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Monthly Archives: October 2018

Usage of Ankle Monitoring Devices by ICE Rises

By Peek & Toland on October 30, 2018

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is issuing thousands of ankle monitors, or electronic shackles, in order to keep track of the increasing number of families seeking asylum after they are released from detention. Both the government and immigration oppose the use of the devices, but for different reasons. According to the government, the ankle monitors are necessary to ensure that individuals show up in immigration court as scheduled. However, the government fully acknowledges that the monitors tend to become ineffective once deportation proceedings commence. Immigrants with deportation orders simply cut the monitors off and abscond; in these cases, ICE rarely pursues them. Immigration advocates, on the other hand, argue that the electronic monitoring devices, which are commonly used for criminals on parole or house arrest, are inappropriate and inhumane for individuals seeking asylum in the U.S.

 

Usage of Ankle Monitoring Devices by ICE Rises

After the Trump administration reversed its policy on the separation of immigrant families, ICE began increasingly using the ankle monitors for families released from detention during lengthy immigration court proceedings. As of July 2018, there were about 84,500 active participants in ICE’s ankle monitor program; this is triple the number of participants that there were in November 2014. About 45% of those monitors contain GPS technology.

On the whole, statistics suggest that the ankle monitor program has been largely ineffective. There was $187 million in spending on alternatives to incarceration during fiscal year 2017, almost double the number that was spent in 2014. However, the number of deportations of individuals participating in the program increased by only 273, or about one percent. The only benefit to the program seems to be the increased profits for Geo Group, the private prison company that holds the federal contract to administer the program.

If you or your family is facing any 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 often-complex 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 Are Drug-Free Zones?

By Peek & Toland on October 29, 2018

Penalties for drug convictions are enhanced when the underlying drug activity occurs within certain areas that lawmakers have designated as drug-free zones. Texas, like some other states, has designated not only areas within 1,000 feet of elementary, middle, and high schools as drug-free zones, but also areas within 1,000 feet of universities, playgrounds, child care agencies, public parks, recreational centers, and public swimming pools. These enhancements apply no matter the time of day or night, or regardless of whether children are present when the activity took place, with one major exception. If you did not profit from the drug activity that allegedly took place within a drug-free zone, and there were no children physically present when the activity took place, you may not face the enhanced penalties that usually would apply.

 

What Are Drug-Free Zones?

Being charged with a drug crime that occurred within a drug-free zone elevates your charge to the next-highest level. The difference in charges can mean several more years in prison and thousands of dollars more in fines. In some cases, the enhanced sentence can be twice as long as it would have been if the drug activity had not occurred within 1,000 feet of the local library.

There are other implications of being charged with a drug crime within a drug-free zone, as well. For instance, Tex. Gov. Code § 508.145 limits parole eligibility for offenses that occurred in a drug-free zone. Normally, incarcerated individuals become eligible for parole once the time that they have served, plus any good time credit that they have received, equals one-quarter of their sentences. However, a conviction for a drug offense in a drug-free zone limits parole eligibility until individuals have served one-half of their sentences, without consideration of any good time credit that they may have earned.

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 Drug Crimes

Immigrants Seeking Citizenship Facing Increased Wait Times

By Peek & Toland on October 28, 2018

There has been a backlog of immigrants seeking citizenship for years, but since the 2016 election, that wait time has increased dramatically. In the past, it typically took four to six months to process citizenship applications. According to a recent National Public Radio article, however, that wait time now has grown to ten months to one year. Plus, for bigger cities with a larger immigrant population, the wait can be substantially longer. In both New York City and Atlanta, the wait can be as long as 21 or 22 months.

 

Immigrants Seeking Citizenships Facing Increased Wait Times

There are now over 750,000 pending applications for citizenship, a number that has doubled since 2014, and increased almost 20 percent since the 2016 election. Several factors may contribute to this increased backlog. According to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the average number of citizenship applications has increased by 20% during the last two fiscal years. However, immigration advocates also point out that during the Obama administration, the lengthy of the citizenship application form doubled to 21 pages, and during the Trump administration, the interview process has become far more rigorous and time-consuming. Some advocates are referring to the massive slowdown in the processing of naturalization applications as a “second wall,” meant to suppress minority voters and curtail legal immigration.

