Back In the Court System, A Personal Account

You know how it's different when people tell you, "Everything will be OK," when they truly don't know everything will be OK?

    When a child needs stitches, mom says, "It will be OK. You will be OK," and it's sincere. It's scary but she knows her kid will be OK. 
    Or even when someone loses a job, people say, "It will be OK. It will all work out." They believe, and typically are correct in saying those words. 

    However, when a mom tells her adult child, diagnosed with a terminal disease that, "It will be OK. We will get through this," there's uncertainty sensed. It's unavoidable. Mom hopes it will be OK but doesn't know that. 

Over the past 48 hours I've heard the, "It will be OK," from those closest to me in the uncertain way. They want to mean it. They want to believe it but they don't know it will be OK, in the short term. 

    I'm humbled and grateful I haven't been diagnosed with any fatal health condition right off the bat! So, life is good.
    However I am dealing with a very uncomfortable situation.

In 1998 I was 18 years old, had just graduated from high school, was crazy wild, running with a group of girls equally wild. 

    One day those girlfriends and I went to a lake, drank way too much (we were punching holes in the sides of beer cans to chug them) and I became belligerent, insisting they let me out of the car on the way back to Louisville, Ky. They did. On the side of the highway. Somewhere in Ky. In my mind on that day, I was a rebel, a hardcore woman out to discover the world. But I was really drunk. I hitchhiked for a while with a trucker. He let me off at the side of the highway at some point, I honestly can't recall why but, he was a nice guy. I was walking, a cop pulled up behind me. Like a complete drunken idiot, I ran. 
    Had I been a black boy in 98,' running from a cop in Hardin Co., I could've been shot. So, I'm lucky in that way right off the bat. 

    "I was going to be nice and offer to give you a ride somewhere young lady but now that you ran from me, resisted arrest and and are clearly intoxicated I have to search and lock you up," the cop said after a short chase and tackling me to the ground.

    He searched my purse and found... a fake ID. A kid at our high-school made awesome fake IDs (back then it was easier to fake them I guess). My crazy group of girlfriends and I used our fakes to get into bars. I know, that's bad. 

    I was charged with forgery, public intoxication and resisting arrest (I think that's all) and sentenced to probation contingent on me completing the KAPS program. I don't even recall what that is but it involved me driving to Hardin Co. weekly for a class and paying $20 a pop. I went maybe twice and thought, "This is no fun. It's too far," and never completed the program.

    A bench warrant was issued for my arrest. 

    From 1998-2002 I was a wild, inconsiderate, selfish young woman. My life was out of control and that's something I'm still ashamed of.  I'm grateful I was able to get it together through the help of treatment programs and Alcoholics Anonymous. 

    In 2005 I graduated from college. 
    I was denied employment with at least 3 different companies (I recall off the top of my head) due to my criminal record. 
    It was heartbreaking and embarrassing every time I had to explain my past to a potential employer. I felt like a no-good. I felt unworthy of having a 'normal life' due to the choices I had made during my crazy years. 

    But, I did what most everyone does and trudged forward. 
    I found my life's passion in Animal Welfare in 2006, first as a volunteer, and later as a full time employee. 
    In 2010 I was hired on as a Customer Service Rep. at Miami Dade Animal Services, contingent on my background and drug screening coming back clean. 
    The call came from Virginia, MDAS's HR representative. "I'm sorry Ms. Pita but we have to revoke the job offer upon reviewing your criminal record," she said. 
    My heart sunk and I immediately protested, "But wait, please, I can explain everything on my record. I'm a different person now. I was abusing drugs and alcohol at the time these offenses occurred and I have a completely different life now. I'm not the same person!"
    It was clear Virginia felt they had been misled by me... as if I wasn't the person they thought I was. -How could I be that same girl they adored during the interview? -Unfathomable. 
    She spoke with then-Director, Dr. Pizano, who permitted me to submit a written letter explaining the incidents on my criminal record. -I had begged for this opportunity.

     Nearly a month passed and every day was excruciating. I was living in paradise, going to the beach almost daily but was crushed inside. I was on the verge of getting my foot in the door with Miami Dade Animal Services and could barely stand the anticipation of what was or wasn't to come.

