A week ago from yesterday, I reported to the Cook County Courthouse, located in the Daley Center (ironically it's my favorite high rise in the Loop, yet also a very depressing place). The reason for my appearance was to wrap up my criminal case, i.e. from my 2010 DUI.
Although I had done everything they asked me to do, paid all my fines and have since stayed out of trouble, I was still a nervous wreck. I couldn't eat because I was so nauseous, nor did I sleep for more than an a few restless hours the night before.
But I put my "fancy" clothes on (but not a tie - fuck that) and made my way down to the Loop, arriving 45 minutes early. In the cavernous hallway on the 4th floor, I sat on a concrete bench and tried to read the newspaper, but in reality I was observing the others.
Cops, lawyers, defendants, etc. After a littler over 35 minutes my name was called. Nerves fully alive, I walked up to the judge's bench. After reading through the paperwork in front of him, he simply said: "you are done, do not let me see you in this courtroom again, you are free to go". My response: "thank you, your honor".
That was it. 2+ years of dealing with the single worst incident on my life, and it was over just like that. In a state of mild shock I did not go out for celebratory drinks; instead I took the train home and watched TV alone. T did come over later, and I made us dinner, which was great, but the whole day was anti-climatic, to say the least.
Even after a week's time had passed, it hasn't really sunk in. Or maybe it has and I though I would feel differently, like I can now do anything I want after being done with the legal system. Just to reiterate all the things I had to do/pay for, here's recap:
-Hire a lawyer: $1,500
-Evaluation with a substance abuse consular: $125
-Get my brother's car out of the impound lot: $1,200
-Court fees: $1,500
-Attend a Victim Impact Panel: $75
-75 hours of outpatient group therapy: $2,000
-Meet my case worker once a month for 2 years: $1,200 (yes, they charge for that)
-3 urine tests: $150
I'm sure I'm forgetting something, but you get the point. It's a lot of money and more importantly time to get a situation like this resolved. I never thought it would be over, and although it is, I still think to myself many, many times a day how lucky I am to be alive and, also more importantly, that I didn't injure anyone else. Had I done so, I don't know how I could/would live with myself.
So...LESSON LEARNED. Hopefully others can learn from my experience. I truly hope no one has to go through the process I just outlined. And the funny thing is, I consider myself lucky. Things happen for a reason and although I regret the decision I made to drive drunk that fateful night, I did meet a lot of great people along the way. And I'll never, ever again make the same mistake.