CBP Admits Unfairly Targeting Iranian American Travelers

By Peek & Toland on June 27, 2020

Widespread reports of U.S. Customs and Border Protection detaining Iranian American travelers at the northern border surfaced soon after the U.S. attacked and killed a top Iranian general. At the time, CBP officials stated that although travelers experienced increased wait times, they were not targeting travelers of Iranian descent.

After two U.S. representatives from Washington met with CBP’s director of field operations in Seattle, however, they publicly released statements to the contrary. They explained that not only did CBP make mistakes during the incidents, but they breached protocol and inappropriately singled out Iranian Americans crossing the border.

CBP Admits Unfairly Targeting Iranian American Travelers

Soon thereafter, CNN published an internal CBP memorandum that directed U.S. border officers at Canadian ports of entry to detain and question all travelers of Iranian descent, including American citizens. Additionally, the memo targeted individuals born in Lebanon or the Palestinian territories, as well as anyone with connections to these countries or territories for U.S. border officers to submit to vetting.

As a result, some American citizens of Iranian descent were subjected to hours of questioning about their birth countries, their religious affiliations, and past military service. Some officers confiscated car keys and passports belonging to the travelers while they were questioned. Over two days, from January 4 – 5, 2020, border officials detained over 200 such travelers based on their heritages alone.

An unnamed U.S. border officer also confirmed the existence of the internal directives to detain and question those of Iranian descent, regardless of their citizenship status. The officer also stated that as soon as CNN published the internal memo, CBP withdrew the directive.

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 Immigration

When Do Teacher-Student Relationships Cross the Line?

By Peek & Toland on June 26, 2020

Tex. Pen. Code § 21.12 establishes a specific criminal offense based on an improper relationship between an educator and a student. Any employees of private or public primary or secondary schools commit this offense when they:

  • Engage in sexual contact or intercourse with a student enrolled at the school at which they work
  • Engage in sexual contact or intercourse with a student enrolled at another primary or secondary school or a student participant in a school-sponsored event, if they hold specific positions in a school, including a teacher, administrator, counselor, nurse, or librarian
  • Engage in the online solicitation of a minor who is a student at the school at which they work, or a student enrolled in another school or participating in a school-sponsored event, regardless of age

This code section does establish some affirmatives defenses to the crime of improper relationship between educator and student. For instance, the fact that the educator and student were married at the time of the offense is an affirmative defense. Likewise, it is an affirmative defense if the educator is not more than three years older than the student, and the couple already was in a relationship before the educator’s employment at the school.

When Do Teacher-Student Relationships Cross the Line?

Improper relationships between teachers and students, as described above, can result in second-degree felony charges. A conviction for a second-degree felony can cause a prison sentence ranging from two to 20 years, as well as a $10,000 fine.

However, if a violation of this code section also is a criminal offense under another section of the Texas Penal Code, the accused person can face criminal charges under either code section or both code sections. As a result, the penalties can be very harsh for this offense, particularly if the prosecution chooses to file two separate charges against the accused.

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

DOJ Sues Over Sanctuary City Laws in Various States

By Peek & Toland on June 25, 2020

The Department of Justice (DOJ) is striking back at sanctuary laws in various states that are designed to curtail cooperation between local law enforcement officials and federal immigration authorities. These laws restrict the sharing of information between local and federal authorities to protect unauthorized immigrants from being detained and deported. The DOJ has sued local and state government entities in California, New Jersey, and Washington to compel them to notify them and turn over immigrants with no legal immigration status whom they have arrested for other criminal offenses. To date, five states and counties in more than 30 states have passed sanctuary laws.

In its suits, the DOJ is arguing that sanctuary laws are unconstitutional and pose a barrier to the U.S. government’s ability to enforce immigration laws. These suits are an additional tool that the Trump Administration’s DOJ has used to punish sanctuary states and cities, along with the withholding of federal grant funds.

DOJ Sues Over Sanctuary City Laws in Various States

The DOJ first sued the state of California over these laws in 2018, alleging that state officials were preventing them from deporting non-citizen criminals. A federal judge in California dismissed most of the claims, but the DOJ has continued to appeal the suit to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Supporters of the sanctuary laws argue that cooperation with federal immigration authorities makes immigrants reluctant to report crimes and work with authorities in any manner. They feel that this lack of cooperation leads to decreased crime in the community, as immigrants are willing to work with police as victims or witnesses to serious crimes.

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.

Posted in Immigration

What Are the Different Categories of Misdemeanor Crimes Under Texas Law?

By Peek & Toland on June 24, 2020

There are three different categories of misdemeanor crimes under Texas law: Class A, Class B, and Class C misdemeanors. The most severe charge is a Class A misdemeanor. A conviction for a Class A misdemeanor can result in one year in jail, a $4,000 fine, or both. Common examples of Class A misdemeanors include assaults that result in bodily injury, resisting arrest and the theft of goods worth between $750 and $2,500. A Class A misdemeanor conviction can make it more challenging for you to get a job. It also may prevent you from possessing firearms or obtaining a license to carry or holding some professional licenses.

A Class B misdemeanor is the next most serious category of misdemeanor crimes. A conviction for a Class B misdemeanor carries the potential for up to six months in jail, a $2,000 fine, or both. Crimes that may constitute Class B misdemeanors include driving while intoxicated, prostitution, and criminal trespass. A conviction for Class B misdemeanor may have collateral consequences, as well, such as impacting your ability to obtain a license to carry a firearm, drive, vote, and exercise other rights, depending on the circumstances.

What Are the Different Categories of Misdemeanor Crimes Under Texas Law?

