Lori Elaine Laird, J.D.

Archive for September, 2012|Monthly archive page

Expungement of Texas Criminal Records: Protecting Your Reputation and Future

In General Criminal on September 18, 2012 at 4:55 am

Many people that submit an application for a job, student financial aid, rental property, college application, home loan or similar opportunity find their request denied with no justification provided by the decision-maker.  Sadly, the basis for this denial is a criminal record that the applicant has no idea even exists.  There is a misconception shared by many in Texas that if they are not convicted of a crime or successfully complete probation they do not have a criminal record.  In reality, anyone who has been arrested will have a criminal record even if the district attorney dismisses the charges.  At the Law Offices of Lori Elaine Laird PLLC, we have helped many people reclaim their future by clearing their criminal record through the expungement process or pursuit of an order for non-disclosure.

If you have been arrested in Texas for a felony or misdemeanor, you have a criminal record even if no formal criminal charges were filed; your case was dismissed; or you were acquitted after trial.  Effectively, you have a criminal record if you have been arrested for a criminal offense in Texas, even a fairly minor misdemeanor.  These criminal cases may be discovered by employers, landlords, lenders or academic institutions that perform background checks.  It is estimated that eighty percent of all employers now conduct criminal background checks during the hiring process.

Fortunately, the negative blemish of a criminal arrest and/or criminal charges that can impact your personal and professional reputation may be removed from your criminal record through the expungement process.  Expungement is available in the following situations depending on the specific alleged offense.

  • No formal charges filed
  • Charges dismissed
  • Acquittal after trial
  • Class C misdemeanors (i.e., disorderly conduct, public intoxication)

The requirements involved in seeking expungement can be complicated and the application may be opposed by the prosecutor so it is important to have an experienced Harris County or Fort Bend County criminal defense attorney like Lori Laird on your side.  There is a minimum period of time that must elapse before seeking expungement, which amounts to two years if you are seeking expungement of a misdemeanor.  Ms. Laird can evaluate whether you are eligible for expungement and prepare your Petition for Expungement.  The petition must include a range of information, such as your personal information, criminal offense to be expunged, law enforcement agencies with the records, and the legal/factual basis for granting your request.

The court will schedule a hearing where your request will be granted if it is not opposed.  If the petition for Expungement is contested, Ms. Laird can represent you and advocate for your interest at the hearing.  If you are charged with any criminal offense in a Harris or Galveston County criminal court, Ms. Laird may seek deferred adjudication so that there is no disposition until you complete probation.  If you successfully complete probation, the charges may possibly be dismissed possibly leaving you eligible to seek expungement once the waiting period has elapsed.

Even in cases where you are not eligible for expungement, Ms. Laird may still be able to prevent public disclosure of your criminal case by filing a Petition for Non-Disclosure.  If this process is successful, law enforcement agencies and courts will be barred from disclosing information about your criminal case to third parties like employers, loan agencies, landlords, educational establishments and others.

If you have questions regarding clearing your criminal record, Ms. Laird offers a free consultation to those in Houston or elsewhere in Galveston, Angleton, Richmond or anywhere throughout Harris County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County or Chambers County, Lori is committed to providing zealous legal representation to her clients tempered by sound legal advice.  Call 832-699-1966 today for your free consultation or visit our website to learn more about our Houston law firm.  Or visit our website for more information:  www.TexasCriminalDefender.com  or www.lorilairdcom 

Employers Facing Penalties and Criminal Prosecution for Hiring Undocumented Workers

In General Criminal, Immigration on September 10, 2012 at 4:32 am

 

If you are an employer, the legal requirement to check the eligibility to work of employees has never been more critical.  The Obama administration has concentrated its immigration enforcement efforts on auditing businesses and pursuing criminal prosecutions against businesses that hire undocumented workers.  More than 2,000 businesses are being audited by ICE (U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement) annually during the most recent years of the Obama administration.

The enforcement tactics against businesses also have changed under the Obama administration.  Under President Bush, businesses saw loud raids, but now ICE is employing so-called silent raids designed to disrupt the pool of undocumented employees.  The risk of criminal prosecution and fines for hiring illegal workers has increased because of the criminal liability trap that lurks for unsuspecting employers.  While an employer may face penalties for failing to inquire about incomplete or fraudulent I-9s, efforts to inquire more fully into the documents can expose a business to civil liability based on discrimination claims.  This paradox makes it essential to seek legal advice from an experienced attorney with both immigration and criminal defense experience if you are facing a business audit or criminal charges for hiring undocumented workers.

It is important to understand that the consequences of hiring illegal workers and failing to obtain and keep appropriate employment eligibility documents may include incarceration, ineligibility for government contracts and substantial fines.  If you do not have proper documentation regarding an employee’s eligibility to work after an I-9 audit, the employee must be fired but will not be removed (deported) and may be free to obtain employment with your competitor.

