Monthly Archives: June 2020

College Students and Criminal Charges: What Families Need to Know

By Peek & Toland on June 20, 2020

When young adults go off to college, they often are on their own and free from parental oversight for the first time in their lives. Not surprisingly, this situation often leads to students making less than perfect decisions and trying out new experiences that often may land them in trouble. While college students may face the same types of criminal charges as all adults, they often face charges related to illegal alcohol and drug use, whether on or off-campus.

Alcohol consumption, in particular, is a common source of criminal charges for college students. Most college students are under the age of 21, at least for the first few years of college, which makes it illegal for them to possess or consume alcohol. Similarly, using fake IDs to attempt to purchase alcohol or enter bars or clubs also can lead to criminal charges. Even when college students are 21 or older, however, they still can face alcohol-related charges, such as DWI. Alcohol use also can lead to other types of criminal charges, such as disorderly conduct, trespass, vandalism, theft, assault, and sexual assault. While alcohol is not always a part of these criminal offenses, it often is a factor that contributes to criminal charges for college students.

College Students and Criminal Charges: What Families Need to Know

Criminal charges can have a devastating effect on the futures of college students. Not only can they face regular penalties through the criminal justice system, such as probation, fines, community service hours, and jail time, but they can face other repercussions, as well. Even mere allegations of illegal conduct on the part of a college student can lead to student disciplinary proceedings, which ultimately can impact their standing as students. Depending on the outcome of those proceedings, they could face suspension, probation, and even expulsion. They may lose scholarships, financial aid, and the ability to live in campus housing. They may be barred from specific campus activities, and they may miss out on crucial internship and job opportunities due to their college or university disciplinary records.

The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the cases of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges in the State of Texas. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf. As a result, we will strive 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.

Posted in Criminal Defense

New Policy Intended to Fight “Birth Tourism” Could Have More Widespread Effects

By Peek & Toland on June 19, 2020

According to a recent NPR article, the Trump Administration has announced a new State Department rule designed to target so-called “birth tourism.” The State Department claims that the practice by which pregnant women travel to the U.S. to give birth so that they can secure U.S. citizenship for their children, is a threat to national security and often involves international criminal activity.

Under this new rule, which went into effect on January 24, 2020, consular officials can deny tourist visas to pregnant women if they believe that the primary purpose of their trip to the U.S. is to give birth. Furthermore, if consular officials have any reason to think that pregnant women will give birth while in the U.S., the rule states that those officials should conclude that obtaining American citizenship for their children is the purpose of the visit.

New Policy Intended to Fight “Birth Tourism” Could Have More Widespread Effects

In support of the new rule, the State Department alleges that thousands of children are born each year to foreign nationals visiting the U.S. on tourist or business-related visas. Nonetheless, the State Department was unable to point to any sources of this information or confirm the scope of the birth tourism problem.

The new rule places new restrictions on applicants for category B nonimmigrant visas or temporary visits for pleasure. However, the rule does not apply to natives of the 39 countries that are part of the Visa Waiver Program. This program allows natives of these countries to visit the U.S. for up to 90 days at a time without a visa.

An additional portion of the new rule aims to ensure that natives of foreign countries who come to the U.S. for medical treatment have the resources to pay for their care. These visa applicants must provide proof to officials that they can pay for the medical treatment that they expect to receive while in the U.S.

The Peek & Toland immigration lawyers are here to represent your interests and advise you of the best course of action in your immigration matter. Set up an appointment to talk to us today and discover how we can assist you with your situation.

Posted in Immigration Reform

The U.S. Supreme Court Blocks Trump Administration From Ending DACA

By Peek & Toland on June 18, 2020

U.S. Supreme Court Blocks Trump Administration From Ending DACA

On Thursday, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled 5-4 that the Trump administration violated federal law when it ended the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA), instituted by the Obama administration, which protected roughly 800,000 “Dreamers” from deportation. 

Chief Justice John Roberts—the swing vote in the 5-4 decision—wrote that the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) decision to rescind DACA in the fall of 2017 was “arbitrary and capricious.” He included that, “today’s decision must be recognized for what it is: an effort to avoid a politically controversial but legally correct decision.” 

President Barack Obama announced the DACA program in 2012. The program protects people brought to the United States as children by shielding them from deportation and allowing them to work legally. 