These delays are only one indication that legal immigration has slowed down precipitously since the 2016. For example, as of October 1, 2017, a personal interview with USCIS for workers seeking green cards became a requirement; in the past, interviews were requested on a case-by-case basis, and interviews were waived most of the time. The interview requirement, predictably, has slowed down the green card process.

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 Citizenship

What is an Order of Nondisclosure?

By Peek & Toland on October 27, 2018

When you are charged with a crime, may be eligible to be placed on deferred adjudication in some cases. Typically, for a certain time period, you must follow various terms and conditions of community supervision or probation as set by the court; if you successfully complete the deferred adjudication requirements, the court will dismiss the criminal case and you will not have a conviction on their record. However, since a deferred adjudication is a public record, the record of their arrest, criminal charges, guilty plea, community supervision, and dismissal all will still appear on a criminal background check.

If you successfully complete deferred adjudication for some criminal offenses, you can file a petition for nondisclosure pursuant to Tex. Gov. Code § 411.0725(d), seeking a court order that prohibits criminal justice agencies from disclosing any information about your deferred adjudication.

What is an Order of Non-Disclosure?

However, there are significant restrictions on your ability to seek an order of disclosure in many cases. For instance, if you are placed on deferred adjudication for certain criminal offenses, you are not eligible for an order of nondisclosure. Some of these offenses include murder, any crime for which you must register as a sex offender, trafficking of persons, offenses that cause injuries to children, the elderly, or the disabled, stalking, and offenses involving family violence.

Furthermore, there are waiting periods before you can qualify for an order of nondisclosure for some offenses. If you are convicted of or placed on deferred adjudication for another crime during that waiting period, you will not be eligible for an order of nondisclosure for the original offense. For example, there is a five-year waiting period for all felonies resolved through deferred adjudication (other than those that are ineligible for nondisclosure). For certain more serious misdemeanors, including assault, disorderly conduct, and discharge of a firearm, there is a two-year waiting period. For all other misdemeanors, you can petition for an order of nondisclosure immediately after completing deferred adjudication.

When you are charged with any type of criminal offense in the state of Texas, 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

How Long Do I Have to Register as a Sex Offender?

By Peek & Toland on October 26, 2018

Individuals who are convicted of crimes that qualify them as sex offenders pursuant to Texas law must register with the Texas Sex Offender Registry after they have completed all terms of incarceration, community supervision, and/or parole. Depending on the type of conviction involved, adults (17 years or older) are required to register for either ten years or for life.

If individuals are designated as sexually violent offenders under Texas law, they must register for the remainder of their lives. A conviction for one of the more serious sex crimes, including many that involve children, typically will result in an individual being labeled as a sexually violent offender. Some of these crimes include:

·         Aggravated sexual assault

·         Trafficking of persons

·         Continuous sexual abuse of a child

·         Possession or promotion of child pornography

·         Compelling prostitution of a minor

How Long Do I Have to Register as a Sex Offender?

Adults who are convicted of certain other sex offenses only have to register for ten years following the end of state supervision. Juvenile sex offenders also must register for ten years following the disposition of their case or after completing all required provisions in their disposition, whichever is later. Some of the criminal offenses that require only a ten-year registration requirement include the following:

·         Online solicitation of a minor

·         Indecency with a child

·         Indecent exposure (second offense)

·         Prostitution (with an individual under 18 years of age)

Under Tex. Code of Crim. Proc., Art. 62.403, Ch. 2, individuals who are required to register as sex offenders can file a motion with the court for early termination of registration. The state will perform an individual risk assessment to determine the likelihood that they will commit another crime or otherwise be a danger to the public.

An experienced Texas criminal defense attorney can help you build a strong defense against sex offenses or any criminal charges. 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 Criminal Defense

What is Double Jeopardy and How Does It Work?

By Peek & Toland on October 25, 2018

If the state charges an individual based on a suspicion that he or she has broken the law in some way, the burden is on the state to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he or she actually committed the crime. If the individual admits guilt or a judge or jury finds the individual guilty of the crime, then the individual will receive some sort of sentence or punishment due to being convicted of the criminal act. However, once an individual is convicted of a crime, then the state cannot charge or try him or her a second time for the same offense. Convicting an individual twice for the same crime is referred to as double jeopardy.

