Criminal Defense

Increase in Texas Charges for Alien Smuggling

By Peek & Toland on August 25, 2021

In the past, we’ve covered what alien smuggling is and what to do if you are facing an alien smuggling charge. We want to take a closer look at the risks associated with aiding illegal border crossing into Texas, the possible penalties and years in prison you face if convicted, and the options you have for a strong criminal defense.

What is Alien Smuggling?

The federal code for illegal alien smuggling is any act in any way at any time that assists somebody with the unlawful entry into the United States, and we’ve covered some of the details and misconceptions surrounding that federal violation that you should review for better knowledge and understanding of illegal border crossing and alien smuggling.

Hello, and welcome back to In Your Defense. I’m attorney Steve Toland. I want to spend a little time today talking about the state charge of alien smuggling, and that’s giving someone a ride who doesn’t have legal status in the United States, uh, with the intent to help them avoid being detected by authorities. And believe it or not, we’re seeing an incredible amount of state charges being brought for people doing that. And in the past, we had only seen, uh, the federal charge of illegal alien smuggling.

The federal code for illegal alien smuggling is quite broad, but the Texas penal code includes several types of offense that can increase the penalties you face if convicted of the crime of aiding someone in illegal border crossing.

What is illegal alien smuggling exactly? It’s when you, with prior knowledge, agree to give a ride to an illegal immigrant who is unlawfully crossing the border into the U.S., help them avoid detection, or to conceal them in any way. The laws concerning this unlawful act include several aspects of the crime that and greatly affect your criminal charges and your criminal defense strategy.

Felony Charges for Illegal Alien Smuggling

Simply being apprehended in the act of harboring an illegal immigrant with intent to illegally cross the border places you at great risk for a third-degree felony. Texas code includes additional charges and penalties for the receipt of pecuniary funds.

What are pecuniary funds in relation to illegal alien smuggling? That’s just a really convoluted way of saying you received payment for the illegal act of harboring and aiding an illegal immigrant in their crossing the border. The definition if this illegal aspect is quite broad, so even receiving gas money from an illegal immigrant in the process of this crime can be construed as pecuniary funds and can be used against you to raise the degree of your suspected crime.

You could possibly face 10 years in prison if caught and convicted of this crime, and you could be looking at much more serious charges and penalties for smuggling an illegal immigrant who is under the age of 18. Our sagest immigration and criminal defense law advice is to NOT commit these crimes, and we want to be sure you know that harboring and transporting an illegal immigrant minor will bump up that third degree felony to a second degree felony.

The safety or potential peril of the illegal immigrants you are harboring and transporting also weighs heavily on the charges and penalties you will face if caught. Think of common driving infractions like speeding, occupant capacity, and seatbelt infractions, and know that any and all of those crimes can make the charges for the offense of illegal alien smuggling skyrocket.

Any aspect of the transportation that could cause serious bodily harm to the illegal immigrants you are harboring increases the penalties you face, especially if anyone in your care is killed in the midst of the journey. These types of offense can land you in prison for up to 20 years.

An illegal alien smuggling charge can even end up being a first degree felony if it is learned that, as a result of you transporting them, an illegal immigrant you helped transport to the U.S. ends up being a victim of sexual assault.

So, a simple favor for a friend of a friend can quickly escalate and leave you facing criminal charges. If you or a loved one have questions about immigration law, illegal alien smuggling charges, or need other legal advice on a strong criminal defense from well-practiced attorneys and experts with over 20 years of experience and hundreds of immigration cases under their belt, please call us as soon as possible. We’re always here to help.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration

Where has ICE gone?

By Peek & Toland on July 8, 2021

If you’ve paid any attention to the news, or maybe you’ve even been stopped and not detained, you know that immigration detention populations are plummeting.

We’ve not been seeing people be detained as we have in years past. So, where is ICE, and do you need to worry? Let’s take a look at the discretionary prosecution by Immigration and cover what you really need to know.


Criminal Charges Without Detainers

Before the Biden administration’s memo regarding prosecutorial discretion for immigration cases, we were seeing immigration detainers for any arrest—anything from a traffic ticket to felony charges. That means ICE, Immigration Customs Enforcement, would quickly slap a detainer on you, even if you’d paid your bond for the criminal charge on which you were arrested.

