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.
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.
We have cause for celebration because the Public Charge Final Rule put into effect by the Trump Administration in 2019 is no longer in effect. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will no longer apply the Public Charge Final Rule to new immigration status applications or those pending, effective March 9, 2021.
As mentioned, this is newsworthy, but let’s take a look at the changes and why this is such good news for the immigrant community.
What does Public Charge mean?
Immigration laws have been on the books for hundreds of years, and changes in every administration usually mean immigration law changes. The Public Charge Rule, introduced in the Immigration Act of 1882, states that immigrants applying for entry into the United States or attempting to adjust their status in the U.S. may be denied a visa or entry due to lack of economic stability. It was implemented to ensure entry is not permitted to persons who would rely on social services for their wellbeing in the U.S.
Extremities of the Public Charge Rule
The Trump administration put into place much stronger restrictions and burdens of proof to the Public Charge classification.
Those who applied for visas or adjustment status can recall much more stringent audits into your assets and finances during the Trump Administration. Essentially, the Trump Administration, through the Public Charge Rule, made it incredibly difficult for economically disadvantaged people to enter the U.S. It even made it difficult for financially stable immigrants to legally enter due to the high minimums set for income, assets, health, personal insurance, etc. There were so many hoops through which we all had to jump, including immigration attorneys.
So, what now?
Yes, this is news to celebrate, but it doesn’t mean that the borders are wide open. There is still a process to undergo, and a well-practiced immigration attorney can guide you through the complexities of that process. We still have to focus on sponsors meeting the required salary minimum and whether a co-sponsor is beneficial. While it’s still a convoluted process, the news regarding the Public Charge Rule reverting to the 1999 rules means far less paperwork and intrusion into your life and personal finances.
Please continue to follow us on social media and let us know if there’s something you want to hear on Immigration Wednesdays. We are constantly working to follow and interpret all of the ever-changing immigration laws that affect our clients and the immigration community. If you or a friend or family member are currently in the process of adjusting your legal status in the U.S., please reach out to us at Peek & Toland for guidance. Every immigration case is different, and our trusted immigration attorneys will work to create the most convenient path to citizenship for you.
The Biden administration announced Temporary Protective Status (“TPS”) to anyone from Venezuela who is physically residing in the United States since March 8. So, what does that mean? It means that nationals from Venezuela who have been here in the last week or so are eligible for protected status.
What is protected status?
To best explain what protected status is, we should first start with what it is not. Temporary protected status is not a green card, residential status, or citizenship. This temporary order protects undocumented persons under the provision from being deported for a limited time, and steps to citizenship or extended visas are viable options during this time of protection.
Why do we have this?
It’s a pretty universally accepted truth that the U.S. offers more opportunity and provisions than some other countries, particularly those affected by natural disasters, famine, political unrest, war, and a host of other issues that negatively affect the standard of living and safety of the people living there. The Maduro administration and remnants of the Chavez administration have a lingering and detrimental effect on Venezuela’s people, including extreme poverty and lack of basic necessities.
We could go on endlessly about the events that lead to the state Venezuela is in, but the fact that Venezuelan nationals in the U.S. are now eligible for protected status is what is really of great importance here.
How does this change things for Venezuelans in the U.S?
Prior to the announcement of this protected status, undocumented Venezuelan nationals in the U.S. were unable to seek work permits and provide for their families, not to mention the added and unrelenting stress and fear of deportation. This temporary order of protection is extended through September 22, 2022, and gives the Venezuelan community here plenty of time to seek appropriate job permits and take their first step on their pathway to citizenship.
This is tremendous and exciting news for the Venezuelan community, and it’s news worth sharing. If you or anyone you know is eligible for this temporary protected status, please reach out to us at Peek & Toland. We’d be happy to look into your legal standing here and advise you on the best practice moving forward.
Continue to follow us on social media and check back on our blogs for up-to-date immigration news that affects you, and let us know if there’s anything at all that our experienced immigration attorneys can do to help you secure your future in the U.S.
