When Do Exigent Circumstances Allow Police to Enter Your Home Without a Warrant?

By Peek & Toland on May 21, 2019

The Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution guarantees you the right to be free from reasonable search and seizure. This generally means that law enforcement authorities must have a valid search warrant to enter and search your private residence. As a result, when police illegally search your home without a warrant, a court could rule in any criminal proceedings that since the search was illegal, the evidence was likewise illegally obtained and thus not admissible in court. However, there are various exceptions to this general requirement of a search warrant, one of which is “exigent circumstances.”

Tex. Code of Crim. Procedure Article 14.50 provides that while law enforcement officers normally may not enter a residence without a warrant, they may do so under exigent circumstances. Whether a situation rises to the level of exigent circumstances depends on the specific facts of each case.

One situation in which exigent circumstances might be present is if the law enforcement officer reasonably believes that entry without a warrant is necessary to assist others. For instance, when law enforcement officers are present outside a residence and hear a woman screaming for help, they may have exigent circumstances to enter the residence and prevent the woman from whatever harm may be occurring.

Another example of exigent circumstances may be when entry by police officers into the residence is necessary to protect themselves from a person whom they reasonably believe to be present, armed and dangerous. In other words, if someone from inside the residence is actively shooting through the windows at police officers, they may have grounds to enter the residence due to exigent circumstances.

When Do Exigent Circumstances Allow Police to Enter Your Home Without a Warrant?

Yet another instance that might constitute exigent circumstances occurs when law enforcement officers fear that failing to enter the residence could result in the destruction of evidence or contraband. If police officers are outside a home awaiting a search warrant and a fire begins burning in a back room in the house, the police might reasonably conclude that the suspect is attempting to dispose of evidence or contraband. In instance, exigent circumstances may be present.

The Peek & Toland criminal defense lawyers are here to represent your interests and advise you of the best course of action in your situation. Set up an appointment to talk to us today and discover how we can assist you with your criminal proceedings.

What is the “Law of Parties” Under Texas Criminal Law?

By Peek & Toland on May 20, 2019

The “law of parties” permits one individual to be held criminally liable for the actions of others. Tex. Pen. Code § 7.01 designates all participants to a crime as “parties” and thus makes them all criminally responsible for the commission of the offense.

What is the Law of Parties Under Texas Criminal Law?

Under Tex. Pen. Code §7.02, there are several different situations in which you may be criminally responsible for the criminal behavior of others. These situations include those in which you:

  • Cause or help an innocent person to engage in criminal activity,
  • Intentionally promote, help, encourage, direct, or solicit others to commit a crime, or attempt to do the same, or
  • Have a legal duty to prevent a crime from occurring and you purposely promote it, assist in committing it, or fail to make any reasonable efforts to stop it from occurring

Another related provision under Texas law is the felony murder rule. If you have conspired with others to commit a felony offense, then you may be criminally responsible for any other felony offense that one of your co-conspirators commits, if it was one that you reasonably should have anticipated. For instance, if you and a friend decide to commit an armed robbery of a gas station so that you can steal all the money from the cash register and safe, you should reasonably anticipate that someone could end up shot. If that person dies or suffers severe injuries, you can face additional felony charges for that death or injury, even if it was your co-conspirator and not you that pulled the trigger. In the state of Texas, the felony murder even applies to capital offenses. This means that if you are committing an armed robbery with a co-conspirator, and the co-conspirator intentionally shoots and kills another patron in the store, then you could face first-degree murder charges and the death penalty.

The immigration lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal representation of countless individuals facing various immigration-related issues. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order to get the best outcome possible in your case. Call our office today at (512) 474-4445 to set up an appointment with our immigration attorneys today.

USSC Issues Ruling in Nielsen v. Preap

By Peek & Toland on May 19, 2019

The U.S. Supreme Court recently issued its much-awaited ruling in Nielsen v. Preap. This case concerned whether a federal statute, or 8 U.S.C. 1226(c), provided for mandatory immigrant detention for a certain class of noncitizen immigrants. If the statute applied to these immigrants, then they would be subject to detention indefinitely without the opportunity for a bond hearing. These immigrants argued that mandatory detention without bond as provided for in the statute did not apply to them because the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) did not take them into immigration custody until many years after they had been released from custody for a criminal offense. In many cases, these immigrants were legal permanent residents who had not had additional criminal charges or trouble during the interceding years. As a result, these individuals maintained that they should be entitled to a bond hearing to determine whether their detention was legal.

