Probation vs Deferred Adjudication: 5 Key Differences

Probation vs Deferred Adjudication: 5 Key Differences

As a criminal lawyer, I often find clients eager to know more about how probation works in Texas. It is always best to fight the prosecution and prove your innocence. But when there is indisputable evidence to establish your guilt, you may want to explore the option of probation, community supervision, as mentioned by Article 42.12 of the Texas Code of Criminal Procedure, enables you to avoid jail time.

No doubt, it is better to plead guilty and be placed on probation than going to prison. However, probation is not the sole option. You may avoid prison and substitute the jail term with community supervision in two ways – probation and deferred adjudication. Let’s find out the similarities and major differences between the two.

  • Conviction and Sentence

Probation follows your conviction if you opt to plead guilty. The court determines that you are at fault and pronounces the sentence. However, in the interest of justice, public, or your favorable record, the judge may suspend the sentence and order you to remain under community supervision with certain conditions. Though listed as guilty, you can avoid incarceration if you can maintain a clean record during the period and adhere to set conditions.

However, with deferred adjudication, the court spares you by not convicting you. Deferred adjudication means the court is postponing your prosecution. Following your plea to no contest, the judge may find evidence sufficient to establish your liability. However, he puts the process on hold and orders community supervision for a period. After successful completion of deferred adjudication one can seek a way to have their records sealed.

In both instances, supervision conditions remain the same, but probation will show as a guilty and deferred adjudication can be sealed/hidden.

  • Eligibility and Charges

You may get a straight probation only after you are convicted by a jury verdict  or plea bargaining. The judge must approve the plea of probation negotiated between the prosecutor and the defense attorney. Since probation is a negotiated deal, repeat offenders or more serious crimes may not be eligible for probation.

In Texas, all charges in and above Class B misdemeanor are punishable with prison terms. Deferred Adjudication can apply to both misdemeanors and felony cases. However, as deferred adjudication is viewed as more lenient, it is less likely to be granted when you face serious charges depending on the facts.

  • Violation and Punishment

If you violate probation terms, you have to go through the original sentence. For example, you are found guilty of a charge that carries 2-10 years of jail. You got a 5-year sentence after pleading guilty and the court sends you on probation. You may end up in prison for 5 years if you infringe the probation.  

But if you are on a deferred adjudication, this violation may cause more trouble. The prosecution will restart and you may be awarded anywhere between 2 to 10 years sentence. The judge may not favor a regular probation and even announce the maximum punishment. However, if you have a competent criminal lawyer defending you, you have a chance of securing probation or lower the sentence.

  • Termination of Supervision

According to the Texas state law, no straight probation can be terminated before half the term. You can claim specific time credits for your good work and accelerate your reach to the half-way mark. However, their application may vary from one case to another.

In the case of deferred adjudication, your sentence is not fixed yet. So, you have a chance that the court may terminate your supervision at any time. Having an experienced criminal defense attorney who is familiar with the local court system may help you reach these results.

  • Criminal Record

If you were on  probation that means you were convicted and the police have records of it. The probation period is equivalent to your sentence, though without any jail term. But with a deferred adjudication in Texas, you can potentially hide your criminal record from potential employers and the public.

However, it is a myth that the offense disappears once you complete the deferred adjudication. Once you complete deferred adjudication you can request what is called an Order of Non-Disclosure. This will allow you to seal your record so that the public cannot see it.

Even if you receive deferred adjudication, the federal laws consider deferred adjudication a conviction for the purposes of immigration. Therefore if someone is applying or in immigration proceedings, they should know that deferred is a conviction.

Contacting an experienced criminal defense attorney can be a big difference in your case. Call us at Zavala Texas Law (832) 819-3723.

 

Notice to Appear – Houston Immigration Court

What is a “Notice to Appear” in Immigration Court?

Immigration court proceeding is the name given to the process when the Department of Homeland Security is trying to remove someone from the USA. Under the Immigration and Nationality act, a person being removed from the country has the right to a court appearance.

To initiate court proceedings the DHS has to serve a Notice to Appear to the “respondent.” Respondent is the term given to the person who is in the process of deportation. DHS will serve upon the respondent a Notice to Appear, which notifies the respondent that they must present themselves at an immigration court on a certain date and time. Serving the Notice to Appear is the first step to start immigration removal proceedings. After the respondent has been given the notice, they should hire a experienced immigration attorney to help on their case.