Have you ever thought of yourself as a thief or considered taking something that doesn’t belong to you? I’m not talking about a pen from the doctor’s office or Wi-Fi from your neighbor, but physically taking something from someone else’s home, business, or building. For some, those poor decisions can happen in a split second, but there are some consequences of a theft that will make you think twice about stealing anything from anyone, no matter how big or small.
Though I strongly encourage everyone to abide by the law and not steal, let’s play out some hypothetical situations and considerations in order to understand what is truly at risk when committing theft.
What kind of crime is this?
Ok, so you’ve decided to take something from someone else and are assessing your potential punishment by looking at the value of what you’re going to take—whether a stick of gum or a luxury sports car, everything has value. In Texas, we have what is known as the standard value ladder which is used to determine the degree of your crime—class A or B misdemeanors, all the way up to a felony charge. While the monetary value of what you take may be low enough to warrant a puny ticket, there are a few factors that can quickly raise the level of your offense despite having stolen something worth very little.
Partners in Crime
That old adage of “birds of a feather flock together” should not be taken lightly if you’re running with a group of people and getting into trouble together. You see, acting alone in your theft is bad enough, but adding an accomplice (or accomplices!) can earn you conspiracy charges. Next thing you know, you’re facing a felony. So, while we like to use that term, “partner in crime” to mean a friend you’re sticking with through thick and thin, you might consider leaving your partner at home if you’re going to be committing theft.
Location! Location! Location!
I’ve said it before, and it’s true in this circumstance—where you are matters. If you’ve taken something from a business, a building or someone’s home is relevant to what kind of charges you’re facing if you’re caught. Instead of relying on that standard value ladder to determine your crime, you’ve now added breaking and entering and trespassing to your list of crimes. Deciding to steal something from someone’s home? Congratulations, you’ve just graduated to a second-degree felony. Oh, you only took something from their front porch and didn’t actually enter their habitation? Doesn’t matter.
Texas criminal law has an interesting term called curtilage, which states that the outside area of a home or building, including the porch or entryway, is part of the structure. Stepping foot in those areas with some sticky fingers is just as bad as breaking a window to enter and carry out the TV. Where you are matters!
What’s at stake?
Besides the less than pleasant experience of being arrested and charged with crimes for something you thought was small, your entire future is now in jeopardy. If you think a felony charge on your record is no big deal, consider that you’ll be hard-pressed to find an employer willing to hire you with a felony arrest or conviction on your record, especially one of moral turpitude. If you are an immigrant who has been charged with these crimes, the situation is even direr, as you are very much at risk for deportation. Even with citizenship, the risk does not outweigh the reward.
As mentioned, we hope nobody ends up in the position of fighting a theft crime, and we hope these factors are taken into consideration before you decide to act on “something small” that could irrevocably change your life. If you or someone you know has found themselves in this situation, please reach out to one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Peek & Toland, and be sure to continue following us on social media where we will continue to break down aspects of the law that affect you.
There’s often a social stigma cloaked around discussion of mental health in the U.S., though there is a shift occurring when addressing this topic, one of which is how a person’s mental state can affect their criminal defense strategy. We’ve all seen the Law & Order episodes where a defendant attempts to get off by pleading insanity; and, while insanity is likely the most well-known defense when we look at mental health in criminal cases, it’s not so one-dimensional.
The spectrum of mental and emotional wellness is broad and encompasses an array of issues many people face every single day. The pressures and isolation from a global pandemic are enough to cause malaise in even the most enduring minds. Add to that the extreme winter storm Texas just faced and from which we are still trying to recover, and it’s a bit easier to understand that insanity isn’t the only way people can be affected mentally and emotionally in their everyday lives. But what does that have to do with a strategy for criminal defense? Let’s take a look at three ways your mental and emotional wellness can impact your criminal defense but in a positive way.
Is ignorance bliss?
There’s a common misconception that ignorance of the law is no excuse, and intending to commit a crime (whether you realize it or not) means you’re guilty; however, you have to take into account that every crime has an intentional element, or mens rea. Elle Woods said it best when she argued in Legally Blonde that “a complete lack of mens rea tells us that there can be no crime without vicious will.” Sometimes, especially in cases when an individual is not well emotionally or mentally, crimes are in fact committed with no ill intent, and that definitely plays a role in your defense.
