petition for U.S. permanent residence, or a green card. Either an employer can sponsor an individual for this type of visa, or the individual can self-petition. There is no labor certificate required for this type of immigrant visa.

There may be a wait to obtain this type of visa, because the national interest waiver falls within the second employment-based preference category. A visa backlog is not unusual, as there are only a limited number of green card visas available each year.

National Interest Waivers

Since no immigration laws or regulations define “national interest,” the Administrative Appeals Office (AAO) has developed a list of factors that determine eligibility for a national interest waiver through its caselaw. In order to be eligible for a national interest waiver, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can consider evidence that the presence of an individual will improve:

·         The national economy

·         Working conditions and wages of U.S. workers

·         Education for U.S. children and training programs for workers with few qualifications

·         U.S. health care

·         Affordable housing for young, elderly, and poor individuals in the U.S.

·         The U.S. environment and natural resource usage

Another potential factor that USCIS may consider for national interest waiver eligibility is if a U.S. government agency receives a request regarding the individual.

Furthermore, another AAO decision outlines a framework to help USCIS determine whether to grant a national interest waiver visa. According to this decision, the individual petitioning for the visa must show the following by a preponderance of the evidence:

·         The proposed endeavor has substantial merit and national importance.

·         The individual is well-positioned to advance the proposed endeavor.

·         On balance, it would be beneficial to the U.S. to waive the requirements of a job offer and labor certification for the individual.

If you or your family is facing a visa problem or another type of immigration law issue, 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 proceedings. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment with one of our immigration lawyers and learn how we can assist you.

Posted in Immigration

What Crimes Under Texas Law Can Cause You to Be Placed on the Sex Offender Registry?

By Peek & Toland on September 29, 2018

Convictions for over 20 types of criminal offenses in the state of Texas require individuals to register as a sex offender. Additionally, sex offender registration can be a condition of parole or community supervision, in some cases. Individuals convicted of similar sex offenses in other states also can be required to register if they move to Texas. Texas Code of Criminal Procedure Art. 62.001 et seq. sets forth the criminal offenses that subject individuals who must register as sex offenders, as well as the requirements imposed on those who must register.

If individuals are convicted of certain sex offenses in Texas, they must register for a ten-year period. These criminal offenses include prostitution under Texas Penal Code Sec. 43.02(c)(3), online solicitation of a minor, second indecent exposure offenses under Sec. 21.08, unlawful restraint, kidnapping, or aggravated kidnapping if the victim or intended victim was under the age of 17, and attempt, conspiracy, or solicitation to commit some sex offenses, among others.

What Crimes Under Texas Law Can Cause You to Be Placed on the Sex Offender Registry?

Other sex offenses under Texas law require lifetime registration for individuals who are convicted of them. Some of these offenses include:

·         Continuous sexual abuse of or indecency with a young child or children under Sec. 21.02 and 21.11 (a)(1)

·         Sexual assault and aggravated sexual assault

·         Sexual performance by a child

·         Possession or promotion of child porn

·         Prohibited sexual conduct

·         Trafficking of a person under Sec. 20A.02(a)(3), (4), (7), or (8)

·         Obscenity under Sec. 43.23(h)

Those individuals who are subject to Texas sex offender registration must comply with all of the requirements under Texas law. Some of these requirements include submission of a recent color photograph, a listing of the type of offense of which the individual was convicted, the age of the victim(s) involved in the offense, and a DNA sample. If individuals who are required to register as sex offenders spend more than 48 hours three times per month or more in a different municipality or county, they must provide certain information to the local law enforcement agency.

The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges, including sex offenses. 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, Uncategorized

Immigration Judges Rebelling Against White House Efforts to Push Deportation

By Peek & Toland on September 28, 2018

The news has been filled with stories recently about actions by U.S. Attorney General (AG) Jeff Sessions regarding the administration of immigration courts and the cases assigned to those courts. From the beginning of the year, the AG has been removing a historically unparalleled number of cases from the jurisdiction of the immigration court and assigning them to himself to make the decisions. This practice is having significant effects on the outcomes of thousands of immigration cases, since the decisions that he has issued thus far have altered long-standing policies and procedures observed in immigration courts nationwide.

