What is the Difference Between Robbery and Aggravated Robbery?

By Peek & Toland on April 1, 2020

Under Tex. Pen. Code § 29.02, individuals commit robbery if they commit theft and intend to obtain or maintain control over the stolen property, and in doing so, they:

  • Intentionally, knowingly, or recklessly cause bodily injury to others
  • Intentionally or knowingly threaten or place others in fear of imminent bodily injury or death

Some common actions that are likely to constitute robbery under state law include purse snatching, muggings, carjackings, and home invasions. Individuals can face a robbery conviction even if they do not complete or carry out the theft of the items that are the focus of the robbery.

Robbery is a second-degree felony under Texas law. A conviction for a second-degree felony such as robbery can result in a prison sentence ranging from two to 20 years and a fine of up to $10,000.

In contrast, aggravated robbery is a first-degree felony in the state of Texas. Tex. Pen. Code § 29.03 provides that aggravated robbery occurs when individuals do any of the following in committing robbery:

  • Causes serious bodily injury to others,
  • Uses or exhibits a deadly weapon, or
  • Causes physical harm to others or threatens or places them in fear of imminent bodily injury or death, and the person is 65 years of age or older, or disabled

Under this section, a disabled person is one who has a mental, physical, or developmental disability who is substantially unable to protect himself or herself from harm.

What is the Difference Between Robbery and Aggravated Robbery?

The prison sentence for a person who is convicted of aggravated robbery can be between five and 99 years if the person has no prior criminal history. Individuals convicted of this offense also can be ordered to pay a fine of up to $10,000.

A felony robbery or aggravated robbery conviction also can have other repercussions. Even after you have served your sentence, you face the loss of some civil rights, such as the right to carry firearms. You also will have a permanent felony conviction that can make finding employment and housing far more challenging.

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.

White House Prohibits Entry of Some China Travelers Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

By Peek & Toland on March 28, 2020

On January 31, 2020, the Trump Administration issued a proclamation prohibiting all individuals from entering the U.S. that have been physically present in China within 14 days of seeking U.S. entry. This prohibition is to remain in effect indefinitely, but it is subject to review every 15 days by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. However, the ban does not apply to U.S. citizens, legal permanent residents, their spouses, or their minor children. The proclamation also contains some other limited exceptions.

This proclamation has only been one of the many travel advisories, bans, and border closings that have occurred rapidly as COVID-19 has continued to spread across the U.S. For instance, in early March, the U.S. banned not only all individuals who had visited China within the last 14 days, but also those who had visited Iran and all European countries in the Schengen Area, which include Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland. Shortly after that, the Trump Administration expanded this group of countries to include the United Kingdom and Ireland.

White House Prohibits Entry of Some China Travelers Due to Coronavirus Pandemic

On March 18, 2020, the U.S. and Canada announced a mutual agreement to close the U.S.-Canadian border. The next day, the U.S. State Department issued a Level 4 “do not travel” advisory, which recommends, but does not require, that U.S. citizens avoid all international travel.

All American citizens and legal permanent residents currently returning from these high-risk areas must fly into one of 13 designated international airports in the U.S. Upon arrival, travelers must undergo health screenings to determine if their risk factors for having contracted the virus. 

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.

ICE Halts Most Nationwide Enforcement Efforts

By Peek & Toland on March 27, 2020

Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has issued a statement on COVID-19 regarding their continuing immigration enforcement efforts. ICE has temporarily adjusted its enforcement priorities to focus solely on immigrants who are public safety risks and those who are subject to mandatory detention due to criminal activity. If immigrants do not fall into one of those categories, ICE officers have the discretion to delay enforcement action concerning these issues until after the COVID-19 crisis has ceased. They also have the authority to utilize alternatives to detention, such as ankle monitors and similar measures.

ICE officers will continue to work on criminal investigations and enforcement necessary to safeguard the public and national security. These operations may concern issues related to gang activity, drug trafficking, child exploitation, and human trafficking, in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Justice, the U.S. Marshals Service, and the Bureau of Prisons.

