“I understood myself, only after i destroyed myself, and only in the process of fixing myself, did I know who I really was”
-Sade Andria Zavala
It was a 9 am appointment time for my sentencing hearing. I was wearing business attire, a white shirt and blazer, and low wedge heels. I wore my hair down but pulled half back so that it wouldn’t dangle in my face. I thought if I planned the details I could control, like my outfit, and the character witness letters I collected, all compiled for the prosecution and judge to review, that I may evoke some sort of sympathy and would get a lighter sentencing.
I maybe slept 5 hours the night before, I was a mess of worry and what if’s. I tried to focus on the positives of what I had already completed leading up to this, how many classes I had completed, The MADD panel, and that I had good character witness letters in my file. I had never been arrested before, this was the first incident that ever involved me and law enforcement, and I thought my lawyer would have some good arguments up his sleeve to help me in the courtroom.
I brushed my teeth, and put on make up, took my daily anti depressant, and a klonopin. I knew whatever the outcome was, it was going to upset me, and I was already on edge. I also knew that there would be an opportunity for me to speak to the judge about my actions. I rehearsed the main points in front of my mirror a few times, had a cup of coffee and drove a few miles down the road to the court house.
It was always the same room, with the same judge, only this time was different.I was going to plead guilty and take the plea deal offered to me by prosecution. It wasn’t until I got there that I knew my fate. I was anxious, to say the least.
I parked my car and walked in nervously 20 minutes early, my parents had gotten there just a few minutes prior and greeted me with warm hugs and “it’ll all be alright”reassurances. We sat in the back of the room and listened to the couple of cases before mine. I was too nervous to sit in that room and listen to this judge dealing out sentences, so I walked out and paced the hallway. I waited until my lawyer came out to talk to me, and let me know what the plea deal offer was. 10 days in jail, with work release privileges. This is not what I wanted to hear and started tearing up before I even stepped in the room. My lawyer would have an opportunity to fight the deal and ask for the 30 days house arrest, but it was all dependent on the judge to make the final decision.
My lawyer and I stepped back into the courtroom and sat by my parents, waiting for my name and case number to be called up. While I was waiting, I read my notes to myself and slipped another klonopin into my pocket. The judge announced my case and my lawyer and I proceeded to the wooden podium in the front of the room. The room was filled with people, waiting for their own hearings and dealing with their own issues, but were all a witness to what was about to happen.
The judge asked me a few questions which I answered, and then she asked the prosecution for their opinion of my case “well your honor, the tox screen report showed .5 NG of marijuana as well as .24 BAC. The driver must have used marijuana earlier that day which also affected her ability to drive”. My knuckled clenched, I couldn’t believe he was going to bring up the marijuana in my system, especially because I had a medical marijuana card, and now they had two forms of intoxication to use against me. The legal limit for marijuana was 10NG, I was way below the legal limit and hadn’t smoked that day. My lawyer hadn’t prepared me for this.
Next she asked what he thought my sentencing should be. “The driver obviously was intoxicated not only by the effects of alcohol but also marijuana, and she was involved in a car accident, we feel she is a danger to the members of our community. We the prosecution believe the defendant should be sentenced to 10 days in jail with no house arrest, 2 year of probation and monitored sobriety”. I was tearing up, my lawyer looked at me and back at the judge, he mentioned that in the preliminary hearing he and I had a lot of time to talk and he truly saw my remorse for the situation and would never commit this crime again, he asked for 30 days of house arrest and then asked the judge if it was ok if I gave a personal statement.
When it as my time to speak I practically begged for no jail time, I told her I was a working professional and that placing me in jail would not only accelerate my anxiety and depression disorders but could cost me my job and my young career, she interrupted me, and said something vague like “I understand Ms Marie, but I don’t think house arrest is sufficient. I sentence you to 10 days in jail with work release, 2 years of monitored sobriety and probation and I’m prohibiting the use of Marijuana, 48 hours of community service and track B Alcohol treatment, we will allow Ms. Marie 2 week stay of execution to get her life in order, she shall report to jail by x Date for booking. ”
And just like that, it was done.
My body felt hot, I almost felt as if I had left my body and was somehow watching the events unfold from above, I had no idea what was said after she said my sentence out loud. I was crying, I was angry, I was scared, I reached in my pocket and dry swallowed the klonopin before being dismissed, I rushing out of the room to the women’s rest room. I sat on the floor inside of a stall, I couldn’t breathe, my whole world was crashing in around me, I could feel the metal stall getting smaller and my breaths getting shorter, my limbs had lost feeling. I was so upset, I was so disappointed, and now officially I was criminal who was going to jail.