Just recently, an immigration judge apparently was taking too long to deport an individual, instead opting for the common practice of administrative closure, so the AG stepped in and basically stopped that practice altogether. Furthermore, the AG ordered the immigration judge to immediately deport the individual in question if he failed to appear in court again. When the man failed to appear, the judge granted the defense counsel’s motion to reschedule the hearing based on insufficient notice. In response, the AG again stepped in, removed the immigration judge, and replaced him with a judge who immediately issued a deportation order for the man.

Immigration Judges Rebelling Against White House Efforts to Push Deportation

In light of these developments, along with recent efforts to institute quotas for closing immigration cases for immigration judges who wish to maintain good performance reviews, the union representing the immigration judges has begun to formally protest and fight back against new policies that they say are beginning to erode the independence and integrity of the court system. A group of retired immigration judges issued a letter to Sessions criticizing his actions, stating that, “As a democracy, we expect our judges to reach results based on what is just, even where such results are not aligned with the desired outcomes of politicians.”

No matter the type of immigration issue you are facing, the skilled and knowledgeable immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland are here to assist you. We handle many different types of immigration cases on a daily basis and have the kind of strategic experience and skills that are necessary to reach the desired outcome. By calling our office as quickly as possible after your legal issue arises, we will have the best opportunity to successfully resolve your immigration law case.

Posted in Immigration

Probation Violations in Texas

By Peek & Toland on September 27, 2018

While being sentenced to community supervision, or probation, as a result of a criminal offense is certainly preferable to jail, the court still has a significant amount of control over your life. Depending on the terms and conditions of your probation, you typically must report to a probation officer on a regular basis, pay fees, complete a certain number of hours of community service, undergo drug or alcohol testing, and seek permission from your probation officer before leaving the state.

If your probation officer believes that you have violated any of the terms of your probation, then he or she can file a motion to revoke your probation. If you are on deferred adjudication probation, then he or she can file a motion to adjudicate. Regardless of what is called, the results are the same; a motion to revoke or a motion to adjudicate both will result in a warrant for your arrest. After your arrest on a probation revocation, you must appear before a judge within 48 hours. However, only the judge who issued the arrest warrant can set bail for you in a probation revocation.

Probation Violations in Texas

You also have the right to be represented by counsel at a court hearing to determine whether you violated a condition of your probation. This hearing is very important, because it will be your only chance to explain why you don’t believe that you have violated your probation. As a result, contacting an attorney as soon as you believe that you may become subject to a probation violation is crucial.

Some common probation violations may include:

·         Being charged with a new criminal offense while on probation

·         Failing a drug or alcohol test

·         Not reporting to your probation officer as scheduled

·         Failing to complete community service hours as ordered

When you are charged with any type of criminal offense in the state of Texas, including probation violations, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent your interests from the very beginning of your case. We are here to evaluate the facts surrounding your case, present your options, and provide you with the strongest defense possible. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and set up an appointment to speak with our legal team.

Posted in Criminal Defense

Marijuana Charges and Texas Law

By Peek & Toland on September 26, 2018

Individuals who are intentionally or knowingly in possession of a usable amount of marijuana violate Texas Health and Safety Code Sec. 481.121. The level of charges that individuals face for possession of marijuana depend entirely on the weight of the drug found in their possession. The charges and penalties for possession of marijuana are, on the whole, more lenient than those for possession of other controlled substances under Texas law. Nonetheless, these charges vary in severity from a Class B misdemeanor for two ounces or less of marijuana to a felony for more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana. Whereas a Class B misdemeanor under Texas Penal Code Sec. 12.22 can result in a jail sentence of no more than 180 days and a fine of no more than $2,000, or both, a felony for more than 2,000 pounds of marijuana can result in a prison sentence ranging from five to 99 years, or life in prison, and/or a fine of up to 10,000, pursuant to  Sec. 12.32.

Marijuana Charges and Texas Law

Charges for delivering marijuana under Texas Health and Safety Code Sec. 481.120 are only slightly different than those for possession of marijuana. Again, the severity of the charges and the resulting penalties depends upon the weight of the marijuana delivered. The only significant difference occurs at the lowest amounts of marijuana involved; for delivering one-fourth ounce or less of marijuana without receiving remuneration, it is a Class B misdemeanor, but if the individuals receive remuneration, it is a Class A misdemeanor. Furthermore, if individuals deliver between one-fourth ounce and five pounds of marijuana, they can be charged with a state jail felony under Texas law. If the delivery involves larger amounts of marijuana, the charges and penalties are nearly identical to those for possession of marijuana.

