Drugs and DWIs
Interviewer: Do you see a lot of possession of drugs with DWIs?
Gary Churak: I don’t see a whole lot of cases where there is not alcohol but drugs found in the system. If you do not have the mental or physical capacity to operate a motor vehicle because of the influence of alcohol or drugs it’s considered a DWI. It’s the same thing if you have drugs or you have alcohol in your system. Alcohol is a little more defined because if it’s above .08 you are presumed to be intoxicated. However; with drugs, you have to show what amount is necessary to be considered under the influence. Is it a regular prescription amount? Will that be sufficient or does it have to be more than a prescription amount? It just depends on the situation and the type of drug involved. It depends on a lot of different things.
Interviewer: Let’s take marijuana for instance, in that case, what are police officers looking for? In terms of searching and signs of inebriation, what are they looking for?
Gary Churak: They are looking for basically somebody who does not have their full capacity, physically or mentally. In other words, are they stumbling, are they sure of foot, are they slurring their words, are they incoherent, or are they paranoid? There are a lot of factors they can look at.
Interviewer: Do you see cases that occur at the border checkpoints, off Laredo or the valley somewhere? Where someone from San Antonio goes and comes back with illegal drugs?
Gary Churak: Yes, it happens but not as much as you thing nowadays. This is mainly because of the checkpoints and the security that you have to go through. There are dogs and checkpoints, not only at the border but off the border. They smuggle drugs in, in 18-wheelers, in tires and in other areas of vehicles. It happens and they get caught. It’s not unusual that it happens, but nine out of ten times they get caught. They don’t make it through the checkpoints. They will smuggle it in other ways that are not as secure, through the dessert in Arizona or something to that effect. It is difficult to smuggle into Texas nowadays because of the border checkpoints and security.
Interviewer: If someone definitely starts smuggling a nice amount of marijuana or any other illegal substance it’s going to be a federal issue, but what if it’s just the average college student going to have a good time at Madame Morrows or someone and they come over and they get stopped at the checkpoint with a small amount, how does that work?
Gary Churak: It’s the same thing; it’s basically possession of marijuana. That would be a state issue and they would turn the case over to the state. It would just depend on how much you have. If it’s less than two ounces, it’s a Class B misdemeanor and they’ll arrest you. You can bond out and you’ll be looking at a Class B misdemeanor. If its two to four ounces, it’s a Class A misdemeanor. If it’s more than that, you are looking at a felony. Personal use like that, they are going to just bust you and let you out or turn you over to the state basically. That is what they are going to do.
The real interesting one we are seeing more and more of is on I-10 out there, in Van Horn, there’s a checkpoint and we get these people coming through from California and other places where marijuana is legal. Medical marijuana is not legal in Texas, so they get busted there with their medical marijuana. Oops. That’s Willie Nelson. That’s where they got Willie.
Interviewer: Would you defend Willie?
Gary Churak: Awe, sure. Willie’s just a stoner.
Interviewer: Could you share a unique story or one of your favorite victories?
Gary Churak: I’ll give you one and this is actually a very similar situation. I had a couple of, young, young people. They had just graduated. One of them had just graduated college at a very prestigious college and they went out to Big Bend for the weekend. They had a little bit of marijuana in their car and one of the guys had some prescription Adderral in this pouch left over from his college days to help them study. It wasn’t his but it was his roommates. They got pulled over at a checkpoint .
Interviewer: Where is Big Bend located?
Gary Churak: West Texas. It is a National Park.
Gary Churak: They found the Adderall and they found the marijuana, so they sent it on over to the prosecutor in Presidio County for prosecution. The kid was a musician and he actually played for the San Antonio Symphony. He had a scholarship to go to Juilliard in New York and this would have cratered him, his entire career and everything. He had done a lot of public service, he had done a lot of charity work, and he had helped with children and had a pretty good resume. I got a bunch of letters of recommendation for him and letters from people that he’d done events for. I was able to get those to the prosecutor and got the prosecutor to drop the felony drug charges. Then we did a misdemeanor plea on the possession of marijuana where he didn’t even have to come into town to plea on it, we did it by mail. He got six months unsupervised probation and we were able to come back and seal it up. Now he is teaching music somewhere at a high school.