flights are getting canceled, and different countries are closing their borders
due to COVID-19. A question our firm has heard frequently as of late is, what
do I do if my visa is about to expire and I can’t go back to my home country
because of COVID-19?
Immigration Attorney Jeff Peek discusses three options that could apply to your case and help you avoid illegal presence in the United States.
1. Extension of Status
Assuming your permit has not expired, you can
file through USCIS and ask for more time. You will need to explain why it is
that you’re asking for an extension. You’re going to need to show proof of your
intent to return, a return ticket already purchased, your plans, where you’re
going to be living, and what you will be doing. It might help if you have a
sponsor who is a citizen or a resident to sign a letter.
From experience in the past years, this will typically give you about 5-6 months while they process your application and decide. Therefore, this allows you to be in the U.S. without an accumulation of unlawful presence.
2. Change of Status
Change of status is when you change to a different type of visa. This can be a little tricky because the visa you want to switch to has to be immediately available. For instance, if you change from a B1/B2 tourist visa to an F-1 student visa, you have to ask yourself, are you going to be able to enroll in the school immediately? Is the school willing to issue an I-20 to you even though you’re technically on a B1/B2 visa? Can you do that before your temporary visitor visa expires and before the school year starts? Maybe there are other visas like an investor visa or work visas that you could apply. Still, you have to keep in mind that it has to be immediately available.
3. Adjustment of Status
Adjustment of status is where you change from any non-immigrant visa to the intent to reside in the U.S. permanently, so you would apply for residency. There are lucky few who are eligible for adjustment of status. Those Individuals are spouses of U.S. citizens, parents of U.S. citizens, or minor children of U.S. citizen parents.
We recommend talking to one of our attorneys
to see which option is the right fit. We’ve helped many families and
individuals further their stay here in the United States legally, especially in
the midst of this global pandemic.
We hope this information has been helpful. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions.
Follow us on our social media platforms for up-to-date immigration news.
Attorney Jeff Peek shares the latest news concerning immigration
law that may affect you or someone you know.
Student Visa Update
Last week, the Trump
Administration announced some changes to the F-1/M-1 student visas. The
announcement indicated that if there was a full-time online program, you would
be out of status as an F-1/M-1 visa holder and would have to leave the country
The great news is that the
Trump Administration just announced that they’re going to rescind the
previously issued order and that they will not implement that rule. Therefore,
you can take a deep breath if you’re an F-1 or M-1 student visa holder. You
will still maintain good status with your F-1/M-1 visa even if all classes are
The second piece of
information is pretty interesting and exciting. In a recent speech, President
Trump announced that he wants to extend the DACA program and provide a pathway
to citizenship. Now it remains to be seen if he has the authority to do so.
Trump hasn’t made it completely clear yet what it’s going to be, but he said
that soon he would make a big announcement.
Until then, we would
advise anybody who is either renewing DACA or is eligible for DACA to continue
to renew your DACA. If you are eligible, but never filed, definitely get your
application ready to go and get ready to file. If you’re somebody who may have
had a criminal record in the past but got the case dismissed, now it might be a
great time to apply. If you live in Texas, you can get criminal cases expunged,
so that it will not appear on your record. We certainly can help you with any
of those questions. Watch our latest immigration videos for more information
Stay tuned as we will keep
you informed on any immigration law updates. In a matter of time, we will hear
new news from president Trump.
We are here to help you in any way that you can, so if you have any questions, please call us at 512-474-4445 or you can find more information on our website at www.peekandtoland.com.
Follow us on our social media platforms for up-to-date immigration news.
Welcome to Immigration Wednesdays. Attorney Jeff Peek briefly explains expunctions, who’s eligible, the process, and the benefits.
What is it?
It’s a process in the state of Texas whereby one charged
with a criminal case, whether it be DWI, misdemeanor, or felony, had that case
either dismissed or found not guilty, can then erase it in all records. Records
include physical state, paper files, computer, digital, and online so that it
doesn’t appear anywhere.