ICE Halts Most Nationwide Enforcement Efforts

ICE also will not be carrying out enforcement operations at health care facilities, including hospitals, doctors’ offices, health clinics, and urgent care facilities, except in extraordinary circumstances. This is consistent with their previous commitment to avoid using sensitive locations as bases for immigration enforcement operations. The primary purpose of this statement is to encourage immigrants to seek medical care as needed without fear of civil immigration enforcement.

ICE also has taken other steps to prevent the spread of COVID-19, particularly in their detention facilities. They have banned social visitation at all immigration detention facilities and are actively implementing all COVID-19 protocols.

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.

Prescription Drug Crimes in Texas

By Peek & Toland on March 25, 2020

Although healthcare professionals routinely use prescription drugs to treat specific medical conditions legitimately, many of these drugs also are classified as controlled substances under the state’s Controlled Substances Act. Although these drugs are lawful when medical personnel and patients use them appropriately, individuals also can violate the law when improperly using or distributing these drugs.

Prescription Drug Crimes in Texas

One common crime that often involves prescription drugs is the diversion of a controlled substance. Under § 481.1285 of the Texas Controlled Substance Act, individuals commit diversion of a controlled substance when they:

  • Converts a controlled substance to which they have access by virtue of their employment or profession to their use or benefit
  • Diverts a controlled substance to which they have access by virtue of their employment or professional to the use or benefit of another person

Under this law, medical professionals such as doctors, nurses, pharmacists, and other medical professionals may face criminal liability for diverting controlled substances in this manner. This offense is a state jail felony if the controlled substance is converted for personal use, which can result in a jail sentence ranging from 180 days to two years and a fine of not more than $10,000. If the controlled substance is diverted to a third party, then the crime is a third-degree felony, which carries the potential for two to ten years in prison and a $10,000 fine.

Another common crime that often involves prescription drugs is prescription drug fraud. § 481.129 governs the fraudulent distribution, possession, or use of a controlled substance in Texas. This offense can arise in a variety of scenarios. This section covers individuals who:

  • Forge prescriptions by stealing prescription pads from doctors or using technology to forge fake prescriptions
  • Alter legitimate prescriptions by increasing the number of refills or the strength of the prescription
  • Visit different doctors and lie about being prescribed controlled substances by other doctors
  • Use someone else’s prescription for some controlled substances

Prescription drug fraud charges can range broadly from Class B misdemeanors to second-degree felonies. The charges largely depend on the Schedule or classification of the controlled substance and the nature of the fraud involved. 

Peek & Toland dedicates a large part of its practice to assisting individuals in resolving their criminal charges. We know that criminal proceedings can be intimidating and overwhelming for those who are facing potential penalties for criminal charges. We will work with you to achieve the most favorable outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today and set up a consultation with our skilled criminal defense attorneys today.

USCIS Launches Pilot Prompt Asylum Claim Review in Texas

By Peek & Toland on March 23, 2020

A recent Texas Tribune article detailed the launch of a rapid asylum review pilot program in Texas. The Trump Administration has introduced the pilot program as a means of both deterring migrants from trying to cross the U.S.-Mexican border and pushing immigrants seeking asylum out of the U.S. more quickly. The new program, known as Prompt Asylum Claim Review, streamlines the asylum claim process by delivering decisions to applicants within ten days or less, as opposed to the months or years that it traditionally has taken immigrants to receive decisions on their claims.

Immigration officials are piloting the program in El Paso. Under the terms of the program, officials transport immigrants seeking asylum to a new Border Patrol facility, where they have one day to call family members or a lawyer. They then undergo a credible fear interview with an asylum officer to determine whether they have a credible fear of persecution if they return to their home countries. However, the process undermines due process, as immigrants may not meet with lawyers in Border Patrol facilities, meaning that they have limited access to legal assistance, other than brief conversations with lawyers via telephone.

USCIS Launches Pilot Prompt Asylum Claim Review in Texas

If immigrants do not meet the credible fear standard, they can request a videoconference before an immigration court judge. Depending on the asylum officer’s findings and the judge’s ruling, immigration officials then either process the immigrants for deportation or place them in a detention facility. Currently, immigration judges located in New Mexico are reviewing the cases and holding videoconferences that immigrants in this situation request.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not respond to questions from the press about the new program, stating only that it would uphold the due process rights of immigrants in the immigration court system.