USSC Issues Ruling in Nielsen v. Preap

Unfortunately, a plurality of the Supreme Court agreed with the federal government’s argument that these immigrants fell within one of the four specifically-defined groups of immigrants contemplated in the statute. Therefore, the Court concluded that the lapse of time between the immigrants’ criminal detention and immigration detention was irrelevant and did not remove them from the application of the plain language of the statute.

The dissent criticized the broad reach of the ruling, as it effectively subjected a whole class of immigrants to indefinite mandatory detention without even a bond hearing to challenge their detention. Thus, even if the immigrants later prove themselves to be not subject to removal for one reason or another, they still will have spent months or even years detained without bond. The dissent saw this as a major constitutional problem. At Peek & Toland, we care about helping you obtain 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 law case by sitting down with us today and discussing your situation.

TPS Updates

By Peek & Toland on May 18, 2019

A bill recently introduced in the House of Representatives may give new hope to both immigrants under Temporary Protected Status (TPS) and Dreamers, or DACA recipients. The American Dream and Promise Act of 2019 would allow over two million TPS holders and Dreamers adjust their status by obtaining legal permanent residency, or green cards. The bill also makes similar provisions for Liberians with Deferred Enforced Departure (DED), another group who has work authorization and some protections from deportation but who have no legal immigrant status.

Groups of immigrants from four different countries now have seen their TPS status extend to at least January 2, 2020. TPS holders from Haiti, Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Sudan have received this extension due to ongoing federal court litigation and rulings in Ramos v. Nielsen. Additional litigation in Bhattarai v. Nielsen also has prompted DHS to extend TPS status to January 5, 2020, for immigrants from Honduras and Nepal.

TPS Updates

In April, TPS holders from South Sudan also received an 18-month extension of their status. Natives of three other countries – Somalia, Syria, and Yemen – are still awaiting their fates. The federal government formally ended the Liberians with DED program on March 31, 2018, but instead gave the recipients a one-year wind-down period. As a result, DED status for Liberians was set to expire on March 31, 2019, but the Trump administration extended their status until March 30, 2020. DED recipients also will have work authorization during this extension. Liberians with DED status have been residing in the U.S. at least since 2002.

Peek & Toland dedicates a large part of its practice to helping both individuals and businesses resolve their immigration-related issues. Immigration law is a complex, ever-changing area of the law that necessitates legal advice from experienced immigration lawyers who keep up-to-date with all relevant changes in law and policy. We will work with you to achieve the most positive outcome possible in your situation. Call our office today and set up a consultation with our skilled immigration attorneys today.

Immigrants More Likely to Initiate Start-Ups than Americans

By Peek & Toland on May 17, 2019

According to a recent NBC news report, immigrants start new businesses on a far more frequent basis than American, notwithstanding the visa challenges that they continue to face. In a 2016 report, the National Foundation for American Policy found that immigrants were responsible for more than half of American start-ups that were worth $1 billion or more. A more recent report from researchers at George Mason University that when immigrants run start-up businesses, they have a far higher level of innovation than American entrepreneurs.

There is no dispute among economists who study the issue that immigrants starting new businesses do not replace Americans who also choose to do so; rather, these immigrants have a universally positive effect on all aspects of entrepreneurship and the general economy. Researchers point to the success of Silicon Valley, which long has been a world-wide gathering place for individuals from all corners of the earth to focus on innovative tech issues.

Immigrants More Likely to Initiate Start-Ups than Americans

Despite these benefits, however, many businesses and entrepreneurs are accusing the U.S. government of making the visa process more and more difficult. There only are a few potential visas that allow immigrant entrepreneurs to come to the U.S., and neither of them present a perfect route. There is no exclusive route for a visa or a green card for immigrant entrepreneurs, which means that they must find alternative ways to enter the country. The available alternatives are the E-2 visa, the EB-5 visa, and the H-1B visa, all of which have their own drawbacks.

Even these routes have become more complicated. H-1B visas, especially, have come under heightened scrutiny, and the processing of all types of visas is becoming more and more lengthy. These delays in processing have created a level of uncertainty that may deter some immigrants from coming to the U.S. Our goal is to assist you with your immigration concerns, whether family or business-based. We can evaluate your situation and develop the 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.