Process & Eligibility
First of all, this is in the state of Texas. If arrested
in another state, check with lawyers in that state because each state has a
very different way of handling expunctions. In Texas, you must have either had
the case dismissed or be found, not guilty at trial.
There are different types of dismissals. In lawyer
language, it’s called a straight dismissal, meaning there was no reduction of
charges. There was no lesser punishment involved, and the charges are dropped.
For example, if you were charged with DWI and they agreed to dismiss the DWI,
but then you had to plead to reckless driving or obstruction of a passageway,
you would not be able to expunge the DWI because you ended up taking a plea
deal and punishment on a lesser case.
Sometimes, you find cases where somebody’s charged with a
misdemeanor or felony, and they drop it down to a different level, and it’s
dismissed at that lower level. For instance, you have a felony dropped down to
a misdemeanor. Still, then you’ve got a deferred prosecution on the misdemeanor,
or they dropped it down to a class C ticket, and you got a deferred disposition
on the class you ticket that also ended up in dismissal. In some of those
cases, you could still be eligible to expunge it.
Found Not Guilty at Trial
If you go to trial, whether in front of a jury or a judge
and you’re found not guilty, you’re also eligible to having expunction and even
better. You don’t have to pay the filing fees for that.
What if you have completed probation, are you eligible
for expungement? No. What if you finished a jail sentence and it’s been more
than ten years, are you eligible for expungement? No. It’s very limited to
those two classes. And again, if you have a diversification, there’s another
Secondly, why would you want to do it? There’s a lot of
reasons. Here are some examples:
Employers have access to criminal records. They may see that you were arrested, and they may not like the fact that you have a record. Even if you got off on the case.
You don’t want your partner or their family to see your record
You want to apply for law enforcement
You want to go to advance your career
Benefits for Immigrants
There are also two crucial reasons from an immigration
side. For example, there are programs now, in central Texas and other many
other counties, where you can enter what is called a Deferred Prosecution
Agreement, or sometimes it’s called a Pretrial Diversion Agreement or Drug
Courts. These various programs allow you to dismiss the case once you have
completed all of their requirements. Sometimes they dismiss it on the front
end, sometimes in the back end, but it’s a valid dismissal that your eligible
do expunge. For immigration law, USCIS has begun to question whether that
dismissal is an actual dismissal. And they’ve said, “No, that’s not a true
dismissal, you admitted to doing the crime?” When you sign that Deferred
Prosecution, you confessed statements. When you participated in that Pretrial
Diversion Program or that Drug Court, you went in front of a judge and admitted
that you did those activities. You took responsibility, immigration saying
that’s not a dismissal. USCIS is going to count that as a conviction. Even if
your paperwork shows “dismissal,” USCIS will argue that those
programs require a confession or knowledge of responsibility. Therefore, you
are guilty of those charges.
So, it’s vital to dismiss charges that they are entirely
removed from your record to avoid running into this issue with the USCIS.
If you are an immigrant or somebody with permanent residency, and you are in that situation, definitely talk to a lawyer who knows both criminal offense and immigration law.
If you have any questions about expunctions and the process, please call Peek & Toland Law Firm at 512-474-4445, we’d be happy to help.
Last Wednesday, July 1, 2020, came and went without much fanfare. Still, it was the first day of the implementation of the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) which, in essence, is a new and revised North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).
The new trade agreement for North America took effect July 1, ushering in tougher labor, content, and wage requirements. The agreement includes an annex to address labor conditions and oppressed wages in Mexico. Specifically, the USMCA calls for collective bargaining and secret votes for unions to dilute the influence of business owners in Mexico and allows U.S. labor inspectors to visit facilities in Mexico. The original NAFTA text on work visas has been preserved in Chapter 16 of the USMCA.
The average Texan/American may not think that USMCA affects them. However, the trade agreement is estimated to support nearly 12 million American jobs (700,000 Texas jobs) due to the trade with Mexico and Canada. A result of $173 BILLION worth of goods between Texas and Mexico every year.