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.

What Types of Community Supervision Are Available in Texas?

By Peek & Toland on March 20, 2020

Texas law now refers to what previously was known as “adult probation” as community supervision. Instead of serving time in jail, community supervision allows individuals who have been convicted of a crime to serve their time while living in their communities. Community supervision, however, comes with many strings attached. Failure to follow the terms and conditions of community supervision can result in the revocation of community supervision in favor of arrest and incarceration. On the other hand, if individuals are successful in meeting the conditions of community supervision, they may become eligible for early release.

Community supervision generally can last for up to two years for a misdemeanor conviction, up to five years for state jail felonies, and up to ten years for other felony convictions. However, a judge can extend community supervision for either misdemeanors or felonies in some circumstances. While conditions for community supervision can vary from one case to another, some of the primary requirements of community supervision typically include:

  • Refraining from violating any state or federal laws
  • Reporting to the supervision as directed
  • Maintaining employment
  • Remaining in a specified area, such as the county or state
  • Pay victim restitution, court-ordered fines, and fees, and child support, where applicable

Not every individual qualifies for community supervision. Various factors determine whether you are eligible for community supervision, including the nature of your offense, whether deadly weapons were involved in the crime, if you previously have been on community supervision, or if you have prior felony convictions. Individuals who receive lengthy prison sentences of ten years or more also may be ineligible for community supervision.

What Types of Community Supervision Are Available in Texas?

Community supervision most commonly occurs after individuals are convicted of crimes as part of their sentencing. However, in deferred adjudication cases, individuals can be placed on community supervision before they are convicted of a crime. If they violate the terms of their community supervision, they then can face the full range of penalties for the offense. If they complete community supervision, however, they may be able to have their criminal charges eventually dismissed.

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.

ICE Opens New Detention Facility in West Texas

By Peek & Toland on March 18, 2020

The Dallas office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) recently announced that it was opening a new immigration detention facility in Anson, Texas. The Bluebonnet Detention Center will be managed by Management and Training Corporation (MTC) and overseen by ICE according to an intergovernmental service agreement (IGSA) between Jones County and ICE.

Jones County built this facility in 2010 to house inmates for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, but the state decided not to use the facility. After Texas officials changed their minds about using it due to a significant decline in the number of inmates, the $35 million facility sat empty for almost a decade. County officials looked unsuccessfully for another paying tenant and even considered suing the state, which did not turn out to be a legally valid option.

The facility will house about 1,000 immigration detainees as they await hearings in immigration court or removal from the country. The 122,000 square-foot facility, which consists of 25 housing units, will primarily house men, but the facility also contains a separate unit to accommodate up to 72 women. The 42-acre property also provides room for expansion if needed in the future.

Furthermore, the facility contains courtrooms with video-teleconferencing technologies, private booths for asylum interviews, tablet technology for detainees to make video calls, and both indoor and outdoor recreational facilities. Bluebonnet has a 35-member medical staff, including a dentist, gynecologist, nurse practitioners, and nurses.

ICE Opens New Detention Facility in West Texas

The new detention facility is highly lucrative for the town of Anson and Jones County. The contract with ICE guarantees payment of $106 per day for a minimum of 750 inmates, making the deal worth $145 million over five years. County officials will use part of the money to pay off the investors who funded the building the facility. Still, the county will see revenues of $500,000 each year, as well as the addition of 275 jobs in a town of 2,400 people.

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.

Immigration Judges in San Diego Quietly Challenging Federal “Remain in Mexico Policy”

By Peek & Toland on March 16, 2020

Migrant Protection Protocols (MPP), commonly known as the Trump Administration’s “Remain in Mexico” policy, has led to some 55,000 migrants being sent back to Mexico by immigration courts nationwide to await their asylum court hearings. In San Diego immigration courts, however, judges are disrupting this policy by quietly terminating MPP cases at a rate higher than anywhere in the country. In San Diego, judges have terminated more than 33% of the estimated 12,500 MPP cases that have come before them. In contrast, El Paso judges have discontinued less than one percent of the roughly 14,000 MPP cases that they have heard.

