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Monthly Archives: July 2019

Open Container Laws in Texas

By Peek & Toland on July 31, 2019

Under Tex. Pen. Code § 49.031(1), an open container is any unsealed bottle, can, flask, or other receptacle that can hold alcohol. Thus, if the person has opened the container, the container is “open” for the purposes of this law. If the container is completely sealed and has never been opened, the container is not “open.”

Possessing an open container of alcohol is only illegal if it is in the passenger area of a motor vehicle and accessible to the driver, such as in the cupholder, under the driver’s seat, or in the passenger seat. The passenger area of a vehicle does not include a glove compartment or other locked storage area, the area behind the upright driver’s seat, or in the trunk of the vehicle.

Open Container Laws in Texas

To violate the Texas open container law, you do not have to be driving at the time that you possess the open container. Even if you are stopped or parked on or immediately next to a public road, you could face charges for violating the open container law. Plus, both a driver and a passenger can be charged with a violation of the law, not just the driver.

Texas law does establish a few different exceptions to the general prohibition against open containers. Passengers in taxis, buses, trains, and limos all may fall within one exception. Another exception exists for occupants in the living quarters of recreational vehicles, trailers, or motor homes.

Possession of an open container is a Class C misdemeanor under Texas law. Essentially, this offense is similar to a traffic ticket, in that you cannot face jail time if convicted. The maximum penalty that you can receive is a $500 fine. If you or a family member is facing any type of criminal charges, we may be able to help. As experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys, we have the knowledge needed to help you navigate through often-complex criminal proceedings. Call us today at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment with one of our criminal defense lawyers and learn how we can assist you.

Posted in DWI

CBD Legalization

By Peek & Toland on July 30, 2019

A Texas law has legalized hemp and popular hemp-derived products, like CBD oil. In doing so, the legislation redefined marijuana from certain parts of the cannabis plant to only those parts that contain more than a certain percentage of tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, which is the psychoactive ingredient in marijuana that allows users to get high.

According to the Texas District and County Attorneys Association, however, the change in the law has made it almost impossible to detect whether drugs found on a person is marijuana or hemp. Most, if not all Texas crime labs have no equipment or resources that employees can adequately detect the difference between the two substances. While the equipment that is necessary to determine the potency of a substance exists, the labs currently don’t have access to it. The requisite equipment costs an estimated $300,000 to $500,000, and over 20 labs would need the equipment. The quick tests that labs used to detect the presence of any cannabinoids in marijuana no longer are useable.

CBD Legalization

As a result, district attorneys statewide have begun dismissing hundreds of marijuana charges and declining to prosecute misdemeanor possession of marijuana cases in the absence of evidence proving that the substance contains more than 0.3% THC. This THC percentage is what differentiates legal hemp from illegal marijuana. Some counties also are dismissing felony-level possession marijuana charges.

In contrast, however, the Tarrant County District Attorney reported recently that she had found at least two labs that can provide the necessary technology. The sponsor of the bill, state Sen. Charles Perry, also argues that even if the hemp law hadn’t redefined marijuana at the state level, the 2018 Farm Bill would have affected the definition across all states, since it is a federal law.   An experienced Texas criminal defense attorney can help you build a strong defense against any criminal charges. We are here to evaluate the facts surrounding your case, present your options, and help you make the decisions that will be most beneficial to you, based on your circumstances. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and see how we can help.

Posted in Drug Crimes

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H-1B Visa Revocations Increase

By Peek & Toland on July 29, 2019

According to a recent Bloomberg Law article, revocation of H-1B visas and denial of visa extensions that used to be automatic have increased dramatically in recent months. Competition for these visas is fierce. As of April, employers had submitted over 201,000 H-1B petitions for the 85,000 H-1B visas that will be available beginning in October.

These actions appear to be part of a larger effort by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to crack down on the H-1B visas that employers use to hire foreign workers in specialty occupations. One of the primary users of the H-1B visa is the tech industry. Tech companies, as well as companies in other industries, often use staffing agencies to hire these workers. Some of the recent policy changes seem to focus on cracking down on staffing and consulting companies for alleged fraud in completing the visa petition process for these highly skilled workers.

H-1B Visa Revocations Increase

Denial of H-1B petitions increased from 7.4% in fiscal year 2017 to 15.5% in fiscal year 2018. Advocates state that revocation of H-1B visas have become nearly as common as denials. Scrutiny of all H-1B visa petitions has increased, which has translated into longer waiting times and far fewer approved petitions than before.

