The penalties for DWI are serious in Texas. Intoxicated drivers who cause a death often end up behind bars for a considerable time. One Texas driver who caused a fatal DWI crash was given an unusual condition to his sentence.
Travis Elwell, 23, of Mesquite was sentenced to serve 120 days in jail for the death of Emily Javadi in 2015. A judge also sentenced him to return to a jail cell on the anniversary of Javadi’s death for the next nine years.
The New York Post reported the woman was killed as she loaded items into her car in Dallas. Elwell had a blood alcohol content of 0.175 when he hit Javadi – more than twice the legal limit. She was pushed into a metal pole and died an hour later.
Javadi’s parents and prosecutors reached a plea deal with Elwell. As well as the 120 days in jail and 10 years’ probation he will serve one week in jail on the anniversary of Javadi’s death on Feb. 10, 2015, for the next nine years.
Under the terms of his probation, Elwell is banned from drinking alcohol. He must attend Alcoholics Anonymous meetings and give talks to drunken driving support groups.
Karen Javadi, the victim’s mother, said a longer sentence would have negatively impacted Elwell’s child. However, she said the terms of Elwell’s probation prevents his punishment being overly lenient.
She told the Dallas Morning News the justice system allows some defendants to get probation for offenses like Elwell’s. She hoped he would turn his life around.
Javadi’s memory will live on through the Emily Javadi Foundation. It provides scholarships for people seeking to fulfill their entrepreneurial or fitness potential, according to its website.
When a DWI Crash Can Lead to Intoxication Manslaughter
Texas has a category of homicide that applies solely to situations in which a driver under the influence of alcohol or drugs operates a motor vehicle and causes the death of someone else. The crime is intoxication manslaughter.
Texas is the only state that codifies “intoxication manslaughter” as a separate offense. However, other states have similar homicide laws that apply when a drunk driver causes a death.
Intoxication manslaughter is a category of vehicular manslaughter. The offense is charged as a second-degree felony and carries a term of 2 to 20 years in jail. Read more about vehicular manslaughter crimes here.
If you have been charged with intoxication manslaughter or another DWI offense, please call our criminal defense lawyers at Peek & Toland, PLLC at (512) 474-4445.
Wealthy Arab investors are rushing to sign up for the EB-5 visa program that offers them green cards in the United States in exchange for significant investment in the economy.
The rush to apply for these visas under the immigrant investor program appears to be a result of President Donald Trump’s travel bans. The executive orders are aimed at predominantly Islamic nations. Likely reforms to the EB-5 program may also be acting as a catalyst for more applications.
A report on CNN Money quoted Preeya Malik. He’s the managing director of Step America. His company provides consultancy work related to U.S. investor visas. Malik noted a spike in inquiries and new clients since the inauguration of Donald Trump. He said:
“Investors can see how immigration laws are shifting rapidly and are looking to finalize their options before any new rules take place.”
The EB-5 program provides green cards to foreign investors who channel at least $500,000 and create 10 jobs in the U.S. The program caps the available number of visas to 10,000 a year.
The program has existed in one form or another since the early 1990s when it was set up under George H.W. Bush. Entrepreneurs must invest at least $ 1 million in areas that are not deprived or rural.
Over the last five years, nearly 83 percent of all of the EB-5 visas issued went to Chinese investors. Invest in the USA says less than 2 percent went to Arab nations.
That has changed. More Arab entrepreneurs are seeking to apply for EB-5 visas. It follows travel bans targeted at six predominantly Muslim nations accused by the Trump administration of having links to terrorism.
Step America noted a 60 percent rise in inquiries and a 40 percent rise in EB-5 applications since the first travel ban was announced at the end of January.
Arton Capital reported a 200 percent increase in EB-5 applications in its Dubai office in January compared to January 2016. A spike was also experienced in February.
Earlier this year, the Department of Homeland Security issued a draft modernization rule that proposed changes to the EB-5 investor visa program. Investors would have to bring more money to the table under the proposed amendment.
