Texas law, defendants in criminal cases have the right to make a statement in
the courtroom before the judge issues their sentences, which is referred to as
an allocution. Texas CCP § 42.07 instructs judges to ask defendants if they
have anything to say as to why they should not receive a specific sentence from
the court. This procedural requirement, or opportunity for an allocution,
occurs following a criminal trial or after the parties have submitted a plea
bargain to the court for approval.
most cases, defendants exercise their right to remain silent and do not make a
statement to the court. Especially when defendants have signed plea agreements,
and they know what sentence they will receive from the court, defendants have
no reason or need to speak. The most common circumstance in which defendants
engage in an allocution is when the court is going to sentence them, and there
has been no plea agreement. As a result, they do not know what sentence they
will receive for the crime, so they may want to take one last chance to speak
before they receive their sentences.
judges forget or fail to ask if the defendants want to speak before sentencing,
defendants (or their defense lawyers) must object in open court. Otherwise,
defendants will waive their rights to allocution.
Texas CCP § 42.03 also gives crime victims the right to allocution in some situations. In contrast to a defendant’s right to allocution, a crime victim only has the right to address a defendant after the judge has announced the defendant’s sentence for the crime. Victims of crimes in these circumstances are free to express their views about the crime and the defendant’s actions. The defendants have no right to respond to crime victim allocutions. However, victim allocutions will not have an impact on the sentence that the defendants receive, because victims do not speak until the defendants already have received their sentences.
If you or a family member is facing any 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.
According to a recent CNN
article, the U.S. halted the refugee resettlement program in October 2019
altogether. The move left hundreds of refugees stranded and in limbo after the
U.S. canceled their incoming flights. This lapse in the resettlement program extended
through November 5, 2019. Soon after that date, about 600 refugees of FFY 2020
entered the country as the Trump Administration resumed program operations.
In conjunction with this
delay, the Trump Administration issued executive orders that both drastically
reduced the refugee resettlement cap to 18,000 for FFY 2020 and allowed states
and cities to begin objecting to refugees being resettled in their communities
by requiring their written permission before resettlement occurs. In the
history of the 40-year program, states and cities have never been able to
refuse the resettlement of refugees.
In response to the
executive orders, three refugee resettlement agencies now have filed suit
against the Trump Administration. These agencies content that the order will
irreparably harm the program, which already has experienced an 80% drop in
refugee admissions since the President took office.
The impact to this program is of particular interest to the state of Texas, which has more refugee resettlements than in any other state. Active resettlement programs in major Texas cities such as Houston, Dallas-Fort Worth, Austin, and San Antonio have well-organized procedures in place to welcome new refugees and large immigrant populations. Nonetheless, the state government has often opposed resettlement efforts, especially under the leadership of Governor Greg Abbott, who frequently spars with local government authorities over programs that he views as overly “socialistic.” 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.
An occupational driver’s license (ODL)
allows eligible individuals to legally drive even after their licenses have
been suspended or revoked. This special restricted license will enable you to
drive a personal vehicle back and forth to work and school, as well as to run
essential errands, such as getting medical attention and groceries.
You must get a court order finding that
you are eligible for an ODL and telling the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS)
to allow you to get an ODL. However, not everyone qualifies for an ODL. For
instance, you are ineligible for an ODL if you:
Lost your license due to physical or
Lost your license due to a failure to pay
Need your license to drive a commercial
Are a threat to public safety if permitted
Do not have an essential household need
that requires you to drive
Received two ODLs in the past ten years
following a conviction that affected your license
Another situation that might make you
ineligible for an ODL is if you have a hard suspension waiting period because
of a previous DWI arrest or conviction. For example, if your license was
suspended because you refused to take a breath test when arrested for DWI and
you had a license suspension due to an alcohol or drug-related arrest within
the previous five years, you are subject to a 90-day hard suspension. This
means that you cannot get an ODL during those 90 days.
