What is Statutory Rape?

By Peek & Toland on septiembre 10, 2018

In the state of Texas, individuals who are age 17 and younger do not have the legal ability to give consent to sexual relations with another individual. This means that if an individual who is over the age of 18 has sex with an individual who is 17 or younger, he or she can be charged with statutory rape, which is a crime under Texas law. This is the case even if the sex was consensual and involved no violence or force.

Texas law further divides statutory rape cases into three categories, which differ in severity. The most serious of these criminal offenses is aggravated sexual assault, which is a first-degree felony. Aggravated sexual assault occurs when an individual over the age of 18 sexually penetrates a minor who is under the age of 13. A conviction for aggravated sexual assault carries a penalty ranging between five and 99 years in prison.

 

What is Statutory Rape?

Sexual assault is a second-degree felony involving the sexual penetration of a minor who is age 17 or younger by an individual who is more than three years older than the minor. Indecency with a child is a second-degree felony and involves sexual contact and touching between a minor who is age 17 or younger and an individual who is more than three years older than the minor. The potential prison sentence for a second-degree felony conviction, whether for sexual assault or indecency with a child, ranges between two and 20 years in length.

 

There are some exceptions in these types of situations that will not lead to criminal charges. For instance, there is the so-called “Romeo and Juliet” exception, which is meant to prevent teenagers who have engaged in consensual sex from being prosecuted for a sex crime. This exception applies to a minor between the ages of 14 and 17 who has consensual sex with another individual who is less than three years older than him or her. Another exception involves consensual sex between a minor and his or her adult spouse; although their ages might result in criminal charges if the couple had sex outside of marriage, there are no criminal charges for consensual sex if the parties are married, despite an age difference.

The Peek & Toland criminal defense lawyers are here to assist you in building a strong defense against your criminal charges, no matter the circumstances. Trust us to represent your interests and advise you of the best course of action in defending your case. Set up an appointment to talk to us today and discover how we can assist you with your immigration matter.

 

Can You Lose Your Federal Student Financial Aid if You Are Convicted of a Drug Offense?

By Peek & Toland on septiembre 9, 2018

Federal student financial aid, which includes grants, loans, and/or work-study, is often an essential part of a student’s ability to attend college. However, there are certain circumstances that may impact a student’s ability to qualify for and receive federal student aid. When you fill out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), which is required to receive any federal financial student aid, you must answer a question about whether you have been convicted of a drug offense. A student who is convicted of any federal or state offense for the possession or sale of illegal drugs may lose the ability to receive any federal student aid.

If you are convicted of a drug offense while receiving federal student financial aid, your eligibility for that aid may be suspended. You also may need to pay back any federal student aid funds that you received during a period of ineligibility for those funds. If the drug conviction did not occur while you were enrolled in college and receiving federal financial aid, your eligibility for aid is not affected. Likewise, if you are convicted of a drug offense as a juvenile, or prior to reaching the age of 18, your eligibility for federal student aid is unaffected.

Can You Lose Your Federal Student Financial Aid if You Are Convicted of a Drug Offense?

Fortunately, there are ways that you can regain eligibility for federal student aid if a drug conviction has suspended your ability to receive aid. You can complete one of the following options to regain your eligibility

    • You can complete an approved drug rehabilitation program that includes passing at least two unannounced drug tests;
    • You can pass two unannounced drug tests administered by an approved drug rehabilitation program; or
    • You can have your drug conviction reversed, set aside, or otherwise made invalid.

The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have the experience and knowledge that are necessary to represent your interests when you are facing any type of criminal charges, including the possession and/or sale of drugs. We are here to gather evidence on your behalf, build a strong case, and develop the best strategy for defending you from the negative impact of a criminal conviction. Take the first step by contacting us today and learning what we can do to help.

Texas Immigration Case Could Influence Family Separation Lawsuit

By Peek & Toland on septiembre 8, 2018

As individuals across the country continue to debate the federal government’s newly-rescinded policy of separating minor children from their immigrant parents at the border, a Texas immigration case could impact the ultimate outcome of the controversy. Although the issue is somewhat moot due to the Trump administration’s recent backpedaling on its zero-tolerance stance, the fact remains that an unknown number of immigrant parents and children remain impacted by the harsh policy. To date, the federal government has released no formal plans for reuniting these children with their parents. It also may be difficult to judge whether the separations are no longer occurring.

