Discussion Points for Punto Legal- May 18, 2016

  1. Last week, I defended a Latino man in a trial in Glenwood Springs. He had been charged with Enticement of a Child, Sexual Assault on a Child, and Soliciting a Child for Prostitution. Had he been convicted, the judge would have had to sentence him under Colorado sex offender law. The judge would have had to give him a minimum of 10 years in prison. But, under Colorado sex offender law, prison could have kept him for the rest of his life.

    At around 10:15 on a Saturday night, he went to the 7-11 to get a cup of coffee. He encountered an 11-year-old girl who was running away from home. He offered to give the girl a ride home. He drove the girl to a warehouse where he worked. The girl claimed her offered her a $100 bill in exchange for sex and touched her butt. He claimed when he got near the warehouse she did not want to go home and wanted to stay in the warehouse.

    The case became more difficult for him when he began to show a guilty conscience the next day. The police had found the car he had driven and he learned they were looking for him. He told a bystander he was in trouble. When a police officer approached him, the first thing he told the officer is he did not want to be a sex offender.

    He said he felt guilty not because he had committed any crimes, but because he did not immediately call the police when he found the girl.

    The district attorney's office went all out to convict the man, but a unanimous jury of 12 citizens found him not guilty of all the charges.

    I employed a child psychologist who helped persuade the jury that the girl's story was not believable enough to convict a person beyond a reasonable doubt.

    Colorado has some of the harshest sex offender laws in the United States, and you do not want to get charged with a sex offense against a child in Colorado.

  2. Citizenship. The presidential election is less than SIX months away! It looks like Donald Trump will be facing off against Hilary Clinton. If you are a permanent resident and are thinking about becoming a citizen so you can vote, you need to get your citizenship application in very soon. The basic requirements for citizenship are:

    • 5 years as a resident, or 3 years if you are a citizen;
    • Good moral character for 5 years before the date on your application. What do we really mean by "good moral character?" This means you (1) filed and paid your income taxes for the past 5 years; (2) you are current on any child support obligations; and (3) you have a clean criminal history for the past 5 years.
    • Pass a test of basic English and American history and Government. If you are 50 years old and have lived in the U.S. for 20 years as a resident, or if you are 55 years old and have lived in the U.S. for 15 years as a resident, you do not have to take the English test.

    The fee for the citizenship application is $680. But, you may qualify for a fee waiver. You can get a fee waiver if your household income is less than 150% of the poverty line. For example, take a family of 5. If the household income is less than $42,660, you can get the $680 fee waived.

  3. U Visas. Nobody knows why, but there has been no forward movement at all in deciding U visa petitions since May 7, 2014. The U visa is a 4-year visa for victims of domestic violence and other qualifying crimes. All U visa petitions are sent to the Vermont Service Center for decision. There are well over 100,000 U visa requests pending at the Vermont Service Center. The backlog has grown to two years. The American Immigration Lawyers Association and 300 other organizations have written the director of the immigration service to complain. The U visa program is obviously popular and successful, but if you have a pending U visa, you are subject to a lengthy delay. I will keep you updated about this delay in issuing U visas.

  4. Immigration Application Fees. The Department of Homeland Security proposed a new fee schedule for government immigration forms. Overall, the fee increase is 21%, but the application for citizenship will cost less. Here are some examples of the price increases: The I-485 application to fix your papers in the U.S. will increase from $1,070.00 to $1,140.00. The advance travel document will increase from $360.00 to $575.00. If you are thinking about applying for an immigration benefit, you will save money if you move ahead now-before the prices go up.