Remember, though, not every person is eligible for this prosecutorial discretion policy. So, for example, if you arrived in the U.S. after November 1, 2020, if you are a convicted aggravated felon or a terrorist, you’re on the ineligibility list.

Notice how I said convicted? That’s important. Being charged with a felony crime doesn’t mean you’re automatically ineligible for prosecutorial discretion. You have to have been convicted, which is all the more reason for you to have not only a good immigration lawyer but a strong criminal defense attorney.

You’re in luck, though, because that’s exactly what we do and have done at Peek & Toland for the last 16 years.

Are You in the Clear?

So, what we all want to know is if this policy will last forever. That would be great, right? But, unfortunately, we don’t have a crystal ball, so we don’t know if or when this policy will change, as immigration practices are ever-evolving.

Whether or not the prosecutorial discretion policy lasts until the end of time isn’t much comfort if you face a criminal charge. ICE is ignoring most folks getting arrested for the moment. However, that doesn’t mean your criminal charges will be ignored, and it doesn’t mean ICE will continue to ignore undocumented persons who have been arrested.

Don’t risk your future in the U.S. Give our trusted immigration and criminal defense attorneys a call to discuss your options and secure your future in this most opportune time.

Continue to follow us on social media as we dissect the immigration and criminal defense issues that matter to you.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration

Reopening Immigration Courts in Texas

By Peek & Toland on June 2, 2021

The pandemic has changed our way of life in every facet, and the court system is not immune to that change. As you might know, immigration courts here have not been open, but that’s all about to change.

 We’ve just learned that immigration courts in San Antonio are set to reopen right after the 4th of July holiday weekend on July 6th.

 We’re already into June, and July will be here before you know it. So, what do you need to know if you have an upcoming immigration court date? Let’s cover a few items.

 Courts Are Open, Somewhat

Yes, I know I just said that immigration courts in San Antonio are set to reopen, but it’s important to your case and future to understand that the courts will not be operating at full capacity. Only four immigration courts in San Antonio are going to open in July. Why is the decreased capacity of operational courts important to you? The trickle of cases into the court means more time to prepare a defense and look for policy change that can affect the outcome of your case—more on that later.

This small-scale court system means that the few judges who can preside over immigration cases will likely be focused on individual hearings, better known as removal hearings. This is the big one, the one most important to any undocumented person’s case and future.

 If you have an upcoming case in immigration court scheduled for July and the months following, NOW is the time to speak with an experienced immigration attorney to build proper defense and strategy, as these final hearings will be most prevalent.

 Possible Strategies

 If you follow along with us on social media, you know we’ve spoken in-depth about the Niz-Chavez v. Garland decision, which can quite possibly shield thousands of immigrants from deportation. If your attorney has not gone over this possibility with you, please be sure to read up on this decision in our blog and put it on your list of items to cover in your next defense strategy meeting with your attorney. It’s a big one that could be a stepping stone to secure your future.

Another strategy that’s worth mentioning is more or less a “fingers crossed” situation, but it’s a real option. Remember how we mentioned a possible policy change that could significantly affect your case in your favor? This is what I mean. The Biden Administration is facing pressure to reverse many of the Trump-era immigration decisions. The more you can prolong the time before appearing in immigration court, the more likely it will be that immigration policies will change in your favor. Fingers crossed, time is on your side. 

 You want to keep an eye out for and continue following along with us to see change, specifically regarding Administrative Closure. What’s Administrative Closure? Administrative Closure is a process by which the government can agree with the attorney or the immigrant to pause their removal proceedings and place them outside of removal proceedings for all purposes, allowing the immigrant to remain in the U.S.

We’re very hopeful that the Biden Administration will reverse some of those tough, Trump-era immigration policies. We cannot stress to you enough the importance of having experienced immigration counsel when facing possible deportation.

In short, try to stay here as long as you can in hopes of a policy change and create a strong defense strategy with your immigration attorney. If you are unsure of your court date or are in other areas of Texas, you must check the Executive Office of Immigration Review (EOIR) to see the status of the immigration courts near you.