What is in a Notice to Appear?

A Notice to Appear will contain a lot of useful information about your immigration case. Your immigration lawyer will need to see a copy of the Notice to Appear so that they can see the formal charges the government is bringing against you.

Information within the Notice to Appear

-Respondent’s name

-Alien Number

-Designation of Immigrant Class

-The facts against you

-The reason they are trying to deport you from the USA.

-Location and Time of Immigration Court

 

What happens after you have been served a Notice to Appear ?

After you have received your Notice to Appear, the Department of Homeland Security can now start its case against you. If you or someone you know received a Notice to Appear, it is extremely important you consult an immigration lawyer. Under no circumstance should you ignore the date and location given on the Notice to Appear. If you do not present yourself to court as indicated on the NTA, the judge will automatically grant you an order of deportation in absentia. Just by not showing up, you lose your case and have now been ordered deported from the USA.

 

Criminal Convictions and Green Cards aka Legal Permanent Residents

Criminal Convictions and Green Cards aka Legal Permanent Residents

Even if you have a green card aka Legal Permanent Residence, the US government can still deny you the residence in the USA if you have certain criminal convictions. There are two sets of rules that apply when it comes to criminal convictions and legal permanent residents. One is called inadmissibility and the other deportation/removability.

Inadmissibility

Admissibility only comes into play if a permanent resident left the USA for whatever reason and upon entry back into the USA was stopped by immigration services. At this point the government will determine if you deserve to be admitted into the United States. They will ask you for your immigrant visa and will look at any criminal convictions you have. The reason they will look at your criminal history is to determine if you have been convicted of any crimes that make you inadmissible. If you are found to have a crime that makes you inadmissible, the immigration officer has the discretion to not let you into the country and will place you in court proceedings.

Deportation or Removability

Now let’s pretend the green card holder never left the USA but instead got arrested and convicted here in the USA. Depending on what the crime was he may or may not have immigration consequences. Let’s assume it’s a crime that carries immigration consequences and the green card holder is placed in immigration proceedings. At this point Immigration Judge has the right to remove his green card and deport them from the country.

Relief for Green Card Holders (Cancellation of Removal)

If a green card holder finds themselves inadmissible at an airport or deportable inside the USA, there is still something that maybe done. Depending on the certain facts of the green card holder, they may be eligible for Cancellation of Removal 42A. If the green card holder can prove everything needed by law the judge could grant their application and they would be allowed to remain within the country.

It is very important to consult with an experienced immigration and criminal attorney to see if they are eligible for Cancellation of Removal. This is a very important application that if granted by the judge can only be done once in a lifetime. Therefore, it’s very important you put a very strong case together and make sure that you will be able to win the case in front of the immigration judge.

Factors to consider before applying with Immigration

Applying for a Green Card or Visa

If you’re trying to obtain a non-immigrant Visa or legal permanent resident status AKA green card, there are two major things you should consider before applying for your visa.

Eligibility

The first step to come to United States is to see if you are eligible for an immigrant or non-immigrant visa. There are multiple visas one can apply for ranging from tourism all the way to employment-based. Each type of visa has eligibility standards and if you don’t qualify they will deny your application. Let’s take a very common B2 Visa, this also known as a tourism Visa. Let’s pretend foreign national wants to apply for a B2 tourist visa. However, at his interview, he claims that he wants to go to USA so that he can work and make money. This would be a violation of the visa guidelines because you are not allowed to work on a tourist visa. Therefore, if he intends to work, he will not be eligible for a tourist visa because he has an ulterior motive. On the employment side there are other visas such as an E2 investor visa which requires a foreign national to open and operate a business in the United States. You must prove your eligibility through business plans and documents. It’s important to determine your eligibility for the intended visa you are applying for. Consult with us at Zavala Texas Law, to help you determine your eligibility.

Inadmissibility

When the United States reviews your current visa or green card application, they will also decide whether you are inadmissible.  The term inadmissible means based on the rules of the Immigration and Nationality Act, you are a person who the USA cannot admit into the country. In my experience most all inadmissibility ground usually come from criminal backgrounds, prior illegal entries, being associated with a criminal organization.