Once the judge orders that you are eligible for an ODL, you can use a certified copy of the court order as proof of your ODL for up to 45 days after the effective date of the order. You typically will receive your official ODL from DPS during that timeframe. If you don’t receive it within those 45 days, however, you cannot drive until you receive it or go back to court to get the deadline extended.
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.
the end of federal fiscal year 2019, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) had
detained more than 76,000
unaccompanied minors at the U.S.-Mexico border, which is a 52%
increase over the number held in FFY 2018. About 10,400 of those children came
from migrant, but the most significant percentage came from the Central
American countries of Guatemala, Honduras, and El Salvador. The increase in
total family units detained also increased exponentially from FFY 2018 to FFY
2019. CBP detained over 473,000 families at the border, as opposed to about
107,000 in FFY 2018, which represents a 342% increase.
Trump Administration has unsuccessfully fought to deter unaccompanied minors
from entering the U.S. by separating families at the border and making it more
difficult for minors to apply for asylum. Mexico has experienced similar
increases in the number of unaccompanied children attempting to enter that
country. When Mexico detains children, however, they immediately go into the
national child protection system to find them housing and care.
experts say that it is the vast increases in detention rates for families and
unaccompanied minors that have clogged up an already overburdened immigration
court system. The current system of detention and court proceedings is not
designed to handle families and children, which makes the current surges in
migrant families at the border unsustainable.
While most migrant families and children now are returned to Mexico to await their chance to apply for asylum, conditions have worsened and grown more dangerous at the border. Mexico does not have the shelters, food, or other resources to handle the massive influx of families, who often must wait for months at the border before being able to apply for asylum. Crime also has increased in this area of the country, along with injuries and deaths to children and families.
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.
little fanfare, the Department of Justice (DOJ) has made significant changes to
its hiring practices. The purpose of these changes is to populate the powerful
Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) with immigration judges whom immigration advocates
have accused repeatedly of bias in their decisions. These rule changes are
indicative of many of the steadily growing political nature of the immigration
court system, which some claim has led to unfair and biased court proceedings.
DOJ changed its hiring practices to add six immigration judges to the 21-member
BIA in August 2019. All six judges have among the highest asylum denial rates
of immigration judges throughout the country. In 2017, some of these judges
also had the highest numbers of decisions that the BIA sent back to them for
reconsideration. Individuals have filed public complaints against at least
three of the six judges, although the Director of the Executive Office of
Immigration Review noted no negative information about any of the judges that
would preclude their appointments.
the DOJ appointed these six judges without subjecting them to the usual
two-year probationary period. Instead, these six judges received a permanent
position on the BIA, effective immediately. With no probationary period, it is
virtually impossible to remove permanently appointed judges from office.
the DOJ paved the way for some candidates for the open BIA positions by no
longer requiring that the judges work from a central location in Virginia.
Instead, the BIA members can work remotely from any immigration court across
the country. The new BIA members are also not limited to reviewing appellate
cases, which is the typical function of the BIA. The new board members also may
serve as trial immigration judges, as well as review appellate decisions. This
dual appointment has never occurred before.
Traditionally, the BIA consists of board members from different backgrounds. Their job is to review judicial decisions from the immigration courts that parties have appealed. Three-member panels of the BIA can issue rulings that set binding precedents on various aspects of immigration law, including asylum and stays of deportation. As these decisions are binding, immigration judges and adjudicators must rely on these decisions in making rulings in future cases.
The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal immigration matters of countless individuals and businesses. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf. Our goal is to get the best outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys.
you are a minor or under the age of 21, it is illegal for you to drive with any
detectable amount of alcohol in your system. As a result, consuming any amount
of beer, wine, or liquor could result in criminal charges of Driving Under the
Influence of Alcohol by a Minor (DUIA by a Minor). The consequences of this
offense vary according to your history of previous crimes and your age. For a
first offense, you could face the following penalties for a Class C misdemeanor
A fine of up to $500
A 60-day driver license suspension
Completion of 20 to 40 hours of community
Mandatory attendance at an alcohol
penalties can increase, even for a first-time offense, if you are over the age
of 17 and are caught driving with a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of .08
percent or higher. In this situation, you can face a fine of up to $2,000, three
to 180 days in jail, and a license suspension ranging from 90 days to one year.