In response, USCIS claims that it has made no policy changes in the H-1B visa processing program, but that it has the authority to revoke these visas under Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations. Potential reasons for revoking visas may include fraud, misrepresentations, violation of the terms of the approved petition, or that approving the visa violated regulations or was in error.

Revocations can place employers and foreign workers in a difficult position. Generally, the workers must leave the country within 30 days or face sanctions for remaining in the country illegally. Instead of being able to secure an extension of the visa as planned, the company will have to go through the lengthy H-1B visa lottery all over again. An experienced Texas immigration attorney can help you with all aspects of immigration law. We are here to evaluate the facts surrounding your case, present your options, and help you make the decisions that will be most beneficial to you, based on your circumstances. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and see how we can help.

Posted in Visas

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Can I Change a Tourist Visa to a Student Visa?

By Peek & Toland on July 25, 2019

If you are in the U.S. on a specific nonimmigrant visa and wish to change your status to another nonimmigrant category, you must file the appropriate request with U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). Therefore, if you entered the U.S. on a tourist visa, but now want to attend school in the U.S., you would have to apply for a student visa.

As soon as you determine that you want to change your status, you should take the steps necessary to submit your request, since processing times can be lengthy. You must change your status before your current status expires. You also should not modify your activities, such as by enrolling in school, until your new status has been approved. Otherwise, you could end up present in the U.S. without a legal immigration status. This could lead to you being deported or barred from returning to the U.S.

Can I Change a Tourist Visa to a Student Visa?

Generally, you can change your nonimmigrant status if you meet the following conditions:

  • You were lawfully admitted to the U.S. on a nonimmigrant visa.
  • Your nonimmigrant status is still valid.
  • You have not violated any of the conditions of your immigration status.
  • You have not committed any crimes that would you ineligible.

However, you do not need to change your nonimmigrant status to attend school in the U.S. if you are the spouse or child of individuals who were lawfully admitted to the U.S. in specific nonimmigrant visa categories. These categories include temporary workers on H visas, international trade and investors on E visas, or representatives of foreign media on I visas, among others.

There also are some nonimmigrant statuses that do not permit you to apply for a student visa or other nonimmigrant status. These individuals include those who are in the U.S. under the Visa Waiver Program, informants on terrorism or organized crime, or fiancé(e)s of U.S. citizens or dependents of fiancé(e)s. The Peek & Toland immigration lawyers are here to represent your interests and advise you of the best course of action in your situation. Set up an appointment to talk to us today and discover how we can assist you with your immigration issue.

Posted in Visas

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OIG Investigates Conditions at El Paso Immigration Detention Center

By Peek & Toland on July 24, 2019

Following two surprise visits in May 2019 by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Office of Inspector General (OIG) to an immigration detention center in El Paso, OIG issued a report concerning the severe overcrowding taking place at the facility. OIG found the level of congestion to be so substantial as to pose a risk to the health and safety of the immigrants housed in the facility.

OIG detailed some of their most shocking findings in its detailed report about El Paso Del Norte immigration processing center, as follows:

  • Some people were held in “standing room” only cells for weeks, although they generally should not be detained for more than 72 hours
  • Individuals had limited access to showers and clean clothes, wearing the same clothing for days or even weeks
  • One cell designed to hold 35 people held 155 people, and another designed to hold eight people held 45; overall, the facility, which has a capacity of 125, was holding 900 people at one point

OIG reiterated throughout its report that DHS officials should take immediate action to resolve these issues. They cited fears of rising tensions among the detained persons that could lead to violence, as well as the spread of infectious diseases and illnesses.

OIG Investigates Conditions at El Paso Immigration Detention Center

In response, DHS officials stated that they were not equipped to handle the current influx of immigrants. However, DHS advised OIG that it was operating an additional climate-controlled soft-sided structure at the site that could hold up to an additional 500 people. Officials reportedly will open a new holding facility in El Paso to house up to 800 people, and in about 18 months, intend to open a new processing center to hold an additional 1,800 people. The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal representation of countless individuals facing various immigration-related issues. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys.