The change raised required investment amounts from $1 million to $1.8 million and from $500,000 to $1.35 million in deprived areas. The amendments are intended to reflect current dollar values but could make investing in the United States more onerous for foreign entrepreneurs.
If you are seeking to invest in the United States, you should be aware the EB-5 program is a very complicated one. An Austin, Texas immigration attorney can help you with your application. Please contact Peek & Toland, PLLC at (512) 474-4445.
Interrogations by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials have dominated the news in recent months as the federal government imposed travel bans and clamped down on refugees.
The new reality means it’s more difficult to get into the United States, even if you have the correct documentation.
The story of Celestine Omin, a Nigerian engineer, is a case in point. Nigeria was not on the list of the seven predominantly Muslim nations named in President Trump’s first executive order. It was not in the list of six nations in the revised order announced in March.
That didn’t prevent Omin being subjected to a long interrogation at the hands of U.S Customs and Border Protection.
The 28-year-old software engineer left Lagos, Nigeria in February to make his first trip to the United States.
When he landed in the United States, Customs and Border Protection took Omin aside and started to interrogate him.
The border agent escorted him into a small room and told him to sit down. He waited another hour until a different customs officer came in, according to media reports.
He was asked the following question by a U.S. Customs and Border Protection official, according to CNN.
“Write a function to check if a Binary Search Tree is balanced.”
He was told that he didn’t look like an engineer. The official asked him to take a test to prove it, according to Andela. He was given a white sheet of paper and two very difficult computer science questions to answer.
Omin said he went for 24 hours without sleep. The questions seemed opaque and open to more than one answer. He said officials told him his answers were incorrect.
Customs and Border Protection Officials Carried out Three-Hour Interrogation
After three hours of interrogation and a call between U.S. Customs and Border Protection and Andela cofounder Christina Sass, Omin allowed to go. In a subsequent statement to CNNTech, Customs and Border Protection said it does not administer written tests to discover a reason for travel.
In the wake of the controversial executive orders imposing travel bans, Customs and Border Protection officials stand accused of other inappropriate acts concerning foreign and U.S. nationals.
On 5 February 2017, NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) scientist Sidd Bikkannavar, who is US born, claimed on Facebook he was detained by Customs and Border Protection officials. He was returning to the U.S. from Chile. He claimed the officials took his phone and demanded access to its stored data.
If you are traveling in or out of the United States on a visa, a green card, or any other immigrant certification, it’s more important than ever to have all of your documentation on you. Find out more about work-based visas here, or contact our Austin immigration lawyers at (512) 474-4445.
VOICE is a new acronym but one that is likely to be heard more in immigration circles in the next few months.
President Donald Trump detailed proposals to create the Victims Of Immigration Crime Engagement (VOICE) office in his address to Congress on Feb. 28.
The new office would draw attention to crimes committed by unlawful immigrants and look at protecting the victims. It was created by the Department of Homeland Security under an executive order on Jan. 25. Trump said:
“I have ordered the Department of Homeland Security to create an office to serve American victims. We are providing a voice to those who have been ignored by our media, and silenced by special interests.”
Department of Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly said funds currently provided by the federal government to advocate for undocumented immigrants would be re-routed to fund the office.
VOICE is tasked to work with the victims of crimes committed by undocumented immigrants in the United States. President Trump said the office would look at the effects of “victimization by criminal aliens” in the United States.
Trump said the office will issue reports once a quarter. It will research the effects of the victimization by undocumented immigrants involved in criminality in the United States.
Trump invited family members killed by criminal undocumented immigrants to his speech and drew attention to them.
His approach was condemned by political opponents and immigrant groups. Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth, said Trump was exploiting the people he invited, reported CNN.
She expressed sadness that the President did not talk about the positive contribution made by immigrants or address Dreamers.
The Creation of VOICE – Do Immigrants Commit More Crimes?
A considerable body of research suggests Trump’s assumption that immigrants commit more crimes is misplaced. A study by the National Bureau of Economic Research suggested offending rates among immigrants are lower than the native population.