In most cases, individuals generally do not face jail time for a first offense,
but older minors often will be required to serve some jail time for a second or
surprisingly, second and subsequent drinking and driving offenses for minors
carry the potential for more significant penalties than those that might result
from a first offense. For instance, the license suspension for a second offense
for a minor is typically 120 days and increases to 180 days for third and
also are subject to the state implied consent law, which subjects individuals
to license suspensions when they refuse to take a chemical test for their BAC
during a DWI arrest. Minors who refuse chemical testing can be subject to a
180-day license suspension for a first offense and a one-year suspension for a
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.
The Texas Department of Public Safety
(DPS) Director, Steven C. McCraw, recently acknowledged to the state House of
Representatives Transportation Committee, which funds DPS, that the agency’s
crime lab is unable to keep up with forensic evidence requests. The backlog is
adversely affecting the proper functioning of the criminal justice system, as
defendants linger in jail for months or even years awaiting test results.
McCraw attributed the backlog to high rates of staff turnover and the length of
time necessary to hire and train new staff, which can average about 18 months.
For instance, McCraw pointed out that the Welasco crime lab had not been fully
staffed in five years.
DPS revealed that as of September 17,
2019, the Weslaco crime lab had over 2,650 unreleased evidence requests. Almost
half of that total was unreleased biology and DNA requests. DNA test results are
especially crucial to both prosecutors and defense attorneys in many criminal
cases, as these results have the potential to prove guilt or innocence.
Currently, the average processing time for
forensic biology testing is 218 days, and for DNA testing, 300 days. Firearms
testing cases average 228 days, and fingerprint testing cases average 255 days.
On the other hand, drug cases typically take 90 days to process. DPS does
prioritize some cases, such as those that involve threats to public safety, high
profile incidents, and situations in which defendants may be incarcerated for
lengthy periods pending test results.
DPS has received just under 6,000 requests
for evidence testing this year alone. The bulk of these tests involve
toxicology and seized drugs. Still, DPS has released test results in over 6,000
cases this year, as well.
you or a family member is facing weapons charges 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.
to a recent
Forbes article, the year 2020 promises new restrictions on
H-1B visas that are likely to decrease the number of H-1B visas further that
the federal government issues. First, employers will be required to participate
in electronic registration by paying a $10 fee and providing some information
about their proposed applications. These registrations then are placed in a
lottery each April for the 65,000 available H-1B visas and the 20,000
cap-exempt visas for individuals with advanced degrees from U.S. colleges and
universities. As a result of the ease with which employers can enter the
lottery at a relatively low cost, many expect that the electronic registration
process will increase the number of applicants significantly. This process
could have the effect of pushing out smaller employers in favor of larger
employers with more applications. Additionally, since details on the selection
and timing of applications following the lottery have been somewhat unclear,
employers anticipate time pressures to figure into the ability to submit H-1B
new development concerns an anticipated rule that would redefine “specialty
occupation,” “employment,” and the “employer-employee relationship.” For
instance, internal USCIS documents have revealed a proposal to exclude computer
programming from specialty occupations. Another possibility is that professions
that do not require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree would not qualify as
specialty occupations. Redefining “employment” also could affect information
technology (IT) service companies, which already are seeing a much higher
denial rate of their H-1B visa applications.
Various other policies that could impact H-1B visas are currently the subject of litigation, whose outcomes are uncertain at this point. One such issue relates to the Non-Speculative Work Rule, under which U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has demanded that companies provide a list of all work assignments that an H-1B visa holder will have for as many as three years into the future. This litigation is indicative of an increasing trend toward challenging H-1B visa denials in court.
