Common Probation Violations in Texas

By Peek & Toland on September 16, 2019

When you are convicted of a crime, you may have to serve a period of community supervision instead of or in addition to a jail term. While on probation, however, you are subject to various terms and conditions, including reporting to a probation officer regularly, paying fees regularly, and other restrictions.

While there are many different probation violations, some violations occur more than others. In DWI cases, a common probation violation occurs when drivers have an ignition interlock device installed on their vehicles, and it registers alcohol when they blow into it. Other common probation violations may include:

  • Committing another crime
  • Failing a drug test
  • Failing to report to appointments with your probation officer
  • Missing community service hours

You might also be subject to probation revocation if you fail to complete drug counseling, an alcohol education class, or another type of course as ordered. Depending on your specific conditions of probation, you may violate your probation in other ways, as well.

Common Probation Violations in Texas

The legal standard for proving a probation violation is much lower than the standard for determining that someone committed a crime. When you are accused of a crime, the prosecutor must prove that you committed the crime beyond a reasonable doubt to convict you. However, when you are charged with a probation violation, the prosecutor must prove that you committed the probation violation only by a preponderance of the evidence. In other words, the prosecutor must show that it is more likely than not that you violated probation. Plus, the judge can find you guilty of a probation violation and sentence you to jail without a jury hearing your case.

If you or a family member is facing accusations of a probation violation 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.

Texas Legislators Eliminate Red-Light Cameras

By Peek & Toland on September 15, 2019

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott recently signed a bill into law that eliminates red light cameras in the state. Red-light cameras automatically photograph vehicles that enter an intersection after the traffic light has turned red, which results in the drivers receiving a $75 ticket.

Red-light cameras became legal in 2007 to make the streets safer and generate revenue for cities and the state. The highest amount of income that these tickets generated for the state was $19.7 million in the 2018 fiscal year. Critics of the cameras, however, stated that they violated the constitutional rights of drivers and caused rear-end accidents.

Up until now, state legislators have tried unsuccessfully to eliminate the use of the cameras in the state. This push gained new momentum after Gov. Abbott weighed in on the issue, citing constitutional and cost concerns in continuing to utilize the cameras.

Texas Legislators Eliminate Red-Light Cameras

Despite the passage of the bill, however, the legislation allows communities with existing red-light cameras to keep them in place until previously signed contracts expire. Fort Worth currently has 58 red light cameras, and its contract with its red-light camera vendor does not expire until 2026. However, some cities already have voted to remove the cameras, and other city officials anticipate ending their contracts early.

In some Texas counties, drivers with unpaid red light camera tickets cannot renew their vehicle registrations. An amendment to the bill prohibits county and city officials from refusing to renew vehicle registrations based on unpaid red light camera tickets. However, drivers may be unable to use online services to renew their registrations due to the flags previously placed on their accounts. 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.

OIG Finds Immigrants in Squalid Conditions at Rio Grande Border Facilities

By Peek & Toland on September 14, 2019

According to a recent article from The Hill, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Homeland Security found dangerous levels of overcrowding and prolonged detention of individuals at immigration detention facilities in the Rio Grande Valley. OIG visited five different facilities, at which about 8,000 immigrants were being held. About 3,400 of those individuals had been in custody longer than the 72 hours permitted by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) standards. Many adults had been in standing-room-only conditions for over a week with no ability to shower. Some reported being held for over a month without access to proper food, hygiene, or laundry facilities.

Of the 2,669 children in these facilities, 826 children had been there longer than 72 hours, and at three facilities, the children had no access to showers. Furthermore, the children had no access to hot meals and only limited access to change their clothing. Some children remained in detention for more than two weeks.

OIG Finds Immigrants in Squalid Conditions at Rio Grande Border Facilities

In its report, the OIG pointed out that not only were the current conditions dangerous to the detained immigrants, but also the health and safety of DHS agents and officers. DHS claims that it has been working on adding tent facilities to improve conditions for detained immigrants and expanding access to medical services.

