Monthly Archives: September 2020

How does the Appointment of Supreme Court Justice Affect Immigrants?

By Peek & Toland on September 30, 2020

As many are aware, unfortunately, Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg recently passed away. The president will have to appoint a new Supreme Court Justice. Colleagues and clients are now wondering how is this going to affect immigrants? 

Attorney Jeff Peek discusses how electing a Supreme Court Justice can have an impact on immigration. 

We’ve had no less than three decisions that have had a significant impact on immigrants and how it can affect their lives and processes. 

  1. Department of Homeland Security v. Regents of the University of California 
  2. U.S. v. Pereda 
  3. Padilla v. Kentucky 

So that’s just three examples of the Supreme Court crafting decisions that affect millions of immigrants’ daily lives. When we think about how the president selecting a new Supreme Court Justice will affect me? It can significantly affect you, but potentially because he’s forming ideologically, the person who will be on that court will make decisions that will be followed by lower courts. And even in immigration courts for years and years to come. 

If you have an immigration question, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us at 512-474-4445 and book a consultation today. 

Posted in Immigration

What You Should Know About Alcohol To-Go During the Pandemic

By Peek & Toland on September 25, 2020

As a wise person who once said, “In troubled times, you just need to know when to give up and have a margarita.” I think we can all relate to that. 

Attorney Steve Toland begins a new series breaking down the Executive Order that Texas Governor Abbott released in March about alcohol to-go during the pandemic.

On March 19th of 2020, he issued an executive order that over-read previous rules from the Texas Alcohol and Beverage Commission about alcohol to go from restaurants, but it spurs many questions that we’ve received frequently since. 

There are four things you should remember about the alcohol to-go in Texas. 

1. It only protects you for manufactured sealed alcohol. 

The alcohol needs to stay in the original container, which the manufacturer put it in. Restaurants cannot make their alcoholic beverage and put it in a styrofoam cup and put some scotch tape over it. Now they can make the cocktail mix that goes with it and sell that as a separate item, but they can’t sell the alcohol themselves. It has to be in its original sealed manufactured container. 

2. It applies to a certain volume of alcohol it’s 0.375 milliliters of alcohol.

Similar to those airline bottles, the tiny ones. You can’t go and get a bottle of service from a restaurant.

3. You have to purchase food with alcohol. 

Restaurants cannot turn themselves into a bar and start just selling liquor to-go. They have to sell you food as well, or you have to purchase food as well.

4. It doesn’t change the rules for those restaurants or bars that already had previously obtained specialty licensure from TABC to sell beer, to-go, or wine to-go. 

Those places are still in effect, but those rules don’t apply because they already had previous permission to sell. 

Those are the four things you should keep in mind about alcohol. It is legal. However, don’t forget, open container rules still apply. So you can’t take your little miniature bottle of alcohol, mix it, and then drive with it home. That would be a violation of class C violation in Texas of an open container rule. 

We’ll talk in future episodes of In Your Defense about the open container laws in Texas. 

If you have any questions about alcohol-related offenses or any criminal liability issues whatsoever, please reach out to us. 

Posted in Criminal Defense, Interesting

A Court’s Decision is Changing the Future of TPS Holders

By Peek & Toland on September 23, 2020

What is TPS? How does it protect some immigrants? What did the Federal Court do this week that puts at risk for thousands of immigrants and their families? 

Attorney Jeff Peek answers all these questions and discusses how TPS holders need to start looking at other options.

What is TPS? 

TPS stands for Temporary Protective Status. The president can grant to specific countries when they have disasters, hurricanes, earthquakes, civil wars, famines, and others the nationals’ eligibility to be in the United States and work for a limited time. Some examples are El Salvador, Honduras, Haiti, Yemen, Sudan, and Nicaragua. 

Generally, it’s granted for two years at a time, and most presidents have kept renewing, and people are allowed to stay here until conditions in their home country improve. 

What’s been happening with TPS?

In 2017 President Trump was one of the first presidents ever to end TPS. Lawsuits were immediately filed, saying his motivations were racial. Therefore, that was not an adjust decision. The ninth circuit recently gave the green light to Trump’s administration to continue ending TPS, that there was no evidence of racial motivations. 

Therefore, it puts TPS holders at risk, especially those from El Salvador, Haiti, Nicaragua, Sudan, but eventually for all the countries. 