Our goal is to assist you with your immigration concerns, whether family or business-based. We can evaluate your situation and develop a strategy that is most likely to be efficient and effective in your case. Regardless of the immigration matter that you are facing, the attorneys of Peek & Toland have the experience, knowledge, and reputation that you want and need to advocate on your behalf. When results matter most, contact us at (512) 474-4445.
to a recent
Forbes article, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
has issued a document that outlines the proposed rules that it intends to put
into effect in 2020. These rules will have far-reaching implications for employers,
international students, foreign workers and investors, and individuals who are
DHS intends to further tighten the restrictions on the H-1B visa program for skilled
foreign workers. Denial rates for this popular visa program already have quadrupled
over the past four years. The DHS unified agenda states that it will continue
to take steps to ensure that only the best foreign nationals obtain visas
through this program. It intends to revise the definition of the
employer-employee relationship for the visa program and ensure that U.S.
employers are paying appropriate wages to these visa holders. These changes,
which DHS already appears to be informally implementing, given the suddenly high
denial rates, are harming IT services companies and positions for computer
programmers, who seem to be subject to increased scrutiny in recent years.
aspect of the H-1B program that the Trump Administration long has vowed to
change is the work authorization for many H-4 spouses of H-1B visa holders. Over
the past several years, these individuals have received work permits that allow
them to work in the U.S. while their spouses were H-1B visa holders, a feature
that made the visa program much more attractive for many foreign nationals. DHS
intends to publish the proposed rule in March 2020.
also has announced proposed changes to the L-1 visas by revamping the
definition of the employer-employee relationship and ensuring that U.S.
employers pay these workers appropriate wages. U.S. companies report, however,
that DHS already has cracked down on the L-1 visa program substantially.
Informal policy changes to this visa program have led to 80 to 90% denial rates
at U.S. consulates in India, and similar denial rates at U.S. consulates in
China. Many of these denials are based on allegations by consular officials
that U.S. companies should have only a limited number of employees with
specialized knowledge. However, there is no basis in the law for this
The Trump Administration also is planning to move toward the elimination of the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program, which allows international students to work in the U.S. for limited periods in specific fields following graduation. Another change that could affect international students is the intention of DHS to block students from re-entering the U.S. for ten years if they violate their immigration status, even unknowingly, while attending U.S. colleges and universities.
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.
members introduced the Farm
Workforce Modernization Act, which is a bipartisan bill that
would offer a path to citizenship for undocumented farmworkers. The bill also establishes
funding for farmworker housing and aid programs. The purpose of this bill is to
modernize the H-2A visa guest worker program and ensure worker rights to safe
working conditions and fair wages. The bipartisan authors of the bill, Representatives
Zoe Lofgren (D-California) and Dan Newhouse (R-Washington), called it a
compromise solution that offers stability for American farms.
the proposed legislation, an uncapped number of visas would become available
for farmworkers through a merit-based system, called Certified Agricultural Worker
(CAW) status. These visas would last for five-and-a-half years and be
renewable. Existing undocumented immigrant farmworkers would be eligible to
enroll in the program if they worked at least 180 days over two years or 100
days over three years in the agricultural industry. Farmworkers also would
undergo a criminal background check.
would be available for only 18 months after the effective date of the law, with
the option for the Department of Homeland Security to extend the application
period for an additional one year. CAW applicants would receive interim work
authorization after applying for this visa program. Qualified workers would not
have to return to their home countries to apply.
who complete eight years of CAW status would be eligible to apply for green
cards. A path to citizenship via green card also would be available for
individuals who completed four years of CAW status and who have ten years of
previous agricultural work experience.
bill also would establish a mandatory nationwide E-Verify system for all
agricultural workers. Various organizations representing both farmers and
farmworkers support the bill, including Western Growers, United Farmworkers,
National Milk Producers Federation, and the National Council of Farmer
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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