Immigration Lawyers File Complaint About El Paso Immigration Court

By Peek & Toland on May 16, 2019

The American Immigration Council and the American Immigration Lawyers Association recently filed a formal complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice and the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) about the judges at the El Paso Servicing Center. In their complaint, the lawyers state that the bias of these judges against their clients is preventing them from having fair hearings. The complaint relies heavily on statistics on the approval of asylum petitions at this location.

In FY 2017, the judges in the El Paso court approved only four of the 92 asylum cases that it heard, which is an approval rate of 4.5%. In FY 2016, the judges in this location approved asylum in three out of 133 cases. The nationwide average for the approval of asylum petitions by immigration courts is 40%.

Immigration Lawyers File Complaint About El Paso Immigration Court

The complainants also state that the judges are openly rude and hostile to their clients, treating them all with contempt. Furthermore, the judges have imposed an arbitrary 100-page limit on evidence in support of asylum claims and now require that all evidence be submitted prior to even scheduling a hearing. This requirement places a hardship on these immigrants, who often must request written documentation from their distance home countries. As a result, immigrants must either proceed and request a trial date based on the evidence they already have, or wait for more evidence, which only prolongs the court date and their detention, which may become indefinite.

Furthermore, Judge Abbott rarely grants bonds in asylum cases, which gives these immigrants little access to counsel, even by pro bono attorneys. While about 66% of non-detained individuals have the benefit of attorney representation, only about 14% of detained immigrants have an attorney. In assessing whether to grant bond, Abbott reportedly considers the strength of the immigrants’ asylum claim rather than assessing whether immigrants are flight risks or dangers to the community. Our Texas immigration lawyers are here to offer you the experienced legal representation and advice that you need in order to resolve your immigration law matter. We can act as your guide through the complicated immigration process to obtain the relief that you are seeking. Call our office today and learn about the type of assistance we can offer you.

Bill Pending Before State Legislature that Would Limit Class C Misdemeanor Arrests

By Peek & Toland on May 15, 2019

Although state lawmakers in the House have passed a HB 63, which is a bill that lowers minor possession of marijuana to a Class C misdemeanor, their victory was short-lived. Lieutenant Governor Dan Patrick, who controls the state Senate, already has stated that the bill is “dead on arrival.” He reportedly has no interest in decriminalizing any amount of marijuana, as to do so would lead to the legalization of marijuana, which is a path that Texas has long resisted.

Even as other states continue to pass increasingly broad medical marijuana and even some recreational marijuana bills, Texas has remained firm in allowing the use of medical marijuana only to treat otherwise untreatable epilepsy, an extremely narrow exception to the state’s blanket ban on marijuana.

Bill Pending Before State Legislature that Would Limit Class C Misdemeanor Arrests

Under HB 63, possession of one ounce or less of marijuana would become a civil penalty rather than a criminal offense; the only punishment possible under this bill would be a fine of up to $250. Currently, possession of this amount of marijuana is a

In 2017, Harris County District Attorney Kim Ogg infuriated some state officials by enacting a policy that essentially decriminalized possession of less than four ounces of marijuana in the county. Under this policy, individuals will not be arrested, ticketed, or ordered to appear in court if they take a marijuana education class. The District Attorney’s office established the policy to focus more law enforcement efforts toward combatting violent crime and drug trafficking, among other priorities. If you find yourself charged with any type of criminal offense, you need legal advice that only experienced Texas criminal defense attorneys can offer you. As the consequences of any criminal conviction may be severe, you should immediately contact a skilled defense lawyer for help if you have been accused of a criminal offense. Peek & Toland provides strong legal representation on a regular basis for individuals who are charged with various crimes. It is our priority is to represent your interests and protect your rights.  Call us at (512) 474-4445 and schedule an appointment to speak with us today.

U.S. Supreme Court to Consider Whether Immigration Reform and Control Act Preempts State Criminal Prosecutions

By Peek & Toland on May 14, 2019

The U.S. Supreme Court is poised to consider whether the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) preempts states in using information taken from Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification to prosecute individuals for state criminal offenses. The case at issue concerns a Kansas state law prosecution of individuals for identity theft. The high Court will hear arguments in the case in its term that will begin in October 2019.

