Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Wrapping Up an Arraignment Before Sunday School

I was suddenly very twitchy. Involuntary twitches I couldn’t control. Combine that with my ratty hair, swollen face and general sweatiness and I was about as homely as they come. The lights had just burst on in my jail cell but I had no idea what time it was. But since the lights were on, I expected the door would burst open at any moment and I would be whisked away to freedom.

But OF COURSE that didn’t happen. I just sat there and waited, and waited, and waited. I heard some footsteps and voices coming down the hall and I could tell they were pushing something on wheels. I could hear that they were at my door and I literally yelled when a plastic tray came shooting through the mail slot looking thing at the bottom of my door like a bullet. The tray slid to a stop at my feet. Apparently breakfast was served.

Oatmeal. Ugly, grayish oatmeal and a piece of toast. No thanks. But there was a small, sealed cup of orange juice, and I just couldn’t resist. I was so thirsty by this point that I gulped it down in two drinks.

I was going stir crazy so I walked in little tiny circles in my little tiny cell for a long time. I heard someone yell out from down the hall “You’re late, Anderson. It’s 6:30, man!”, so with that reference I estimated that they must have turned the lights on at about 5:00.

I felt a tremendous rush of anxiety and relief when I FINALLY hear a key turning in my door. Oh God, here we go. What next? The door swung open and it was another deputy I hadn’t seen before. “Good morning, Miss Holliday. Judge Hubert will be arriving soon. Please follow me.”

As I was walking out of by cell, I heard the ghost girl in the cell next to me quietly say through the air vent, “good luck Austin.” My thought bubble, “You too, Hot Check Writer, you too.”

I was led to a different room this time, more like one of those rooms where one is interrogated. There was a table in the room with a chair on each side and two way glass along one wall so big brother could watch you from the other side.

I sat there twitching for awhile until Judge Hubert entered the room. He was an older man, 70ish, short and stocky with a big shock of white hair, and he was wearing a light blue western cut suit and a white straw cowboy hat. He was a nice man and he answered my questions as best he could. I’ll save you the play-by-play, but throughout the course of our conversation, here is what I found out.

When I received that speeding ticket in 1996, I handed the cop my driver’s license and insurance card, and I remember very well how surprised and embarrassed I was when he pointed out that my insurance had expired a few days earlier. I had totally forgotten to renew my insurance – he was absolutely right about that. The excuse I like to use is that this was a highly stressful time in my life. I was working full time, driving 45 miles each way to graduate school at night, unhappy in my personal life; I was trying to figure out how to make everything work and just didn’t have all of my ducks in a row. Definitely guilty as charged on that front.

The officer was very nice. I remember it very clearly. He gave me the speeding ticket and the ticket for expired insurance, but he told me if I got the insurance renewed the ticket would be reduced to a $10 fine, only.

THE NEXT DAY I got my insurance renewed and went to the courthouse and paid the $10 fine.

Done deal. Hectic, crazy life resumed as normal.

Fast forward five years later and I learned from Judge Hubert that I had ended up in jail because I hadn’t filled out and submitted the infamous form 1022. You know about the form 1022, right? Doesn’t everybody? Well I sure didn’t. The judge told me that it was Texas law that when a motorist is ticketed for having no insurance, they have to submit a form 1022 to the state once they get insurance for proof that they have done so. I never submitted the form 1022, so in the great state of Texas’ eyes, I never proved I had car insurance and I might still be driving without it, EVEN THOUGH I had shown proof of insurance at the time I paid the ticket. At some point in the cycle, since the form hadn’t been received by a certain time, a warrant was issued for my arrest. That’s what happened to me. So, when I was pulled over in Cisco FOR DRIVING 38 IN A 35 MILE AN HOUR ZONE, and the cop ran my license through the system, it came back with a big “AREST HER IMMEDIATELY” order.

Okay. Let’s just sit here and reflect for a moment, as I did with Judge Hubert. In essence, it boils down to this.



Judge Hubert: Well, you would think so, wouldn’t you?

In the course of five years I had renewed my driver’s license (twice, because I had lost it), I had registered my vehicle every year, I had voted…I had done a number of things that are tracked in a statewide computer system. It seems to me there were a number of opportunities I could have been notified of this transgression. I NEVER received a notice in the mail for the original crime of not submitting form 1022 and I NEVER received a notice in the mail that there was a warrant for my arrest. So again, I ask, HOW WAS I EVER SUPPOSED TO KNOW I NEEDED TO FILL OUT THE FORM?

Let’s just say that is the main question I asked my attorney a few days later…but that’s jumping ahead in the story.

After some thought, Judge Hubert told me that he thought I “had a case” and should pursue this line of reasoning when my case WENT TO TRIAL. What? This all can’t be taken care of right here? Right now?

Oh no….that would have been way too easy. Judge Hubert let me know that I had to work my way through the system, but he suspected that I would be okay in the end. IN THE END? I want to be okay NOW! I don’t want to do this any more!

But I continued to be a pawn in the system. And without much fanfare, Judge Hubert let me know that he needed to get on to church so he was SETTING MY BAIL AT $1,000 AND I’D BE NOTIFIED BY MAIL OF MY COURT DATE.

As my left eye twitched uncontrollably, I sat there in amazement when I realized this ordeal was never going to end.

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