Thursday, July 15, 2010
This One Time, In Jail
So here's a story not a whole lot of people know. I have been arrested. And not just the cute little "follow me over here to this desk and we have to officially book you". No, my arrest was down and dirty. Seriously. It was a horrible experience and I have Vietnam-like flashbacks about it still. There are so many things about this story that are frustrating. Including the way I was treated, the reason for the arrest and how the whole thing even started. Hold on to your hats... here we go.
February, 2005. I am sitting on the couch in my home in SmallAssTown, Missouri. It's dark, maybe around 8:00 pm. There's snow and ice outside. Suddenly my roommate and I hear a loud crash. I got up, glanced out the door, didn't see anything and we went back to watching tv. 20 minutes later we hear a car on the highway below our yard slam on the brakes and slide a long ways down the road. We get up, flip on the porch light and that's when we see (thanks to the car's headlights) a huge tree has fallen across the road and this guy almost hit it. Obviously, this is a problem that should be reported so that the tree can be removed from the road and people won't drive into it in the dark. So my roommate volunteers to make the call because she knows I hate talking on the phone. She calls the county sheriffs office, reports the issue and location. End of story.
Next morning, I am in bed. Sleeping in baggy shorts and a holy t-shirt. I am awakened by a loud pounding at the door. I answer the door with Medusa hair. A police officer is there and he asks for me. I say "I'm me". And he immediately places me under arrest. He made me step out onto the porch, he turned me around and cuffed my arms behind my back. He did follow me back into the house to step into some shoes, but that's all I got to do. I didn't get to change clothes, brush my hair or teeth, or even grab a coat (remember there's snow and ice on the ground). By this time my roommate was up and she was trying to talk to the cop to find out what I had done, where he was taking me and how to get me out. All he said was I had a warrant out for an FTA (failure to appear at a court date) and he was taking me to the County Jail and she could follow him up there to see how to bail me out. Then he walked my handcuffed, barely-dressed self out to the car and shoved me in the back seat just like you see on tv.
I forgot to mention.... I have been sobbing and crying since this all started.
We have a 20 minute drive to the station. Although he did read me my rights before putting me in the car, he has not said a word since. I'm still crying. We get to the station, he takes me into where prisoners go (not the office area) and sat me down on a concrete bench in a holding cell. He did not close the cell door, but I am still handcuffed. I don't know if any of you have ever been handcuffed behind your back, but it's not comfortable. Especially when you are sitting down. And remember, I'm wearing pajama shorts on a concrete bench in February. I'm freaking freezing. Shivering violently. And sobbing. Lots of sobbing.
After letting me sit there by myself for about 10 minutes, another officer comes in and leads me to the counter across the room. They finally decide they can take the handcuffs off of me and give me a lecture about not trying to make a move. Now maybe you don't know me... but I've never been in trouble. I mean, I'm afraid to talk loudly in libraries because it's against the rules. So obviously I have no record. There's no reason for them to think they should be afraid of me in any way. It was actually almost funny. But I didn't laugh. I was still crying.
They finally explain why I'm here. In 1998 (seven years prior) I failed to appear in court. I blinked. Umm... why would I have had a court date? I know nothing of this. Well, it's because in 1996 (nine years prior) I wrote a $15 check that bounced at the little local grocery store in SmallAssTown, Mo. The light sorta goes on for me at this point, because I do remember the issue with the bounced check. I remember it because when it bounced (which was a complete accident) the store posted the check beside the cash register for all the world to see. And my mom spotted it. In 1996 she saw my bad check posted at the cash register and she immediately drove over to my house and dragged my ass up to the store so she could witness me paying for the check. And I did pay for it. The original $15 and a $25 fee. I handed the cash to the chick behind the register. My mom stood there and witnessed it. When I asked for the check, she took it down off the register but said she couldn't give it to me because she wasn't sure if that was the correct policy and the boss wasn't there for her to ask. I had never bounced a check before, so I didn't know. The clerk said she would write it down, tell her boss the next day and they would tear up the check.
Guess what? Obviously that didn't happen. I now know I should have been given the check so I could have destroyed it. But they kept the check and obviously turned it in months later to the prosecuting attorney. Or whatever they do. So in 1998 the court got around to being concerned about my check and scheduled me to appear in court. Except they forgot to tell me. Because I never received any notice about it at all. I didn't show. A warrant was issued. In 2005, my roommate called the sheriff's office to report a tree had fallen across the road. When they tried to verify the address and asked her for her name, she gave them my name. Simply because I was the property owner and my name would tell them exactly where I lived and the tree was located. When they ran my name, they found my warrant.
So, back at jail. They've finally taken the handcuffs off and explained what's going on. My sobbing has dwindled down to silent tears. My roommate has been next door for the past 45 minutes trying to bail me out. I get mug shots taken. In my pajama's. With bed head and a tear-streaked face. Then they photographed all of my tattoos and fingerprinted me. The old-fashioned way with ink and paper. Then they put me in the drunk tank, with the door open, so I could sit down while I waited to be bailed out. It took another hour before my roommate sprung me. And $250, which I had to immediately give her back. The whole thing sucked. I still don't understand why I was treated so badly. I got a court date, appeared on time, was told by the assigned attorney to agree with everything he said, stood in front of the judge while the attorney explained how I am guilty. I was sentenced to 6 months unsupervised probation and had to pay court costs, plus $15 for the check that bounced and $25 for the bounced check fee. Again. Fun, huh?
Now honestly, this was 5 years ago. I'm mostly over it. And I had no problem with my probation of course. After I completed the 6 months with no issue it became a sealed record that I don't ever have to tell anyone about (as far as job applications). So, no big deal, right? Well it does make an entertaining story now. And I can usually freak people out by announcing that I've been handcuffed and mugshotted. Because I'm so not the type. But the whole experience did affect me. And I lost out on a job because of it. About a month after the court date I graduated college and had a good lead on a job with a company that supports banking software. I knew someone inside, I got an interview... and because it was all currently going on I had to admit to being on probation for passing hot checks. Not really what a company that works with banks wants to hear. I was so upset.
Anyway, that's my horrible story about how a technically innocent person spent some time in the big house.