Is It Illegal to Make Prank Phone Calls?

By Peek & Toland on October 6, 2019

While there is no specific law prohibiting individuals from making prank phone calls, these calls can constitute harassment in some circumstances. Under Tex. Pen. Code § 42.07, unlawful harassment occurs when individuals take the following actions, among others:

  • Making obscene or threatening phone calls
  • Calling people and falsely telling them that a person has suffered bodily injury or death
  • Making repeated phone calls anonymously or in a manner designed to harass, offend, alarm, or annoy others
  • Intentionally failing to hang up the phone or disengage the connection when making a call
  • Permitting their phones to be used for the purposes of harassment

Harassment is generally a Class B misdemeanor under Texas law. However, the offense increases to a Class A misdemeanor if certain aggravating factors exist, such as individuals who have a prior harassment conviction. A conviction for a Class B misdemeanor can result in a jail sentence of up to 180 days and a fine of up to $2,000. For a Class A misdemeanor, the potential jail time increases to a maximum of one year and the fine to a maximum of $4,000.

Is It Illegal to Make Prank Phone Calls?

Furthermore, it is a specific criminal offense under Texas law to prank call 911 services. Under Tex. Pen. Code § 42.061, individuals break the law when they call 911 and knowingly remain silent or make abusive or harassing comments to the person answering the phone. Individuals also violate this code section when they allow their phones to be used for this purpose. Making silent or abusive calls to 911 service is a Class B misdemeanor under Texas law.

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.

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Immigration Lawyers Head to Court to Challenge Massive Immigration Backlog

By Peek & Toland on October 5, 2019

According to Bloomberg Law, immigration attorneys fed up with the massive backlog in the processing of immigration applications are increasingly turning to litigation for relief. In many cases, delays in processing are lasting up to seven years, which is a historic high. Lawyers are complaining not only of the long delays that are harmful to their clients, but also of their inability to resolve delays quickly and informally, as they had been able to do in the past.

Previously, lawyers waited to file suit on behalf of their clients when their applications or petitions went unprocessed longer than expected wait times. Now, however, the expected wait times are so long that they have no recourse but to immediately file suit. Wait times are particularly lengthy for employment-based petitions, although all types of visa petitions are now subject to lengthy delays.

Immigration Lawyers Head to Court to Challenge Massive Immigration Backlog

For instance, applications seeking classification as a regional center under the EB-5 immigrant investor program now take between 30 and 85 months to be processed. Foreign investors applying for green cards under the same program now are looking at a wait of 27.5 to 49 months.

Similarly, petitions for H-1B specialty occupations visas are taking at least two months and often more than eight months to process. Petitions to extend existing H-1B visas may take as long as 13.5 months to process.

These extreme delays also have resulted in scrutiny by Congress, who convened a House Judiciary Immigration and Citizen Subcommittee hearing over the summer. At that hearing, the president of the American Immigration Lawyers Association testified to a 91% increase in average overall processing times. She also testified that the FY 2018 backlog of immigration cases of 5.69 million was a 69% increase over FY 2014.

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

Immigration Advocates Sue to Stop Fast-Track Deportation Program

By Peek & Toland on October 4, 2019

According to a recent report from the American Immigration Council, various community organizations have filed a lawsuit in federal court regarding attempts by the Trump Administration to greatly expand a fast-track deportation program known as “expedited removal.” These organizations brought their lawsuit on behalf of their members who may become subject to immediate deportation under the program, which is designed to quickly deport immigrants, often without the chance to consult an attorney or see a judge. In the lawsuit, the organizations are requesting that the federal government be prohibited from applying expedited removal to a broad range of immigrants, as it has proposed.

Historically, the federal government applied expedited removal to only a small group of immigrants, or those who arrived in the U.S. within the past two weeks and were detained within 100 miles of a U.S. border. Recently, however, the Trump Administration announced its intention to apply the expedited removal process to immigrants whom Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents arrest anywhere in the U.S. and who cannot prove that they have been physically present in the U.S. for two or more years.

