How Can Juvenile Charges Escalate?
Interviewer: How do the courts view fighting and inflicting injuries on a peer?
Gary Churak: In my area at New Braunfels Canyon High School, a 15 year old was killed by another student in a fight.
The Schools Have a Zero Tolerance for Fighting and Students Will Face Criminal Charges
He fell and has hit on the wall and died. Basically, that’s murder. You’re charged with a murder. It’s a serious situation if you get into a fight with another student. The schools really enforce a zero tolerance policy. Any kind of contact in school between students, they’re marched off and they’re in the criminal justice system.
They can be charged with assault, a Class-A misdemeanor and it could be serious offense for them. It’s not only the criminal aspect of it. They also are transferred to an alternative school for six months and it’s on their permanent record.
If in fact some kid has an expertise in martial arts or self-defense, they could actually charge him with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon. The prosecution would allege his hands are deadly weapons or his feet are deadly weapons and I’ve seen it.
I’ve had had cases where we’re talking about a boyfriend and girlfriend fight and they charged the guy with a deadly weapon count because he hit the girl with his hand. They’re going to stretch it as far as they can.
An Assault Charge Can Escalate into a Murder Charge
Interviewer: That Comal case, where you following that one?
Gary Churak: No. I’m familiar with it because we live out there in the school district and it made some headlines what happened.
Apparently what we understand what happened is one kid was bullying another kid and they’re making some comments about his mother and his mother was sick. He turned around and punched the kid and he hit him just perfectly where the kid fell back and hit his head and died.
Interviewer: What is your opinion about the case?
Gary Churak: The juvenile is in serious trouble. He committed assault that killed somebody. Did he have a justification for hitting the kid? There’s no justification in Texas for self-defense over words. There are no self-defense issues. He is facing some serious problems. There may be some mitigating factors that caused him to do what he did but it’s not going to be any kind of viable defense.
A Fight between Two Teenagers May Result in Both of Them Facing Assault Charges
Interviewer: Going back to that same situation, I have a son who is in a fight and there was some damage done but it wasn’t in that severe. It was just a typical fight and they are both minors, say 15 and in high school. How is that case going to pan out?
Gary Churak: That would be an interesting situation in the criminal aspect because since it’s a fight, both of them would have to be witnesses against each other to prosecute each other. There’s a question as for the assault aspect to prove bodily injury.
If they don’t charge both kids, then there’s going to be an issue as to who started it and the extent of the other person’s involvement. If they charge both kids, the situation is to get the lawyers together and have both kids not appear in court to testify. Then the prosecution will not have a case. It could get dropped.
You’d have to look at all the facts and see exactly what was all involved and how serious it was.
Also, you need to take into account the school’s position on zero tolerance. If you threw a punch back, one child is just as guilty and the instigator in terms of the way the school looks at it.
Juveniles That Bring Weapons onto School Property Can Face Felony Charges
Also a hot topic is bringing weapons onto a campus. A juvenile with a weapon on school premises will be charged with a felony.
Possessing a Weapon Outside of School Is an Unlawful Carrying Charge
Interviewer: What if it wasn’t on school premises?
Gary Churak: The charge will be an unlawful carrying. It would be a misdemeanor. Why is he carrying a gun around? Is he related to a gang? If you’re going to look at the whole situation, what was he intending to doing with that gun?
Is somebody bullying him and he is intending to shoot that kid? There’s got to be a reason why that kid is carrying around a weapon.
Interviewer: Is there any sort of plea bargain you look for in that type of case?
Gary Churak: It’s whatever the DA wants to offer a plea bargain or what you can bid for.
It would also depend on what they define as a weapon. It would depend on what the weapon is and where it was on his person. If the kids are walking around with a handgun, there’s an issue. Why is he doing that?