If you or someone you know has an upcoming immigration hearing and has questions or needs a defense strategy, please reach out to one of our trusted immigration attorneys here, and continue to follow along with us on social media as we update everyone on the immigration and criminal defense news that matters to you.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration

Improper Entry and What it Means for You

By Peek & Toland on May 17, 2021

It probably seems like all we cover lately is endless information on immigration statutes, and that’s with good reason: 1) we’re an immigration law firm, and that’s our area of expertise, and 2) this information is topical, as we’ve seen a 300% increase in immigration-related arrests in the last month, much in thanks to an executive order from our governor.

And, because we all know that ignorance of the law is not an acceptable defense, let’s take another look at immigration statutes to best understand where the issues lie and how to avoid them. We’ve covered alien smuggling for a few weeks, but let’s delve into another statute: Title 8, Section 1325 of the U.S. Code (U.S.C.): improper entry by an alien.

So, what exactly is improper entry by an alien, and how can you avoid violating this statute?

To better understand what improper entry is, you can click the link above that will take you to the legal codes, which are chockfull of not-so-fun terminology, but for the sake of summation and to save you some sanity, improper is just a nice way of saying illegal. So improper entry equates to unlawful entry, which doesn’t just mean stepping foot across an unguarded border.

Let’s look at some examples of this very broad statute. Improper entry can include:

  • Evading inspection by U.S. immigration officials

Evading inspection doesn’t only mean extreme forms of avoidance, such as stowing away on a cargo vessel or digging an entry tunnel beneath the border. Avoiding a check-point is a sure-fire way to violate this statute.

  • Willfully giving false or misleading information to gain entry into the U.S.

We all know that lying to immigration or falsifying government documents is illegal, but what else?

If romantic comedies and perennial immigration tropes have taught us anything, it’s that you can marry a U.S. citizen and gain legal entry into the U.S… but only if it’s an authentic marriage. Anything less than true is marriage fraud and improper entry. Take a look at our Adjustment of Status Through Marriage blog to better understand the legal requirements to validate an immigrant marriage.

Another way you can be found guilty under this statute is by letting your visa lapse without checking in or filing the applicable paperwork to extend your stay. They had legal entry at some point, but they allowed their papers to expire.

This form of violation also pertains to helping someone else falsify their documents. Take, for instance, a business owner who has a friend whose work visa is soon to expire. So, like a good friend, the business owner fibs and says their friend works for them and files to extend the work visa. That may make you a good friend, but it also makes you a criminal in the eyes of the U.S. government.

  • Entering or attempting to enter the U.S. at any location other than one designated by U.S. immigration officers

This is the easy one, the one we all know about. Don’t cross the border unless it’s at a designated inspection location.

Legal Ramifications

We’ll keep this section short and sweet. Being caught committing any of these offenses or violating this statute in any way affects not only your wallet and freedom but your future, as well. These violations likely make a person inadmissible, thus jeopardizing any future legal entry into the U.S., even if you’ve been on your best behavior since the violation. 

These are only a few of the ways that the statute of improper entry can affect you and your loved ones, and we’ve painted those with some fairly broad strokes. If you have questions or want more information on this statute, please reach out to one of our trusted immigration attorneys at Peek & Toland. We’re more than happy to help you avoid legal trouble and secure a pathway to citizenship.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration

Collateral Effects of Alien Smuggling: A Case Study

By Peek & Toland on May 7, 2021

Alien smuggling is a topic we’ve covered in some detail recently, and it’s still worth mentioning again because it is so prevalent and can affect you and your loved ones in a way you’d probably not considered.

When discussing criminal charges and hypotheticals, it can be difficult to place ourselves in those positions and imagine the lingering effects that criminal charges can have on our life and the lives of others. So we wanted to drive home some aspects of alien smuggling through a real-life, practical, understandable account one of our clients had to endure.

We represented a recent high school graduate and his mother in defense of alien smuggling charges. It might sound crazy, but we’re about to tell you how they were affected by alien smuggling having no knowledge they were committing a crime. 