This OIG report followed a similar report in May regarding an immigration detention facility in El Paso, Texas. Acting Secretary Kevin McAleenan later referred to that report as “unsubstantiated.” These reports nonetheless have increased pressure on the Trump administration to find a better and more humane way to deal with the arrival of thousands of immigrants at the southern border. The Rio Grande Valley is the busiest area in the country for unauthorized border crossings. 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.

When Can I Get Charged as an Accomplice?

By Peek & Toland on September 13, 2019

Aiding and abetting others in the commission of a crime can have severe penalties, even if others commit the underlying crime. These laws essentially eliminate the difference between committing a crime and helping someone else commit a crime.

Under Tex. Pen. Code. Ch. 7, not only can you face criminal charges for a crime that you commit, but you also can face prosecution for crimes that others committed, depending on the situation. You can be criminally responsible for the crimes of others if you:

  • Cause or assist an innocent or non-responsible person to engage in illegal actions
  • Intentionally promote or assist in the offense by soliciting, encouraging, directing, aiding, or attempting to aid others in committing the crime
  • Have a legal duty to prevent crime and fail to make reasonable efforts to stop others from committing a crime
When Can I Get Charged as an Accomplice?

Furthermore, in a conspiracy to commit a crime, you can face charges if anyone in the conspiracy commits a felony offense, just as if you had committed the crime yourself. You are criminally responsible for a criminal offense that occurs even if you entered the conspiracy with no intentions of committing a crime or causing harm to people or their property.

Under accomplice law in Texas, you can face the same penalties for aiding or abetting someone in committing a crime as the person who committed or carried out the crime. For instance, if you drove your friend to and from a bank so that he could commit bank robbery, and he does rob the bank, you can face the same penalties as your friend. If you give someone a gun to shoot another person, you can be charged with the shooting offense. The same logic applies if you hide someone who has committed a crime and is wanted by police, receive stolen property so that police will not find it in the home of the person who stolen it, or lie to police about a wanted person’s whereabouts. The Peek & Toland criminal defense lawyers are here to represent your interests and advise you of the best course of action in your criminal case. Set up an appointment to talk to us today and discover how we can assist you with your criminal defense issue.

What is Human Trafficking Under Texas Law?

By Peek & Toland on September 12, 2019

Tex. Pen. Code § 20A.01(4) defines trafficking as transporting, enticing, recruiting, harboring, providing, otherwise obtaining another person by any means. Human trafficking typically occurs to engage in forced labor or commercial sex trade.

What is Human Trafficking Under Texas Law?

The offenses and penalties for human trafficking vary according to the age of person whom the accused persons allegedly trafficked. Under Tex. Pen. Code § 20A.02, it is illegal to knowingly take the following actions concerning anyone who is over the age of 18:

  • Traffic others with the intent for them to engage in forced labor or services
  • Receive a benefit from participating in a scheme to traffic others for forced labor or services, including by receiving labor or services that they know are forced
  • Traffic others and cause them by force, fraud, or coercion to engage in prostitution or other criminal offenses related to prostitution
  • Receive a benefit from participating in a scheme to traffic others for the purposes of prostitution or related criminal offenses, or engage in sexual conduct with a person whom they know has been trafficked

Tex. Pen. Code § 20A.02 also sets forth the criminal offense for trafficking with a minor. Prohibitions under this section are generally the same as those for an adult, except that it is also illegal to traffic minors to cause them by any means to engage in prostitution and various other sexual offenses. These offenses include continuous sexual abuse of a child, indecency with a child, sexual assault, and sexual performance by a child, among others.

With a few exceptions, trafficking in humans will result in a second-degree felony charge. However, human trafficking becomes a first-degree felony if the person allegedly trafficked died during the commission of the offense, the person’s unborn child died during the commission of the offense, or the alleged trafficking involved a minor. The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges, including traffic-related charges. 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.