After the Trump administration implemented this policy, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed suit to halt the practice. The case, which now is a class action lawsuit, concerns a Brazilian woman who sought asylum after arriving at the U.S.-Mexican border last summer. She passed a credible fear interview as a prerequisite for asylum, but nonetheless was prosecuted for illegal entry and placed in custody. Her minor son was taken from her sent to a facility for unaccompanied minors in Chicago while she served her 25-day misdemeanor sentence. Following the completion of her sentence, she was sent to an immigration detention facility in El Paso, Texas.

Texas Immigration Case Could Influence Family Separation Lawsuit

This woman has become a member of the class action lawsuit, which the ACLU originally filed in federal court in San Diego on behalf of a Congolese woman who was separated from her minor child. ACLU attorneys state that the woman now being housed in Texas is proof that the Trump administration was separating immigrant parents and their children well before announcing its zero-tolerance policy in April.

Most recently, the New York Times is reporting that the federal judge assigned to the lawsuit has refused to grant the government’s motion to dismiss it, stating that if the ACLU’s allegations are true, the practice may very well be unconstitutional as a violation of due process. While the court did dismiss a challenge to the policy as a violation of asylum laws, it has cleared the way for the lawsuit to proceed.

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 in Texas Among Least Likely to Have Lawyers

By Peek & Toland on septiembre 7, 2018

According to a recent study by the Transactional Records Access Clearinghouse (TRAC) at Syracuse University, immigrants in the state of Texas are among the least likely to be represented by lawyers during immigration proceedings, and among the most likely to be deported in the country. In records ranging from October 2000 to February 2018, just 213,197 of 733,125 of the immigrants in deportation proceedings were represented by counsel, which is slightly less than 30%. This is one of the lowest rates of representation in the country among the states with the most deportation cases, behind only Louisiana and Arizona. Texas has more deportation cases than any other state in the nation and is one of ten states that process about 80% of all deportation cases. Not surprisingly, nearly 70% of Texas deportation cases ended in a deportation order.

By contrast, 74% of immigrants in deportation proceedings in New York during the same timeframe were represented by counsel. Although New York had far fewer deportation cases than Texas – 355,608 – only 27% of these cases resulted in a deportation order. This disparity reflects the fact that immigrants are not entitled to counsel in deportation proceedings, as they are civil rather than criminal in nature.

 

Immigrants in Texas Among Least Likely to Have Lawyers

Immigration advocates expect that the Trump administration’s recently announced policies, which are designed to streamline the deportation process and impose additional punishment on those whose enter the country illegally, will only lead to more, not less litigation. As a representative from the American Immigration Lawyers Association pointed out, higher rates and prolonged periods of detention will raise more constitutional concerns, which will result in more litigation. With the average immigration court case involving a detained immigrant already taking anywhere from six to 12 months to complete, increased volume will cause even longer delays. These delays, in turn, raise all kinds of legal issues that are ripe for litigation.

At Peek & Toland, we care about keeping your family together, whether that involves defending against deportation or another immigration-related matter. We will focus all of our efforts on standing up for your rights and representing your interests as you seek to remain in the U.S. Our knowledgeable immigration lawyers know the best strategies for gathering evidence to support your case and navigating the complex rules of the U.S. immigration system. Allow us to handle your immigration case by sitting down with us today and discussing your case.

 

How Does the Removal Process Work?

By Peek & Toland on septiembre 6, 2018

The U.S. government initiates the removal or deportation process by sending you a Notice to Appear (NTA) in immigration court. The NTA is your official notice that the U.S. government is seeking your removal from the country and lists the reasons for your removal and gives you the date and time at which you must appear in court. For instance, if you are present in the U.S. on a student visa and you are no longer are attending school, your NTA might state that you are removable for your failure to maintain your status as a student.

Your initial hearing, often referred to as a master calendar hearing, is usually a brief meeting during which the government introduces your case to the judge and you state your defense to the removal charges. The judge also will ask you to indicate whether you are guilty or not guilty to the deportation charges, even though this is a criminal rather than a civil proceeding. If you don’t show up for your master calendar hearing, the judge will go ahead and order you to be removed from the country in your absence.

 

How Does the Removal Process Work?

Assuming that you appear at your initial hearing, the judge will schedule an individual hearing, either for the government to provide evidence that you are removable from the country, or if the government already has established your removability, for you to argue that you should be granted relief from removal. Prior to the hearing, the government and the defense both must submit evidence and arguments supporting their respective positions to the immigration court. The individual hearing will last longer than the initial hearing, and at the conclusion of the hearing, the judge will issue a decision as to whether you should be deported or you are entitled to relief from deportation. Both the government and the defense have 30 days following the immigration court’s decision to appeal the matter. Appealing an immigration judge’s decision automatically stays the judge’s order of removal, if he or she ordered you to be removed from the U.S.