This hard-working, loving mother and her son are U.S. citizens. Like many parents to high school graduates in the U.S., this mother wanted to help him in his new chapter of life, so she did so by co-signing the loan for her son’s new truck. We all know that co-signing a loan for a car makes you legally responsible for the payments, and any missed payments can wreck your credit. But, did you know that as a co-signer, you can also be affected by some illegal activity committed in the car for which you co-signed?

When this mother decided to put her credit and name on the line for her son’s new truck, she had complete faith in him to make the monthly payments on time. Unfortunately for this mother, her son made some missteps that had nothing to do with payments. Instead, it lead to his life and his mother’s life being negatively affected.

You see, her son decided to help out a friend with a ride, so he met his friend at a McDonald’s near a border town and picked up his friend. It came as quite a surprise when these two young men were pulled over by the police, resulting in our client being charged with alien smuggling. This charge and its lingering effects are difficult enough to fight, as it is, but it gets worse. Alien smuggling has such a broad statute on forfeitures, his car (the one co-signed for by mom) was seized. Any vessel used in commission of the crime of alien smuggling will be seized.

So, not only did our client have to tell his mother that he’s been arrested and will require legal defense, but he also had to relay that his mother’s name and credit were in dire trouble as a result of his actions.

Despite this poor decision, our clients were wise enough to seek an experienced criminal defense and immigration counsel from us at Peek & Toland. We were able to get all charges dismissed successfully, and their truck returned to them. This was not without an emotional and financial burden on the family.

We are experts in this area of law and understand how quickly these things can happen. If this happens to you or someone you love, you have just a short window of time to respond with available defenses. If you have any questions about forfeitures and alien smuggling statutes, please give us a call here at Peek & Toland. We’re always glad to help.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration

What Does the Alien Smuggling Statute Include?

By Peek & Toland on April 30, 2021

We’ve covered some basic tenets of alien smuggling, including some of the many actions that can land you in hot water under the broad scope of alien smuggling. But what do you need to know if you or someone you know is facing charges for this offense?

Any good and experienced immigration and criminal defense attorney is well aware of the varying factors that can make or break a defense for alien smuggling charges, so let’s look at a few here:

 We Are Family

So, maybe you’ve been charged with alien smuggling for giving someone in your family with no status safe harbor or a ride, and your first response is, “We are family!” Well, that might be a classic and catchy tune that Sister Sledge brought to us a few decades ago, but it is not a plausible defense for fighting alien smuggling charges. 

I know we’ve covered this aspect of alien smuggling before, but it’s important to stress. We understand the desire to help a family member and how difficult it can be to deny assistance to someone you know and love. Though we recognize the significance of family, the U.S. government does not have an appreciation for the value of family when it comes to justifying alien smuggling, unfortunately.

 Less Is More

Like most everything in life, especially criminal charges, there are degrees of severity. The number of mistakes you make have different levels of consequence. This is very much true when it comes to alien smuggling. It is applicable in your defense when we look at how many people without status you may have helped come here unlawfully. 

The more, the merrier is not the case here, as the penalties for alien smuggling are proportionate to how many people you’ve assisted. In short, more is more, not less.

 If Breaking the Law, Follow the Law…?

Ok, this one sounds a bit silly, but it’s actually true when it comes to your defense of alien smuggling charges. If you’re going to break that law, be sure you’re following the rules of the road.

Believe it or not, there are harsher penalties for alien smuggling if you and your passengers are apprehended while not wearing seatbelts or while speeding. It’s a general rule that any and everything you can do wrong can be held against you, even if those missteps have nothing at all to do with the primary charge you are facing. So, use those turn signals and obey the speed limits in everything you do because law enforcement is always ready to tackle “related” charges.

 Age Matters

It’s counterintuitive to most people to deny a child assistance, as children are so much more vulnerable than adults. It’s precisely because of that vulnerability that alien smuggling charges for transporting children are much more severe than if you were to be apprehended while assisting undocumented adults. Again, while we stress the importance of not putting yourself in jeopardy with criminal actions, the age of your passengers in an alien smuggling criminal defense case is noteworthy.