 

What is Double Jeopardy and How Does It Work?

Similarly, if an individual is charged with a crime, the case goes to trial, and the jury acquits the individual, or finds him or her not guilty, then the state cannot bring charges against the individual a second time for the same crime. Once an individual has either been convicted or acquitted of a crime, there can be no further prosecution related to the same criminal offense.

The purpose of double jeopardy is to ensure due process by preventing individuals from being punished twice for the same criminal offense. Otherwise, prosecutors or judges might be able to force an individual to face additional penalties for a crime for which they already have been punished.

Double jeopardy does not apply until a case goes to trial, or when the jury is sworn in and begins to hear the case. Therefore, if you are arrested or even charged with a crime, but the state later drops the charges against you, double jeopardy does not come into play. This means that you could be arrested and charged with the same crime all over again, if the state chooses to do so.

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

How Does a SEC Investigation Work?

By Peek & Toland on October 24, 2018

There are various triggers that may lead to a SEC investigation. The SEC may notice discrepancies during its typical review of SEC reports, whistleblowers may tip off the SEC about illegal conduct, other government agencies may refer cases to the SEC, or the SEC may discover information in the course of its investigation of another matter. Whatever the case may be, SEC investigations can very quickly lead to federal charges for insider trading and other white-collar crimes.

SEC investigations are not public matters, and the first stage of any investigation process is an informal investigation referred to as a Matter Under Inquiry. In these investigations, SEC officials have no subpoena power; rather, they depend on the voluntary cooperation of a business to provide them with the requested information and documents. In some cases, the informal investigation ends the matter, but in other cases, it leads to a recommended enforcement action or a formal investigation.

How Does a SEC Investigation Work?

At the formal stage of investigation, the SEC Division of Enforcement investigates reports of securities violations pursuant to formal Orders of Investigation. These orders allow them to subpoena a broad range of information, documents, and even witness testimony in order to aid their investigation. An Order of Investigation contains a general description of the investigation and what securities law may have been violated. The Division of Enforcement has no prosecutorial powers, but instead will refer appropriate matters to the U.S. Attorney’s office for a criminal investigation and/or prosecution if necessary.

Following a formal investigation, the SEC may choose to begin an enforcement proceeding by issuing a notice of enforcement action. Those who receive the notice may respond to the notice within 30 days, but they are not required to do so, and sometimes, responding is ill-advised, depending on the situation. This notice can result in a civil action in federal court, an administrative proceeding in front of an administrative law judge, or, in some cases, no further enforcement action at all. If enforcement action is taken, the matter becomes public. The outcome of the action depends entirely on the severity and nature of the conduct at issue. A defendant could have assets frozen, large fines and monetary penalties, restitution of ill-gotten gains, and a referral for criminal prosecution in extreme cases.

The federal criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have the experience and knowledge that are necessary to represent your interests when you are facing criminal court proceedings on any type of charges. We are here to gather evidence on your behalf, build a strong defense in your case, and develop the best strategy for achieving your goals. Take the first step by contacting us today and learning what we can do to help.

Posted in White Collar Crimes

Differentiating Assault and Battery

By Peek & Toland on October 23, 2018

In some states, assault and battery are independent crimes that encompass different situations and result in separate penalties. Whereas assault historically involved placing another in fear of imminent harm, battery historically was defined as harmful or offensive physical contact with another. Texas law, however, combines the two into a single offense referred to as assault. According to Texas Penal Code § 22.01, assault occurs if an individual:

·         Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly causes bodily injury to another

·         Intentionally or knowingly threatening another with imminent bodily injury

·         Intentionally or knowingly causing physical contact with another when the person knows or should reasonably believe that the other will regard the contact as offensive

 

Differentiating Assault and Battery

This definition effectively combines the common law offenses of assault and battery into one crime. The charges arising from an assault under Texas law can range from a Class C misdemeanor to a first-degree felony, depending on circumstances such as the relationship of the parties involved, whether the victim was a public servant, and an individual’s previous convictions.