When you are facing immigration difficulties, including removal proceedings, you may not know where to turn. At Peek & Toland, we are here to help you with your immigration case. We will devote all of our efforts to representing your interests, answering your questions, and calming your concerns. Don’t hesitate to contact Peek & Toland and schedule a time to meet with us today. We can help protect your rights and get you the relief that you need.

 

What is Deadly Conduct?

By Peek & Toland on septiembre 5, 2018

Texas law defines deadly conduct as occurring when an individual recklessly engages in conduct that that places another person in imminent danger of serious bodily injury. Any type of physical injury that creates a substantial risk of death or results in death, serious permanent disfigurement, or protracted loss or impairment of the function of any bodily member or organ constitutes serious bodily injury.

 

What is Deadly Conduct?

Due to the broad definition of deadly conduct under Texas law, it also encompasses the discharge of a firearm in the direction of people or toward a home or vehicle with reckless disregard as to whether the home or vehicle is occupied by others. Even though it doesn’t technically involve a weapon, deadly conduct also may be charged in conjunction with DWI, based on the theory that the driver’s behavior was so reckless that it placed the public in imminent danger of serious bodily injury.

As a general rule, deadly conduct is a Class A misdemeanor, but it can be charged as a third degree felony if it involves recklessly discharging a firearm. For the purposes of deadly conduct, Texas law always treats firearms as if they loaded, no matter whether you know that they were loaded or not.

A Class A misdemeanor can result in up to one year in jail, along with a fine of up to $4,000. If charged as a third degree felony, however, a conviction can result in a prison sentence of up to ten years, with a minimum sentence of two years. You also may face a fine of up to $10,000. It is likely that a deadly conduct conviction also will result in a period of probation of at least one year. Probation will require you to meet certain conditions set by the court, such as mandatory searches of your home and vehicle to ensure that you do not possess any weapons.

 

At Peek & Toland, we are dedicated to protecting your rights and defending you from any potential criminal charges. We are here to investigate the facts surrounding your case, consider your options, and help you develop the strategy that is best designed to achieve a successful outcome in your case. Do not waste time attempting to handle legal matters on your own; contact our office as soon as you are charged with a criminal offense so that we can provide you with the help that we need.

 

How Do I Check My H-1B Status Online?

By Peek & Toland on septiembre 4, 2018

An employer files a H-1B visa application (Form I-129) in order to get permission for a foreign national to work temporarily in the U.S. There currently is an annual limit of 85,000 H-1B visas. When a foreign national obtains a H-1B visa, it is renewable every three years if approved by U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), for up to six years. Thereafter, if a foreign national wishes to remain working in the U.S., he or she will have to apply for employment-based permanent residence.

While you can call the appropriate USCIS service center to get information about the status of your H-1B visa application, you also can easily check the status of your application online on the USCIS website. Whether you check the status of your application by telephone or online, you will need the unique 13-digit alphanumeric receipt number that USCIS assigned to your visa application. If you are in the state of Texas, your receipt number should start with “SRC,” which refers to the Texas Service Center, located in the Dallas area. You must enter this receipt number on the website without any spaces or hyphens between the number or characters. You then click on the “Check Status” button to get updated information about the status of your application. You also can sign up for USCIS to send email notices to you when the state of your application changes in any way.

 

How Do I Check My H-1B Status Online?

Another helpful resource is the website showing estimated process times for various visa applications. You can check estimated processing times for your particularly visa application online. Select the correct form number that corresponds to a H-1B visa application (Form I-129) and then select the Texas Service Center from the dropdown menus.

Whatever your situation may be, you will need skilled legal assistance to fight for your rights and work toward a resolution of your immigration matter. There are a variety of strategies that may apply to your immigration case; it is our job to explore those options and determine which is the best strategy for you. The Texas immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland know how to help you navigate through the maze of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services 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.

 

What is Expunction?

By Peek & Toland on septiembre 3, 2018

Even if an individual is never convicted of a crime, criminal records remain. An individual’s arrest record, any criminal charges that were filed, and trial proceedings all will remain public records, even if a criminal case is ultimately dismissed or an individual is found not guilty. These records can have a negative effect on a person’s career, social life, and overall ability to function normally in society. Therefore, it is not uncommon for an individual in this situation to try and have those records removed from the public record.

What is Expunction?