Does this mean mental unwellness gets you off scot-free? No, but it means your mental state is very much relevant, and any good criminal defense attorney will know how to set the scene when presenting a case where a client’s mental state impacted their actions. So, maybe ignorance is not bliss, but it is a factor.
The second way in which a person’s mental state can affect their defense and outcome in the initial phases of an arrest and arraignment comes in provisions that take into account mental state, intellectual disabilities, PTSD, anxiety, and more when it comes to setting your bond. A strong and capable criminal defense attorney will know about provisions like Article 16.22 in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, and they’ll know the most effective means to present this, which has a definite influence on the way a prosecutor will look at a defendant as they request a bond and move forward throughout the case.
Diversion Programs = Dismissal?
The third way that your mental state can help or hurt your criminal defense comes in the admittance to and completion of a pretrial diversion program. Every county will have its own programs available, and it’s up to your attorney to know about those and determine which is the best for you. There are an array of diversion programs in each county, and there’s certainly allowance for persons with impaired mental states. Completion of these programs and abiding by their set conditions often result in a criminal case being dismissed and altogether expunged from a person’s record, which is a much happier and more hopeful place to be than is the beginning phases of arrest and fighting charges. Having an experienced attorney is the first step in getting to that hopeful place with a clean record.
If you or a loved one were charged with a crime, and you feel like your mental state could have been a factor, it’s important to contact a qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. The attorneys at Peek & Toland are well versed in this type of defense, and we’d be happy to hear the circumstances of your case and help.
Before the Biden administration even took office, we knew U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) would likely undergo sweeping reform in their policies and practices, and that has definitely come to fruition, as evidenced by the interim guidance memo recently released which covers enforcement and removal policies and priorities. These shifts in practice impact the immigrant community, especially those facing criminal charges.
Do you have a clean slate?
Amongst ICE changes in practices is the shift on whom they deem a priority enforcement. Prior to the current administration, we would saw an overreach in justice in the place of the leniency we are seeing now. A basic tenement of that is the increased likelihood for release and bonds. If you’re confronted by ICE in jail, whether the arrest is from something small or more serious, and have been in the U.S. before November 1, 2020 and have never been convicted of an aggravated felony, ICE may not place a detainer on you. They are now taking into account your criminal history, or lack thereof, and trying to get a better understanding of each case before placing a detainer, and there’s very much a possibility of them releasing you or giving an immigration bond.
Spots on Your Record?
All of what we’ve discussed here so far sounds great for immigrants without a troubled past, but what if you have some questionable offenses on your record? If you have previous offenses that you think may count you out on the opportunity for release or bond, it’s more important for you than ever before to have an experienced criminal AND immigration attorney to navigate those waters for you. Sweeping policy change happens fast, and you need attorneys who are well-practiced in keeping up with those changes on a daily basis and interpreting them for best practical use for their clients. Don’t rule yourself out for options because of your past. We are here to assess your individual case, which ICE will now more carefully review.
At Peek & Toland, we receive dozens of detention calls each day regarding getting out, posting bonds, moving, etc., and those questions are not easily answered unless you’ve personally seen and handled hundreds of these kinds of cases. It is only through the successful handling of these types of criminal/immigrant combination cases that we are poised to effectively communicate details of each case with ICE, possibly details of your case and life you didn’t know were relevant.
If you or someone you know is facing difficult decisions on the strategy of their criminal charges as an immigrant, we’d be happy to review your case, even if you’ve already consulted another attorney and are unsure if they’re knowledgeable of the latest changes in ICE practice, as well as criminal law reform.
We’re very hopeful about all the updates and changes from this new administration and what that means for the immigrant community. Continue to watch our social media channels and our Immigration Wednesdays segment as we continue to follow these changes in immigration policy and practice, and do not hesitate to contact us if you have even a hint of concern about your current immigrant criminal defense strategy.
We’ve covered in great detail the many aspects that go into law enforcement obtaining and executing search warrants and what exactly unlawful searches are. While you may be able to remember and recite all of those important questions regarding lawfulness when being served with a search warrant, you should also remember that unlawful searches are often carried, and evidence against you could be found as a result.