Prosecutors in Kansas convicted three individuals of identity theft for using other people’s social security numbers to fill out I-9 forms to gain employment at different restaurants. After a series of appeals, the Kansas Supreme Court reversed their convictions, ruling that ICRA prohibited states from using information taken from I-9 forms as evidence in state law prosecutions due to preemption of federal law over state law. 

U.S. Supreme Court to Consider Whether Immigration Reform and Control Act
Preempts State Criminal Prosecutions

IRCA only expressly limits the states’ ability to use information about individuals that is found on or attached to I-9 forms. The Kansas Supreme Court ruled that even if the prosecution could find the same information elsewhere, the state still could not use it in its prosecution for identity theft. In these cases, the men had provided the same fraudulent social security numbers on their tax withholding forms as they had on their I-9 forms. Nonetheless, the Court still held that ICRA barred the state from using that information.

If the Supreme Court agrees with the Kansas Supreme Court, then no state would be able to use false employment data from I-9 forms to prosecute the individuals under state law for offenses based on the fake data. The immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland have the experience that you need when you are seeking any type of 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 case. It is our intention 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.

New Study Shows Younger Americans Far More Likely to Be Arrested Than Younger Americans

By Peek & Toland on May 13, 2019

According to a new study by Rand Corporation researchers, Americans who currently are under the age of 26 are almost four times more likely to be arrested than Americans who are over the age of 26. Other factors that made individuals more likely to be arrested included being single, fewer weeks worked, less education, and lower wages when working. Likewise, the number of individuals arrested between the ages of 26 and 35 was still 3.6 times more than arrests of those over the age of 66.

This study involved 5,000 families, including 35,000 people over a span of 50 years, which makes it one of the longest-running household surveys in history. The individuals featured in the survey are representative of the current American population, excluding those who have multiple criminal convictions.

The study revealed that black men (33%) still are more likely to be arrested than white men (23%) during their youth, although those numbers seem to be growing closer as time passes. Overall, about one-third of men between the ages of 26 and 35 had been arrested during their youth.

New Study Shows Younger Americans Far More Likely to Be Arrested
Than Younger Americans

Education also emerged as a huge factor indicating the likelihood of arrests. Six out of ten men ages 26 through 35 with only a high school education had been arrested by age 26. Conversely, only 23% of the men in this age group with college educations had been arrested.

Arrest rates also had a direct impact on earning capacity in adulthood. Individuals who were arrested once in their youth made an average $6,000 less in adulthood than those who had never been arrested. Those with multiple arrests in their youth made a whopping $13,000 less per year in their adults lives as compared with those who had never been arrested. The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing criminal charges. We are here to protect your rights and advocate on your behalf in order 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 today.

Bill Proposes Addition of Felony Samples to Texas DNA Database

By Peek & Toland on May 12, 2019

Under current Texas law, law enforcement officers collect DNA samples from suspects only when they are facing certain felony charges. A proposed measure filed by State Rep. Reggie Smith would expand the collection of DNA samples from more defendants in criminal investigations. According to the bill, law enforcement officers would take the DNA samples at the time of arrest.

In 2001, Texas passed the first law in the country to mandate the collection of DNA samples from some felony offenders. Eighteen states require DNA samples by given by all individuals facing felony charges at the time of their arrests. In these states, the mandatory collection of DNA samples has resulted in more DNA matches in pending criminal cases, more arrests, and more convictions. Even if the proposed measure passed this year, Texas still would not require the submission of DNA samples in all felony arrests.

Bill Proposes Addition of Felony Samples to Texas DNA Database

However, these DNA samples often remain on file even if the individuals later are exonerated of the crime, which drew objections from at least one state representative. State Rep. Tony Tinderholt, a member of the public safety committee, raised concerns about the DNA of individuals remaining in a law enforcement agency DNA database even if they later are found innocent of the crime. He would like to see a mechanism to remove the DNA from the database in these situations.

The usage of DNA in law enforcement investigations in Austin has been the subject of many media reports over the last few years due to the large number of unprocessed rape kits that came to light due to backlogs in the police lab. The city has taken measures to remedy the problems with processing these samples. If you or a family member is facing any type of 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.

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