Thoughts were intruding into my brain like a gushing water hose: My parents watched from the back of the room as their youngest daughter got sentenced to jail time. I can only imagine how that felt to them, what a terrible disappointment I must be to everyone I know, how will I tell my friends, how will people react, how will I request time off of work for an unknown amount of time, how will I ever get off this floor? why was this Judge so hard on me, Why didn’t my Lawyer try to defend me, why why WHY… the horrendous thoughts filled my mind and I dug myself into a deep panic attack in the bathroom stall.
My mom came in after me and gently knocked on the stall door, “I cant breathe, I cant do this” she just hugged me, and said I know, for the next ten minutes that’s all I could say or do until the klonopin kicked in.
My dad was waiting outside for us on a bench. Once I came out of the bathroom and sat down next to him, he put his arm around me and said “its all going to be ok” the lawyer came over and addressed me, saying he knew this wasn’t the outcome we were hoping for, and he was incredibly disappointed in the judges decision. He mentioned how upset he was about them using the marijuana in my system against me, he knew that .5 NG was nothing and wouldn’t have impaired my driving. He apologized and shook our hands, and left us there on the bench. We sat there in silence for a few minutes.
More and more intruding thoughts raced through my mind, would it all have been easier if I had just died In the car accident, how am I going to survive in jail, what will happen to me in there?
We walked down to the billing department and set up a payment plan for the several thousand dollars I owed in court costs, and then left.
I had already asked for the day off because I knew I wouldn’t be able to go back to work after hearing all this news, I needed time to process, I needed to be with my parents for a little while. We went out for breakfast to my favorite spot in Tennyson, little did I know that would be the last time I ate there, the restaurant is now closed. We talked about other things, and kept our thoughts from what had just unfolded. I cried, and asked them to tell my sister, yet again too afraid of what she would say or think of me, too afriad of being the bad seed in the family.
Ever since I was a kid, I didn’t live up to my sisters big foot prints. She was an honor role, deans list type A person who never got in trouble. Then there was me, I threw a house party at the neighbors house while they were out of town, I smoked weed and cigarettes and hung out with a not so good crowd in high school. My life had come back together while I was in college, I loved college. I still had a thrill seeking life in college, but at least the house parties I threw were at my own house, and weed was legal by then in Denver.
I couldn’t stop thinking that I was a bad person. That only bad people go to jail and that I was a royal fuck up.
The next 2 weeks I prepared my boss for my absence. I knew I was sentenced to jail for ten days, but that I was also granted work release, which according to my lawyer meant I would go to jail for a few days, and then they would move me to a work release program, here I would be allowed to go get some clothes and would have the ability to leave jail to go to work, and report back to jail each night. It was the best case scenario for the hand I was dealt. I prepared my boss for being gone for about 5 days give or take until they let me go on work release. I wrote an email to my mother explaining what she needed to do for me, contact information for my alcohol therapy counselor, contact information for my boss, and my lawyers. I wanted her to have all the information so she could relay things if something were to happen to me in there.
My sister called me and said that our parents had talked to her about everything. She also told me she bought a plane ticket to come see me the weekend before I reported for jail. I was so relieved that she wasn’t angry, but was worried about me instead. I picked her up from the airport, and as soon as I saw her, I started balling. I apologize to her, and I explained what had happened. She was just glad I was ok, and mentioned that it would be hard, but I would get through it, because I am strong and could get through anything.
We bought my favorite bottle of wine, and steak and had a “last supper”, we sat on my couch and talked about so many things. I told her about some of my situations I had been in through my life, things I had never told her before, when I was raped in high school, and how that affected my relationships today. We cried together, and she asked why I had never told her about it before. We talked about our parents and how they never really shared any intimate situations with us when we were kids, nor did we ever get the “birds and the bees” talk, and how it affected our relationships as we were growing into adulthood. She is very happily married and I love her husband as if he were my big brother. We had so many heart to heart talks, I suppose catching up for all the times we didn’t have these talks.
I was so grateful for her being here with me, I was so scared, and so out of my element. I didn’t want to go. And I didn’t want her to leave, I just wanted that weekend to last forever.
The next day I took the light rail to the courthouse, and walked myself into jail.
I don’t think anyone knows this story, but I hope it can help someone out there going through the same thing as me. Just know you are strong enough, and that one poor decision does not characterize you as a bad person.
Hang in there