Interviewer: How does the probation system work with juvenile offenders?
Gary Churak: They have a juvenile probation department that monitors offenders in the same manner that adults are monitored.
Interviewer: Are they more likely to be given second chances, as far as deferred adjudication, for example?
Gary Churak: Yes. Some juvenile cases, especially misdemeanors will receive a pretrial diversion for minor offenses. Juvenile court is more lenient than adult court because the idea is rehabilitation more than punishment.
Frequently, Probationers Are Required to Maintain Employment while on Probation
Interviewer: Is employment ever a condition of probation?
Gary Churak: Yes, usually they make a requirement of your probation that you’re employed or that you maintain a job. Oftentimes on probation, if you do not have a high school education, they make you go get a GED as a condition of your probation.
Since Most Employers Conduct Criminal Background Checks on Applicants, Many Probationers Have Difficulty Getting a Job
Interviewer: What if you’re unemployed and it’s really difficult for you to find a job?
Gary Churak: They refer you to the Texas Work Force Commission; they will look and try to find you a job. I think the judges are beginning to see that individuals on probation will have a hard time getting a job.
Fast Food Restaurants Commonly Run Background Checks on Prospective Employees
I make that point to the court as well. I say, “Judge, did you ever try to get a job with a criminal record. It is not going to happen!”Even MacDonald’s doesn’t hire you; they do a criminal background search.
Interviewer: If I were to look for a job and that was on probation, would I be obligated to tell that employer that I was on probation?
Gary Churak: That depends on what question they ask on the applications. Most places are going to do criminal background checks, so they’re going to see it anyway.
Interviewer: Will the criminal background check indicate what the probation is for?
Gary Churak: Yes, it’ll show the whole offense, including the arrest, the offense, and the disposition.
Probation Violation Case History
Interviewer: Can you share a case history with us concerning probation or probation violations?
Gary Churak: I represented an individual who had a serious drinking problem. And he had a number of DWI, felony DWIs; he had basically fallen apart.
He was an ex-military member and was put on probation out of Kerr County. He had an infraction in Medina, but it wasn’t subject to probation. And he just took off and went to Thailand.
He was ex-Green Beret and he had worked with the Thai military. He wound up going to Thailand as an interpreter, teaching English to the Thai Special Forces. Eventually got a job working at an English school in Thailand and later married.
An Arrest Warrant Will Prevent an Individual from Renewing a Visa
So he’s in Thailand on this visa that’s expiring. He needs to apply for a renewed visa but there is an arrest warrant out of Kerrville for a violation of probation. He hires me and surrenders himself at the airport, and is taken to Kerrville. I’m representing him, I file the paperwork and we have our hearing and talk to the judge.
Reducing a Two-Year Prison Term to a 60-Day Jail Sentence with Deferred Adjudication
In the hearing, the judge hears how he has turned his life around but still sentences him to two years in prison. He has his family in Thailand and his job–he’s teaching at a Christian school. The judge’s secretary and court coordinator start giving him a hard time about sending this individual to prison. This is because of his hard work to get his life back on track.
The judge calls me back and we start talking. The judge asks me, “Well, how long do you think he’s going to actually spend incarcerated if I send him to prison?” I said, “The way it is working now, Judge, he could be out in a few months on a two-year sentence.”
And the judge says, “Here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to keep him in jail for two months in Kerrville, we’re going to reset it for a hearing after two months, and then we’ll go from there. And we’ll basically dismiss the motion to revoke.”
I had some other issues too about whether they’d used due diligence to try to find him and things to that extent. But anyway, the end result was that he spent two months in the Kerr County jail. We went back to court, and the judge dismissed the motion to revoke, cleared all the charges against him, and he went back to Thailand and his family with his new visa.
Interviewer: In that case, what was the biggest challenge for you?
Gary Churak: It was difficult figuring out how to get him back to Thailand. This is because the bottom line on a case like that is they could have sent him to prison for 10 years. And he would have spent 10 years in prison without his family in Thailand.
Interviewer: How long had he lived in Thailand?
Gary Churak: Ah, he was there quite awhile. But it was considered an old case and was about 10 years old. And it was an old arrest warrant on him.
He voluntarily came back and surrendered himself and we brought that to the attention of the judge, that he actually came back from Thailand and he surrendered himself to clear this up. Yeah.
When he hired me, I told him he would be arrested at the airport by Homeland Security. He would be transported to Kerrville, and once he got to Kerrville, he was to call me and I went and met with him at the jail in Kerrville. Then got in touch with the court coordinator and got a setting for us to have the case on the docket, and we went from there.
Interviewer: What might the typical probation be for a marijuana drug case?
Gary Churak: For a small amount of marijuana, which is misdemeanor marijuana possession, usually the judge orders six months deferred adjudication or pretrial diversion. And if you take a couple of drug tests, and you stay out of trouble—your case is over with.