An experienced Texas drug defense attorney can help you build a strong defense against your criminal charges, whether they involve marijuana charges or another type of criminal offense. Taking steps to get you released from jail and fight for your rights at the beginning of your case is typically easier than waiting until your case may be too far gone to fix. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and see how we can help.

Posted in Drug Crimes

Different Classifications of Felonies in the State of Texas

By Peek & Toland on September 25, 2018

The Texas Penal Code classifies felonies into one of five different classes. The sentencing guidelines for each class differ according to the severity of the crime. State jail felonies are the least serious felony criminal offenses in the state of Texas and capital felony criminal offenses are the most serious.

State jail felonies can result in a sentence of incarceration ranging from six months to two years and a fine of up to $10,000. Many DWI crimes constitute state jail felonies. A common example of a state jail felony is possession of less than one gram of a controlled substance. A criminal offense that is classified as a state jail felony can be enhanced to a third-degree felony in some circumstances, if the individual charged has a previous felony conviction or if he or she used a deadly weapon in the commission of the crime.

A third-degree felony can result in a prison sentence from two to ten years and a fine of no more than $10,000. Third-degree felonies include many drug offenses, deadly conduct with a firearm, and indecent exposure.

A second-degree felony carries a sentence of incarceration ranging from two to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000. Arson, sexual assault, and possession of 50 to 2,000 pounds of marijuana all are charged as second-degree felonies.

Different Classifications of Felonies in the State of Texas

A first-degree felony conviction can result in a prison sentence of five to 99 years, or life in prison. Individuals convicted of a first-degree felony also can face up to a $10,000 fine. Some examples of first-degree felonies include aggravated robbery, aggravated kidnapping, and arson.

A capital felony conviction can result in a sentence of death or life imprisonment without parole. The most common capital felony criminal offense is murder.

The Peek & Toland criminal defense lawyers are here to assist you in building a strong defense against your criminal charges, no matter the circumstances. Trust us to represent your interests and advise you of the best course of action in defending your case. Set up an appointment to talk to us today and discover how we can assist you with your immigration matter.

Posted in Criminal Defense

What is Intoxication Manslaughter?

By Peek & Toland on September 24, 2018

Intoxication manslaughter occurs when an individual who is driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs causes the death of another person, typically through a motor vehicle accident. A driver can face intoxication manslaughter charges even if he or she is not technically at fault for causing the fatal accident.

Unlike manslaughter or vehicular manslaughter, in which the prosecution must prove that the person charged engaged in some sort of reckless driving or behavior, there is no such requirement for intoxication manslaughter. Since a driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the accident, the law presumes that his or her behavior was reckless.

 

What is Intoxication Manslaughter?

Under Texas law, intoxication manslaughter is a second-degree felony. A conviction on a second-degree felony can result in a prison sentence ranging from two to 20 years, a fine of up to $10,000, or both. Individuals convicted of intoxication manslaughter also can be ordered to complete anywhere from 240 to 1,040 hours of community service.

 

Fortunately, some defenses to intoxication manslaughter may be available, depending on the circumstances surrounding the accident that led to another’s death. For example, the prosecution must prove that the driver actually caused the death at issue. If a pedestrian suddenly ran into the path of the driver’s vehicle at night and not at an intersection or crosswalk, then the driver may not be at fault for the death, regardless of his or her status of intoxication at the time of the accident. Similarly, the prosecution must prove that the driver was actually under the influence at the time of the accident. Depending on the timing of events, this can be difficult for the prosecution to prove.

The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have the experience and knowledge that are necessary to represent your interests when you are facing any type of criminal charges, including intoxication manslaughter. We are here to gather evidence on your behalf, build a strong case, and develop the best strategy for defending you from the negative impact of a criminal conviction. Take the first step by contacting us today and learning what we can do to help.

Posted in Criminal Defense

Trump Administration Reducing Legal Immigration

By Peek & Toland on September 23, 2018

As the national debate about illegal immigration continues to increase, the Trump administration also is making inroads on its goal to reduce legal immigration in the U.S. The number of individuals receiving visas to enter and permanently live in the U.S. is on pace to drop 12% by the end of Trump’s first two years in office.

Immigrants from predominantly Muslim countries are disproportionately affected by these efforts; by September 30, 2018, experts estimate that there will have been an 81% drop in legal immigration from countries such as Yemen, Syria, Libya, Iran, and Somalia, who are on the travel ban list. With the U.S. Supreme Court recently upholding the third version of the Trump administration travel ban, it is widely expected that those numbers will continue to fall precipitously. In fact, among the ten countries that annually have the most visa applications, only visas for El Salvador natives are on track to increase by the end of Trump’s second fiscal year in office, or on September 30, 2018.

