Interviewer: You mentioned like there are juveniles involved in sex crimes. What sort of sex crimes are you seeing?
Gary Churak: Mom and dad were going through a divorce. They had children from a previous marriage living under the same roof and one of the little girls accuses my client of improperly touching her. That’s indecency with a child by contact.
I think they’ve even charged him to aggravated sexual assault so there was penetration. He was about 16 so they charged him as a juvenile. But they went for a determinative sentence on him so we actually tried the case before a jury. Happily, we obtained a not true verdict, which means a not guilty verdict for him.
Texas has a three year window for sexual relations between teenagers. If you’re 15 and your boyfriend is 17, there’s an affirmative defense in Texas if you’re within three years. If you’re 16 and your boyfriend is 20, your boyfriend could be facing prison.
One of the main things in Texas is that people don’t realize is that if the child is under the age of 14, they are deemed in the Texas law not to be able to consent to any kind of sexual relationship.
I don’t know if you’re familiar with that ABBO site. They have people out there asking questions to lawyers and that question comes up quite frequently. “My daughter had sex with his boy and she’s this age and she’s that age, can I file charges against him?” You frequently see questions like that.
Interviewer: Have you seen any situations where the Internet or social media have come into play?
Gary Churak: I have a case right now where the girl was 16 years old and she’s ‘sexting’ an older guy. Unfortunately for him it’s sexual performance of a child or possession of child pornography and it’s happening quite frequently. Kids have almost unlimited access to the Internet, especially in the junior high school level. These girls and boys are ‘sexting’ quite regularly.
Interviewer: Will they make it illegal for students to have cell phones at schools?
Gary Churak: Some school districts already prohibit phones on campus. Some don’t. Everybody has got an iPhone or droid nowadays it seems like.
Also, you can’t have tobacco on campus. That’s actually a criminal offense. They can actually charge a child. Another big thing is snuff or dip as they call it. A lot of the kids are doing dip and they put it in coffee cups and try to hide it. If they get caught with dip, it’s a tobacco product. The new craze now is the E-cigarette and the E-cigarettes with the different water vapor flavors on them.
It’s not a tobacco product technically because it’s not tobacco. It’s flavored water vapor.
Interviewer: What can you tell us about juvenile murder cases?
Gary Churak: I haven’t handled a juvenile murder case, but it does happen. You see it all the time where a 15 year old shoots another person in a gang shooting or in a robbery.
Interviewer: Where are they committing these robberies? Do they target pawnshops or gas stations?
Gary Churak: I’ve seen gas stations. I’ve seen cell phone stores. Anywhere where there’s money like a convenience stores and fast food restaurants.
Interviewer: What will the DA do with a case like that?
Gary Churak: They’re either going to certify him and try him as an adult and try to send him away for aggravated robbery. That is a 1st degree felony which can carry a sentence between 5 to life. Or they’ll do a determinative sentence on him.
They’re going to try to put that juvenile away for a long time. It depends on the situation involved, but any kid that will walk to the store with a gun to try to rob it is probably not an ideal candidate for probation.