The USCIS has extended TPS through January 1, 2021, and for some countries, a little further. 

What does this mean?

There could be up to 400,000 people who are under TPS currently become undocumented citizens. TPS holders need to talk to an attorney immediately to start looking at other options. Especially if you are married to U.S. citizens or have a U.S. citizen child who is 21 years old or married a permanent resident. Others might have great jobs, and the employer willing to sponsor that’s another option. But the ninth circuit decision pretty much spells the end for TPS.

Can the decision be reversible? 

Now, the attorneys have announced they’re going to file and have the hearing considered “en banc.” That’s just a fancy Latin legal word that means to have the entire nine circuit for a hearing. I don’t know if that’ll be granted or not. They could also try to appeal it to the Supreme court. All these things take time. 

Another Court Decision Regarding TPS  

Another decision that came out from a different court affecting TPS. TPS holders get travel permits. You can apply for a travel permit called advanced parole, which allows you to travel outside the U.S. and come back in a preapproved reentry.

For the past several years, immigrants have been able to do that in that subsequent reentry on that travel permit counts as a lawful admission, which then makes them eligible for adjustment of status. Adjustment of status is just the ability to get permanent residency here in the United States, through a child or a family member, or even an employer. The new court decision says advanced parole does not count as an inspection. Therefore, you will not be allowed to adjust status through those family members, which it’s pretty disappointing news.

It is bad news all around for TPS today. However, let’s leave it on a high note. We’ve got an election in a month and a half, so hopefully, you’re registered to vote. If you’re a U.S. citizen, get out and make your voice heard. 

If you are a TPS holder, you will need to contact an attorney right away. Please reach out to us, and we would love to help you navigate through these changes. Contact us at 512-474-4445 or fill out our contact form on our website, and someone from our team will be in touch. 

Posted in Immigration

Non-Disclosures in Texas | Am I Eligible?

By Peek & Toland on September 18, 2020

Today we wrap up our series on expungements and non-disclosures here in Texas. 

What is a non-disclosure? 

Non-disclosure is a process that enables you to hide or to seal your criminal record as it relates to a particular offense. 

Four questions you need to ask yourself if you’re considering a non-disclosure.

Am I eligible for a non-disclosure? 

In Texas, you are eligible to non-disclosure, hide, or seal certain parts of your criminal record. But only if you have completed successfully deferred adjudication probation. Therefore, if you entered a no-contest plea, and you were placed on community supervision, and you completed all the terms, you very well could be eligible to have it non-disclosed.

The second part of the eligibility analysis, though, is a little more challenging. Certain charges in Texas are not allowed to non-disclose. Those include violent crimes like murder, kidnapping, sex offenses, family violence, and any violence involving children. 

Do I need a lawyer for a non-disclosure? 

Yes, you do. Technically, you can do it yourself, but if there’s any ambiguity about the type of offense you successfully completed, your deferred adjudication period with, I think you need a lawyer to make sure it’s done correctly. 

How long does it take to get a non-disclosure? 

It’s about the same processes as an expunction. It can take maybe up to six months to have everything sealed or hidden. The process itself procedurally is about 45 days from when you request it when the prosecuting attorney will respond. Under the statute, they’re allowed 45 days to respond. And then if they have a response and they don’t object to it, a lot of times the judge will sign off on that order. You can expect at least about two months initially, and sometimes it takes a little longer for your record to be hidden or non-disclosed.

Do I need to hire a local lawyer for a non-disclosure? 

No, you don’t. We handle non-disclosures and expunctions all over the State of Texas.

Contact us if you have any questions about expungements, non-disclosures, and your eligibility for each. We’re always glad to help and clarify any of your questions. 

Posted in Uncategorized

Crash Runners: Why You Should Always Stop After an Accident

By Peek & Toland on September 16, 2020

Most people are not clear about Texas Law after an accident, and many choose to run away from the scene. Many run in fear because they are undocumented or because they don’t have a license. Most don’t know that an accident is a civil offense if you are not under the influence or reckless driving. But as soon as you run from the scene, it is a criminal offense. 

Attorney Jeff Peek discusses Texas’s law regarding what you should do after being in a car accident.  