Pursuant to Texas Penal Code § 22.02, aggravated assault occurs when an assault results in serious bodily injury or the perpetrator uses a deadly weapon in the commission of the assault. Aggravated assault is a second-degree felony, but can become a first-degree felony in some situations, such as where either the victim or the perpetrator is a public servant or there is a close relationship between the victim and perpetrator.

In addition to criminal penalties, the perpetrator of an assault also can be civilly liable where the victim has suffered physical or emotional injuries as the result of an assault. This means that the victim can file a civil lawsuit against the perpetrator for the damages that he or she has sustained.

At Peek & Toland, we care about defending you against whatever type of criminal charges you are facing. We will focus all of our efforts on standing up for your rights and representing your interests throughout the criminal proceedings Our knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers know the best strategies for gathering evidence to support your defense and navigating the complexities of the U.S. criminal justice system. Allow us to handle your criminal defense case by sitting down with us today and discussing your situation.

Posted in Criminal Defense

New Lawsuit Challenges EB-5 Visa Methodology

By Peek & Toland on October 22, 2018

The wait for a green card for immigrants in some family and employment categories can take decades, or even extend beyond a normal human life span. In July 2018, however, a lawsuit was filed in the U.S. District Court for the D.C. Circuit that has the potential to significantly impact the wait times for at least one immigration category. The lawsuit challenges the federal government’s methodology in counting spouses and children when determining the annual limit for the EB-5 category, which is employment-based fifth preference.

New Lawsuit Challenges EB-5 Visa Methodology

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit claim that because the U.S. government counts one visa for every spouse and child of the EB-5 investor, as well as one visa for the investor. As a result, an investor with a family of four takes up four visa spots instead of one visa spot, which reduces the quota much more quickly than if family members were not counted. This has created substantial, if not impossible wait times for investors; for instance, a Chinese investor who invests $1 million in a U.S. business that creates 10 jobs for U.S. workers now has a 10 to 15-year wait for a visa, which can mean that his or her children turn 21 and then no longer become eligible to immigrate under this category.

These unreasonably lengthy waits thus have jeopardized the point of the entire EB-5 program. Overall, the U.S. government effectively is granting about 3,500 investor visas, as opposed to 100,000 investor visas, as the EB-5 program had intended. The remainder of the visas end up going to family members each year. In the lawsuit, the plaintiffs claim that the current policy directly contradicts the legislative history of the authorizing statute and violates the notice and comment provisions of the Administrative Procedure Act.

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 Immigration Reform

Fewer Immigrants Passing “Credible Fear” Interviews

By Peek & Toland on October 21, 2018

A recent news story relates how passing the “credible fear” interview for immigrants looking for asylum in the U.S. has become a much more formidable task under the Trump administration. When these individuals present themselves at the U.S. border seeking asylum, they are referred to an asylum officer to conduct what is commonly referred to as a “credible fear” interview. The officer then evaluates the circumstances that have caused the individual to seek asylum to make a determination about whether the individual has a credible fear of persecution or harm in his or her home country based on race, religion, nationality, membership in a social group or political opinion. If the officer does not find the existence of credible fear, he or she will recommend that the individual be sent back home, thus preemptively cutting off what otherwise might be a year-long asylum process.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions recently tightened restrictions on those that qualify for asylum in a ruling that effectively eliminates asylum as an option for most Central Americans fleeing gang or drug violence in their native countries, as well as individuals from any countries seeking respite from domestic violence.

Fewer Immigrants Passing Credible Fear Interviews

These restrictions only contribute to a credible fear interview process that already is difficult. Interviewees rarely have lawyers or advocates present with them, the interviews sometimes are conduct via telephone, and evidence routinely must be translated into for the officer to understand. Individuals also may lack an understanding of the credible fear standard and thus withhold critical information that might help their claims. Lawyers and advocates already are seeing a sharp decrease in the number of individuals who pass the credible fear interview and are formally permitted to seek asylum in the U.S.

When you or a loved one is facing an immigration law problem, you need legal advice and counsel from experienced Texas immigration attorneys. 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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