Posted in Immigration

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Thousands of Dreamers Graduate from Texas High Schools with No Protections in Place

By Peek & Toland on July 23, 2019

According to a recent Dallas News story, about 17,000 recipients under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA), are graduating from high school this year. About 98,000 DACA recipients are graduating from high school nationwide, with the number of graduating seniors in Texas second only to those in California. While many are looking forward to attending college and building their futures, all are doing so with uncertainty in the back of their minds. Congress has yet to enact any legislation that would create a path to citizenship for the so-called “Dreamers,” which makes it their future lives in the U.S. far from clear.

Some economists believe that immigrants are critical to the American economy and workforce, including in the state of Texas. Therefore, DACA could be an essential program in maintaining the economic health of the state and the country. Immigrants also are playing a part in filling jobs in industries with current labor shortages, which are primarily in the service industry, such as hotel workers.

Thousands of Dreamers Graduate from Texas High Schools with No Protections in Place

The article credits the Texas Dream Act, passed by the Texas legislature in 2001, as key in helping Dreamers who have graduated from high school to attend college. Under the Texas Dream Act, Dreamers who graduate from a Texas high school can attend in-state colleges and pay only in-state tuition. Additionally, with the work authorization currently available for DACA recipients, these individuals can legally work in the U.S., as well.

Thus far, attempts in the Texas legislature to repeal the Texas Dream Act and by the Trump administration to end DACA have failed. As the federal court litigation concerning DACA continues, these individuals continue to educate themselves, work, grow, and learn, despite the overwhelming uncertainty as to their futures. At Peek & Toland, we care about helping you obtain through your immigration problems. We will focus our efforts on advocating on your behalf and representing your interests throughout the immigration process. Our knowledgeable immigration lawyers know the best strategies for gathering documentation to support your goals. Allow us to handle your immigration case by sitting down with us today and discussing your situation.

Posted in Deferred Action

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TPS Immigrants in the American Workforce

By Peek & Toland on July 22, 2019

According to a new report from the University of Southern California, the Center for American Progress, and the National PTS Alliance, immigrants who currently have temporary protected status, or TPS, pay about $4.6 billion in federal, state, and local taxes each year. Primarily Central Americans, these individuals also spend billions of dollars each year in mortgage loans and rent. In addition to Central Americans, this group includes natives of Haiti, Liberia, Nepal, Somalia, Sudan, and South Sudan. This group of taxpayers also includes individuals who have protections under a small program known as Deferred Enforced Departure, which offers protection to immigrants who are experiencing political or economic instability in their countries.

Of the top ten states that benefit from these tax dollars, the state of Texas receives the third highest amount of taxes from individuals with TPS and DED. They contributed a total of $508 million in taxes in 2016, behind only California, which collected $829 million in taxes from this group, and New York, which received $720 million in taxes from this group.

TPS Immigrants in the American Workforce

Despite these substantial contributions to the economy, the Trump administration continues to take steps to limit legal immigration, even as it attempts to crack down on illegal immigration through expedited deportation, mandatory detention, and separation of parents from their children. Although previous administrations have renewed work authorization for TPS and DED recipients every two years, the Trump administration has been trying to revoke this benefit for individuals with TPS and DED for more than one year. The administration also has moved to end TPS for natives of El Salvador, Haiti, Sudan, and Nicaragua. As challenges to the termination of TPS for these groups are pending in federal court, however, most TPS designations now have been extended through 2020.

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 favorable outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today and set up a consultation with our skilled immigration attorneys today.

Posted in Immigration Reform

U.S. Targets Some Nations for Small Numbers of Visa Overstays

By Peek & Toland on July 21, 2019

Relying on a recent Department of Homeland Security (DHS) overstay report, the Trump administration is now targeting some nations that they claim have unusually high rates of visa overstays. However, a closer look at the DHS report shows that these enforcement efforts involve a minimal number of immigrants.


More specifically, the Trump administration directed federal agencies to consider action against countries with business and tourist visa holders who overstay their visas at a rate of 10% or more. Although 20 countries have an overstay rate of 10% or more, each of those countries accounted for less than 1,000 of the individuals who overstayed their visas, except for Syria and Nigeria. Many of these countries had less than 500 individuals who overstayed their visas. The only country with a large number of people who overstay their visas is Nigeria, whose overstays approached 30,000 in FY 2018.

Meanwhile, much larger countries had many more individuals who overstayed their visas, but due to the high numbers of travelers from those countries, they did not make the list. For instance, there were more than 43,000 overstays from Mexico and 88,000 from Canada in FY 2018. However, Mexico’s overstay rate is only 1.5%, and Canada’s overstay rate is less than one percent.