Court-Ordered Sanctions Against USCIS Could Affect H-1B Visas

By Peek & Toland on September 11, 2019

A pending lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of Guam concerns USCIS processing of H-2B visa petitions but carries implications for H-1B visa petitions, as well. Guam suffers from a shortage of skilled laborers due to its remote location. Traditionally, the approval rate for H-2B visa petitions was close to 100%. This meant that thousands of foreign workers arrived in Guam to work in the hotel, health care, and construction industries. In 2012, however, USCIS began denying most H-2B visa petitions, dropping the approval rate for these visa petitions to almost 0%. USCIS started to take the position that the jobs were not “temporary,” since Guam has become so reliant on the foreign workers in these industries. The approval rate has remained at about 0% every year since 2012.

Court-Ordered Sanctions Against USCIS Could Affect H-1B Visas

As a result, the Guam Contractors Association and several businesses filed a lawsuit arguing that the USCIS had changed the eligibility rules without notice and in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act (APA). The plaintiffs sought and received an injunction preventing USCIS from continuing to deny H-2V visa petitions exclusively based on temporary need. However, USCIS has continued its recent practice of denying almost all H-2B visa petitions.

Due to alleged injunction violations, the plaintiffs now have filed a motion for contempt and sought sanctions against USCIS. A U.S. Magistrate handling the case has recommended that the court granted the motion and order sanctions. Federal courts rarely find the federal government agencies in contempt of court and imposing sanctions is even rarer.

The decision to impose sanctions, in this case, could have wider ramifications, as it deals with USCIS changing its standard of adjudication. Businesses and immigration lawyers have criticized USCIS for abruptly denying or delaying H-1B visa petitions to request more information at a suddenly high rate as compared to the rate of past denials. This trend has caused the approval rate of H-1B visa petitions to drop precipitously in the last two years. At Peek & Toland, we care about helping you through your immigration problems. We will focus our efforts on advocating on your behalf and representing your interests throughout the immigration process. Our knowledgeable immigration lawyers know the best strategies for gathering documentation to support your goals. Allow us to handle your immigration case by sitting down with us today and discussing your situation.

Defending Yourself Against Drug Charges

By Peek & Toland on September 10, 2019

Drug possession and trafficking charges can result in extremely severe penalties in the event of a conviction. Trafficking offenses tend to cause harsher sanctions than those for drug possession. However, possession of some drugs, such as heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamine, can result in first-degree felony charges, which carries the potential for a life prison sentence.

Fortunately, various defenses to drug charges may apply to your case. By taking advantage of these defenses, you may be able to reduce the charges and penalties that you are facing, or even achieve an outright dismissal of the charges in appropriate cases.

For instance, to be convicted of drug possession, you must have knowing control over the illegal drugs. If you were riding in a vehicle belonging to another person in which police found drugs, you might not have known that the drugs were in the car. Likewise, if a friend hands you a backpack containing drugs, but you didn’t realize that it contained drugs, then you arguably didn’t knowingly possess the drugs.

Defending Yourself Against Drug Charges

Another potential defense to drug charges may be if you have a valid prescription for a controlled substance from a licensed doctor. If you legitimately possess the drug to treat a medical condition, then you may have a valid defense to any drug possession charges.

Furthermore, when police search and seize drugs from you or your vehicle during a traffic stop or similar circumstances, they must do so legally. You have a constitutional right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures. If the police fail to respect your constitutional rights, you can argue that any drugs that they found were the result of an illegal search and seizure. In many cases, this can result in the court rejecting the drugs as inadmissible evidence. When a search is unlawful, then the products of that search are illegally obtained and cannot be used against you in court.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 Expands Digital FOIA System

By Peek & Toland on September 9, 2019

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) recently announced the release of its newly expanded Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) Immigration Records System (FIRST). The USCIS system is the only one in the federal government that permits users to submit, track, and receive documents digitally. According to USCIS, utilizing this system will increase the efficiency of processing these requests and reduce potential errors in paperwork. USCIS receives more FOIA requests than any other agency.

FOIA is a federal law passed in 1967 to promote government transparency. The law authorizes individuals to request government records from all federal agencies. There are some documents, however, that are exempt from FOIA, including information that is classified due to foreign policy and national security interests. Other materials that are exempt from FOIA include those that are protected by attorney-client privilege and those that would compromise personal privacy.

