Category Archives: Court

The Interlock is Off: Getting the Breathalyzer Removed From My Car After Six Long Months

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The day finally came. Last Wednesday, I finally got my interlock device removed from my car.

The device is a breathalyzer attached to the ignition of my car that I had to blow into before I could start it. If the interlock registered any alcohol on my breath, it would not allow my car to start.

The court ordered me to have it for six whole months. Six months! So frustrating since my accident and charge had nothing to do with alcohol; it was a result of my medication. (You can read about the events leading up to this post here.)

Since the court didn’t specify if I needed a camera mounted on the inside of my driver’s side windshield, the interlock company was forced to install one. The camera, of course, was to make sure that I was blowing into the device and not some “sober” passenger.

Talk about embarrassing. For half a year, I made excuses as to why I couldn’t drive my friends around. I used my wife’s car whenever my family would visit to avoid them (and me) the shame.

I understand that, yes, there are convicted drunk drivers that need these interlocks. And, yes, the devices save lives. But for me? My situation? Ridiculous.

The judge I was assigned to made everyone get an interlock who was convicted of a DWI (driving while intoxicated), regardless of the source of intoxication.

Sadly, while serving my court-ordered labor detail (which I plan to blog about in the future at some point), guys would go right back to drinking and driving as soon as they got the interlock removed from their cars. One guy even bought a home breathalyzer kit so he would know how much booze he could consume hours before he had to operate his vehicle.

I remember having conversations with fellow “inmates” on the Chain Gang (the term by which some of us referred to the sheriff’s labor detail that we were on) about how we wouldn’t have even been there if MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving) weren’t headquartered in Texas. According to my lawyer, they have been responsible for the ultra-strict DWI laws here in the Lone Star State.

Of course I think drinking and driving is wrong, as did the guys I spoke with on my labor detail. But, MADD has left no gray areas that some of us were stuck in; it’s either black or white. Heck, nothing is black or white anymore.

So, take it from me. It doesn’t pay to even drive while buzzed. For the interlock device alone, I paid nearly $100 per month for six months for “maintenance fees,” excluding installation and removal fees. (Not to mention thousands of dollars for my lawyer, thousands owed to the DPS (Department of Public Services) for the “reinstatement of the privilege to drive,” and several hundred dollars in court fees.

By the way, I just noticed on MADD’s website that “drugged driving” is a target of theirs now.

Conclusion: Don’t end up like me. Be careful.

And, don’t attempt suicide in your car ever.

~t


Court: My Purgatory on Earth

 

This was my first court date since January.

January!

Even after reading countless news stories and John Grisham novels, I never cease from being astonished at how slowly the system operates. It’s been well over a year, and I’m still in the “pretrial” phase. Ridiculous.

After briefly meeting with my lawyer after my January court appearance, I never heard back from her. In fact, I have called and emailed her office multiple times since then, and most of those times I never received a reply.

Finally, the day before my recent July 16 court date, I emailed her. I wanted to say something like, I paid you $4,000, and you don’t even return my phone calls?! However, I’m glad I didn’t; my stepfather used to work for the district attorney in his hometown, and he said if I make my lawyer angry, then she could very well lose my case on purpose.

Wow.

The lawyer responded and blamed the slow process on the county psych ward for not releasing my records. Why the lawyer didn’t bother to tell me this before, I have no idea.

My latest court date was routine. I waited for the courtroom doors to open at 9:00am, and then I went in and grabbed a front-row seat. I figured if I had to be there, I would at least keep myself entertained by observing the three-ring circus known as county criminal court.

An inmate from the jail across the street sneaked in with a sheriff through a door beside the judge. Interestingly, I had never noticed the door before; it had a big square window and no handle from the inside. The inmate, a thin African-American guy with matted hair and a full beard, was dressed in a baggy dark green jumpsuit. He stood like a statue. I thought he was in handcuffs until he scratched his nose.

I didn’t see it, but apparently the inmate was suddenly removed through that back door. There was some commotion, and then his distraught lawyer came back in. He and the judge whispered to each other for about 5 minutes. The judge slowly ran her fingers through her hair. “He always does this,” she said as the lawyer stormed out of court.

Next, a young hipster in business casual pled guilty to the charge of obstruction of a highway. For the uninitiated, this misdemeanor usually stems from an initial DWI and is pled down to the vague “obstruction of a highway.”  He received 30 days’ probation and was told to pay $900 in court costs!