Immigration Advocates Sue to Stop Fast-Track Deportation Program

Expedited removal is far more likely to result in wrongful deportations, as deportation effectively can occur within hours of an immigrant’s arrest. The removal can occur with no opportunity for the immigrant to even make a phone call, let alone see an attorney or judge. Those whom ICE has wrongfully detained could end up deported with no recourse other than attempting to prove that their deportation was wrongful while in another country with no resources or assistance.

The only exceptions to expedited removal would be those who are claiming asylum, or a well-founded fear of persecution on various bases if returned to their home countries. However, even these individuals only receive a cursory review, which is unlikely to exempt them from expedited removal.

No matter the type of immigration issue you are facing, the skilled and knowledgeable immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland are here to assist you. We handle many different types of immigration cases every day and have the kind of strategic experience and skills that are necessary to reach the desired outcome. By calling our office as quickly as possible after your legal issue arises, we will have the best opportunity to resolve your immigration law case successfully.

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Rent-to-Own Customers Receive New Protections Against Criminal Prosecution

By Peek & Toland on October 3, 2019

A new Texas law recently went into effect that offers broader protections for customers of rent-to-own companies who fall behind in their payments. Previously, rent-to-own companies routinely had customers prosecuted if they failed to make their payments as agreed. Although rent-to-own companies still may proceed in pressing charges against customers who abscond with the rented furniture and electronics that they failed to pay for, but they cannot press charges against those customers who simply are unable to pay.

Critics of the previous law pointed out that it allowed the unconstitutional prosecution of individuals for debts, which really is a civil matter. The loophole in the law essentially created a debtor’s prison for low-income people who tend to be customers of rent-to-own companies.

Rent-to-Own Customers Receive New Protections Against Criminal Prosecution

This “theft of service” statute made it easier for these individuals to be subject to arrest warrants, criminal convictions, and time spent in jail. Furthermore, the previous statute created a presumption that customers intended to steal the goods if they didn’t return the goods that they rented or respond to a certified letter from the rental company after failing to make a payment. There was no requirement that the rental company even prove that the customers received the letter; the fact that they sent the letter was adequate to create the presumption of intentional theft.

The newly enacted law did make some concessions for rental car agencies and companies renting expensive equipment. The time period in which customers must respond to letters before the companies can pursue charges against them is reduced, thus making it easier for the companies to recoup cars and other expensive items.

Essentially, although it is still possible that prosecution can occur for customers who intend to steal rental furniture or electronics, it is not generally an option in the absence of intent to steal from or defraud the rental company.

The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf. Our goal is 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.

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ICE Alters Internal Guidelines on U-Visas to Deport More Crime Victims

By Peek & Toland on October 2, 2019

In keeping with its pattern of limiting immigration on all levels and increasing deportation levels, the Trump Administration has established a new policy for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) that will give the agency more discretion in deporting crime victims from the U.S.

Congress passed legislation that created the U-visa in 2000. The purpose of the visa was to encouraged immigrants with no legal immigration status to come forward and report incidences of substantial physical and mental abuse. In turn, these crime victims would become eligible to remain in the U.S. under U-visas, with the understanding that they cooperate with law enforcement officials in prosecuting their abusers.

ICE Alters Internal Guidelines on U-Visas to Deport More Crime Victims

At this point, however, even applying for a U-visa became a risky proposition. If denied, individuals could trigger deportations proceedings by calling attention to their lack of legal immigration status. Furthermore, since it now takes USCIS about four years to process and decide applications for U-visas, the threat of arrest while the application is pending is much higher than under past administrations.

Now, ICE has reversed one of its internal guidance documents concerning U-visas. Historically, ICE has looked to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to determine the likelihood of approval of a U-visa before denying a request for stay of removal by immigrant crime victims. If USCIS indicated that the visa application was likely to be approved, then ICE essentially would stop deportation proceedings until USCIS made a final decision on the application for U-visa. The only exception was for the presence of specific adverse factors, such as public safety concerns.

With its latest reversal of policy, however, ICE no longer will consult USCIS before denying a stay of removal. Instead, ICE officials will have the sole discretion to review the “totality of the circumstances” in deciding whether to grant or deny a stay of removal based on potential eligibility for a U-visa. However, many immigration attorneys have reported in recent years that ICE officials were not seeking input from USCIS on U-visa applications anyway, or only would seek input if the individuals were detained.