The least severe category for misdemeanor offenses is the Class C misdemeanor. A conviction for a Class C misdemeanor does not create a possibility of jail time. Instead, individuals will face a maximum fine of $500. Class C misdemeanors include speeding, public intoxication, and assault by contact. Although you cannot face jail time for a Class C misdemeanor, you still can face an arrest on most Class C misdemeanor charges, except for speeding, texting while driving, and open container violations. Pleading guilty to a Class C misdemeanor, however, does create a criminal record. In many cases, you might be able to negotiate a solution to the charge that results in an expunction of the criminal records, as these offenses do not tend to be severe.

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

Defining Deadly Conduct in Texas

By Peek & Toland on June 23, 2020

Under Tex. Pen. Code § 22.05, the crime of deadly conduct occurs when individuals recklessly engage in behavior that places others in imminent danger of severe bodily injury. Individuals also may face this charge when they purposely discharge a firearm toward one or more other persons or a home, building, or vehicle with reckless disregard as to whether others occupy it. Furthermore, under this section, it is assumed that recklessness and danger exist where individuals intentionally point firearms toward others, even if they believe the firearms are not loaded at the time.

Any act that constitutes general deadly conduct is a Class A misdemeanor offense under Texas law. If the crime involves discharging a firearm, however, the offense is enhanced to a third-degree felony. A conviction for a Class A misdemeanor can result in up to one year in prison and a maximum $4,000 fine. A third-degree felony conviction, however, can cause a prison sentence ranging from two to ten years, plus a fine of up to $10,000.

Defining Deadly Conduct in Texas

In some cases, you might think you are defending yourself if you discharge a gun to protect your family or others. However, if your conduct goes too far, you easily could face deadly conduct charges. Even if your motives were good, creating a reckless risk of severe physical harm to others can lead to these criminal charges.

As the penalties for deadly conduct are not insignificant, you should be sure to get the legal advice that you need in this situation. By attempting to explain your behavior to authorities, you may inadvertently incriminate yourself and create a high probability of criminal charges being filed against you. As a result, you should always consult an attorney before speaking with police about incidents involving the discharge of firearms or other potentially dangerous behaviors that put others at risk.

If you or a family member is facing 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

U.S. Supreme Court Permits Enforcement of New Public Charge Rule to Move Forward

By Peek & Toland on June 22, 2020

Although the litigation over the policy change will continue, the U.S. Supreme Court has permitted the newly revised “public charge” to go into effect. The high court stayed the nationwide injunction against the new rule going into effect that a lower federal court previously issued.

Under the new public charge rule, the federal government may deny green cards or visas to enter the U.S. to individuals who are likely to rely on public assistance. To measure whether an immigrant is expected to become a public charge, USCIS will consider various factors about the applicant, including education, medical history, employment, and assets. Additionally, if immigrants have used any public benefit on an expanded list of such benefits, including Medicaid, SNAP, and more, for a specific number of months, they could be considered ineligible on public charge grounds.

U.S. Supreme Court Permits Enforcement of New Public Charge Rule to Move Forward

Most recently, U.S. officials have clarified that they will not apply the new public charge policy to any immigrants who use government benefits to seek care for symptoms of coronavirus. The move is likely designed to encourage immigrants to seek diagnosis and treatment for their symptoms to further avoid the spread of the virus. The fear is that due to the new public charge rule, immigrants may be reluctant to seek medical attention for themselves and their families. This situation could result in heightened dangers to public health.

Additionally, the public charge rule will not apply to immigrants who must seek public benefits as a result of the pandemic because they are unable to work or attend school. Federal officials advise that immigrants in this situation can later explain and provide documentation that they will take into consideration when applying the public charge rule.

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.

Posted in Immigration Reform

Can I Appeal a Guilty Plea?

By Peek & Toland on June 21, 2020

Pleading guilty or no contest to a criminal charge or charges typically occurs in one of two ways. Many people enter a plea agreement, in which they agree to plead guilty to one or more charges, usually in exchange for a more lenient sentence or the dismissal of some charges. Alternatively, individuals can enter an “open plea,” in which they agree to plead guilty without relying on any recommendations by the prosecutor and leaving their sentence up to the discretion of the court.

Although it does not happen frequently, it may be possible for you to appeal a plea bargain under some circumstances. For instance, if you do not knowingly or voluntarily accept a plea agreement, you may have grounds for appeal to the trial judge or higher appellate courts in some cases. One situation in which a plea bargain might be appealable is if your attorney did not properly advise you of some issues related to your plea. For instance, if your attorney failed to inform you of the immigration consequences of your guilty plea, you may have grounds for an appeal based on ineffective assistance of counsel. Likewise, if you did not fully understand the complete consequences of your plea, you might have a basis for an appeal.

Can I Appeal a Guilty Plea?

Impaired judgment or a lack of mental capacity to understand a plea agreement may be sufficient grounds to appeal your guilty plea. In some cases, there may be technical grounds that support an appeal, such as clerical errors that result in you receiving a sentence that reflects an incorrect number of jail time credits.

Appealing your guilty plea after you have been sentenced for a crime, while not impossible, is not a common occurrence. Although some individuals receive their sentence on the same day that they enter a plea, most people have some time between their plea and their sentencing. Typically, a trial judge only will allow individuals to set aside their convictions and withdraw their guilty pleas in exceptional circumstances in which it is necessary to avoid injustice. For example, if a lawyer entered a plea on your behalf without your knowledge, you might have grounds to appeal. Similarly, if you were denied a constitutional right during the process, such as the right to counsel, then you might have a basis for a successful appeal.

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

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

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