Dang.

When my lawyer mentioned I would have to pay court costs if we lost our case, I was thinking more of a $40 service charge or something.

Anyway, starting to get bored, I looked at the clock.

11:00?!

I had been waiting for my blasted lawyer for two hours?! I went out in the hallway and called her office. A secretary said something about the lawyer having to defend a case in city court at the last minute. In other words, she became too busy to help me.

The court secretary confirmed this news to me when I went back in.

“Am I free to go now?” I asked.

“Unless you want to take me out to lunch.”

I gave her a placating smile and left. It could be worse, I thought.

It could be a lot worse.

~t

 


How Are You Doing?

Credit: Pushead

Saint Anger ’round my neck

He never gets respect

                                                –Metallica, “St. Anger”

Recently, a friend and reader of my blog asked me how I was doing. A nice, simple email. She really does care about me, but I didn’t answer her question. Actually, I gave a pat answer to the effect of, “I’m pretty good.”

Well, I’m not pretty good. Last Friday I had yet another court date. I am supposed to be in the trial phase (the contest phase, to be precise), but the damn legal system here in the good ol’ U.S. of A. drags everything out for months and months. My case has been open for over a year — a friggin’ year! — and my lawyer is just now getting my signatures for the release of my hospital files.

My wife is on my case about pressuring my lawyer and the court system to move faster. Yeah, right. That’s like telling Obama to become pro-life or else. Ha ha.

She also keeps reminding me that the system in Japan, her homeland, isn’t as screwed up as it is here. I’m sorry, but I’d rather leave my fate to a jury instead of to a panel of three grumpy judges like they do in the Land of the Rising Yen.

Here is some more info on how I’m doing: Today I have managed to piss off everyone who works around me. It’s almost like I’ve been looking for trouble.

I took the last two days off for “personal” reasons. I will take the next two off for the same thing and then go back on Monday.

I’m doing well (?) spiritually, but you sure as heck can’t tell, can ya??!

The truth is, dear readers, is that I’m an a**hole. Plain and simple. I do fine within church boundaries and at church events, but my daily life is often different.

Blame it on my illness? Yes, but not all of it. Mostly it’s because I’m an a**hole like my dad.

Today I wanted to kill someone because the person was messing with me and with the way I do my job. I’ve had run-ins with this person before, and the individual likes to push my buttons. Why? Maybe because my buttons are easy to push.

So, my friend, to answer your question: I’m doing pretty sh*tty. Could you pray for me?

~t


Helping Students Beyond the Classroom: A Lady Named Colleen

I’m a college teacher, but sometimes I’m also a counselor for my students. During my office hours, it’s not uncommon for students to come and see me about problems in their personal lives. I am more than happy to give advice or, in most cases, just lend an ear. I trust that the Holy Spirit guides me and gives me the wisdom to help these individuals.

Yesterday morning, as I arrived at my office, one of my students was sitting against the door and crying. She is one of my best students, so I had a feeling it wasn’t grade-related. As she began telling me what was going on, I suddenly felt unqualified. “Are you sure you don’t want to meet with a counselor? The office is just down the hall, and it’s free for students.”

Her answer: “I can’t open up with just anyone. God has led me to you.”

The student, who I will refer to as Colleen, is in a marriage that is quickly spiraling downward. It’s complicated, but the gist is that her husband verbally and physically abuses her, won’t let her drive, and demands that she hand over all of her salary from her part-time food service job.

Colleen is from a country in West Africa, and her husband is American. He has arranged a court date for them to sign divorce papers.

Trusting in the Holy Spirit — since I didn’t get the memo that God was sending Colleen my way — I listened to her and clarified some things. Not really knowing what to say, I referred Colleen to some apartments near campus that were affordable. I’m friends with the coordinator of career services at the college, so I told Colleen where to find the office and to tell them that I sent her.

Lastly, I shared Romans 8: 28 with her: “And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him.” There is a reason for everything, I told Colleen. She told me that she believed and trusted that God would work everything out for her. I was humbled by her faith.

When we finished talking, Colleen felt so much better. Tomorrow she is going to court with her husband. When she walks out afterward, she will suddenly be alone in a strange new country with no home, no family, and not quite enough money to make ends meet.

“Thank you for everything!” she told me as she stood up to leave. “You have really helped me.”

“But I really didn’t do much.”

