Monthly Archives: April 2021

What Does the Alien Smuggling Statute Include?

By Peek & Toland on April 30, 2021

We’ve covered some basic tenets of alien smuggling, including some of the many actions that can land you in hot water under the broad scope of alien smuggling. But what do you need to know if you or someone you know is facing charges for this offense?

Any good and experienced immigration and criminal defense attorney is well aware of the varying factors that can make or break a defense for alien smuggling charges, so let’s look at a few here:

 We Are Family

So, maybe you’ve been charged with alien smuggling for giving someone in your family with no status safe harbor or a ride, and your first response is, “We are family!” Well, that might be a classic and catchy tune that Sister Sledge brought to us a few decades ago, but it is not a plausible defense for fighting alien smuggling charges. 

I know we’ve covered this aspect of alien smuggling before, but it’s important to stress. We understand the desire to help a family member and how difficult it can be to deny assistance to someone you know and love. Though we recognize the significance of family, the U.S. government does not have an appreciation for the value of family when it comes to justifying alien smuggling, unfortunately.

 Less Is More

Like most everything in life, especially criminal charges, there are degrees of severity. The number of mistakes you make have different levels of consequence. This is very much true when it comes to alien smuggling. It is applicable in your defense when we look at how many people without status you may have helped come here unlawfully. 

The more, the merrier is not the case here, as the penalties for alien smuggling are proportionate to how many people you’ve assisted. In short, more is more, not less.

 If Breaking the Law, Follow the Law…?

Ok, this one sounds a bit silly, but it’s actually true when it comes to your defense of alien smuggling charges. If you’re going to break that law, be sure you’re following the rules of the road.

Believe it or not, there are harsher penalties for alien smuggling if you and your passengers are apprehended while not wearing seatbelts or while speeding. It’s a general rule that any and everything you can do wrong can be held against you, even if those missteps have nothing at all to do with the primary charge you are facing. So, use those turn signals and obey the speed limits in everything you do because law enforcement is always ready to tackle “related” charges.

 Age Matters

It’s counterintuitive to most people to deny a child assistance, as children are so much more vulnerable than adults. It’s precisely because of that vulnerability that alien smuggling charges for transporting children are much more severe than if you were to be apprehended while assisting undocumented adults. Again, while we stress the importance of not putting yourself in jeopardy with criminal actions, the age of your passengers in an alien smuggling criminal defense case is noteworthy.

Not Just Transportation

We’ve talked about physically transporting undocumented persons or helping them find safe housing, which can both place you on the wrong side of a criminal defense case. Another very common crime under alien smuggling is employing undocumented persons. If you are a business owner who knowingly hired someone who does not have legal status, you are at risk for alien smuggling charges.

The same is true when it comes to false documents. The use of false documents does not just mean a forged or fake document, but it also means lending someone your ID that an undocumented person fraudulently uses. Even though these two means of helping undocumented may not directly involve your presence, you are liable if the person you employ or helped with documents is apprehended.

These are some of the many ways this broad statute can result in trouble for you and your family. 

If you are a business owner questioning your potential vulnerability under the law, you’re an individual who might be in trouble, or perhaps you have a family member or friend with questions about this broad statute and potential criminal charges, please reach out to us at Peek & Toland. 

We have long-handled immigration criminal defense cases and are well-equipped to defend your case, as well. Continue to follow our social media pages and this blog to keep up-to-date on the immigration issues that affect you and your loved ones.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration

Could I be guilty of Alien Smuggling?

By Peek & Toland on April 27, 2021

If you’ve paid any attention to the news cycle, you’ve likely seen extensive coverage of the U.S.-Mexico border and the influx of immigrants attempting to cross the border unlawfully, and you might be wondering how that affects you and the immigrant community.

While national and state agencies in Texas have previously been unable to agree on best practices for handling border safety, there is a more united front from law enforcement. There has been a 300% increase in the volume of arrests for alien smuggling just in the last 60 days. Most offenders found guilty of alien smuggling receive imprisonment as punishment.

What is Alien Smuggling?

If you are a member of the immigrant community, the term “alien smuggling” is something you’ve heard, and it could be something in which you’ve participated, whether you realize it or not.

For those not familiar with terms associated with unlawful border crossing, alien smuggling is defined as any act in any way at any time that assists somebody with the unlawful entry into the United States.

If that sounds like a pretty broad definition to you, that’s because it is, which is why it’s important to fully understand what alien smuggling is and how you can be charged with this crime.

Let’s take a look at four key factors to remember about alien smuggling to keep yourself and your loved ones in a safe space.