U.S. Targets Some Nations for Small Numbers of Visa Overstays

The Trump administration gave State Department officials four months to consult with DHS officials and recommend sanctions against these 20 countries, which could include suspending or limiting the number of available visas for those countries.

Statistically, however, even harsh sanctions against these countries would do little to combat or change current visa overstay rates. A strategy based on visa overstay percentage rates per county also would disproportionately affect African nations, which comprise 13 of the 20 countries at issue and avoid any such conflicts with or sanctions against more powerful countries, such as China and India. Our goal is to assist you with your immigration concerns, whether family or business-based. We can evaluate your situation and develop a strategy that is most likely to be efficient and effective in your case. Regardless of the immigration matter that you are facing, the attorneys of Peek & Toland have the experience, knowledge, and reputation that you want and need to advocate on your behalf. When results matter most, contact us at (512) 474-4445.

Posted in Visas

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New Scam Threatens Individuals with Deportation Unless They Pay Up

By Peek & Toland on July 20, 2019

The North Carolina Attorney General’s Office recently warned consumers about a new scam that seems to be directed primarily at extorting money from immigrants. The scam, which uses so-called “spoofing” technology to make it appear that a phone call is originating from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) or other federal government offices. The scammers then claim that the persons receiving the phone calls or their family members have become the victims of identity theft or that a family member is being held on an immigration detainer. The caller then attempts to get the victims to confirm personal or financial information, and he or she may threaten deportation or arrest if they do not make certain payments as instructed.

New Scam Threatens Individuals with Deportation Unless They Pay Up

According to the press release, the numbers appearing on caller ID in this scam are not used by DHS or any federal government office to make outgoing phone calls. Furthermore, no one from the federal government would use a phone call to threaten an arrest. As a result, authorities are recommending that anyone receiving these phone calls not give out or confirm any personal, financial, or bank account information, do not make a payment, and immediately hang up the phone.

Consumers receiving these phone calls also may file complaints with the North Carolina Department of Justice’s Consumer Protection Division, the Federal Communications Commission, or the Federal Trade Commission. Your cell phone provider also may able to assist consumers in blocking calls from the phone numbers being used in the scam.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has issued warnings about similar schemes nationwide. These scams range from emails announcing that individuals have been awarded a visa through the diversity lottery if they pay a fee and phone calls asking for immigration processing fees to be paid by telephone or Western Union, to fraudulent web pages that allow individuals to download USCIS forms for a fee. Our Texas immigration lawyers are here to offer you the experienced legal representation and advice that you need to resolve your immigration matter. We can act as your guide through the complicated immigration process to obtain the relief that you are seeking. Call our office today and learn about the type of assistance we can offer you.

Posted in Immigration

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Prosecutors Sue Federal Government Over ICE Courthouse Arrests

By Peek & Toland on July 19, 2019

There have been various media reports from around the country showing an increasing number of courthouse arrests of immigrants by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. Under the Obama administration, official ICE policy was to avoid making arrests in sensitive locations, such as courthouses. The Trump administration rescinded this policy and have made many courthouse arrests of immigrants over the past few years. Local courts have complained that ICE enforcement in courthouses has deterred immigrants from coming to court on other matters.

Prosecutors in Massachusetts now have sued the federal government to block ICE agents from making arrests at courthouses. They claim that the threat of arrest by ICE and eventual deportation for immigrants suspected to have no legal immigration status makes it more difficult for them to prosecute these individuals for unrelated crimes and obtain justice for the victims of those crimes. Aside from defendants, witnesses and victims of crimes also are not appearing in court out of fear of arrest and deportation by ICE.

Prosecutors Sue Federal Government Over ICE Courthouse Arrests

This issue came to a head recently when federal prosecutors in Massachusetts filed charges against a state court judge and court officers for obstruction of justice due to their roles in helping a man sneak out the back door of the courthouse to avoid an ICE agent.

Nor is Massachusetts the only state fighting back against the increasingly common practice. Earlier this year, New York state court officials banned immigration agents from entering courthouses without judicial warrants or orders.

Meanwhile, the Trump administration claims that ICE agents are targeting only immigrants who may pose a threat to public safety when they are in courthouses, and that is generally safer to make arrests in courthouses, as all individuals must go through metal detectors before entering. Whatever your situation may be, you will need skilled legal assistance to work toward a resolution of your immigration matter. The Texas immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland know how to help you navigate through the maze of immigration forms, regulations, and policies, 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.

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