Interviewer: What about travelling during job searching, and what if I needed to move for work during my probation?
Gary Churak: You have to get permission from the court to move. If you move within the state, you would have to get your probation transferred to the county where you’re going to move to. And in that same situation, if you were residing in another county and picked up an offense in a different county, you would have to get the court probation officer to transfer your probation.
To move out of state is a lot more difficult, because it is difficult to transfer probations between states. It can be done, but an interstate compact with that that has to be complied with before you can actually transfer.
Interviewer: What if I just wanted to travel out of state?
Gary Churak: You’d have to get court permission.
Interviewer: How long in advance should I do that?
Gary Churak: I would recommend at least 30 days, if not longer.
Interviewer: Do they usually grant permission?
Gary Churak: It would depend on the situation. I’ve had judges that, for the most part, have not denied a person’s right to travel. Permission may depend on the type of probation and, how wellyou’re doing complying with the conditions. If you haven’t had any problems on probation, chances are the court’s going to let you do that.
Interviewer: Does all probation automatically include community service?
Gary Churak: Most, for the most part, yes. For the most part, all probation has a community service element in it.
Interviewer: Can you give me some examples of community service?
Gary Churak: Anything non-profit, usually. For example, working at Good Will, working at churches; any establishment that’s related to good will is recognized as valid community service.
Interviewer: Would they have you picking up trash by the side of the road, that sort of thing?
Gary Churak: I imagine that’s part of it. I’ve seen probationary people there picking up trash by the side of the road, so–that is itself a type of probation.
Interviewer: Does the amount of the community service hours imposed depend on the crime?
Gary Churak: Yes, usually it does depend on the crime. Felonies are subject to usually more time than misdemeanors. It also depends on your attorney and what you can negotiate with the district attorney. I’ve had situations where the courts have granted community service if it’s a student. Basically letting him attend class; each hour he attends class is considered towards his community service.
I’ve had judges allow people who have a tight work schedule donate to the Food Bank in lieu of community service. So it’s flexible.
Interviewer: What if someone really wants to reduce community service, but the court feels they should perform the maximum?
Gary Churak: It’s part of being in the system. You committed an infraction and this is a component of your sentence. You have to abide by the rules.
Interviewer: If someone has a felony charge, would they be able to have probation and have their case dismissed after that?
Gary Churak: Yes, it’s called deferred adjudication probation. With that type of probation, if you complete successfully your probation you will get a dismissal of your case.
Interviewer: Does that mean that the case is sealed or expunged?
Gary Churak: Yes, you have to come back in after that, depending on the type of case and there are some exceptions to being able to seal it. For example, family violence cases cannot be sealed.
But what you do is you do a petition for non-disclosure. For most misdemeanors, you can do it immediately after your discharge. Felonies you have to wait five years. After five years, you file a petition for non-disclosure.
It’s processed through the court, and once that’s entered it goes to DPS. DPS has some rules and regulations on releasing information to basic reporting services.
Interviewer: I know it would depend on the crime, but what’s the maximum amount of probation time that can be imposed?
Gary Churak: Ten years is the maximum probation in the state of Texas. On extended probation, the probationary person can go through numerous probation officers during his term.
Interviewer: If someone violates probation and for some reason, it slips through the system, is there a statute of limitations in which the authorities can prosecute him or her?
Gary Churak: No. The only statute of limitations is they have to file the motion to revoke probation before the probation expires. That’s only thing they have to do. So if your probation is set to expire on December 31, and they file a motion to revoke on you on December 30, and issue a warrant –that warrant is good forever. And they can pick you up anywhere and anytime with that warrant.
Interviewer: Now when they finally pick that person up, does that increase the time that they’re going to be incarcerated?
Gary Churak: It doesn’t increase time they’re going to be incarcerated, but the fact of the matter is they have now been arrested. Most motions to revoke probation do not have a bond set on them. What happens is you have your attorney talk to the judge to get a bond set before you can even bond out.
People have been known to sit in jail for months before they have a hearing because they don’t talk to an attorney or don’t have an attorney representing them. And they can’t get out of jail.