A common example would be if you entered the country illegally or if you overstayed a visa. Both of those examples could find you inadmissible. Depending on the inadmissibility reason, you may be eligible for a discretionary waiver. A waiver is essentially a pardon by immigration. Therefore, if you get your waiver approved cancels out your inadmissibility and you are now admissible into the country.

If you have more questions regarding obtaining a Visa or green card, please feel free to contact us we are here at your disposal.

Travel Considerations for Immigrants

Travel considerations for immigrants

If you are here on an immigrant visa or green card, there are a few things you should consider before traveling out of the United States. If you plan on entering the USA again you will be inspected by Department of Homeland Security upon your entrance. They will check if you have a valid immigrant visa and if you have a criminal record that would make you inadmissible.

Valid Immigrant Visa

Make sure you have a valid immigrant visa that will not expire while you are out of the country. When you enter the country, DHS will look to make sure you have a valid visa that allows you to be in the country and hasn’t expired.

If you have an immigrant visa that will it be expiring soon please consult with an immigration lawyer to make sure there will be no complications upon your arrival back into the country.

Criminal Background

If you have been convicted of a crime or have pending criminal charges, it is very important you consult with an immigration lawyer before you travel outside the country. The reason why is because when you try to enter USA they will look at your criminal background. If you have a criminal record they may not let you back in the country. There are many crimes that can make you inadmissible and ultimately will result in your denial into the country.

The criminal consequences vary depending whether you have a green card or an immigrant visa.

Pending USCIS application

If you are currently in the process of getting an immigrant visa or getting your green card, you should speak with an immigration attorney before you leave the country. The reason why is you don’t want to cause any delays in your green card or visa if you leave the country. They may also schedule interviews while you are out of the country. There are some instances where if you leave the country during your application they will deem it abandoned. Therefore you may have to ask for a travel document to let you leave the country and come back in.

Voluntary Departure Explained

What is Voluntary Departure with the Immigration Court?

When a person aka respondent is in removal proceedings, it is the job of the immigration lawyer to identify possible relief for the respondent. Relief is the term given to the options the person has to remain in the country if any at all. Once you identify relief and fight the case to the immigration court, it is still possible that the judge finds the person deportable. Along with deportation the judge also places a 10 year ban on the person from entering the USA again. That means that the person is ineligible to enter the USA legally for another 10 years. If you enter illegally within those 10 years, you now face the permanent lifetime ban.

Voluntary Departure is a way of being deported but NOT having that 10 year ban added as a penalty. It’s essentially a deportation without the harsh 10 year punishment.

Why is Voluntary Departure important?

Let us assume that an order of deportation is placed on you and you cannot come back into the USA for 10 years. If you are currently or eventually marry a US citizen you cannot apply for a green card until those 10 years expire. This can be a huge setback for many families and future plans.

However, remember that if the judge grants you voluntary departure, you do not have that 10 year ban. Therefore your spouse can petition for you immediately after you leave the USA. This can save time, effort and save families.

Who is eligible for Voluntary Departure?

I always tell my clients that voluntary departure is discretionary. The judge has sole discretion on whether to grant voluntary departure or not. Often the judge will consider various aspects when considering voluntary departure. The judge will consider the person’s criminal record, personal history and family ties. Some criminal convictions can make you ineligible to apply for voluntary departure. Consult with us if you have criminal convictions in your past.

When is Voluntary Departure worth it?

It depends. An experienced immigration lawyer will be able to identify what the best solution is. I have had situations where a client has potential relief in the USA but in all honesty fighting for voluntary departure gave them the best chance at obtaining what they wanted.

Let me show you an example with our fictional immigrant, groundskeeper “Willy”.

Lets pretend Willy came to the USA illegally from Scotland. He got a job at Springfield elementary and was working for a few years. Along the way, Willy falls in love with Ms. Vanhouten. They get married and enjoy being together. Unfortunately Willy gets picked up by ICE agents and is now in deportation proceedings. Ms. Vanhouten, who is a citizen,wants to help Willy get his green card. Unfortunately she cannot just petition a green card for Willy because he entered illegally. During immigration court, Willy’s lawyer tells him that if he gets deported he will have a 10 year ban and his wife cannot help him for another 10 years. Willy’s lawyer also tells him that if he requests voluntary departure and the judge grants it, then he can start his green card process the moment he is back in his country of Scotland.