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.

Posted in Visas

What is Evading Arrest or Detention in a Motor Vehicle?

By Peek & Toland on October 1, 2019

Under Tex. Pen. Code § 38.04, individuals commit evading arrest or detention by intentionally fleeing from a person whom they know is a police officer or federal special investigator who are attempting to lawfully arrest or detain them. Typically, this offense is a Class A misdemeanor, which carries the potential for up to one year in jail and a maximum fine of $10,000.

For a second or subsequent offense, however, the offense increases to a state jail felony. Individuals facing a conviction for a state jail felony can serve six months to two years of incarceration and a $10,000 fine.

What is Evading Arrest or Detention in a Motor Vehicle?

Likewise, the offense may become a third-degree felony if individuals use a vehicle or watercraft in flight and they have a previous conviction for the same offense. Individuals also may face third-degree felony charges if they:

  • Use a vehicle or watercraft while in flight
  • Cause serious bodily injury to others as a direct result of the attempt by the officer to apprehend the persons in flight
  • Use a tire deflation device against the officer while fleeing

Third-degree felony charges can result in two to ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Furthermore, evading arrest or detention increases to a second-degree felony if others suffer death as a direct result of the attempt by the officer to apprehend the persons in flight, or if others suffer serious bodily injury as a result of the individuals using a tire deflation device while in flight. For a second-degree felony conviction, the prison term ranges from two to 20 years and a $10,000 fine. If you or a family member is facing accusations of evading arrest or detention or any other 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.

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What Should I Do If I Have a Concealed Carry Weapon and Police Stop Me?

By Peek & Toland on September 30, 2019

Whether you have a concealed carry license or a regular carry license, you should be aware of what to do if a police officer pulls you over on a traffic stop. Otherwise, you put yourself in a potentially dangerous situation, as the officers may assume that you are attempting to shoot them by reaching for a handgun that you didn’t disclose to them.

Texas does have rules in place for drivers who are legally carrying handguns in their vehicles when police pull them over. According to the Texas Handgun License manual, drivers typically should hand the officer not only their drivers’ licenses, but also their handgun licenses. As a practical matter, drivers also should not show or brandish the weapon at the police officer, or even reach toward the console or glove compartment to show the officer where the gun is stored. If insurance information is in the glove compartment, as well, drivers should advise the officer of that fact before retrieving the insurance information.

What Should I Do If I Have a Concealed Carry Weapon and Police Stop Me?

Since handgun license information is tied in with driver’s license information in the State of Texas, officers who pull up the drivers in their computer systems also should see that the individuals are licensed to carry handguns. Nonetheless, during a handgun, you always should keep your hands in sight, preferably on the steering wheel, make no quick movements, and never reach for your gun. A police officer has the right to disarm you during a traffic stop; if the officer wishes to do so, advise him or her of the location of the gun and follow the instructions from there.

When it comes to long guns and rifles, however, or drivers who are legally transporting guns without a license, they are under no obligation to disclose the guns to police during a traffic stop. 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 then can 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.

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Federal Court Finds Trump Administration Asylum Ban Violates INA

By Peek & Toland on September 29, 2019

According to a recent CNN article, a federal judge in the District of Columbia ruled that a Trump Administration policy violated the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). In this policy, the Administration sought to bar immigrants who had crossed the border without authorization from seeking asylum. The Trump Administration issued the policy back in November 2018, which would have limited asylum applications to those immigrants who lawfully presented themselves at official ports of entry into the U.S. According to the judge’s opinion, the federal government could not extinguish a statutory right to seek asylum under the INA simply by issuing a policy.

A nationwide injunction that prohibited the policy from going into effect has been in place since a California federal judge issued it last year. The federal government appealed the injunction to the U.S. Supreme Court, but the high Court refused to stay the injunction by a 5-4 vote. So as a practical matter, the D.C. judge’s decision ultimately follows the injunction already in effect.

