How my epilepsy nearly landed me in jail

Neurology appointment this morning. Nice to know that my steady cognitive decline, deteriorating executive functions and increasing memory loss are normal for an epileptic my age. I knew that, of course, and accepted my fate ages ago–it kind of goes with the whole epilepsy gig–but it’s nice to hear a doctor say it.

Did I mention how epilepsy nearly put me in jail on Monday? Got a series of phone calls last Monday–on King Day, a legal holiday–from a sergeant and lieutenant from the LA County Sheriffs. Call back at your convenience, they said. I did. They were very nice. You missed grand jury duty, they said. I did? Yes, we mailed you several times. You did? Yes, you didn’t receive them? I said I didn’t remember. Let’s just say you did not receive them, he said–DNR. But you need to know that the judge issued four complaints against you…and he rattled off an endless series of numbers. The most critical, he said, was Failure to Appear. That needs to be taken care of today. Otherwise we have to send an officer to your address. The others–all I remember was Contempt of Court–were civil complaints. We don’t arrest people for civil complaints, he said. In any case, each was $495, payable by MoneyPak only. I had no idea what MoneyPak was. He explained. Our neighbor ran us over to Ralphs and bought one. Cash only. We had enough cash on us for one. It was a legal holiday. No banks open, so we couldn’t get anymore money. The Sheriffs wanted to go home early so they called me and we took care of the Failure to Appear over the phone. It was just like running a credit card. You’ve been approved, he said. I can’t be arrested now? No, you cannot be, Mr. Wahl.

But I have those three other $495 bail tickets to pay for, before my trial date. Apparently I have a trial date. I don’t know when. But that’s when I get back the $1980 in bail (once I figure out how the hell to come up with the other three $495’s first.) What happens at my trial I have no idea. I suppose he could put me in jail for contempt of court. Or fine me a few grand. Whatever. He’s a judge. Whoever he is.

I mentioned this was all due to epilepsy. Well, I’ve had epilepsy so long now–my first big seizure was over forty years ago, the smaller stuff goes back over fifty–that my brain has been badly damaged from all the excess electro-chemical activity. Burned everything out. My amygdala is beat up and misshapen and shrunken. Neuronal pathways burned out a long time ago. Entire parts of my frontal lobe are no longer accessible. This is standard operating procedure for older epileptics. And as such, I forget all kinds of stuff, don’t understand more stuff, and can’t schedule anything mentally because I can’t see ahead more than a day or two. Anything after that, like next weekend or three Tuesdays from now or your birthday, is some blurry, vague future thing. It’s as if a million years of homo sapien evolution in my brain just up and disappeared and as far as time perception goes I’m back with the chimps now. And as my wife Fyl, of course, also has diminished executive functions and a blasted memory from being dead for five minutes back in 2008, this means that between us we have the executive functions of a child. Imagine turning over your financial planning to your seven year old. That is us.

Apparently I was getting increasingly angry mail from the Grand Jury. Perhaps I opened them. Perhaps I didn’t. I cannot remember. No matter, I doubtless laid them in a pile of other mail I had also either opened or didn’t. If I planned on responding to these summons, which I assume I would have, I apparently forgot within a day or two. Eventually, before Christmas, I went on a shredding tear. We have this great shredder. I assume the jury summons, even the angry scary threatening ones, went into the shredder and into a plastic bag and into the recycle bin and now sit in a big hole somewhere that eventually will be a city park. Perhaps I will visit there someday, sitting under the shade of a tree, and have a vague memory of how I nearly went to jail one Martin Luther King Day because I am such a fucking spazz.

I remember talking to a lawyer once who specialized in epilepsy cases. Epilepsy cases? He told me I’d be amazed at how easy it is for epileptics to get tossed in jail. I’m an epileptic, he explained, and was thrown in jail. For epilepsy? For epilepsy. I can’t remember the details of his story now, but he had a seizure somewhere, lost consciousness, came to completely discombobulated surrounded by cops, and before he knew it he was in a jail cell. It took several lawyers and a judge to get him released. You never know, he said, how your epilepsy could land you in jail.

Now I know.

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