What does the court ruling mean for those with DACA? 

DACA will remain in effect for now. The court’s ruling means that the Trump Administration will have to provide a more robust justification for ending the DACA program. 

Although the Trump administration may try to end the DACA program in the future by showing a more detailed explanation for its action, such efforts will likely take months and likely won’t take place before the November 2020 election. 

Can I now file for DACA if I never had it? 

The answer is most likely yes, but first you need to (1) call us to see if you qualify because you still have to meet the standards originally set; (2) file your application before the Trump Administration takes additional action to discontinue the DACA program.

Peek & Toland Is Here to Help

Whether you are someone now looking to file DACA for the 1st time, or If you’re a current DACA recipient and are looking to renew your DACA application, now is the time. Given the Supreme Court’s most recent ruling, our attorneys are ready and here to help you renew your application. Contact our office at 512-474-4445 to set up an appointment today.

Posted in Immigration

How Are Juries Chosen in Criminal Cases?

By Peek & Toland on June 18, 2020

When Texas state courts are preparing to hold a jury trial in a criminal case, they send out summonses to prospective jury members based on a list compiled by the Texas Secretary of State’s office for that county. This list contains the names of all individuals within the county who are registered to vote, hold a Texas driver’s license, or hold a Texas state identification card. Courts choose citizens from this list of names randomly and issue them a jury summons. Some courts also send out juror questionnaires to prospective jurors, either in advance of or simultaneously with the summons.

On the first date of the trial, a group of prospective jurors who have received summonses, which usually numbers about 50 or 60 people, gathers in the courtroom with the judge, lawyers for the prosecution, and lawyers for the defense. The person who is accused of the crime also is present in the courtroom, as may be additional court personnel, such as the court reporter. At some point, the judge will swear the jurors to an oath to tell the truth during the upcoming jury selection process.

How Are Juries Chosen in Criminal Cases?

Lawyers then conduct the questioning process known as “voir dire,” which allows them to ask a set of questions to individual jurors. The answers to these questions determine whether either or both lawyers will ask the court to dismiss prospective jurors, either based on cause or a peremptory challenge, which does not require a showing of cause. Each side of the case has a specific number of challenges that they can use concerning prospective jurors. Voir dire continues until the lawyers have selected a full jury, along with one to four alternate jurors.

At Peek & Toland, we care about helping you through your criminal proceedings. We will focus our efforts on advocating on your behalf and representing your interests throughout your case. Our knowledgeable criminal defense lawyers know the best strategies for defending you and working toward your desired objective. Allow us to handle your criminal case by sitting down with us today and discussing your situation.

Posted in Criminal Defense

Will I Face Criminal Charges in State or Federal Court?

By Peek & Toland on June 17, 2020

When law enforcement authorities accuse you of committing a crime, you may face charges in either federal or state court. Some crimes are specific to federal court, whereas others are specific to state court. In some cases, law enforcement officials can choose whether to bring charges in federal or state court. Various factors will impact which court handles your criminal charges.

Criminal charges involving very severe accusations of wrongdoing and crimes with extremely high penalties often are filed in federal court. These offenses may include:

  • Federal weapons charges
  • Interstate drug distribution charges
  • Kidnapping
  • Child pornography crimes

A federal court also has jurisdiction over crimes that affect federal agencies, such as bank robbery, Medicare or Medicaid fraud, and mortgage fraud. Criminal immigration offenses also are unique to federal law. Finally, if crimes occur on federal land, such as military bases, federal courts typically have jurisdiction over them. While many federal crimes are felonies, misdemeanor crimes also do exist under federal law, although they may be less commonly charged.

Will I Face Criminal Charges in State or Federal Court?

Less high-profile cases tend to be prosecuted in state court. These involve most drug cases, except those that involve large amounts of illegal drugs that may have been distributed throughout more than one state. Crimes with no interstate component also tend to be handled by state courts. These crimes can range in severity from murder to theft to DWI.

Significant differences do exist between criminal cases heard in federal court, and those heard in state court. For instance, a different set of prosecutors handle cases in federal court, as opposed to county prosecutors who handle cases in state court. Federal courts have different judges than state courts, and court proceedings follow a completely separate set of rules that differs substantially from state court rules. Furthermore, the penalties for many crimes under federal law are harsher than those for crimes under state law.

