Interviewer: Can you help your clients apply for early termination of their probation if they have met all the terms imposed by the judge?
Gary Churak: There are provisions for early termination of probation. With straight probation served, you have to serve 60% of your time period on probation to able to get off of probation. On deferred adjudication there is no set time of probation that you have to serve. They can just let you off probation in a week as long as you complete your terms of probation.
And I’ve had a situation like that where it was a restitutionordered on a huge amount of money and the money was paid, and the judge basically said, “Okay, you’re off probation,” and dismissed the case, because my client complied with the restitution.
Interviewer: Have you ever had a client violate his or her probation unintentionally?
Gary Churak: For the most part, they give you your terms and conditions of probation when you get placed on probation. They tell you, don’t drink alcohol, don’t hang around bars, and don’t commit any offenses against the state of Texas, except a traffic ticket.
So the chances of you not knowing that you’re violating your probation are very slim.
Now there are situations where it happens. I have had clients who have an interlock device in their vehicle on in-home alcohol monitor device because of alcohol-related offense. Sometimes they’ll make an excuse and say, “Oh, I had used mouthwash and when I blew into the device, it gave a positive reading because of the alcohol in the product.”
Primarily, that is just an excuse. Now I’ve had situations where people have been prescribed as a mouth rinse as a medication for gingivitis and that contains alcohol but they had a doctor’s prescription. So they were precluded from the violation because technically, they didn’t violate their probation.
I had to argue with judges over that, and they were claiming, “He should have known better.” And I’m saying, “Well, Judge, you read the terms and conditions it says, you know, do not drink alcohol or take any drugs unless prescribed by a doctor, and this was prescribed by a doctor. Here’s the prescription.”
So there are exceptions, but for the most part, you know you’re violating your probation.
Interviewer: When someone’s on probation, how public is that going to be?
"The Probation Officer Can Visit Your Home and Place of Employment"
Gary Churak: It is viewable on a criminal record search. If you do a criminal background check, it’ll show up. Also, I have known of a probation officer showing up a probationer’s employment to check up on him.
The officers can come into your home and they can go to your place of work.
Interviewer: Do you think it’s better to be up front with the employer?
Gary Churak: I think it is, for the most part. But it depends on the offense. If it’s a serious offense, there could be issues. If it’s a DWI, it may not be a big issue, depending, of course, on the job. If they have to drive as part of their job, it may affect insurance rates. But most of the time you don’t need to tell your employer and they’re not going to find out.
But a serious offense could be a different story.