So, what happens if you’re on the receiving end of an unlawful search? What comes of the evidence found through that search? How do you get that evidence thrown out? In addition to having sage legal counsel, there are a couple of aspects to consider when it comes to illegally obtained evidence against you.
Lack of Probable Cause and an Abundance of Lies
Remember those affidavits we covered? In addition to the alleged crime spelled out in the affidavit, there needs to be probable cause, or a reasonable basis for believing that a crime may have been committed. A search warrant without that and any evidence collected as a result completely violate your Fourth Amendment right, as does an all-out lie from a police officer. We’re not talking about a mistake, but an actual lie that law enforcement used to collect evidence from you in an alleged crime. It happens, and the onus is on you and a competent attorney to make that lie known.
Does protesting this lack of probable cause or law enforcement lies when the unlawful search is conducted mean the search will end and any evidence will be placed back where it was found? No.
These unlawful searches with no probable cause or misinformation are unfortunately carried out often. It’s best practice to reach out to your experienced criminal defense attorney who will begin the process of excluding that illegally obtained evidence against you.
Fruit of the Poisonous Tree
We’ve established that unlawful searches of people and property happen all of the time, which now begs the question of how to remedy the situation and keep that information or illegally obtained evidence out. Thanks to our Fourth Amendment right and Texas’ Exclusionary Rule, an experienced criminal defense attorney cannot only get the search warrant deemed unlawful, but the illegally obtained evidence will be inadmissible. As well, the evidence that the government obtained in violation of your constitutional rights.
There are, of course, exceptions to rules and much to cover with warrants and evidence collection that all play a factor in the success of any criminal case.
If you have any questions about search warrants or any criminal matters, we encourage you to reach out to one of our experienced criminal defense attorneys at Peek & Toland.
Continue to follow us on social media, where we cover the aspects of criminal defense that are key to preserving your freedom and the criminal justice system’s integrity.
Fighting a criminal charge in the U.S. is stressful enough, but adding the additional worry of deportation to that battle is even more daunting, especially throughout the Trump administration. Over the last four years, President Trump’s immigration crackdown has been vastly rolled back by the new Biden administration. The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”) is now more flexible with those arrested or charged with a crime. This is wonderful news for undocumented persons here, especially for an undocumented person fighting a criminal charge.
So what does the change in practice and policy mean? What do you do with an undocumented person in jail for a criminal case? How do you get them out? Policy changes don’t change our questions about successfully fighting a criminal case. Still, those changes in policy do mean a change in your defense strategy and new considerations in criminal cases that make it imperative to have a criminal defense attorney who is also practiced in immigration law. Let’s take a look at that.
Reevaluate Your Strategy
A good defense attorney knows the key to overcoming a criminal charge is a well-planned strategy, strengthened by experience and knowledge in our ever-shifting immigration and criminal policies. You might be undocumented and facing criminal charges, or perhaps someone you know is in this situation. It’s imperative to revisit your defense plan in the wake of the new Biden policies. We are now seeing more leniency for criminal offenses committed by undocumented persons. You may have been denied bond previously, but the new reforms mean you could even be released without even having to see a judge. Having an updated strategy from a knowledgeable criminal defense and immigration attorney is key to knowing what changes you need to make to increase your likelihood of remaining in the U.S.
We’re seeing people who were denied bond release from a judge, to now some cases being considered for bond release.
Down But Not Out
As mentioned, criminal offenses committed by undocumented persons and immigrants are treated quite differently by the Biden administration, and part of that is new consideration of facts in your case. Extenuating circumstances and painting the full picture surrounding a criminal charge were not considerations in the Trump-era ICE practices, but Biden has changed that. A knowledgeable criminal defense attorney who knows immigration will be able to review your case’s facts and present those circumstances that lessen a charge and could lead to release. If you’ve previously thought you had no option in your criminal defense as an immigrant or undocumented person, don’t count yourself out just yet.