The New York Times noted most of the studies concur in concluding that immigrants commit fewer crimes. The American Immigration Council found immigrants are less likely to be incarcerated than people born in the United States.
We have also noted how an influx of immigrants into a deprived area can revitalize it and reduce crime.
In Texas, as in other parts of the United States, there have been high profile and horrifying crimes committed by unlawful immigrants. Terrible crimes have also been committed by American-born people. Claims that people from other countries commit more crimes than the U.S.-born population appear to be unfounded.
If you need help or advice on an immigration or a crime matter in Austin, Round Rock or elsewhere in Texas please contact our experienced attorneys here.
The case of Daniela Vargas, a young immigrant detained by ICE agents moments after criticizing immigration raids, made headlines across the country.
Attorneys for the 22-year-old Dreamer filed a petition in federal court asking for her immediate release.
A CNN report stated Vargas was arrested in March, shortly after sharing her family’s immigration story at a news conference in Jackson, Mississippi. She detailed the arrests of her father and brother by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents.
Vargas is an Argentinian citizen. She came to the United States with her family at the age of 7. She is an undocumented immigrant but was later granted DACA status. Beneficiaries of President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals action are often called “Dreamers” but the DREAM Act never became law.
What Was The DREAM Act?
The Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act, or “DREAM Act,” was first introduced in Congress in 2001. Despite a big push in 2010, the federal DREAM Act never became law. The DREAM Act would have allowed certain illegal immigrants who arrived in the United States as children and who are now in college or the military, to attain legal status and qualify for citizenship.
Obama’s DACA program protected about 800,000 young people from deportation and made them eligible to work. An extension was opposed and foundered last year when the U.S. Supreme Court split.
The CNN report said Vargas’ DACA status expired last November. She delayed reapplying until February because she could not afford the minimum $495 renewal application fee. The government recommends recipients of the DACA program apply for renewal approximately 120 to 150 days before their status expires.
Immigration Lawyers Said Vargas Was Arrested for Exercising First Amendment Rights
Lawyers acting for Vargas contested her arrest. They said the ICE agents arrested Vargas because she exercised her First Amendment rights, according to a habeas petition filed in US District Court in Alexandria, Louisiana.
Her attorneys said her Fifth and First Amendment rights were violated by the actions of the ICE agents.
On March 10, attorneys for the Argentinian said she was to be released from the ICE detention center in Louisiana. They expressed concern the deportation order against her was not rescinded.
These are difficult times to be an undocumented immigrant. If you or a family member is facing deportation in Texas, please call our immigration lawyers at (512) 474-4445.
A speech made to Congress by President Donald Trump has led to ongoing speculation about a merit-based immigration system.
When Trump laid out his immigration proposals in late February, he advocated a broader plan that echoed mainstream Republican thinking by putting the emphasis on skills and employability rather than family ties. The New York Times noted this move drew a parallel between Trump and former President George W. Bush.
Trump advocated a merit-based immigration system in his speech. He said:
“It’s a basic principle that those seeking to enter a country ought to be able to support themselves financially, yet in America, we do not enforce the rule, straining the very public resources that our poorest citizens rely on.”
Although it’s not the first time a merit-based immigration system has been advocated in Republican circles, some members of the GOP are skeptical. They fear it could harm the economy by keeping out farm workers, laborers, hotel workers and other low-skilled jobs. Traditionally immigrants have taken these jobs which are unattractive to Americans.
Trump has cited the Canadian system. Immigrants to Canada are awarded points based on their employment and educational backgrounds. Those who score the highest, get priority for admission.
While some Republicans are skeptical, the New York Times reported Democrats on the left fear a merit-based immigration system is a backdoor way of re-working America’s immigration laws to filter out people from some backgrounds from certain countries.
How a Merit-Based Immigration System Would Work
Most immigrants who are admitted to the United States are given entry based on their family ties. Less than a fifth are admitted via employment linked to their skills, while a small number are admitted as asylum seekers or refugees.
When U.S. citizens sponsor immediate family members they are not subjected to the caps experienced with employment-based visas. Legal permanent residents also apply for visas for spouses and children.