There are precautions that can be used to reduce the risk of facing penalties for fraud, I-9 violations or other offenses related to hiring illegal workers while avoiding discrimination claims, including the following:

  • Use of E-Verify to confirm eligibility for employment
  • Maintain I-9 records for a minimum of three years or a year after an employee leaves the company whichever is longer
  • Implement universal policies and apply them the same way for all employees
  • Preserve accurate and well-organized documentation and records
  • Performing random checks to ensure all employees are completing all information on I-9 forms

If you are hiring new employees, the requirements to verify eligibility for employment are strictly enforced.  When hiring an employee, there are three separate categories of documents that are relevant.  Documents in List A verify both identity and eligibility to work.  Documents in List B confirm identity only, and documents in List C verify employment eligibility only.  Any new employee must provide a document from List A or a document from both List B and List C.  An employer is obligated to obtain these documents within three business days of hiring an employee.  If an employee has lost the documents or for other reasons is unable to provide them, the employee must provide a receipt that shows replacement documents have been requested within three business days.  If the receipt is provided, the employee will have ninety business days to produce the actual documents.  If you cannot produce I-9 document for employees, you may face fines ranging from $100 to $1000 for each missing or non-completed form.

If you are facing penalties and prosecution for an immigration related offense including hiring of illegal workers, Houston attorney Lori Laird has knowledge and experience in both immigration and criminal defense matters.  Houston immigration attorney Lori Laird offers a free consultation to those in Houston or elsewhere in Galveston, Angleton, Richmond, or anywhere throughout Harris County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County or Chambers County.  Ms. Laird is committed to providing zealous legal representation to her clients facing penalties for violations of immigration laws.  Call 832-699-1966 today for your free consultation or visit our website to learn more about our Houston law firm.

Withdrawal of a Guilty Plea Based on Poor Legal Advice Regarding Immigration Benefits

In Immigration, Plea bargain on September 5, 2012 at 3:25 pm

 

The collision of criminal law with immigration law in the U.S can create situations that are untenable for those accused of criminal offenses that are legal residents or undocumented immigrants.  When you are charged with a criminal offense as a non-resident, you may face the unpleasant dilemma of choosing between a plea agreement that keeps you out of jail or state prison and one that results in your being forced to leave the country with a permanent ban on your ability to return.  The consequences of entering into a plea agreement without legal advice on the immigration consequences of a guilty plea or bad advice can result in devastating permanent effects on one’s life.

A couple of examples will illustrate the scope of the problem.  Possession of cocaine in the quantity of less than a gram will typically be charged as a felony under Texas law.  If the state proves its case at trial, the sentence for cocaine possession under these circumstances can result in incarceration for a minimum of six month and a maximum of two years as well as a fine of up to $10, 000.  While you may be able to reach a plea agreement that results in felony probation if you have no previous convictions, this option does not pose an attractive option if you are a legal resident.  If you are convicted of this offense, an immigration judge would have no discretion to let you remain in the U.S. because the offense is categorized as an “aggravated felony” under immigration law.

The consequences can be even more devastating depending on your specific situation.  If you were brought here as a child from Russia, you may speak only English and have no friends of family remaining in Russia.  While you could accept a plea agreement that results in probation rather than incarceration, you would find yourself removed to a country that you do not know with no personal connections and an inability to speak the language.

The majority of states do not consider the failure to advise an accused of the immigration consequences of a plea to constitute ineffective assistance of counsel justifying the withdrawal of a guilty plea.  However, inaccurate advice regarding the immigration impact of a plea agreement is considered ineffective assistance of counsel in a majority of jurisdictions.  Because it can be difficult to withdraw a guilty plea, it is imperative to contact an experienced Houston Galveston criminal defense attorney before agreeing to a plea agreement that may damage your rights to immigration benefits.

While a minority of jurisdictions do not consider the failure to advice an accused of the immigration effects of a plea agreement as ineffective assistance of counsel because it is considered a collateral consequence, many attorneys in jurisdictions that do simply choose not to provide any information to clients on immigration issues.  Because the immigration impact of a criminal conviction can have even more serious long-term and life altering consequences than the criminal penalties, we are committed to providing our clients with sound legal advice on both immigration and criminal consequences of a conviction or plea bargain.  Houston criminal defense attorney Lori Laird offers a free consultation to those in Houston or elsewhere in Galveston, Angleton, Richmond, or anywhere throughout Harris County, Galveston County, Brazoria County, Fort Bend County or Chambers County.  Ms. Laird is committed to providing zealous legal representation to her clients facing the dilemma of immigration penalties on one side and criminal penalties on the other.  Call 832-699-1966 today for your free consultation or visit our website to learn more about our Houston law firm.