Not Just Transportation

We’ve talked about physically transporting undocumented persons or helping them find safe housing, which can both place you on the wrong side of a criminal defense case. Another very common crime under alien smuggling is employing undocumented persons. If you are a business owner who knowingly hired someone who does not have legal status, you are at risk for alien smuggling charges.

The same is true when it comes to false documents. The use of false documents does not just mean a forged or fake document, but it also means lending someone your ID that an undocumented person fraudulently uses. Even though these two means of helping undocumented may not directly involve your presence, you are liable if the person you employ or helped with documents is apprehended.

These are some of the many ways this broad statute can result in trouble for you and your family. 

If you are a business owner questioning your potential vulnerability under the law, you’re an individual who might be in trouble, or perhaps you have a family member or friend with questions about this broad statute and potential criminal charges, please reach out to us at Peek & Toland. 

We have long-handled immigration criminal defense cases and are well-equipped to defend your case, as well. Continue to follow our social media pages and this blog to keep up-to-date on the immigration issues that affect you and your loved ones.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration

Could I be guilty of Alien Smuggling?

By Peek & Toland on April 27, 2021

If you’ve paid any attention to the news cycle, you’ve likely seen extensive coverage of the U.S.-Mexico border and the influx of immigrants attempting to cross the border unlawfully, and you might be wondering how that affects you and the immigrant community.

While national and state agencies in Texas have previously been unable to agree on best practices for handling border safety, there is a more united front from law enforcement. There has been a 300% increase in the volume of arrests for alien smuggling just in the last 60 days. Most offenders found guilty of alien smuggling receive imprisonment as punishment.

What is Alien Smuggling?

If you are a member of the immigrant community, the term “alien smuggling” is something you’ve heard, and it could be something in which you’ve participated, whether you realize it or not.

For those not familiar with terms associated with unlawful border crossing, alien smuggling is defined as any act in any way at any time that assists somebody with the unlawful entry into the United States.

If that sounds like a pretty broad definition to you, that’s because it is, which is why it’s important to fully understand what alien smuggling is and how you can be charged with this crime.

Let’s take a look at four key factors to remember about alien smuggling to keep yourself and your loved ones in a safe space.

1) Family Ties Do Not Matter

We regularly hear a common misconception amongst those charged with alien smuggling, and that is the idea that assisting a family member in unlawful crossing is defensible. That’s not the case. It doesn’t matter if you’re legally in the U.S. and your family needs help or reprieve coming to the U.S. unlawfully. It doesn’t matter if you’ve known this person your entire life and know that they are good people. Their connection to you has nothing to do with defending yourself against alien smuggling crimes.

2) Financial Gain Is Not a Factor

We all know about paid coyotes who assist immigrants with unlawful passage over the border, but what if you’re helping someone out of the goodness of your heart with no financial gain? 

Short answer: it’s still a crime.

While profiting or not from alien smuggling can affect the degree of sentencing, it does not absolve you from the crime, money or not. 

3) Aiding and Abetting Counts as a Crime

“Anything you say or do can be used against you in the court of law” is a phrase we’ve covered and all know well, and it’s also true when it comes to alien smuggling. You don’t have to physically bring someone across the border to be charged with this crime. Remember that broad definition of alien smuggling we mentioned? It applies to any form of help given. Perhaps you sent money to someone unlawfully crossing. That’s a crime. Did you arrange housing for someone who crossed illegally? That’s a crime. You might have even picked up an undocumented person who crossed illegally from somewhere within the U.S. The onus is still on you, as that is assisting with their unlawful entry here.

With so many ways to be charged with this crime, it’s imperative that you’re extra careful when doing favors, like giving rides or assistance, even if it’s your family or a trusted friend who happens to be here illegally.

4) Knowledge is Power (and so is a good immigration attorney)

In the past, we’ve talked a lot about prior knowledge of a crime and how that understanding can play a big part of your defense. This is relevant to alien smuggling charges because the government must prove you had knowledge that the person you assisted did not have legal status here to charge you with alien smuggling.

Here’s where an experienced immigration attorney comes into play. Practiced counsel will know exactly how to present this defense in your case, even if you were apprehended physically bringing an undocumented person across the border.

