Interviewer: What are some of the consequences of violating probation?
Gary Churak: If you violate the first time you can be revoked and sent to prison. There are no automatic second chances and things like that. It doesn’t have any set rules. It depends on, one, what your offense is and why did you violate it.
If you pick up a new offense, a new number one, your chances are less that you’re going to be continued on probation than if you hadn’t paid your money or fulfilled your community service. For the latter two, typically they can go ahead and basically continue your probation.
There are some situations where, especially on drug cases, where if you violate your probation by testing positive on a UA they can send you to what’s called a “Safe T”. These are lock-down drug rehabilitation facilities, run by the state of Texas or the counties. And that basically can be up to a year of court-mandatory rehabilitation.
I mean, sometimes I have seen people do more time on “Safe T” than they would have done if they would have been in jail. It is an interesting situation when you get into drug cases.
Interviewer: Let’s talk about the probation officer. What is their role?
Gary Churak: Well, a probation officer is basically a court officer and they are trained to supervise and monitor the probationary person. If you’re under a more serious offense you’ll probably have a more experience probation officer. If they think you’re a gang-affiliated, they place you in the gang-unit probation department and they monitor you that way.
Interviewer: Have you ever seen them conduct themselves with any bias toward a particular offender?
Gary Churak: All probation officers are human. And I’ve seen probations officers who can’t get along with somebody. There may be personality issues. And they make a life miserable for the probationer.
There are other ones that are just laid back and as long as you do what you’re supposed to do, they don’t have a problem with you. You’re dealing with people, and when you deal with people there are personalities involved.
Interviewer: Is there a set method of reporting where they have to report to their probation officer once a month or can they come up with a customized pattern?
Gary Churak: It’s up to the probation officer on what he or she wants to do, in terms of probation. I have seen where after a period of time people are allowed to report by mail. It does depend on the probation officer and the nature of the offense and how comfortable they are with you.
If they feel you’re not going to be an issue and not going to be a problem, and if they haven’t had problems with you, chances are toward the end of your probation they may allow you to report by mail, instead of having to go downtown to report all the time.
Interviewer: What are the consequences for missing the scheduled probation meetings?
Gary Churak: They can revoke you. You can miss one and they can file a motion to adjudicate you or revoke you, your probation, because you didn’t report to your probation officer. Missing a reporting is a violation of your probation. The times of the reporting vary; it’s up to your schedule and the probation officer’s schedule.
Interviewer: Do you think a probation officer would be willing to work with me, like if I had something going on next month?
Gary Churak: It’s up to your probation officer; you know, they can work around your schedule, or their schedule, and as long as you report once a month is all they care about.