Peek & Toland dedicates a large part of its practice to assisting individuals in resolving their criminal charges. We know that criminal proceedings can be intimidating and overwhelming for those who are facing potential penalties for criminal charges. 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 criminal defense attorneys today.

Posted in Criminal Defense

ACLU Sues ICE Over North Texas Immigration Raid

By Peek & Toland on June 16, 2020

ACLU of Texas has filed a federal lawsuit against U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) over an April raid in Allen, Texas, that resulted in the arrest of 280 workers. During the raid, ICE and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) officials detained hundreds of workers at CVE Technology Group, claiming that the workers were undocumented and working illegally.

ACLU filed an open records request under the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) for the search warrants that ICE used to conduct the raid. ICE allegedly denied the request because complying would have interfered with their ongoing investigations. ACLU contends that the refusal violated FOIA, and its proffered reasoning was not legally justifiable. Through the lawsuit, the ACLU is seeking to force ICE to provide a legal reason for the denial of the records request.

ACLU Sues ICE Over North Texas Immigration Raid

Under FOIA, federal agencies must respond to records requests within 20 days unless they request additional time in writing to comply with the request. Federal agencies must turn over the requested documents unless they fall within one of nine specific exceptions stated in the law.

According to the ACLU, obtaining these records is critical to determining whether ICE or DHS officials violated the civil rights of these workers during the raid. Armed officials reportedly required between 400 and 600 employees to remain in a warehouse until they could provide valid identification. During the raid, all work ceased at the worksite. Workers were not permitted to use their phones or talk to one another during the raid. Many of the employees were U.S. citizens.

The Allen raid resulted in more arrests at a single worksite than had occurred in the last ten years. Most of the individuals arrested were women who had been in the U.S. for many years.

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 Immigration

What Are Common Property Crimes Under Texas Law?

By Peek & Toland on June 15, 2020

Various criminal offenses fall into the category of property crimes under Texas law. One of the most common of these crimes is larceny or theft. Larceny occurs when individuals take actions that permanently deprive others of the benefit or use of property or anything of value that belongs to them, without the consent of the owners. Likewise, shoplifting is a subcategory of larceny, in that it involves any actions designed to remove merchandise, money, or anything of value from a retail establishment. These actions may include taking property from a store but also can take the form of switching or altering price tags or placing merchandise in different containers or packaging.

Other property crimes that involve an element of theft include burglary and robbery. Burglary, which is the more common of the two crimes, occurs when individuals illegally enter someone’s home or business without permission and with the intent to commit a crime. Robbery, on the other hand, occurs when people force or violence to deprive others of property that they own or over which they have control.

What Are Common Property Crimes Under Texas Law?

Another type of property crime consists of offenses that are primarily financial, as money is a form of property under state law. Various types of fraud, including real estate fraud, credit card fraud, and insurance fraud, all qualify as property crimes. Embezzlement, money laundering, and other similar offenses typically have an element of theft, as well. Writing bad checks is another form of property offense that is quite common. Although these crimes may occur more in business or employment settings, they still are property crimes that can have severe consequences for those who commit them.

If you or a family member is facing any 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 Criminal Defense, Theft Crimes

U.S. Companies that Most Frequently Utilize the H-1B Visa Program

By Peek & Toland on June 14, 2020

According to a recent article published by reporters at Bloomberg Law, Deloitte LLP, a global accounting and consulting firm, uses skilled foreign workers through the H-1B visa program more than any other U.S. company. Although H-1B visas are often primarily associated with information technology (IT) companies, figures from the U.S. Department of Labor showed that during the fiscal year 2019, over 57,000 workers were approved to work at Deloitte by using the H-1B visa program. This high number of skilled foreign workers is far greater than the number of these workers employed by Qualcomm, Inc., which was associated with just under 30,000 H-1B visas in 2019.

The number of H-1B visas that Deloitte procured in 2019 is only a fraction of the total number of visa applications that they submitted. The number of requests for H-1B visas by the firm has increased in large part due to the push by Deloitte to offer more technological services, such as cybersecurity, blockchain, and machine learning.