In short, be careful of all of the ways you can be in the wrong for alien smuggling, and don’t lose hope if you or someone you know have alien smuggling charges against to fight. Please reach out to us here at Peek & Toland if you have any questions about these charges or are facing them—we’re well practiced and here to help.

Continue to check our social media pages and blog for updates and coverage of the topics that concern you and your loved ones.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration

Consequences of Using Fake ID or Social Security Number

By Peek & Toland on April 21, 2021

Remember the days of passing off fake IDs to get into a bar or buy alcohol before turning 21 years old? Now, there’s even more potential for authentic-looking fake IDs with the prevalence of Photoshop and access to professional printing tools. For some, using a fake is a rite of passage; however, using a fake ID is not the most brilliant move, even if the name on it isn’t McLovin.

There may be an entire market for fake IDs or someone else’s, but let’s take a look at why doing so has its severe consequences. 

 Using a Fake ID Can Mean Real Trouble

We’ve all made poor decisions, and the temptation of gaining early access to a bar or club by use of a fake ID can be enticing; but what if I told you doing so can put you at risk for incurring fines, probation, and even jail time in some circumstances? Still feel like you can’t wait to turn 21 before heading to the club?

Just having a fake ID or the ID of someone else in your possession sounds harmless. “I wasn’t going to do anything with it.” That sounds like a great defense strategy, right? Unfortunately not. The simple act of carrying the ID of another person can put you at risk for incurring a misdemeanor charge. Further, if authorities catch you using the fake or incorrect ID, congratulations, you’ve just committed fraud and are now eligible for felony charges. In short, think long and hard before paying for that fake or snagging your older cousin’s ID.

 What If It’s for Work and Not Play?

In our years of defending clients from all sorts of alleged crimes, we’ve seen it time and again that folks hoping to work hard and provide for their family through the use of someone else’s social security card or a made-up number are just as eligible for a felony charge as the college kid down the street hoping to score some beer with a fake ID, if not more likely to be charged. Not to mention, getting caught committing fraud (and that is absolutely what it is) can put your future in the U.S. in jeopardy if you’re not here legally or haven’t completed the path to citizenship.

There’s not much legal analysis or wiggle room to explain in the case of using fake or incorrect IDs. It’s really a matter of just don’t do it. If you can avoid using a fake or incorrect ID, please do so at all costs because the stakes are high. 

If you happen to find yourself caught in this particular circumstance or know someone who has, please reach out to us at Peek & Toland, as we have decades of experience defending clients in these circumstances. Good counsel can make all the difference in staying out of jail.

Continue to follow us on social media for all the immigration and criminal defense coverage on issues that are important to you, and let us know if there’s a particular topic you’d like to discuss. We look forward to continuing to serve you and our community in their paths to citizenship and defense.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration

What Should I Say to the Police?

By Peek & Toland on April 14, 2021

As a defense attorney with over 20 years of experience, we know that what to say to the police is one of the most important, pressing decisions you can make. For many reasons, it could be the difference between freedom and a mess of charges against you. So, what is it that you should say to a police officer who has stopped you or has invited you to the station to chat?

Let’s take a look at that.

Mouth closed = case closed?

If the police want to talk to you to get your side of the story, even if you are innocent beyond the shadow of a doubt, it’s important to know that speaking to the authorities can mean placing yourself in hot water. Police officers have increasingly difficult duties. We owe them gratitude and respect for protecting citizens, but that doesn’t mean you owe them information or even cordial conversation that can lead to unforeseen trouble for you.

The very best thing you can say to police interrogating you is absolutely nothing at all unless you are asking for your attorney. I’ve seen clients, time and again, paint themselves into a corner with police because they were trying to explain or justify their actions or give information that they didn’t realize affected them. There’s a reason we have that ever-prized Fifth Amendment right to remain silent, and we all need to understand the importance of utilizing that right.

Speaking to the police to defend or explain yourself or deciding to remain silent could easily be the difference between taking a mandatory ride in the back of a cop car and walking away freely. 

Friendly tactics are NOT your friend

We’ve covered in great detail the lengths to which officers are willing to go to gather incriminating evidence and information, so it’s imperative to remember that if you receive a friendly invitation to go into the police department “just to talk,” you should think twice. 