1) Family Ties Do Not Matter

We regularly hear a common misconception amongst those charged with alien smuggling, and that is the idea that assisting a family member in unlawful crossing is defensible. That’s not the case. It doesn’t matter if you’re legally in the U.S. and your family needs help or reprieve coming to the U.S. unlawfully. It doesn’t matter if you’ve known this person your entire life and know that they are good people. Their connection to you has nothing to do with defending yourself against alien smuggling crimes.

2) Financial Gain Is Not a Factor

We all know about paid coyotes who assist immigrants with unlawful passage over the border, but what if you’re helping someone out of the goodness of your heart with no financial gain? 

Short answer: it’s still a crime.

While profiting or not from alien smuggling can affect the degree of sentencing, it does not absolve you from the crime, money or not. 

3) Aiding and Abetting Counts as a Crime

“Anything you say or do can be used against you in the court of law” is a phrase we’ve covered and all know well, and it’s also true when it comes to alien smuggling. You don’t have to physically bring someone across the border to be charged with this crime. Remember that broad definition of alien smuggling we mentioned? It applies to any form of help given. Perhaps you sent money to someone unlawfully crossing. That’s a crime. Did you arrange housing for someone who crossed illegally? That’s a crime. You might have even picked up an undocumented person who crossed illegally from somewhere within the U.S. The onus is still on you, as that is assisting with their unlawful entry here.

With so many ways to be charged with this crime, it’s imperative that you’re extra careful when doing favors, like giving rides or assistance, even if it’s your family or a trusted friend who happens to be here illegally.

4) Knowledge is Power (and so is a good immigration attorney)

In the past, we’ve talked a lot about prior knowledge of a crime and how that understanding can play a big part of your defense. This is relevant to alien smuggling charges because the government must prove you had knowledge that the person you assisted did not have legal status here to charge you with alien smuggling.

Here’s where an experienced immigration attorney comes into play. Practiced counsel will know exactly how to present this defense in your case, even if you were apprehended physically bringing an undocumented person across the border.

In short, be careful of all of the ways you can be in the wrong for alien smuggling, and don’t lose hope if you or someone you know have alien smuggling charges against to fight. Please reach out to us here at Peek & Toland if you have any questions about these charges or are facing them—we’re well practiced and here to help.

Continue to check our social media pages and blog for updates and coverage of the topics that concern you and your loved ones.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration

Consequences of Using Fake ID or Social Security Number

By Peek & Toland on April 21, 2021

Remember the days of passing off fake IDs to get into a bar or buy alcohol before turning 21 years old? Now, there’s even more potential for authentic-looking fake IDs with the prevalence of Photoshop and access to professional printing tools. For some, using a fake is a rite of passage; however, using a fake ID is not the most brilliant move, even if the name on it isn’t McLovin.

There may be an entire market for fake IDs or someone else’s, but let’s take a look at why doing so has its severe consequences. 

 Using a Fake ID Can Mean Real Trouble

We’ve all made poor decisions, and the temptation of gaining early access to a bar or club by use of a fake ID can be enticing; but what if I told you doing so can put you at risk for incurring fines, probation, and even jail time in some circumstances? Still feel like you can’t wait to turn 21 before heading to the club?

Just having a fake ID or the ID of someone else in your possession sounds harmless. “I wasn’t going to do anything with it.” That sounds like a great defense strategy, right? Unfortunately not. The simple act of carrying the ID of another person can put you at risk for incurring a misdemeanor charge. Further, if authorities catch you using the fake or incorrect ID, congratulations, you’ve just committed fraud and are now eligible for felony charges. In short, think long and hard before paying for that fake or snagging your older cousin’s ID.

 What If It’s for Work and Not Play?

In our years of defending clients from all sorts of alleged crimes, we’ve seen it time and again that folks hoping to work hard and provide for their family through the use of someone else’s social security card or a made-up number are just as eligible for a felony charge as the college kid down the street hoping to score some beer with a fake ID, if not more likely to be charged. Not to mention, getting caught committing fraud (and that is absolutely what it is) can put your future in the U.S. in jeopardy if you’re not here legally or haven’t completed the path to citizenship.

There’s not much legal analysis or wiggle room to explain in the case of using fake or incorrect IDs. It’s really a matter of just don’t do it. If you can avoid using a fake or incorrect ID, please do so at all costs because the stakes are high. 

If you happen to find yourself caught in this particular circumstance or know someone who has, please reach out to us at Peek & Toland, as we have decades of experience defending clients in these circumstances. Good counsel can make all the difference in staying out of jail.

Continue to follow us on social media for all the immigration and criminal defense coverage on issues that are important to you, and let us know if there’s a particular topic you’d like to discuss. We look forward to continuing to serve you and our community in their paths to citizenship and defense.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration

Is a K-1 Fiancé Visa the Best Means of Entry?

