So I have never used my blog as a platform to rant and rave about the injustices of the justice system but I am going to do it today!
We got a call from my brother yesterday who lives in Columbia, SC and he was asking for prayer and our thoughts to go with him as he went to court yesterday.
Before I go into the facts of the court and why he was there let me just tell you a little bit about my brother. He is 23 years old and has lived on his own since he was 18 years old. He put himself through Jamestown Community College where he took their sound system tech program. He then got a scholarship to Columbia International University for Biblical Studies and got two years of college for the price of one because they saw his ambition and drive to put himself through the community college without any student loans.
When he moved down to South Carolina he got involved in Young Life, a program that goes into local schools and mentors teens. Each volunteer “staff” member is required to take a group of teens under their wing and mentor them through the difficult years of high school. Jon, my brother, has taken this mission very seriously! When he started he knew that he would only be at CIU for 2 years because he had already taken 2 years in New York. This hasn’t kept him from keeping the promise of seeing these guys he mentors through until the head off to college. He spends his evenings doing Young Life events Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and usually most Saturdays.
He has a passion for music! My brothers ultimate dream would be to have a recording studio in Israel and have that be his ministry. He loves making songs on his computer with his recording programs and he is very talented at it. He has always had a heart for worship as well and always been involved in whatever church he’s going to’s worship team. This commitment takes up his Thursday nights and all morning on Sundays.
All of the above is just volunteering things that he does. He does not get paid for any of it and frankly it takes a lot of his time but also his money. He takes the guys out to eat when they call him with problems so that they have a safe environment to talk to him about problems or things going on in their lives. He spends gas money picking each one up to take them to movies, sporting events or whatever other thing the guys come up with that they want to do. He would never tell you that he resents all the time and money that he spends on the guys because he does it out of unconditional love. He doesn’t see them as a burden because he is thankful for 2 guys when he was in high school that took him and his guy friends under their wings and mentored them. Even me as his over protective sister used to get mad at him and tell him the boys, who come from many different home lives, mostly broken homes, were taking advantage of him and his generosity.
My brother is very quiet, shy and reserved. Volunteering for Young Life has brought him out of his shell and given him the confidence he has needed. Jon is not a big talker and he sometimes dislikes this about himself. He feels that he doesn’t always know what to say or get upset about things that are not right. He would say that sometimes he wished he was just a little more like his hot headed sister who seemed to him to know exactly what to say in circumstances. I would laugh and tell him I always wished I was more like him! He may not say a lot but when he does speak its profound and people listen!
My brother not only does all of this volunteer work but he has a “day” job too! He is a supervisor for one of the work crews for Superior Landscaping. He goes to work most mornings as early as 5:30-6am depending on the time of year and usually wouldn’t get home until late in the afternoon. His days would consist of mowing, hedge-trimming, and all that goes with landscaping jobs! I remember how one summer Jon had poison ivy for the whole summer! His body was very susceptible to it and while most people would find a job that wouldn’t put themselves in contact with something of this nature, Jon plugged away, caked on ointment, and did his job like a trooper! He is totally loyal and would stand by you in the eye of a hurricane if he thought that’s what you would need!
All of the above is just to give you a picture of the amazing man that my brother is so you can fully understand the injustice that played out yesterday…
On October 31st at around rush hour traffic my brother was coming home from work and thinking about all that he needed to get done before he took his mentor guys trick or treating. As he was coming around the curve known to many South Carolinian’s as “Malfunction Junction” something happened and he ended up in a fender bender with the car ahead of him. As they pulled over to assess the damage Im sure my brothers heart was squeezing with the realization that he had not reinstated his insurance after he let it lapse several months before.
I had been living down there with him and while Jon was laid off last winter, I was working at a furniture store. In February as I was coming back from a trip to my sisters I got a call from the owner telling me that it wasn’t going to work out for me to work there. I asked for an explanation as to why and he had said he hoped that I wouldn’t need an explanation Hello?!? I had just gotten them a 3000$ sale the day before and they thought I wouldn’t care to know why I wouldn’t be working there…. But I digress…
My brother and I were not only living paycheck to paycheck but we were coming up short in every aspect. Several times I went to the food bank so that we would have a meal for the next couple weeks. It was a very challenging time for the both of us and unannounced to me my brother let his insurance go so that we could pay the other bills. Im sure in his mind he justified it as he was a good driver and hadn’t gotten in an accident yet so what would it hurt to go a month or two without insurance until we got back on our feet.
Well his month or two turned into several more than that when you have a schedule as crazy as my brothers. He just could never get enough time during the day time hours to call the insurance company as typically its not just a short 5-10 minute conversation that you can have during a break at work.
As he steps out of the car to assess the damage he doesn’t know what to do… Should I tell the people I just hit that I let my insurance lapse?? They look at both cars and realize that my brothers car took the brunt of the damage with their car only sustaining a few minor scratches and their license plate being dented. When the cops arrive they of course ask for insurance information and being the honest and upstanding person that my brother is he tries to explain that he had let his lapse. The police immediately tell him they are impounding his car, issuing him a ticket for no insurance and for driving to fast for the conditions.
Of course my brother doesn’t tell my mom or me any of this till the day of court!
Now up north in the small town of Bath, when you have to go to traffic court you represent yourself and get a chance to explain things to the judge and possibly ask for a reduction. I guess in the south it is guilty until proven innocent and you don’t get to plead your case… its either guilty or not guilty.
When my brother went before the judge and explained what happened and why he was without insurance, the judge looked at him and asked Jon, “Have you taken any drugs or drank anything in the past 24 hours that would keep you from understanding what’s going on here?”
My brother who hasn’t done even the slightest thing even close to drugs and gets loopy with just one benadryl, looked at him shocked. He told the judge no that he had definitely not taken anything or drank and just wanted to plead his case and see if there was anyway to get it reduced and his license reinstated.
The judges response was to tell my brother that his license was going to be suspended!
What judge would do that??
I could understand someone who was constantly in and out of his court for various charges and violations but my brother has had maybe one ticket on his record since he started driving when he was 17 years old! I just can’t believe a judge who would completely disregard someone who was pleading their case and ask them what drugs they were on or what they had been drinking!
My brother knew that he was guilty and was explaining that finance wise it would help if the fine could be reduced.
Was it because he wasn’t judicially savvy enough to know exactly what to ask for?
Was it because he didn’t know that he had the right to request a reduction based on his income?
What is wrong with this country when we penalize the very people that are working so hard to make it a better place?
Don’t get me wrong… There should be consequences for my brother and his actions but making him pay over 400$ and suspend his license so that he can’t get to work?
How is that helping society?
My brother in Israel on a school trip in 2010