Of more than a million legal permanent residents who were admitted to the United States, 64 percent were immediate relatives of U.S. citizens or were sponsored by family members, the New York Times reported in 2014.
Just 15 percent received an employment-based preference and 13 percent were admitted as refugees or asylum seekers, according to the Migration Policy Institute.
If Canadian-style points based system is brought in, the most skilled and educated immigrants would get priority for admission.
An immigration proposal in 2007 that failed to make it out of the Senate, included a points-based system. Education and skills would have received more points than family relationships. Immigrants with family members living in the United States, either as green card holders or citizens, would have seen their visa preferences eroded. More employment-based visas would be granted under a merit-based system.
Recently, NPR spoke to Jessica Vaughan, director of Policy Studies at the Center for Immigration. The center favors less immigration. She said:
“It’s clear that if we were to change that mix by reducing the number of family-based immigrants, as has been proposed in recent legislation and – possibly that gives us the opportunity to increase the number of skill-based visas within the overall limits that we have now. That would be much more helpful.”
We also know a move to a merit-based immigration system would likely make it harder for families to be reunited here in Texas and elsewhere.
If you need help with an immigration matter in Austin, Round Rock, San Marcos, Bastrop, San Antonio, or Laredo, please do not hesitate to call us at (512) 474-4445.
The Trump administration’s approach to undocumented immigrants is frequently in the news. Less well known, is how the new president is taking on legal immigration.
Trump has also sought to change the way the United States deals with documented immigration and people who arrive here on work visas.
The travel ban announced in March bans travel from six predominantly Muslim countries. New visas have been suspended for people from Iran, Syria, Somalia, Libya, Yemen and Sudan. The ban was challenged by states including Hawaii.
This is a complex area. The issue of visas and which one you should apply for was confusing before Trump was elected and a period of flux began. You can find out more about visas on our website. There are as many as 76 categories of visas. Many are temporary non-immigrant visas. There are also immigrant visas that provide a potential pathway to citizenship.
Here are how some visa holders or applicants will be impacted
F-1: Student Visas
An F-1 visa is necessary if you plan to attend a university in the United States or a college, high school, private elementary school, seminary or another academic institution.
Many students holding F visas were affected by the travel ban. Four thousand Iranian students were affected by the ban, according to Mother Jones. A report in Fortune estimates colleges in the United States stand to lose as much as $700 million annually without the students’ funds. Trump did not specifically address student visas during the election campaign. However, he called for an end of the J-1 visa program for visiting academics and professors.
H-1B Highly Skilled Worker Visas
The H-1B visa program is important to technology companies that allow foreigners who work in a “specialty occupation,” such as engineering, technology, business or mathematics. Visa recipients have the option to renew their visas for a further three years so long as they remain employed. The number of H-1B visas is capped at 85,000.
Trump’s stance on the H-1B visa has varied. He accused visa holders of taking American jobs and said he would end the use of the visa as a tool to give overseas workers cheap jobs. However, he has also said the visa brings talented people into the United States.
In March, immigration authorities announced the expedited processing of H-1B visas, which allowed skilled workers to pay more for faster approval to work in the United States, would no longer be available from April 3.
All applicants will have to wait the standard period to see if they have won the “lottery.” Under the temporary suspension, they will no longer be able to pay an additional $1,225 for a guaranteed answer after 15 days. Restrictions may also be imposed on spouses and children of H-1B visa holders.
EB-5 Investor Visas
EB-5 visas are a form of legal immigration because those awarded them and their families can qualify for green cards. However, investors must pump at least $1 million into the economy, or $500,000 in deprived areas.
Proposed amendments from the Department of Homeland Security would raise these investment amounts to $1.8 million and from $500,000 to $1.35 million in deprived areas
The EB-5 program brought in high investment from nations such as China but critics claim it opens the door to money laundering and other security risks. In some cases, investors have lost their money and not qualified for a green card. Sens. Diane Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) have cosponsored a bill to end the program
H2: Seasonal worker visas
H2 visas allow U.S. companies to hire agricultural workers or other non-skilled workers like hotel staff on a seasonal basis provided that employers prove that they could not fill these position with citizens.