By Peek & Toland on April 15, 2021

There is plenty of pressure already when selecting your spouse, the person with whom you plan to spend the rest of your life. There’s even more pressure to ensure you’re taking the correct steps and making the best decision when it comes to marrying someone from outside the U.S.

When you are looking at options for your significant other to come over to the U.S., there are other avenues besides the K-1 Fiancé Visa. Depending on your situation, there are other options that will allow your significant other to come to the U.S.

Let’s take a look at some factors that play an enormous part in the steps you can take to bring your significant other into the U.S.

 Location! Location! Location!

We often talk about the importance of location in so many aspects of our legal practice. It’s most certainly a factor when looking at options to legally spend time and create a life with your significant other who is immigrating to the U.S. The keywords here are “immigrating to the U.S.” because the K-1 Fiancé Visa is intended to bring someone from outside of the U.S. This means that the K-1 Visa is not appropriate for someone who is already in the U.S. The Fiancé Visa is solely for those wishing to be married to a U.S. citizen, who are currently not in the U.S. 

Shows like 90 Day Fiancé make it seem as though the K-1 Fiancé Visa is the only way to make things work, but that is not the case. An experienced immigration attorney will assess your unique and specific situation and guide you down the best path that may or may not include applying for a K-1 Fiancé Visa.

Adjustment of Status

An option beyond a K-1 Visa is an adjustment of status. What does that mean? Adjustment of status is the process that you can use to apply for lawful permanent resident status when you are present in the United States. There are, of course, certain requirements that could make this an option for you and someone you hope to create a life with here in the U.S.

Our immigration attorneys will be able to assess your very specific situation and determine what’s best. Some of the considerations that are part of this decision are determining when a foreign national entered the United States, if they are currently outside the United States, whether they will be coming back anytime soon, and the purpose of any planned visits. There are many questions that an experienced immigration attorney will know to ask to ensure if you may get your permanent residence. 

It’s quite common to have clients call and say they’ve found no other options than the K-1 Fiancé Visa. However, we’ve been able to help them identify other means of entry. 

Therefore, before you waste immeasurable time and money applying for a K-1 Visa, please reach out to one of our experienced immigration attorneys here at Peek & Toland. We can guide you in the right direction. 

Be sure to continue tuning into our weekly coverage of the immigration issues that are important to you.

Posted in Fiance Visas, Immigration

What Should I Say to the Police?

By Peek & Toland on April 14, 2021

As a defense attorney with over 20 years of experience, we know that what to say to the police is one of the most important, pressing decisions you can make. For many reasons, it could be the difference between freedom and a mess of charges against you. So, what is it that you should say to a police officer who has stopped you or has invited you to the station to chat?

Let’s take a look at that.

Mouth closed = case closed?

If the police want to talk to you to get your side of the story, even if you are innocent beyond the shadow of a doubt, it’s important to know that speaking to the authorities can mean placing yourself in hot water. Police officers have increasingly difficult duties. We owe them gratitude and respect for protecting citizens, but that doesn’t mean you owe them information or even cordial conversation that can lead to unforeseen trouble for you.

The very best thing you can say to police interrogating you is absolutely nothing at all unless you are asking for your attorney. I’ve seen clients, time and again, paint themselves into a corner with police because they were trying to explain or justify their actions or give information that they didn’t realize affected them. There’s a reason we have that ever-prized Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, and we all need to understand the importance of utilizing that right.

Speaking to the police to defend or explain yourself or deciding to remain silent could easily be the difference between taking a mandatory ride in the back of a cop car and walking away freely. 

Friendly tactics are NOT your friend

We’ve covered in great detail the lengths to which officers are willing to go to gather incriminating evidence and information, so it’s imperative to remember that if you receive a friendly invitation to go into the police department “just to talk,” you should think twice. 

You see, until an officer actually places you under arrest, they don’t have to read you your right to remain silent. I’ve seen clients claim they weren’t read their rights and assume their arrest is invalid as a result. However, in actuality, that client gave up the information necessary for an officer to place them under arrest. At that point, they are aware that they have the right to an attorney and remain silent.

You always have the opportunity to remain silent when speaking with the police, so be sure to take it before it’s too late. It’s very common to see clients arrested for something that could’ve been completely avoided had they simply kept quiet.

 What if they need a response?

 Life can change in an instant, and you may find yourself in a predicament where there is evidence against you or you’ve perhaps been apprehended while making a mistake. You are correct to assume that there are questions to be answered, but that doesn’t mean those answers have to come from you.

An experienced and trusted defense attorney can speak to the police on your behalf and relay to them all the necessary information while not further incriminating you. Because of the extensive experience we have in this arena, we’re well-versed in what to say to law enforcement and exactly how to say it, so let your lawyer do the talking.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration

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