You see, until an officer actually places you under arrest, they don’t have to read you your right to remain silent. I’ve seen clients claim they weren’t read their rights and assume their arrest is invalid as a result. However, in actuality, that client gave up the information necessary for an officer to place them under arrest. At that point, they are aware that they have the right to an attorney and remain silent.

You always have the opportunity to remain silent when speaking with the police, so be sure to take it before it’s too late. It’s very common to see clients arrested for something that could’ve been completely avoided had they simply kept quiet.

 What if they need a response?

 Life can change in an instant, and you may find yourself in a predicament where there is evidence against you or you’ve perhaps been apprehended while making a mistake. You are correct to assume that there are questions to be answered, but that doesn’t mean those answers have to come from you.

An experienced and trusted defense attorney can speak to the police on your behalf and relay to them all the necessary information while not further incriminating you. Because of the extensive experience we have in this arena, we’re well-versed in what to say to law enforcement and exactly how to say it, so let your lawyer do the talking.

Posted in Criminal Defense, Immigration

Your Mental State and Your Criminal Defense

By Peek & Toland on March 9, 2021

There’s often a social stigma cloaked around discussion of mental health in the U.S., though there is a shift occurring when addressing this topic, one of which is how a person’s mental state can affect their criminal defense strategy. We’ve all seen the Law & Order episodes where a defendant attempts to get off by pleading insanity; and, while insanity is likely the most well-known defense when we look at mental health in criminal cases, it’s not so one-dimensional.

The spectrum of mental and emotional wellness is broad and encompasses an array of issues many people face every single day. The pressures and isolation from a global pandemic are enough to cause malaise in even the most enduring minds. Add to that the extreme winter storm Texas just faced and from which we are still trying to recover, and it’s a bit easier to understand that insanity isn’t the only way people can be affected mentally and emotionally in their everyday lives. But what does that have to do with a strategy for criminal defense? Let’s take a look at three ways your mental and emotional wellness can impact your criminal defense but in a positive way.

Is ignorance bliss?

There’s a common misconception that ignorance of the law is no excuse, and intending to commit a crime (whether you realize it or not) means you’re guilty; however, you have to take into account that every crime has an intentional element, or mens rea. Elle Woods said it best when she argued in Legally Blonde that “a complete lack of mens rea tells us that there can be no crime without vicious will.” Sometimes, especially in cases when an individual is not well emotionally or mentally, crimes are in fact committed with no ill intent, and that definitely plays a role in your defense.

Does this mean mental unwellness gets you off scot-free? No, but it means your mental state is very much relevant, and any good criminal defense attorney will know how to set the scene when presenting a case where a client’s mental state impacted their actions. So, maybe ignorance is not bliss, but it is a factor.

Provision 16.22

The second way in which a person’s mental state can affect their defense and outcome in the initial phases of an arrest and arraignment comes in provisions that take into account mental state, intellectual disabilities, PTSD, anxiety, and more when it comes to setting your bond. A strong and capable criminal defense attorney will know about provisions like Article 16.22 in the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, and they’ll know the most effective means to present this, which has a definite influence on the way a prosecutor will look at a defendant as they request a bond and move forward throughout the case.

Diversion Programs = Dismissal?

The third way that your mental state can help or hurt your criminal defense comes in the admittance to and completion of a pretrial diversion program. Every county will have its own programs available, and it’s up to your attorney to know about those and determine which is the best for you. There are an array of diversion programs in each county, and there’s certainly allowance for persons with impaired mental states. Completion of these programs and abiding by their set conditions often result in a criminal case being dismissed and altogether expunged from a person’s record, which is a much happier and more hopeful place to be than is the beginning phases of arrest and fighting charges. Having an experienced attorney is the first step in getting to that hopeful place with a clean record.

If you or a loved one were charged with a crime, and you feel like your mental state could have been a factor, it’s important to contact a qualified and experienced criminal defense attorney immediately. The attorneys at Peek & Toland are well versed in this type of defense, and we’d be happy to hear the circumstances of your case and help.

Posted in Criminal Defense

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