    They gave me a chance. I started the job, knowing all of my superiors knew my troubled past. I went on to become a Liaison Volunteer Coordinator and was later hired as the Adoption Coordinator via an ASPCA grant. Those were the most crucial, amazing (and often heartbreaking- see other posts about working in a shelter) professional years of my life.

    In 2014 I became a mom. We moved back to Louisville, KY. My baby was a year old when I was pulled over, with him in the car, for not wearing my seat belt. 

    The warrant from 1998 came up on the officer's screen. It was horrific. I relived all the humiliation, uncertainty and trauma anew, in an instant. 
    I called my husband and calmly told him I was being arrested and he needed to immediately go get our son. He left work and went immediately. -Of course he had to tell his boss why he had to leave work (embarrassing). I told him what to feed Sam for dinner and did not cry. I didn't want my 1 year old to get scared or nervous. When booked at the city jail, I did cry.  

    The 24 hours I spent in jail were awful. I couldn't sleep. I was just in a state of surviving, laying there, waiting. I only wanted to be with my baby boy. I manually expressed breast milk into a paper cup every few hours because I was so paranoid my milk would dry up and because my breasts would get achy and hard if I didn't do that. And, the act made me somehow feel closer to my son.

    By the grace of God and with the help of a couple of amazing attorneys I got out of jail quickly. I should've been taken to Hardin Co. jail from Jefferson Co. since that's where the warrant was served but, as I say, by the grace of God (and perhaps due to my good conduct for the past decade +) I was able to get out and rejoin my little family... contingent on me paying a small fine and going to court in Hardin Co. for a scheduled hearing. 

    I happily paid the attorney $1000 (and no I do not have a lot of money, that was about 1/2 of my life savings at the time). When my dad and I got to court in Hardin Co. for my scheduled hearing my name wasn't even on the docket. 
    We waited in the large, brightly-lit lobby for my attorney.
    He showed up, went to check on the status of the case and came back, "You're good to go. Since this was from such a long time ago and you spent a night in jail, paid a fine, you're good," he said.

    We were exuberant! We almost couldn't believe it and... as it turns out, maybe I shouldn't have believed it. 

    Fast forward to yesterday, June 15th, 2018. I spent a day in Hardin County district court waiting for my name to be called. This time I wanted to be there. 
I had petitioned to have my record expunged.  Since my son's starting part time pre-school in the fall I'd love to begin a career within the school system, in part, to be on my son's schedule for the next 14 years. But the school system will do a background check. It's time to have this taken care of once and for all!

    My name was called. I went before the judge. She began reading off what felt like a laundry list of my criminal history from 20 years ago to the present. She had the same tone in her voice as Virginia, MDAS's HR person had, that day on the phone in 2010. 
    "So, Ms. Higdon (my maiden name), you never served your 60 days in the Hardin County jail for not completing the KAPS program. These things don't just go away over time," she said.
    The sheriff stood up. 

    My heart sank, the skin on my chest immediately started burning and tingling. My stomach and head spun. Everything got blurry for a minute as I said, "Is this a nightmare? You don't understand... I'm just here to have this expunged because I meet the expungement requirements..." I nervously protested.

    "Since I don't like surprises I'm not going to issue the bench warrant today," she said, "but you need to come back on July 2nd."

    There was a nearly heated exchange between the judge and I at one point as I insisted I was there with my attorney to resolve this in 2015. -There's apparently no record of that.

    So, here we go again... with the blink of an eye I'm back in the court system, this time I willingly thrush myself back into it... never imagining it would go down like this.

    The judge is right in that I never did my time. 
    However I did go to do what I was told to do in 2015, in regards to this case, and was told to do nothing. 

    So, what now? I don't know. I await humbly, at the mercy of this judge. 

    The moral of the story for all you young folk is this - it's a lot easier to get into trouble than to get out of trouble! I'm sharing all of this, to hopefully help someone else avoid taking the path I took during some of my formative years!

    -What's a story worth if it's not told with the hopes of helping someone else?