  • What happens if you hit a parked car? 
  • What’s the difference in legal penalties if you are involved in an accident and are minorly injured vs. seriously injured or killed? 
  • What are the liabilities or the potential levels of criminality if you leave the scene? 
  • What if you are an undocumented immigrant? 
  • What should you do if you left the scene?

What should you do if you hit a parked car? 

You have to stop to check to see if there are any damages. If there is, you have to try to inform the owner of the car that you hit their car. No matter if you were at fault or not. If the owner is nowhere to be around, you have to leave your identifying information, insurance information, and driver’s license. If you’re in a store, you may want to go inside and inform the store. Make a reasonable effort to try to notify the owners of the car. You can always call 311 as well, so you don’t necessarily have to wait at the scene, but you certainly want to document that an accident occurred. If you do that, you’re not committing a crime.

Consequences of leaving the scene 

If you leave the scene and the damages are under $200, you get a ticket. If it’s over $200, it’s going to be a class B misdemeanor. Now you’re looking at potential jail time and a fine, probation, among other things, all because you didn’t stop. If you would’ve taken the time to stop and leave information, it would only be a matter of insurance resolving.

What happens if a person was seriously injured? 

If a person is seriously injured and you left the scene, the penalty increases to a third-degree felony. If somebody dies, it can jump to a second-degree felony. Again, it isn’t necessarily a crime if a person is injured. The crime begins when you leave the scene. If you stay and help somebody seriously injured, there’s no crime. 

There are obvious situations that are not the case, such as driving while intoxicated because of alcohol or drugs or driving super recklessly at high velocities and changing lanes dangerously. Those situations are extreme negligence.

Undocumented Immigrants 

Undocumented immigrants might be fearful they’re going to get deported. If you’re an immigrant, you should stay, and you get a class C ticket for no driver’s license and be at the scene, then to run and receive a felony. You are more likely to be deported with a felony than being involved in a civil accident. 

What should you do if you left the scene?

Call a lawyer immediately. Even if it’s in the middle of the night. There are lawyers like us, who will answer their phone at any time of the day. Let them know the situation to start mitigating the risk and danger to your case, and ensure you don’t dig yourself into a deeper hole than you’re already in. There may be things we can do that actually might help you get out of the hole. It just depends on your situation. 

We don’t advise you to leave, but if you’ve already done it, call us as quickly as possible to avoid future crimes and possibly mitigate punishment later.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration

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Expunctions in Texas | Am I Eligible?

By Peek & Toland on September 11, 2020

Attorney Steve Toland continues his series on expungements and non-disclosures.

What is an expungement?
Expungement is the process by which you file for a court order requesting every agency that ever had any contact or any knowledge about you — if you were arrested or charged — to remove any record of you. It can be a mugshot, fingerprints, or any information about you.

If you are considering an expungement here in Texas, here are four questions you should ask yourself

1. Am I Eligible for an Expungement?
To be eligible, you must have been arrested and charged with a crime, and it was dismissed. Or you’re arrested or accused of a crime, and it was filed and then dismissed. As long as the offense was dismissed or never filed. You can also be eligible if you went to a jury trial, and you were acquitted or found not guilty. For these scenarios, you are most likely eligible for an expunction.

2. Do I Need a Lawyer for an Expungement?
You don’t necessarily need a lawyer. However, because there are time periods attached to expungements, you are better off to hire an attorney to ensure it’s done efficiently and correctly to avoid any mishaps. An attorney can ensure that every agency that ever had any contact with you removes any information.

3. How Long do Expungements Take?
The procedural process takes about 30 days from when you file it to get your court date. Then it could take another 180 days or so to have all the agencies respond to the court order, requiring them to remove everything about you. There’s also a statutory time period called a statute of limitations. That’s dependent upon whether it’s a class C misdemeanor, class B misdemeanor, class A misdemeanor, or a felony.

4. Do I need to hire a lawyer locally for Expungements?
Let’s say you were charged or accused of a crime, and it was dismissed out in Lubbock, but you now live in Austin. Do you need to hire a local lawyer out in those remote parts of Texas? No, you don’t. Our firm handles expunctions all over the state of Texas.

If you have any questions about this process, reach out to us, and we’d be glad to help you. We help clients clean up their records in preparation for job interviews, background checks, and other important life events.