A Foot in Both Worlds
Some may believe ICE’s shift to prioritize threats to national security and public safety means that ICE is no longer aware of immigrant and undocumented criminal offenders, but that is not the case. ICE is still aware you are here, and you are still at risk for deportation. The key to avoiding deportation comes in having an attorney experienced in both criminal and immigration defense. This type of attorney will be better capable of evaluating your case and taking the necessary steps to reduce your charges. Thus, decreasing your chance of being deported and increasing the likelihood of being released from jail.
If you are undocumented or on a pathway to citizenship and face criminal charges, do not risk your future by using a criminal attorney who doesn’t know anything about immigration and vice versa. Do not risk your freedom with an immigration attorney who doesn’t know anything about criminal defense. You really need an expert in both realms, and the experienced immigration and criminal defense attorneys at Peek & Toland are happy to put their 20+ years of experience into fighting for your defense. If you have questions about your case and want to reevaluate where you stand under these new ICE practices, please reach out to us. We’re glad to help. Also, continue to follow us on social media as we discuss these policy changes and strategies that could lead to your freedom and a potential path to citizenship.
If you’ve been checking in on our blogs and tuning in to In Your Defense, you know that we are breaking down search warrants and their components. The ability law enforcement has to enter and search someone’s house, phone, and car seems contradictory to the personal freedoms and our right to privacy which is protected under the Fourth Amendment.
There is no question as to how closely and carefully we should monitor search warrants and restrict police access into our personal spaces, so let’s take a look at four factors to keep in mind if the police have obtained a search warrant to access and search your domain.
Knock-knock! Who’s there?
If you’ve paid any attention to the news cycle over the last year, you know that the action of knocking and announcing law enforcement presence with a search warrant for your property can quickly turn into a life-or-death situation, especially in Texas where we proudly own weapons and have the right to defend our castle. For this reason, amongst others, the rule in Texas is that police must knock, identify themselves, and provide the landowner with a copy of the search warrant. That is the general rule, and police are bound to follow it; however, that old saying—for every rule, there is an exception—is true when it comes to the requirements for entry we’ve just discussed here.
So, what’s the exception to the rule?
Typically, no-knock warrants, warrants for which police have no obligation to knock and announce and can just barge into your home, like what happened to Breonna Taylor, are generally deemed to be unreasonable outside of some specific reason. That’s doublespeak for “yes, they can just barge into your home unannounced,” but there must be specific reason for a no-knock warrant to be issued.
One way the police can obtain a no-knock warrant is to explain to the judge or magistrate why it’s so imperative for them to enter a suspect’s home in such a potentially dangerous manner—citing concern that evidence will be lost or destroyed without surprise entry is one way law enforcement gets around that requirement to knock and announce.
Are there instances where a standard search warrant that requires knock and announce could be overridden and carried out as a no-knock warrant? Absolutely, and it can be deemed lawful when the offending officer describes what changed or that their safety was perhaps in jeopardy. This is why it’s of the utmost importance to have sage legal counsel to fight for exclusionary rule or a motion to suppress the evidence obtained from the standard search warrant that suddenly became a no-knock entry on the whims of the police serving and searching your property.
Stay in your lane.
We’ve covered in some detail the parameters for search listed in a lawful search warrant, and the importance of searches remaining restricted by those areas listed in the warrant is something we can’t stress enough. Reviewing those search areas listed in the warrant and defending your Fourth Amendment right to privacy could save you a world of trouble.
Time is on your side.
You can blast that old Rolling Stones tune, “Time is On My Side” when it comes to lawfully executed search warrants. Remember that 72-hour window we discussed? It’s still a morsel of protection that can save you in the long-run. As soon as the judge signs on that dotted line, time starts ticking. Always, always, always review the date and time the search warrant was signed to be sure the police are within the legal period of time to search.
These are just a few of the unlimited requisites that make or break a search warrant. If you have any questions about search warrants, if you’ve been served with a search warrant, or if you’ve been arrested or charged and a search warrant is at issue in your case, reach out to us immediately so we can fight to exclude any evidence unlawfully obtained.
Keep following us on social media, and continue to check in on our blogs, especially in our next discussion that will encapsulate the ways to exclude evidence against you.