Before implementing FIRST, USCIS only accepted FOIA requests via mail, fax, and email. USCIS then would respond to these requests by mailing the documents on a compact disc to the requesting party. The launch of FIRST comes following the expansion of the USCIS Electronic Reading Room, which is accessible from the USCIS website. The Electronic Reading Room contains policy documents and external correspondence, along with replies to the correspondence. USCIS now places all documents that individuals have requested at least three times under FOIA in the Electronic Reading Room. This move is to make these documents more easily accessible to the public.

USCIS Expands Digital FOIA System

The system is already available for use for individuals who want to request their records electronically. The next rollout of the system will allow individuals to request non-A-file material, such as policies and communications. Later this year, individuals will begin being able to make requests for records on behalf of other persons.

USCIS first rolled out FIRST in May 2018. At that time, the system allowed users to create online accounts, track requests, and download paperwork. Individuals have since created more than 77,000 online USCIS accounts for managing and receiving FOIA requests. 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.

Parole and Probation Violators Make Up Bulk of Prison Population

By Peek & Toland on September 8, 2019

Parole and probation programs are designed to offer alternatives to incarceration by allowing them to serve sentences for criminal convictions outside of jail or prison walls. According to a report by the Council of State Governments Justice Center (CSG), a large portion of prison inmates are incarcerated due to probation or parole violations, either due to technical violations or new offenses. This disappointing data undermines the premise of probation and parole in general.

The report states that 45% of state prison admissions across the country are based on parole or probation violations, whether for new offenses or technical violations. As many as one-third of these violations are due to technical violations, although others are far more serious, such as violations for committing new crimes. Some examples of technical violations include failing drug tests, being around others with criminal records, and being out past curfew.

Parole and Probation Violators Make Up Bulk of Prison Population

Overall, nearly one in every four inmates, or 280,000, are incarcerated for these violations on any given day. In 13 different states, more than one in three people are incarcerated due to supervision violations daily. In the state of Texas, about 16% of the incarcerated population is due to probation or parole violations on any given day, or just under 23,000 people.

The total proportion of state prison admissions based on supervision violations in 20 states is over 50%. Texas is only slightly below that mark, coming in at 47%. These statistics show that half the prison admissions in half the country are solely due to parole or probation violations, which is a high cost to society. Based on this report, the costs of incarcerating these individuals top $9.3 billion annually. 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.

SCOTUS Blocks Citizenship Question on Census for Now

By Peek & Toland on September 7, 2019

The U.S. Supreme Court recently delivered a setback to the Trump administration’s bid to include a citizenship question on the 2020 census. The high Court questioned the reasoning behind the administration’s desire to add the question and remanded the case to a lower court for reconsideration.

In the Court’s decision, Chief Justice John Roberts described the Commerce Secretary’s explanation for adding the citizenship question as “contrived.” The Court referred to the agency’s reasoning as a distraction rather than a reasonable explanation for adding the question. The other conservative members of the Court slammed the decision. They characterized the decision as an unprecedented departure from the deference traditionally given to discretionary agency decisions and would drastically change administrative law.

SCOTUS Blocks Citizenship Question on Census for Now

According to the Census Bureau, the census forms had a printing deadline of July 1, 2019, so if the Trump administration ultimately prevails, the issue still may be moot. However, another government witness stated that the printing deadline could run as late as October 31, 2019. After the Court issued the decision, Trump tweeted his intention to consider delaying the Census altogether. Whether Trump can do so is another legal question, as the U.S. Constitution requires the federal government to conduct a census every ten years.

The impact of a census can last a decade, as the federal government uses its results to allocate billions in federal funding for various purpose. Census results also impact representation from states in the U.S. House of Representatives and the Electoral College.

Critics who opposed the census point to research showing that communities with large immigrant populations would be less likely to participate in the census. This lack of participation could lead to gross underrepresentation for some communities. The census containing a citizenship question could lead to as many as 6.5 million fewer responses. As a result, several states could risk losing a seat in the House. 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 at and set up an evaluation with one of our highly skilled Texas immigration lawyers.

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