San Diego judges have been basing their rulings on findings that asylum seekers have suffered due process violations by being returned to Mexico. One common due process violation that the judges base their decisions on is the failure of the federal government to notify these individuals about their court dates properly. In response to the termination of these cases, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials have filed an appeal with a panel of the Department of Justice. Their goal is to determine whether immigration judges are making errors when they terminate MPP cases based on a lack of notice to the immigrants who fail to appear for their court dates.

Immigration Judges in San Diego Quietly Challenging Federal “Remain in Mexico Policy”

Although the termination of the MPP cases does not permit the immigrants to remain in the U.S. legally, it does keep them from being blocked from reentering the country for ten years. Termination of these cases also makes it more difficult for immigrants to face felony charges for illegally crossing the border if they are caught doing so in the future.

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.

80,000 Texas Residents Caught in Naturalization Delays

By Peek & Toland on March 12, 2020

A recent Houston Chronicle article details how more than 80,000 prospective Texans are caught up in the immense backlog of U.S. citizenship applications. Cases that formerly took about six months to process now are taking a year and a half or longer to process. As of the end of June 2019, about 80,000 citizenship applications were pending in Texas, which is a considerable increase from the 50,000 pending applications that existed in June 2016.

Meanwhile, the Trump Administration continues to enact reforms that some advocates claim are making the citizenship process even more challenging for immigrants. For example, U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS) have proposed significant increases in citizenship application fees, from $725 to $1,170 for most applicants. USCIS also has proposed eliminating waivers for immigrants who cannot afford to pay the filing fees. About one-third of all immigrants who are eligible for citizenship currently need the waivers. Nonetheless, USCIS maintains that the fee increase is necessary to offset the in-depth screenings that it requires during the naturalization process. USCIS also points out that it naturalized 833,000 new citizens this year, which is the highest number in 11 years.

80,000 Texas Residents Caught in Naturalization Delays

Although the Trump Administration has made some efforts to increase staffing to process these applications, such as having USCIS conduct interviews on Saturdays as well as during weekdays, the measures still fall far short of substantially decreasing the backlog. Some advocates even claim that the backlog is a concerted effort aimed at silencing the number of minority voters in the 2020 election. Significant delays in the naturalization process make it more likely that these individuals will become citizens in time to register and vote.

Backlogs in citizenship applications have grown even more substantially in Texas as opposed to other areas of the country. For instance, earlier this year, when Texas legislators from both parties collaborated in sending a letter to USCIS, wait times ranged from 17 to 21.5 months in Houston, as opposed to 9.5 months in Los Angeles and 10.5 months in Queens, New York.

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.

What Are J Visas?

By Peek & Toland on March 11, 2020

J visas are the category of visas that citizens of foreign countries can use to become exchange visitors or participating members in work and study-based exchange programs in the U.S. These individuals can obtain J-1 visas to participate in one of several visitor exchange program categories. These categories include:

  • Professors, research scholars, and teachers
  • Trainees and interns
  • College, university, and secondary school students
  • Specialists in specific fields
  • Camp counselors and au pairs
  • Physicians
  • Summer work travelers

J-1 visas also may be available for individuals who want to enter the U.S. as government or international visitors. Most of these programs operate under privately funded programs that work under the direction of the Office of Private Sector Exchange in the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. Currently, more than 1,500 for-profit, non-profit, or government entities conduct these private sector programs. More than 300,000 people from almost all countries in the world come to the U.S. on J-1 visas each year.

What Are J Visas?

Another type of J visa is the J-2 visa, which allows spouses and unmarried children under the age of 21 of J-1 exchange visitors to accompany or later join them in the U.S. However, some J visa categories do not permit spouses or children to accompany the recipients. These categories include au pair, camp counselor, secondary school student, and summer work traveler. In situations in which spouses and children can obtain J-2 visas, they typically can work in the U.S. after they get an Employment Authorization Document from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Generally, they also may study or attend school while in the U.S. Individuals on J-2 visas only can remain in the U.S. as long as the J-1 visa holders stay in the U.S.

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.

How Can We Help You?

Our team is standing by to help. Call us at (512) 474-4445 or complete this form to send a message about your legal situation.