When entering the criminal justice system – or merely popping by for a friendly visiting – think of it like trying to return a sweater at Target: You’re going to need to hang on to your receipt.
Although Target’s return department has backed off their waterboarding technique when you try to make a return, the Customer Service department operates very much like the criminal justice system:
Rule 1) Assume that everybody is lying;
Rule 2) Assume that everyone is trying to cheat the system;
Rule 3) Assume that you’ve heard every single possible long-winded and implausible explanation possible in order to further prove Rule No. 1 and No. 2.
My client and I spent the good part of this morning trying to explain to whoever would listen that he hadn’t been properly credited for the fees he had paid and the community service he had completed during his probation. In a world where mistakes are made from anything in offshore drilling containment to voter machine design, it appears that nobody is more infallible that local government.
We were repeated told over the phone that, in no uncertain terms, we were lying.
Nothing was credited because nothing was turned in. We always credit the probationer’s account. He must be lying.
Unfortunately, the Target return policy – and the attitude of the Travis County Probation Department – didn’t stem from a bunch of good citizens accidentally losing their receipt when they recycled their plastic shopping bags. After you catch the 2938734th person lie to you, I can imagine you start to get a little jaded.
Enter my client.
He produced his records from several years back – the originals, no less – because “after doing 50 hours of community service, I damn well wanted to retain proof that I did it.” Lucky for him he kept his receipt – and we finally found a person in charge that properly authenticated what he had been saying all along.
There are many, many places in the criminal justice system where you are not given a receipt unless you ask for it. Furthermore, like Target, there are many critical junctures where your receipt is the only proof of completion. In the current age of e-billing and looking up your statements online, the Texas criminal justice system is still catching up.
Until then, always keep your receipt.