Employers in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada will be excited to know that the TN visa was not altered under the new USMCA agreement. The list of professions eligible for a TN visa has not changed. No occupations were added or eliminated.
If your business is interested in hiring talented employees from Mexico or Canada, please reach out to Peek & Toland. We have almost 20 years of helping immigrants and American companies work together to keep the economy moving forward. Contact our office at 512-474-4445 to set up an appointment today.
Tribune article addresses the drastic efforts of school
districts statewide to combat vaping among students. Some schools are searching
students to determine if they have vaping pens when they enter school
buildings. Other schools are using vape-detecting sensors, drug-sniffing dogs,
and sign-out procedures for restroom breaks to cut down on vaping among
for students also vary widely by school districts. Students vaping nicotine
often risk suspension or removal from regular classes. In extreme cases,
students are placed in alternative schools based on disciplinary problems. If
students are vaping THC oils or waxes, which is the active ingredient in marijuana,
however, the penalties are far harsher. Students may be subject to expulsion,
but also may be subject to arrest for misdemeanor or even felony charges. Particularly
for 17-year-olds, who are adults under Texas law for criminal offenses, a
felony arrest for possession of a vaping pen containing an illegal drug can
have significant consequences and create a permanent criminal record. For these
students, a single criminal offense can substantially alter the outcome of their
lives in creating barriers to employment, housing, and more.
part, schools have had challenges responding to the vaping crisis among
students due to minimal guidance from the state on how to address these issues.
New vaping laws cannot go into effect at this point until 2021. The problem is,
schools need guidance and instruction, rather than sometime next year.
vaping THC has become the new alternative to smoking pot. In states in which
marijuana is legal, marijuana companies report that vaping products now make up
30% of their business.
Actions to crack down on teen vaping stem from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) investigations last summer into severe lung injuries and deaths caused by vaping in otherwise healthy people. In the state of Texas, health officials documented 200 injuries and one death linked to vaping.
The Peek & Toland criminal defense lawyers are here to represent your interests and advise you of the best course of action in your criminal matter. Set up an appointment to talk to us today and discover how we can assist you with your situation.
Texas Office of Court Administration recently released its FY
2019 annual statistical report for public view. The
report highlights various statewide trends. For instance, the number of new
misdemeanor criminal cases filed has fallen 33% from its peak in 2007 to just
under 400,000 filings. This is the lowest filing rate since 1991. Drug and
alcohol offenses constituted 37% of the new misdemeanor cases filed. After nine
years of decline, the number of new DWI cases increased by 6% in 2019 and by 7%
in 2018. Likewise, misdemeanor domestic violence charges have increased by 9% since
the other hand, various types of misdemeanor criminal charge filings have
decreased substantially over the past five years. These cases include theft by
check, marijuana possession, many other minor drug offenses, driving with
the filing rate for felony criminal offenses has consistently increased since
2014, reaching an all-time high in 2019 of over 225,000. One-third of the new
felony filings involved drug charges, and the number of new felony drug
possession cases increased 3% over last year to a new high of almost 62,500. New
felony DWI charges increased in the previous two years after four years of
decline to about 10,3000 filings. Meanwhile, new felony family violence cases
have increased since 81% since 2014.
Although most new felony filings increased, including felony theft cases and auto theft cases, the rate of new misdemeanor theft filings remained the same. New burglary and robbery cases also declined.
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.
most cases, when a defendant is convicted of multiple criminal charges arising
out of a criminal trial, the sentences automatically run concurrently, or at
the same time. However, the court will issue an order for the sentences to be
stacked, or run consecutively, in selected circumstances. When this occurs, the
defendant must finish serving one sentence before he or she begins serving
another. As a result, the defendant could end up serving a much longer prison
a defendant opts for the jury or the judge to decide their sentence in a
criminal proceeding, the judge ultimately determines whether the sentences will
run concurrently or consecutively. Tex.
Code of Crim. Procedure § 42.08 gives judges the
authority to stack criminal sentences, whether the sentences are imposed or suspended.
