Monday, March 29, 2010

A Feel-Good Story

Last week, I was appointed to the last case of the day in Court. It was a driving on revoked license (3rd offense), which is an A Misdemeanor & carries up to 11 months & 29 days jail time. I talked to the DA prior to speaking with my client to get an offer. The offer conveyed was 11/29 suspended after 10 days in jail & if my client had a job, he would allow her to serve her time on the weekends. This wasn't a bad offer considered it was my client's 3rd offense. I took my client out into the hall to speak to her & I asked her how close she was to being able to obtain her driver's license. Turns out, she has multiple driving offense-related cases pending in other jurisdictions in Middle Tennessee. But, she started to cry & her lawyer turned into her therapist for a brief period of time (at least to her).
It turns out that she was a single mother raising 2 very young sons & had gotten into very little legal trouble prior to her divorce a little over a year ago. The divorce had been the result of her husband running off with the babysitter. She had sole custody of their children & he was over $11,000 in arrears in child support. She had filed a petition to collect on it & when he found out, he had called the Sheriff's Office to report that 'a child was not buckled in properly'. That's why she got stopped on the day she was charged with her 3rd driving on revoked license. Of course, this was not the case & the office who stopped her noted on the affidavit that both children were properly restrained.
She had a job, no family in the area to help her, & was on her way home from picking her kids up from the babysitters on that day. Her ex is in Florida, where he 'can't be found', so child support is non-existent. She told me that there was no way she could do jail time because she couldn't afford to pay a babysitter that much, not even on weekends. She couldn't stand to be away from her kids that long & it just wasn't fair. All the while, she continued to cry.
After hearing her story, I decided to try something, so I told her to stay in the hall. I went back to the DA & asked him if we could substitute her jail time for public service work. I explained the situation to him & that she just didn't have any family in the area to help her at all. I never thought he would agree to it, but much to my surprise, he said that she could complete 100 hours of public service work in lieu of 10 days in jail.
I can't help her collect her child support or deal with the other charges she has in Middle Tennessee but when it comes to driving offenses & the Department of Safety, it's all about money & this single mother of 2 very young (& well-behaved boys) was doing what she had to do to provide for her kids & I'm glad that I was able to help her out at least a little.