Posted in Uncategorized

Eligibility for U Visa, T Visa, and VAWA

By Peek & Toland on September 9, 2020

U Visa 

U visa is a nonimmigrant visa for individuals who have been victims of violent crimes who are willing to assist law enforcement and government officials in prosecuting criminal activity. 

Serious crimes include aggravated assault, aggravated robbery, kidnapping, rape, attempted murder, domestic violence.

T Visa 

It’s a very uncommon used visa by most immigrants. This type of visa allows certain human trafficking victims and immediate family members to remain and work temporarily in the United States. Typically if they report the crime to law enforcement and agree to help them in the investigation or prosecution of the crime committed against them.

Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) 

VAWA provides protections for immigrants of violent domestic crime. To qualify for VAWA, a victim must prove that they have been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty by a U.S-citizen or permanent resident spouse or parent.

We’ve had clients come in for a consult who were completely misguided by unethical attorneys. Hence, it’s essential to be highly informed of the requirements and eligibility before you spend thousands of dollars and have more than one opinion from experienced attorneys. 

To learn more about how our firm can help you through any immigration process, contact us at 512-474-4445 or visit our website www.peekandtoland.com.

Posted in Immigration, Visas

Expunctions: Why You May Need One

By Peek & Toland on September 4, 2020

The job market is as competitive as it’s ever been.

One of the most important things you can do when you’re applying for a job or when you’re applying for advancement in your own company is to make sure that you don’t have anything from your past showing up on your background check or records.

The next few articles in this series will discuss expunction and the expungement and non-disclosures process.

This process ensures that your past doesn’t come back to haunt you.

In other words, if there’s anything in your past that you thought you had taken care of, that it’s still not showing up on your record.

A Quick Expunction Story

I had a client who was in the financial sector industry and was up for a huge promotion. Part of the promotion required this person to apply for some additional certification in the financial sector industry, which is highly competitive in and of itself.

Unfortunately, this person had forgotten that 15 or 16 years ago when he was in college, he had foolishly stepped out into an alleyway and decided to urinate in public. Obviously, this was a terrible idea.

It was only exacerbated by the fact that he was arrested and charged with public lewdness, a crime analogous to a sex act. That’s a class A misdemeanor.

When it was all said and done, this individual had taken care of a class C ticket for, for minor in consumption of alcohol and disorderly conduct for urinating in public.

He thought his bad judgment and the paper trail that followed were all taken care of some 16 years ago. However, this was unfortunately not the case.

Unfortunately, the classification or the coding of that original charge still showed up on his record as public lewdness – a sex crime.

This obviously looked terrible on his record. Our firm went back and fixed these charges through an expungement process and were able to help this person fix his record.

However, the cat was already out of the bag.

This poor individual experienced collateral damage to his reputation in the company, which our firm had to fix for him as well.

This story just highlights the importance of reviewing your record and ensuring there’s nothing on your record that could come back and haunt you.

Up Next: The Expungement & Non-Disclosure Process

Over the next couple of blog posts, we’ll talk about the eligibility and the process for expungements and for non-disclosures in Texas.

As always, if you have any questions about this process or any skeletons in your closet you need to make sure are wiped away, be sure to reach out to our firm. We help clients clean up their past records in preparation for job interviews, background checks, and other important life events.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Expunction

Immigration Law Updates

By Peek & Toland on September 3, 2020

Today attorney Jeff Peek informs us of the latest immigration law updates concerning the USCIS, immigration forms, and the continuation of travel bans.

1. There will not be a furlough of USCIS employees.

This is excellent news because 75% of USCIS employees that they had mentioned could be furloughed will continue to work in their jobs. That’s great for not only those people and their families, but it’s good for everybody in an immigration process. There will not be a delay in the application process time.

2. New Version of Form 1-765

To apply for a work authorization card, you have to fill out Form I-765. There is now a new version of the Form I-765. The latest version of the form went into effect on August 25. If you file with an old version, immigration can reject that new application because you’re not using the form’s correct version.

3. United States, Mexico, and Canada reissued an extension to the travel ban for all non-essential travel between those countries until September 21.

What does that mean? Goodbye to tourism. If you had a trip planned to Cancún, or you wanted to go up to Toronto, or if you wanted to come to Disney world from one of those outside countries, you cannot do so that on a tourist visa up until September 21. However, that does not include essential travel.

Posted in Immigration, Latest News

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