This provision gives judges broad discretion in stacking sentences.
deciding whether to stack sentences, judges can consider various factors, including
The crimes were committed separately or independently
of one another
The crimes involved separate acts or
threats of violence
The crimes were committed at different times
or at the same time
must stack sentences in one situation. If the defendant committed a crime while
an inmate in a Texas prison and serving an unrelated sentence, the new sentence
will be consecutive or stack with the first sentence.
The law outlines some circumstances in which judges may not stack sentences. Generally, if multiple criminal charges arise from one episode and are prosecuted together, the sentences must run concurrently. If, however, the defendant files a motion to sever the charges so that he or she will face two or more separate trials, there is a risk that the sentences will be stacked. Likewise, some other criminal offenses also may be stacked, even if they stem from the same episode of criminal conduct, including some sex offenses.
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 and explore your options. We can then help you make the decisions that are mostly like to be beneficial to you based on your situation. Contact Peek & Toland at (512) 474-4445 today and see how we can help.
of January 31, 2020, the Trump Administration has granted the designation of
“security agency” to U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). This change in
policy gives a level of secrecy to CBP by shielding a great deal of information
from public scrutiny. As a result, the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) will
no longer compel CBP to disclose the names of their officers and various other
records. Up until now, only agencies like the FBI and Secret Service have
relied on this designation to protect their records.
Trump Administration moved to change CBP to a security agency after a Twitter
account was posting information about CBP employees that typically is available
through the Office of Personnel Management (OPM). OPM handles federal employee
information, some of which is publicly available, including salary information.
The Twitter account that triggered the change has since been suspended. The
Trump Administration deemed the change necessary for the security and privacy of
CBP employees. However, the change does not seem to have increased the authority
of CBP in any way.
of government transparency see the move as troubling, as it is likely to make
it more challenging to hold CBP accountable. Lawyers and others often rely on
FOIA to get internal information that relates to policy changes and interpretation,
even if the information is redacted. Now, FOIA requests directed to CBP are likely
to be even more heavily redacted.
Furthermore, Amnesty International and the American Civil Liberties Union have increasingly questioned the secrecy now surrounding CBP after the agency allegedly compiled a list of primarily American attorneys, reporters, and advocates that border agents should stop for questioning at border checkpoints. Likewise, CBP might also have placed alerts on the passports of people on the list.
The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the immigration cases of countless individuals and businesses facing immigration-related issues. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf to get the outcome that you are seeking. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys.
Bonds are payments that people make to
courts so that they can be temporarily released from jail while they are
awaiting a trial on criminal charges. Bonds can be cash bonds, which means that
the defendant pays the entire amount of the bond set by the judge in cash. More
commonly, bonds are surety bonds, which means that a person other than the
defendant accepts responsibility for ensuring that the defendant returns to
court dates as scheduled, such as a bail bond agency.
The purpose of a bond is to make sure that
defendants show up in court to answer the criminal charges of which they are
accused. The amount of the bond differs substantially based on the severity of
the criminal offense and the criminal history of the defendant. Furthermore, in
setting bail amounts, the court must take into account the ability of the
defendant to pay the bond, the future safety of the defendant, and the
community if he or she is released on bond and whether the bond is high enough
that defendant will comply with it. Judges may not, however, use an extremely
high bond amount as a form of punishment for defendants who have not been
convicted of a crime.
If the defendant later fails to appear in
court as scheduled for his or her criminal case, then the court will order the
bond forfeited. In the case of a surety bond, bail bond agents are responsible
for payment of the bond, which gives them a huge motivation to ensure that the
defendant appears in court as ordered.
Once the criminal case is over, the court
will refund any cash bond posted by the defendant that is left over after the
payment of any costs or fees. In the case of a surety bond, there is no refund
to the defendant.
In recent years, fights have continued over the need to reform the state’s bail practices. Late last year, a federal judge approved a massive settlement in a lawsuit about bail reform. Incarcerated defendants with misdemeanor charges filed the lawsuit against Harris County for keeping them in jail when they could not afford to pay their bail. The settlement largely eliminates the use of cash bail for low-level criminal offenses.
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.
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