The process of expunction, which is often referred to as expungement in other states, is available only in narrow circumstances under Texas law. This is the process that you must go through in order to get rid of criminal records. Essentially, expunction occurs when you file a lawsuit to clear your criminal record, or to have the records resulting from a criminal arrest destroyed. You may qualify for an expunction of your criminal records if you meet the following criteria:

  • You went to trial and were acquitted or found not guilty.
  • You were pardoned.
  • You completed pre-trial diversion or intervention.
  • Your criminal charges were dismissed due to fraud, a lack of probable cause, or a similar situation.
  • Your criminal charges were dismissed and unless it was a Class C misdemeanor, you had no court-ordered probation, and the statute of limitations has expired.

Additionally, many counties have their own policies and procedures regarding expunctions, so having an attorney who is accustomed to handling expunctions in the county at issue can be key to a quick and successful resolution of your case.

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 a result, 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.

How to Get a Visa for Your Fiancé(e) to Come to the U.S.

By Peek & Toland on septiembre 2, 2018

If your fiancé(e) is not a U.S. citizen, you likely will want to bring him or her to the U.S. so that you can marry and live together. U.S. immigration law provides a means for you to do so, in the form of the K-1 visa. As you will see, there are several steps that you and your fiancé(e) must take in order to complete the K-1 visa process. Perhaps most importantly, once your fiancé(e) arrives in the U.S., you have 90 days in which to legally marry and apply for lawful permanent residency, or a green card. Otherwise, the visa expires and your fiancé(e) must return to his or her home country.

How to Get a Visa for Your Fiance(e) to Come to the U.S.

To qualify for a K-1 visa, you (the petitioner) must be a U.S. citizen and must intend to get married within 90 days of your fiancé(e)’s arrival in the U.S. Both you and your fiancé(e) must be legally free to marry, and you must have met one another in person at least once in the two years prior to filing the visa petition. You typically must submit evidence of your ongoing relationship to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) along with your visa evidence. Relevant evidence might include pictures of the two of you with family or friends, letters, cards, or email messages that you exchanged, and/or telephone records or logs.

USCIS normally approves or denies a K-1 visa petition within four to six months of its filing date. If the petition is approved, USCIS will notify the U.S. citizen petitioner and the National Visa Center. Your fiancé(e) then must submit an affidavit of support and any other necessary documentation. Thereafter, your fiancé(e) will be able to enter the U.S. on a K-1 visa.

While USCIS will approve most bona fide K-1 visa petitions, there are reasons that USCIS may deny a petition. For instance, USCIS might deny a K-1 visa petition due to a foreign national’s criminal background, insufficient financial or relationship documentation, medical problems, or a previous marriage of one of the parties that never has been terminated.

The immigration attorneys of Peek & Toland have the experience that you need when you are seeking a visa for you, a family member, or potential employee to enter the U.S. We will determine the facts and evidence that are relevant to your case, evaluate your options, and help you decide the best course of action for your situation. 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 with your legal immigration matter.

When Can I Get My Weapon Back?

By Peek & Toland on septiembre 1, 2018

Under the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, if an individual is convicted of a criminal offense involving a weapon, he or she must forfeit the weapon at issue to the state. This is the case whether the weapon in question is a gun, knife, or another type of weapon. Once this forfeiture has occurred, the state can sell or destroy your weapon. However, there are some circumstances in which you may be able to get your weapon back from the state.

When Can I Get My Weapon Back?

An individual is entitled to get his or her weapon back after being convicted of a crime involving a weapon, unless one of the following circumstances is true:

  • The individual fails to request the weapon back prior to the 61st day following the date of conviction or order of deferred adjudication.
  • The individual has a prior conviction under Chapter 46 of the Texas Penal Code.
  • The weapon at issue is a weapon that Chapter 46 of the Penal Code prohibits, such as an explosive weapon, machine gun, chemical dispensing device, or armor-piercing ammunition, among others.
  • The criminal offense involving the weapon occurred at a playground, school, video arcade, or youth center.
  • The weapon at issue is considered to be stolen property, in which case the state will return it to its rightful owner.
  • The court determines that returning the weapon to the individual would pose a threat to the community.

In any of these situations, the individual’s weapon is permanently forfeited, and he or she will never be able to get it back from the state. Additionally, you should keep in mind that Texas law prohibits individuals from carrying certain types of weapons out in public, although they are permissible in the owner’s home. These weapons include swords, tomahawks, and knives with blades longer than 5.5 inches. Although the state will confiscate these weapons if an individual is caught in possession of them, the state likely will return them to the individual upon request, unless one of the situations listed above applies.

The criminal defense lawyers of Peek & Toland have handled the legal defense of countless individuals who are facing any type of criminal charges, whether at the state or federal level. 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 Texas criminal defense attorneys today.

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