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Looking for a Second Chance

by Dominique
(Hampton South Carolina)

I was convicted of grand larceny about 4-5 years ago. I was granted PTI (Pre-Trial Intervention - an intervention program in which selected offenders may participate as an alternative to prosecution), but I didn't complete the program. I didn't pay my restitution or do community service. I fought for them to give me PTI, but after I was awarded it I didn't have the money to pay my fines.

I got saved after I was awarded PTI and I was influenced to do the right thing, but a thing called life got in my way. I decided to run away from my problems by moving out of the area and a few years later my past caught up with me.

I now have a bench warrant out because I didn't go to court.

I am now trying to face everything and I just need to know what should be my first step in turning my life back in the right direction. I am attending church and have been saved for 4 years now, but I lost my job as a manager at McDonalds a couple of months ago and it's been hard trying to find another one because everyone does background checks.

I am in the mist of a storm and I just need to know what to do first. I have not been in trouble for 5 years, but I want to be able to handle this situation without going to jail. Any advice?

Mike comments:

Hello Dominique-

Sorry to hear of your legal struggles and your feelings of remorse...especially at a time in your life when you're at peace with the Lord and striving to live a good life.

Life is full of second chances.

Although it would have been much easier for you to complete your PTI, all is not lost and you can still resolve your problem.

It's highly unlikely you will go to jail. You're not a violent offender, nor are you a threat to the public. The jails are already over-crowded and it would serve no useful purpose for you to be locked up.

But until you resolve this, you're not going to get any rest.

You should definitely consider turning yourself into the police. I know this sounds scary, but sooner or later you will be caught. When this happens, you won't have many options and you'll be at the mercy of the court. However, most judges are more lenient with offenders who turn themselves in.

The best way to turn yourself in is through an attorney.

Even if you think you can't afford an attorney, call around to see what prices they charge and if they have any kind of flexible payment options. Don't worry about confessing to an attorney and having them detain you or turn you in. This is against their code of ethics and besides, they are in business to help you with your legal problems. They're on your side!

A good place to start looking for an attorney is by dialing 211.

A lot of people don't know this, but this special number (211) goes to the United Way. They have trained volunteers on call to help people who are struggling financially or have other serious life-problems.

Note: In some areas, 211 won't work. In that case, look up the United Way in your phone book. Call them up and tell them your story. Ask them if they can refer you to an attorney who might be able to help you. They may know someone who will take your case for little or nothing, or they may know of other law enforcement experts who can advise you.

If the United Way can't help, try calling the Salvation Army. They may be able to help. If neither The United Way or The Salvation Army have nothing local, go on line to their website and see if there is a national number you can call.

Whatever you do, be proactive and make the effort to first see if there is anyone in your community who can help you. You might also ask your minister if he knows a lawyer or someone who may be able to advise you on the best way to turn yourself in.

If none of the above contacts can help you, here is a website (from-the-big-house-to-the-workplace) with some good advice for offenders along with links to other useful information.

If all else fails and you can't find an attorney or an advocate to help you, simply turn yourself into the police. By law, the court must provide you with an attorney free of charge if you can't afford one.

Special Tip: See if you can get your old job back at McDonalds. Go talk to your ex-boss and explain your situation. If you have a job, the courts are more likely to work something out with you. But if you can't find a job within 2-3 weeks, just go ahead and turn yourself in. This looks ten times better than getting caught.

Here are a few places on my website that might be give you some hope and fresh ideas:

God bless you on your journey. The good news is that your problem can be solved and put behind you. Doing the right thing can sometimes be painful, but you'll go forward with a clear conscience knowing you did everything in your power to make things right. You'll not only be respected by others, but you'll restore your self-respect and self-confidence.

All the best.

Mike Petras

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