Since Willy’s lawyer is a good experienced immigration attorney at Zavala Texas Law, they fight for voluntary departure and the judge grants it. Thus, Willy is sent back to Scotland but the moment he arrives, he and his wife can now start the green card process and in about 1 years time, Willy can be back in the USA with a green card.

Contact us if you have any questions.

When someone you know is in immigration proceedings having an experienced immigration lawyer can make a big difference. They will walk you through the process and establish what your best options are. If you are seeking an experienced immigration lawyer in Houston, please feel free to contact us.

Termination of DACA

DACA Memo – September 4, 2017

Earlier this month, the President of the United States, Donald Trump, terminated an executive order known as the Dream Act. The Dream Act (aka DACA) was created by the Obama Administration back in June 15, 2012. DACA protected people from deportation who were brought here illegally as children. A person had to apply and if granted they would get a work permit and permission to remain within the United States. The policy reason was to protect children from deportation due to the actions of the parents bringing them illegally.

After many months of debate whether Trump would terminate or prolong DACA, the answer finally came on September 4, 2017. In an official memo released by Department of Homeland Security, the Attorney General and administration put an end to the 2012 Dreamers Act. The termination isn’t immediate but will be phased out over a 6 month period. This leaves approximately over 800,000 people at risk of deportation unless Congress is able to enact a law within 6 months. Many activists are urging Congress to pass a law to protect these people from deportation.

In the memo by DHS they also set out guidelines on how they will address applications moving forward.

  • Any DACA application submitted before September 4, 2017 will go under the usual review process and maybe approved
  • DACA applications submitted or received after September 4, 2017 will be rejected
  • Current DACA holders whose DACA status terminates between 9/4/2017 and 3/5/2018 will have a chance to renew their status as long as they apply by October 5, 2017.

As of now Congress has proposed some ideas such as the SUCCEED Act which can help protect the people who qualified as Dreamers. Congress has until 3/5/2018 to pass a law or else many people who have lived here most of their lives will be forced to go to a foreign country of birth.

If you have any questions please feel free to contact us and we will love to talk you through it.

ICE Hold under the Trump Administration

I recently wrote explaining how an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Hold affects undocumented people who are in criminal proceedings. It is a simple concept, if an undocumented (politically correct way of saying illegal) person is booked into jail for a crime, ICE can place a hold on that person. A hold is a detainer that gives ICE 48 hours to pick up the individual and transfer them into ICE custody and be placed in deportation proceedings. In the past, if an undocumented person was arrested for a crime, they had the right to post bond and could be free while their case is pending. If they were then found guilty, ICE then had the choice to place an ICE hold on them and take them into deportation proceedings. Since the new Presidential Administration has taken over there has been a big shift in policy regarding ICE holds that place undocumented people at a huge disadvantage.

I would say that 90% of my clientele are Hispanic and majority of them undocumented. What use to be a straightforward process of bonding out your family member has now turned into a lengthy nightmare with in my opinion various constitutional rights being violated. For the sake of my example let’s say my client is called “Alex” and he is undocumented. Let’s say Alex gets pulled over for DWI and goes in front of a judge and is given a $500 bond. Prior to the Trump Administration, Alex’s family or friends could pay that bond and he would be processed out no problem. However, recently due to new leadership in the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and in the White House, ICE has been a lot more involved with criminal cases.

Under the new policy, Alex’s family can still pay that $500 bond, however instead of being released and handed over to his family he would be released into ICE custody. ICE would then transfer him to a Federal Detention Center and begin deportation proceedings against him. So not only does the family lose their money they paid for bond, Alex now has two cases against him! The original DWI and the Immigration case. Under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), an undocumented person is eligible for Immigration bond if they qualify. An Immigration Bond hearing is very similar to a Criminal Bond hearing in that the Judge listens to the pro’s and con’s of releasing Alex out on bond. Where it gets extremely unfair and prejudicial in my opinion is that the Immigration Judge can consider the pending DWI charge and is free to ask Alex about the incident, which is a HUGE constitutional violation of the 5th amendment, the right to not self-incriminate and the idea of innocent until proven guilty. So not only does DHS use the pending DWI against you even though you haven’t been found guilty of it yet, the Judge is free to ask questions concerning the DWI that can later be used against you in the criminal case.