U.S. Companies that Most Frequently Utilize the H-1B Visa Program

Additionally, Deloitte also contracts H-1B visa workers out to other firms, much like IT-staffing firms do. Only two IT staffing service firms, Cognizant Technology Solutions Corp. and Infosys Ltd., placed more H-1B visa workers into contracts with other businesses than Deloitte. As a result of these contracts, H-1B visa workers are increasingly working for companies whose names are not usually synonymous with the H-1B visa program, such as Wells Fargo, Verizon, and American Express, among others.  

Proponents of the H-1B visa program say that it fills the needs of businesses to fill gaps in their workforce with talented workers from abroad. Critics of the program, however, claim that it allows companies to bypass qualified American workers to pay foreign workers cheaper wages. 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 and set up an evaluation with one of our highly skilled Texas immigration lawyers.

Posted in Visas

How Effective Are Hair Follicle Tests in Detecting Drug Use?

By Peek & Toland on June 13, 2020

Both law enforcement agencies and probation officers may utilize drug testing for various reasons. Police officers may obtain warrants for tests to support charges for DWI or similar offenses. When people are placed on community supervision, especially for crimes involving illegal substances, they often are subject to random drug testing. Drug courts or pretrial diversion programs also may require random drug testing as a condition of participation. As a result, individuals may have to undergo hair follicle testing when they become involved in the criminal justice system.

Hair follicle testing may be one of the most effective means of detecting drug use in individuals. While probation officers and others traditionally used urine testing to identify the use of drugs in people on community supervision, hair follicle testing likely is more accurate at targeting drug use. Urine tests will not reveal signs of drug use if it has been two or three days or more since the person last used drugs. In contrast, a hair follicle test can show drug use over a much more extended period. Each ½ inch of hair can reveal drug use within 30 days. The standard hairs used in hair follicle tests are one and one-half (1 1/2) inches long, which can show if the person used drugs at any time within the last 90 days.

How Effective Are Hair Follicle Tests in Detecting Drug Use?

Labs that perform hair follicle testing generally use hairs taken from the scalp, but they still can perform the tests on body hairs, as well. Bleach, hair coloring, shampoos, and external contaminants such as smoke have no impact on the results of the hair follicle testing.

Hair follicle testing can detect all types of illicit drugs, including marijuana, amphetamines, cocaine, opiates such as heroin, and PCP. False positives are possible in some instances, usually from consuming certain foods containing specific compounds. As a result, a second screening test occurs to rule out false-positive test results.

When you are facing any criminal charges in the State of Texas, you need an experienced criminal defense attorney to represent your interests. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and set up an appointment to speak with our legal team.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Drug Crimes

Problems Continue to Grow One Year After Trump Administration Implements Remain in Mexico Policy

By Peek & Toland on June 12, 2020

One year now has passed since the Trump Administration implemented Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), colloquially known as the Remain in Mexico policy. MPP requires immigrants seeking asylum to wait in Mexico until the immigration court is ready to hear their asylum cases. This policy has resulted in border officials sending more than 56,000 people back to Mexico when they arrive at the border to apply for asylum.

To handle the crush of people seeking asylum, the Trump Administration has erected two large pop-up tents in Brownsville and Laredo, Texas, to serve as makeshift immigration courts. These courts were not open to the public for some five months after they began operating, and even now, public access is minimal, with some onlookers reportedly being turned away for attempting to enter with a pen and paper. Immigration court hearings traditionally are open to the public, and border officials seem unsure of what policy or law that restricts access to the tent courts, where the same kind of immigration hearings are held as in courtrooms throughout the nation.

Problems Continue to Grow One Year After Trump Administration Implements Remain in Mexico Policy

Immigration judges are not even present in the tent courts for immigration hearings. Instead, they appear by teleconference from different locations. Members of the public also may not sit in at those locations for the hearings being conducted remotely in tents. These policies have prevented family members from being present during their loved ones’ immigration hearings, and also have prevented representatives of advocacy organizations from ensuring that justice is occurring during these hearing. 

The Trump Administration claims that MPP has enabled them to weed out false asylum claims and speed up wait times. In reality, however, more than 2,500 people are living just over the border in Mexico in a tent encampment in squalid conditions. When sent back to Mexico, these individuals have nowhere to go and nothing to do but wait for their court dates.

The immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland have the experience that you need when you are seeking any relief or benefit under federal immigration laws. 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. We intend 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 through this complicated situation.

Posted in Immigration Reform

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