“Oh, you did. You really did.”

Luckily, Colleen will be in my class until the semester ends in December. After that, though, I may not see her again.

Please keep Colleen in your prayers.

~t

(photo by Topaz)


Another Court Date

I just got back from another court date. The pre-trials are over. All they consisted of were my showing up, saying “here” when my name was called by the judge, and my lawyer speaking with me for 60 seconds to say we wouldn’t accept yet another plea deal.

If you’re new to this blog, you can get caught up to speed here.

Today was the first date of the actual trial; however, the procedures were exactly the same as the multiple pre-trials that I have attended. My first thought was, I guess my lawyer made a mistake. This is just another check-in. So, I took a seat in the courtroom and watched as individuals approached the judge one by one with their lawyers.

All of the seats toward the back are taken first, so I usually sit in the front of the courtroom. It works out well, though; I can hear each case being tried right before me.

Today, one stood out in particular. A young man was charged with assault for the fifth time in four years. It breaks my heart to witness things like this, but I have to watch. For me, it’s a lesson in what not to do; the same reason I’m addicted to gritty prison documentaries.

It was evident from the proceedings that the young man had no intention of turning his life around. It’s an extremely difficult thing to do, so I will be praying for him.

This time, the man was charged with assault on an elderly person. The judge always speaks at normal volume while the defendants respond as softly as possible. From what the judge said, the young man seems to assault only women and the elderly. While she was lecturing him on his anger problem, the judge suddenly stopped and said, “So now you’re angry at me?” I don’t think it was a coincidence that a third Sheriff suddenly appeared from a rear door.

The defendant works only three days a week at a nightclub. Alcohol was involved in each of his assaults, yet he chose to seek employment at a bar (the judge’s words). This is a big reason why I gave up drinking. I’m not saying it’s “evil” per se, but I’ve seen nothing good come from alcohol. In the Bible, Paul tells Timothy to drink some wine to help with his stomach problems, so I believe it’s okay when consumed in moderation.

I’ll never touch the stuff again because, although no alcohol was found in my bloodstream after my accident, it was still a factor that led to my DWI charge. Plus, it’s a depressant, and I sure as heck don’t need any help feeling depressed.

By the way, the young man was ordered to attend anger management classes, to get his GED, and to serve ten days in jail. What about the alcohol part?? I thought.

My lawyer came running through the doors like she usually does, spoke briefly with the court assistant, and then motioned for me to talk with her outside the courtroom.

“The expert witness isn’t ready, so you’re free to go!” she said before walking away.

“Wait,” I called after her. What in the world just happened? For $4,000, I expected a little more information from my lawyer.

Apparently, the expert witness, a medical doctor who had analyzed my blood sample after my accident, wasn’t prepared for whatever reason. Without him, the trial would have to be postponed . My lawyer had no idea when the next court date would be. No surprise there.

Even though I never intended  to operate my vehicle with a bloodstream full of Xanax, what’s done is done. I can make excuses like, “This shouldn’t have even happened,” or “My blood alcohol content was 0.00%,” but it wouldn’t do any good.

Intent or not, recollection or not, I have to face the consequences. It could be worse, I tell myself as I think of the financial costs that have been adding up since spring. I could have taken an innocent life. Someone’s son. Daughter. Mother. Father. My own life.

Thank you, Lord. I am a nervous wreck right now, but thank you for sticking with me through the thick and thin.

~t

(photo by Topaz)


Criminal Court Day

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Hi all. I had to take some time off work this morning for my second appearance in criminal court. Yay! It involves a little incident that happened late last summer. I’ll fill you in at a later time.

I was leaving the parking garage and pulled up to the window to pay. A scruffy-looking guy with a pale face covered in pimples took my credit card and greeted me.

“You look amiss,” he said.

“Huh?” I was surprised that this guy was using a word like amiss.

“You look paranoid as hell, mister.”

At that point I came close to screaming at the guy. “I just came from criminal court, sir.”

“One more day. Then it’s the weekend. Just hang in there,” he said, handing me back my card and receipt.

Writer mode kicked in. “Well, sir, my life is in the balance. Right now, I AM paranoid as hell. But if I’m found not guilty, then I’ll be a happy guy.” I was so tempted to lie and say that it was a murder charge just to shut him up.

But I didn’t.

The attendant grinned at me and then I drove away.

I was so riled up that I popped a Xanax at the first red light.

~topaz