So let’s believe that Alex had a good lawyer and despite the unfair Immigration Bond hearing he still gets a bond in the amount of $10,000. Alex’s family now must pay $10,000 bond however, in the famous words of Billy Mays, “wait, it gets better!”. After Alex’s family pays the bond, ICE instead of releasing him to the family, ICE now takes him back to the original jail to finish out his criminal case and places ANOTHER ICE hold on him. Therefore, Alex is back in jail and cannot bond out because ICE has a hold on him. This gives Alex the only option of fighting his criminal case while being stuck in jail. The reason ICE takes him back to Criminal jail is because they claim he still has a case pending therefore they have jurisdiction to take him. So, after spending $10,500 and still technically being innocent, Alex is stuck in jail until his criminal case is over. This unfortunately causes many people frustration of being in jail for many months so they plead guilty just to get it all over with. Once they plead guilty, ICE is right there to take them back to Immigration detention.

It used to be that ICE wouldn’t get involved unless it was a serious offense and you were convicted and found guilty. Now due to the new policy by DHS, ICE is exercising their power much more which is leading to unfair court proceedings for undocumented people and an extreme overcrowding of jails.

So, we are left with the question… What should we do? As I tell everyone you should absolutely consult with an experienced lawyer so they can explain the process and the solutions to you. Nothing is more important than your freedom so it’s worth to talk to an experienced immigration and criminal defense attorney to help you.

 

 

 

 

Sanctuary Cities: End Times?

Sanctuary Cities

On May 7, 2017, the governor of Texas Greg Abbott, signed a new document that would go into law September of this year. This new law addressed the controversy around “ Sanctuary cities ” and now requires police to ask about a person’s legal status. In simple terms this new law would require local police to question a person’s legal status and arrest them if they are undocumented. If they do not, the police can face criminal charges as well as fines. This new law is being met with extreme resistance from Pro-Immigration groups and the American Civil Liberties Union but also applauded by many. I will try to highlight the viewpoints from both sides to help easily paint the picture.

The easiest way to explain the idea of a sanctuary city is to first understand the difference between Federal and State law. Immigration is Federal law and handled by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Department of Justice. In the past, it was the duty of DHS to find and catch undocumented people, not state/local  law enforcement. However, once an undocumented person was arrested and convicted by a State Judge they are SUPPOSED to be reported to Immigration for deportation. This is where the term Sanctuary Cities comes into play. There are certain cities/counties that even after conviction they do not report the undocumented person to DHS and let them leave jail after completing their sentence. With the new President, he vowed to put an end to “sanctuary cities” and Texas quickly followed. The catalyst for this action occurred in San Francisco (which is a Sanctuary city) in 2015, when a girl was killed by an undocumented individual despite him having been in jail multiple times. The argument is if San Francisco complied and notified Immigration officials, the individual would have been deported and this murder never would have happened. By implementing this new law, Texas hopes to facilitate the deportation of undocumented individuals.

However, the opposition of this new law argues many different points. One complaint of many local law enforcement is that they would be spread too thin. They do not have the manpower nor would that be a good use of local law enforcement.  Their view is that our police have bigger issues to deal with than doing the work for DHS. They can’t do the work of DHS and still keep up with their local duties. Others say that we can’t hold all the undocumented people in jail because there just isn’t enough room. A similar law had been tried in Arizona a few years back which gave the police the power to ask for an individual’s legal status. Ultimately this law was removed but many people argue that this new Texas law is the same wolf in different sheep’s clothing.

Even though this new law is supposed to come into effect on September 1, 2017, it will be met with much opposition and legal challenges. It will be interesting to see if other states follow Texas’s example and implement similar laws. Below is an excerpt from the Associated Press regarding the new bill.
The Associated Press reports:

“The new Texas law was blasted by opponents as the nation’s toughest on immigrants since Arizona’s crackdown in 2010, disparagingly known as the ‘papers, please’ provision. They are now vowing a court challenge in Texas similar to what unfolded in Arizona.

“Every major police chief in Texas, which includes some of the largest cities in the U.S., opposed the measure that allows police to inquire about the immigration status of anyone they detain, a situation that can range from arrest for a crime to being stopped for a traffic violation.

“It also requires police chiefs and sheriffs — under the threat of jail and removal of office — to comply with federal requests to hold criminal suspects for possible deportation. Republicans have a strong majority in the Legislature and shoved aside Democratic objections, even as President Donald Trump’s efforts to withhold federal funding for sanctuary cities have hit roadblocks in federal courts.”

If you have any questions please Contact Us!