 

Trump Administration Reducing Legal Immigration

Trump has repeatedly justified his efforts to deter legal immigration as protective of American jobs and workers. However, Trump’s critics have pointed to his disparaging remarks about some foreign nations as evidence of his larger intent to slow the transition of the U.S. to a country populated mostly by minorities rather than white Americans. Furthermore, American unemployment rates have fallen to 3.8%, the lowest level in nearly 20 years. There are a record 6.6 million unfilled jobs that American companies are struggling to fill, and slowing legal immigration will not help resolve that situation.

At Peek & Toland, we care about keeping your family together, whether that involves defending against deportation or another immigration-related matter. We will focus all of our efforts on standing up for your rights and representing your interests as you seek to 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

Will Drug Charges Endanger My Immigration Status?

By Peek & Toland on September 22, 2018

The circumstances and nature of drug charges determines whether there is an impact on immigration status. First, it is important to note that you don’t have to be convicted of a drug crime in order to put your immigration status in danger. An arrest or criminal charges for drug possession can be enough to trigger removal proceedings for individuals who are non-citizens, but who are in the U.S. legally. Even if the individual is never convicted of the alleged drug crime, he or she still could be subject to removal, depending on the situation. For example, if an individual admitted to committing a drug crime as per the requirements of a deferred adjudication, he or she could be subject to removal, even though the individuals never was convicted of a crime at all. The fact is that immigration officials can consider even expunged drug offenses in determining whether an immigrant is removable from the U.S.

In general, a minor drug conviction, such as possession of a small amount of marijuana, is often insufficient to merit removal. In these cases, an immigrant has the legal right to seek cancellation of removal, or relief from deportation. However, if an individual is convicted of a felony under the Texas Controlled Substances Act, he or she is guilty of an “aggravated felony” under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which places that individual at risk of deportation and makes him or her ineligible for cancellation of removal.

Will Drug Charges Endanger My Immigration Status?

Nonetheless, even minor drug charges can derail your plans to become a U.S. citizen or obtain a green card. A simple drug arrest may be enough for immigration officials to deny you access to citizenship or lawful permanent resident status.

Peek & Toland dedicates a large part of its practice to helping both individuals and businesses resolve their immigration-related issues. Immigration law is a complex, ever-changing area of the law that necessitates legal advice from experienced immigration lawyers who keep up-to-date with all relevant changes in law and policy. We will work with you to achieve the most positive outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today and set up a consultation with our skilled immigration attorneys today.

Posted in Drug Crimes

Trump Administration Curtails Asylum for Abuse and Gang Violence Victims

By Peek & Toland on September 21, 2018

Attorney General Jeff Sessions issued a ruling recently in an immigration case that sharply curtails the availability of asylum for abuse and gang violence victims from other countries. Unlike previous administrations, Sessions has made broad use of his power to independently review immigration cases and render his own decisions on them, even overturning decisions that immigration judges and Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) officials have already made.

Sessions’ decision sets the bar extremely high for violence victims seeking asylum in the U.S. Not only must the victims show that the governments in their native countries are unable or unwilling to assist the victims, but they also must show that the government condoned the private actions or demonstrated an inability to protect the victims from violence.

Trump Administration Curtails Asylum for Abuse and Gang Violence Victims

This decision is indicative of the Trump administration’s broader efforts to reduce asylum as a channel for immigration altogether, although it is a perfectly legal means of immigration under U.S. law and an obligation under international law. For many Central Americans, this decision may have removed asylum as a viable option. In 2016, more than 60,000 individuals sought refuge from criminal and gang-related violence in Central America – El Salvador, Guatemala, and the Honduras – under U.S. asylum laws.

Under this ruling, victims of domestic abuse essentially are left without recourse, as domestic violence does not normally involve government action in any way. Prior to this ruling, immigration courts had ruled that abused women who were unable to get protection from their abusers due to societal norms and customs in their Central American countries were entitled to asylum. According to Sessions, this is no longer the case. In issuing his ruling, Sessions overturned a key BIA ruling as “wrongly decided” and indicated that all similar immigration court rulings were overturned as well.

When you are facing immigration difficulties, including removal proceedings, you may not know where to turn. At Peek & Toland, 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

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