Federal Court Finds Trump Administration Asylum Ban Violates INA

This policy has been one of many that the Trump Administration has attempted to enact to significantly restrict the ability to apply for asylum, especially for Central American migrants. For instance, the Administration has expanded a policy designed to keep more asylum seekers in Mexico until their cases are processed. The federal government now has limited the number of asylum seekers who can enter a port of entry each day for processing of their asylum applications. The Trump Administration also attempted to deny asylum to all migrants who traveled through another country to reach a U.S. port of entry and to require them to first seek asylum in another country before coming to the U.S. These policies were specifically aimed at individuals traveling through Mexico from South America.

A California federal district court judge also entered a nationwide injunction regarding the requirement that migrants seek asylum in another country before seeking it in the U.S. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals limited the injunction to California and Arizona. On remand, the federal district court judge reinstated the nationwide ban after making the findings outlined in the Ninth Circuit order. However, most recently, the U.S. Supreme Court lifted the injunction pending litigation, which allows the federal government to go forward with denying asylum to this specific group of immigrants.

An experienced Texas immigration attorney can help you with all aspects of immigration law. We are here to evaluate the facts surrounding your case and present your options. Finally, we can 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.

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Parole in Place Program Endangered

By Peek & Toland on September 28, 2019

According to a National Public Radio report, the Trump administration is threatening to end the “parole in place” program. This form of discretionary relief provides protection against deportation for some undocumented family members of U.S. military members on active duty. As a result, attorneys for military members in this situation are wasting no time in submitting applications for this form of discretionary relief from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

This program protects only selected family members of active-duty military members. Relief is only available for family members who have entered the U.S. without legal authority and who have no means of adjusting their immigration status. Some family members would be ineligible for the relief, such as those who entered the U.S. legally but overstayed their visas.

The primary purpose of parole in place is to allow U.S. military members on active duty to focus on their missions rather than on the risk of deportation of their family members. Parole in place allows eligible family members to receive parole and apply for a green card. It is unclear how many individuals have taken advantage of this form of relief from deportation.

If the Trump administration moves forward with ending parole in place, it would be in line with its actions earlier this year. For instance, the federal government closed all its international military field offices. The federal government now also requires that military recruits serve at least 180 days of active duty before becoming eligible for naturalization. The only exception to this rule change is for military members who are in combat zones.

Parole in Place Program Endangered

Last year, the Trump administration also began discharging immigrant military members who had enlisted in a George W. Bush-era program designed to recruit immigrants with special skills useful to the military. Enrollment in the program brought the promise of an expedited path to citizenship for recruits.

The Peek & Toland immigration lawyers are here to represent your interests and advise you of the best course of action in your immigration case. Set up an appointment to talk to us today and discover how we can assist you with your immigration issue, whether you have an individual concern or a business-related problem.

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Four-Day ICE Raid in Texas and Oklahoma Leads to 75 Arrests

By Peek & Toland on September 27, 2019

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents recently carried out a four-day immigration enforcement operation in Northern Texas and Oklahoma that resulted in 75 arrests. According to government officials, however, this operation was not part of the Trump administration’s threatened mass immigration sweeps. Instead, this raid was a routine operation that focused on immigrants with final removal orders, which reportedly had been in the works for several months. Nonetheless, ICE also arrested and detained other immigrants, such as friends and relatives of the targeted immigrants.

Of the 75 detainees, 51 were arrested in North Texas and the remaining individuals in Oklahoma. Charges for these immigrants ranged from unlawful entry into the country to assault and other criminal offenses.

Although this raid may not have been part of the Trump administration’s threatened raids, these smaller operations can frighten immigrant communities. Immigration advocates cite the raids as another means of creating an environment of fear among immigrants.

Four-Day ICE Raid in Texas and Oklahoma Leads to 75 Arrests

Meanwhile, the Trump administration’s promised nationwide immigration raids failed to materialize in early July, aside from about 18 arrests in a planned “family” operation and another 17 collateral arrests. While some isolated routine enforcement efforts continued in selected areas of the country, they were not part of the larger plan. These raids allegedly were scheduled to target some 2,000 immigrants who have final orders of removal and have refused to leave the country. The ACLU also has taken legal action to block the planned raids.

The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the cases of countless individuals and businesses who are facing immigration issues. 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 immigration attorneys.

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