There are a limited number of these visas. So far, there are few indications that the system will be reformed.
These visas allow people of an extraordinary ability to come to the United States. Famous athletes, musicians and Nobel Prize winning scientists have been brought to the United States on the so-called artist or genius visas.
Trump’s travel ban would affect geniuses from the six specified countries. The Mother Jones article speculated it could impact the U.S. bid to host competitions like the 2024 Olympics.
If you need help in applying for a visa for yourself or a worker, please contact our experienced Austin visa lawyers today at (512) 474-4445.
The first raids of President Donald Trump’s term caused fear in Texas’ immigrant community as undocumented migrants without criminal records were deported. However, the president has also offered hope of undocumented immigrant reform.
In February, before his speech to Congress, Trump hinted at reform in comments to TV news anchors.
An article in The Texas Tribune alluded to his desire to reach a compromise over immigration. However, the speech itself contained few clues about immigration reform.
Trump’s speech was greeted enthusiastically by Republicans from Texas including Senator Ted Cruz.
However, U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro, D-San Antonio, said the President’s message was a dark and divisive one, although was encouraged by reports of private comments made by Trump. The President suggested he favors a softening of his approach and undocumented immigrant reform.
The president was short on specifics. However, reform could include ways of making life in the United States easier for undocumented immigrants who have not committed crimes. Allowing them to work was one plank of the immigration policies of Trump’s predecessor Barack Obama.
Castro said he hoped Trump would seek to reach a compromise on immigration.
Trump Gives Hints Behind Closed Doors on Undocumented Immigrant Reform
Commentators are divided on how significant Trump’s comments on reform will prove to be. During the election campaign, Trump stressed his opposition to President Obama’s deferred actions on immigration.
Obama’s reforms would have allowed about four million undocumented immigrants to remain in the United States and find work. It was challenged by a group of states and stalled in the U.S. Supreme Court.
Writing in the Boston Herald, Linda Chavez said Trump raised the possibility of an immigration reform. It would result in legal status for as many as 11 million undocumented immigrants. However, the comments were made in an off-the-record briefing.
The caveat would be these immigrants would not have committed serious crimes. The president also said he thought “dreamers,” whose parents brought them illegally to the United States as children, should be given a path to citizenship. While the President then apparently suggested to White House staff that this change of policy should be referenced in his speech to Congress, it was not.
Chavez and other commentators were left asking why the speech was not re-written or Trump did not make a characteristic departure from the script.
Rather than softening his stance on immigration, he doubled down on highlighting crimes committed by unlawful immigrants.
Undocumented immigrant reform remains a fluid situation now. If you or a family member needs advice on an immigration matter, please call our lawyers at Peek & Toland, PLLC at (512) 474-4445.
As ICE raids intensified in Texas in recent months, the lines at passport offices filled up with immigrants seeking to get U.S. passports for their American-born children.
The surge of undocumented immigrants at passport offices in Texas and elsewhere was noted by the Texas Tribune.
The rush to get U.S. passports comes on the back of Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) raids in Texas. Although they have targeted undocumented immigrants with criminal records, others have been caught up and deported.
The arrests of 51 people in the Austin area in February, sparked an outcry, The Statesman reported. It was part of a national operation that led to the arrests of 680 immigrants who the federal agency deemed threats to public safety.
The arrests marked a shift from previous policy. ICE agents picked up more undocumented immigrants without criminal records than in raids under the Obama administration. USA Today reported about 74 percent of people arrested had committed crimes, compared with a figure of 90 percent under raids during the latter stages of the Obama administration.
Immigration officials said Operation Cross Check led to the arrest of 23 people with criminal convictions and some violent offenders.
The Tribune article noted an increase in applications for U.S. passports across Texas.
