Interviewer: Let’s say I have a son who is 14 years old and he not only is caught smoking marijuana but is also distributing marijuana. How are you going to handle a case like that?
Gary Churak: It’s going to depend on the situation involved. Was he selling it on campus? Where was he distributing? How big a dealer is he? Was he just giving a joint to a friend? A lot is going to defend on the actual facts to the case.
If he is not selling out of his backpack at school, it’s not really what is known as ‘intent to distribute case. ‘ If I feel that the case is one of these cases that can’t be won for whatever reason, then we’re going to sit down with the DA and we’re going to talk about doing a plea bargain agreement, just try to get this case resolved and worked out.
It would be depending on the amount of marijuana, either a Class A or a felony. We want them to be a felony. So what we try to do is negotiate it down maybe to a misdemeanor and have him put on probation or deferred prosecution. Let him do the probation. Let him stay out of trouble and hopefully he’ll do everything he can that he’ll successfully complete the probation and we’ll be able to go back in and seal it. Also hopefully, he won’t get in trouble again and he will learn his lesson.
Interviewer: How long will a case like that take to resolve?
Gary Churak: It could last a month. It could last three to four months. It could last longer depending on the docket of the course and the type of the case.
Interviewer: What if I have a daughter who’s 16 years old and she was at the mall and she goes with a friend and is caught stealing something at a store?
Gary Churak: People think it’s only shoplifting and it is trivial, but actually shoplifting is a very serious offense. This is because it’s a theft offense which is crime of moral turpitude in Texas. If you have a shoplifting conviction on your record, you’re not going to get a job.
First of all, it would depend on the amount. If it was under $50, we’d be dealing with municipal court and in that situation I would cut a deal for the deferred adjudication probation. This is where the child would get six months of probation, have to take a shoplifting course, do community service, and the case would be dismissed. Then once the case is dismissed, we can come in and do an expungement of that case.
If it’s above $50, then we’re getting in to the aspects of a Class B misdemeanor. That is a more serious of offense. If it’s a juvenile case, we try to do a deferred disposition of the case. This is almost like a free trial diversion where the juvenile does the probation. If they successfully complete all the probation, then the case would be dismissed and we could come back in with an order sealing the case up in the juvenile court.
If the child is over the age of 17, then they’re treated as an adult. They could still be in high school at that point in time. What I would try to do in that situation is get them what’s called a pretrial diversion which would be a type of probation. Once that is completed successfully it would allow me to expunge the case.
The worst-case scenario if they don’t qualify for a pretrial diversion would be the deferred adjudication probation. This is where they would not have a conviction on the record and they could be able to seal the case with a non-disclosure at a later date in time. It is not as advantageous as a pretrial diversion but it is similar.
Interviewer: How is a case involving graffiti charges handled?
Gary Churak: It’s considered a minor misdemeanor. It’s just the question of what we want to do preferably. If they’re under 17, we’ll try to do deferred dispositions. If they’re over 17, we try to get a pretrial diversion if that’s applicable. The worst-case scenario is again, deferred adjudication.