At Dallas’s Salvadoran consulate, Consul General Jose Mario Mejía Barrera reported a 25 percent increase in applications for U.S. passports and child registries in February alone. The consulate serves approximately 150,000 Salvadorans in North Texas, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Barrera said:
“There’s uncertainty and worry among the community. People are realizing they have to file the right paperwork. Children who are born here, with Salvadoran moms or dads, are being registered so they have dual citizenship.”
A similar trend was noted at the Mexican consulate in Austin. Carlos Gonzalez Gutiérrez, the Consul General, reported an increase in applications for U.S. passports and birth certificates since Donald Trump won the presidential election in November. He said the recent round-ups of undocumented immigrants in Austin alarmed immigrants and more non-criminal immigrants were detained ICE agents than previously.
The consulate organized its first custody session to help undocumented Mexicans to understand guardianship. Many are contemplating leaving children with documented immigrants if they are deported. Immigrants have also asked about property rights because they are concerned about their houses being taken away.
If you or a family member is facing deportation, our Austin cancellation of removal lawyers can help you. See our resources here. We can also provide advice on documentation for citizenship applications. Call us at (512) 474-4445.
Drivers still hold onto many drunk driving myths. False preconceptions can lead you to drive intoxicated when you thought you were fine or harming your DWI case.
Often drivers who take a risk and get behind the wheel live a charmed life. If you have got away with driving drunk on numerous occasions, you may wrongly come to believe you will never be caught.
Here are some of the most common drunk driving myths.
1 You will be fine if you have two drinks or under
You may beat a breath or blood test if you have only consumed two alcoholic drinks or less, but there’s no guarantee.
Your level of intoxication depends on a wide array of factors including how fast you drank, the time of day, your age, your sex, how strong the drinks you consumed are, whether you have eaten and how hydrated you are.
2 Drinking black coffee will sober you up
Many drivers still believe drinking strong coffee will sober them up fast if they have been drinking alcohol. Coffee may make you feel more alert behind the wheel but it will have no impact on your blood/alcohol content if you are tested. It’s also a myth that mouthwash will help you pass a test, although it may mask the smell of alcohol. These products often contain alcohol. They could potentially elevate a reading.
3 You Can’t Be Charged with a DWI the Day After Drinking
Your level of intoxication will fall if you sleep for several hours but if you drank a large quantity of alcohol, you may still test above the 0.08 legal BAC level the next day. The fact you have not consumed alcohol for hours will make no difference with police if you fail a test.
4 You should deny you drank
If you have consumed alcohol, you should not lie to a police officer and say you did not drink. You could be hit with a charge of obstruction of justice and lying may harm you later in court. However, you should say as little as possible. Do not admit to drinking alcohol but invoke your right to silence and say you want to talk to a criminal defense lawyer.
5 You Should Do Everything a Police Officer Asks
One of the leading drunk driving myths is that you should do everything a police officer asks. Be careful about being over helpful with an officer if you have been stopped after consuming alcohol. Talking too much will get you in trouble. You also have a right to refuse to take field sobriety tests. You have everything to lose and nothing to gain from these. You do have a right to refuse a breath or a blood test, although Texas’ implied consent law means you will face the automatic suspension of your driver’s license for 180 days.
6 Breath Tests Are Always Reliable
You should not assume a breath test reading is 100 percent reliable. This is one of the most common drunk driving myths. Police departments use a wide variety of breathalyzers and some may be malfunctioning or faulty.
Breath tests are not always accurate or consistently applied by police officers. Many different types of breathalyzers are used by Texas law enforcement agencies. These devices are prone to a wide range of problems and malfunctions.
A study more than 10 years ago by the University of Washington indicated breath tests are often unreliable.
Factors like breath temperature, body size, and lung volume can influence results. Officers may not tell you if there is a problem with a breathalyzer. Typically, blood tests are more reliable and if you insist on a blood test rather than a breath test, it’s necessary for a warrant to be obtained. In the added time it will take for a blood test to be carried out by a medical professional, your blood/alcohol level may have fallen.
If you are facing DWI charges, you should contact the law offices of Peek & Toland, PLLC. There is little time to spare to fight this serious charge and it’s vital to obtain high quality representation.